Monday, August 5, 2013

Marina: The Story of a Princess

Marina: The Story of a Princess is a 1995 book on Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, later the Duchess of Kent by Sophia Watson.

The story of Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark begins in 1863, more than 40 years before her birth, when her grandfather, born Prince William of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and later a Prince of Denmark, was elected as King George of the Hellenes, after King Otho was deposed the previous year. He married Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia four years later and the two went to on to have eight children. The fourth of which was a boy named Nicholas, Marina's father. The Greek Royal family was an incredibly close one, who spent their days at the lovely palace of Tatoi. Their court was said to be one of the most easy going in all of Europe.

On August 29, 1902, Nicholas married Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, the only daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and Princess Marie of Mecklenburg-Scherwin. The couple had three children: Olga, born in 1903, Elisabeth, born in 1904, and the last, being born on December 13, 1906, was Marina. Marina was very close with her two sisters as well as her parents although her maternal needs were filled more by her English nanny, Mrs. Fox, than anyone else.

George was a good king and led the nation to dramatically increase its size during the first Balkan War. Nearing the fiftieth anniversary of his ascension, George was killed by an alcoholic anarchist. The future kings of the Hellenes would not be quite so lucky. Nicholas's elder brother, Constantine, succeeded the throne in 1913, making his German born wife, Princess Sophie of Prussia, queen. When the first world war broke out in 1914, conflict broke out between Prime Minister Venizelos and the King over Greece's position in the war. Venizelos wanted to join the side of the allies while Constantine believed in maintaining neutrality. The Prime Minister began a smear campaign against the King saying that he was actually pro-German on account that his wife was sister to the Kaiser. Constantine was exiled in 1917, making his second son, Alexander, King of Greece.

Prince and Princess Nicholas followed the ex-King into exile in France. Their exile from Greece and the Russian Revolution put a dent in the Nicholas' purse but Elena was able to live glamorously on a reduced budget, something that she later passed on to Marina. The family lived off of the sales of Elena's jewels and Nicholas's paintings as their only source of income.

After the death of Alexander from a monkey bite in 1920, Constantine was restored to the throne, bringing the entire Greek royal family back with him. His reign would end two years later when after military failure against the Turks, he was once again exiled, making his eldest son George II of the Hellenes. He died only 4 months after his second exile. In 1923, Olga married Prince Paul of Yugoslavia. He would become regent of Yugoslavia when in 1934, his cousin, Alexander I of Serbia, was assassinated in Marseille, leaving his 11 year old son, Peter, king at the age of 11. Elizabeth married Karl Theodor, Count of Toerring-Jettenbach "Toto" in 1934.

In 1932, Princess Marina met Prince George, Duke of Kent, fifth child of George V of the United Kingdom and Mary of Teck. George experienced a rather stunted childhood as neither his Mother or Father were of a parental sort. He was however close to his brothers: Edward, Albert and Henry. Marina and George became engaged in 1934 and they married in November of that year. The couple enjoyed a 5 month honeymoon. While Marina was very much in love with George, he eventually did stray and it was a constant humiliation to the proud Princess to endure all of his affairs. Marina, by this point, had already become beloved by the British people.

On January 20, 1936, George V died, making his eldest son Edward VIII. Marina had had a good relationship with her father-in-law and a decent one with her eldest brother-in-law. Edward's reign lasted less than a year as he abdicated on December 11, 1936, after being barred as king to marry his mistress, the divorcee, Wallis Simpson. His younger brother, Albert "Bertie", took the name George for his reign. Marina had a cordial relationship with the new King's wife, born Elizabeth of Bowes-Lyon, but felt herself slightly superior because she was born a Princess and didn't just marry into the title. Same with Prince Henry's wife, born Alice Montagu Douglas Scott.

In 1939, Great Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. Marina threw herself headlong into the war effort. In 1941, Prince Paul signed a pact with Nazi Germany in order to try a preserve Yugoslav in face of Hitler's threats. This pact did not sit well with the Yugoslavian army and he was exiled within two days of its signing. Paul, Elizabeth and their family were exiled to British Kenya.

George died at the age of 39 in 1942 in an airplane crash. Marina was devastated. She had had three children by George: Edward, Alexandra and Michael, the last of which was born only 7 weeks previous. George VI had to the good sense to bring Elizabeth over from Kenya to help comfort her sister. Although she was still very much broken up over her husband's death, Marina eventually returned to work. Marina, who relied on her husband for everything, now had to rely on herself alone. While she was not poor, she was far from well off and had to live scrupulously. But that did not stop her from being the fashionista that she was before George's death.

Marina died on August 27, 1968, at the age of 61. She died leaving behind her three children, two of whom were now married and with children of their own. Marina was an active member of the royal family, who won respect from all that knew her.

I give this book a 1.5/5. The book is roughly 45% on Princess Marina and 55% on something else. The book went into huge detail on the Greek and British Royal Family. Do not misunderstand me, I have nothing against a little back story, it's always a necessary. And even afterwards, if an event was mentioned, huge detail was put into the event and only stated that Marina was there and not how she felt about the situation in more than one sentence. But there was just way too much and as such Marina's story lost out on book space. Not that there was much to work with considering that the author skipped roughly fifteen years of the Duchess's life.  Her death came suddenly and was just glossed over, more time was spent on her funeral than anything else. Another huge flaw with the story was that it barely explored any of the relationships Marina had with her family. There was more written on Marina's relationship with her mother-in-law than with her husband. It does not go into any detail on George's extra marital relations both heterosexual and homosexual. She was only upset by, that's it folks. Choose another book instead of you are really interested in the life of this glamorous Princess because I found it empty, hollow and ultimately not worth my time.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe there couldn't be more written about her because she was just pushy and boring person. Everything she could say about herself was "I was born a Princess so I'm better than you". She had nothing to offer above it while Queen Elizabeth or Alice of Gloucester were REAL royals - by behaviour, not just by birth.

    Their court was "easy-going"? Please, Marina's mother was one of the most difficult royals. No one could stand her (Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Empress Alexandra of Russia, Nicholas II, Queen Marie of Romania, Archduke Franz Ferdinand etc. etc.). Moreover, the girls were spoilt and always felt 'better' even than their own cousins although they were only daughters of the second son of the poorest king in Europe.

    It always makes me laugh when I hear that they were "glamourous beauties" - if so why no one wanted them. Elizabeth, for example, married at the age of 30 (very late at that time) after meeting a lot of princes, counts etc. who preferred other ladies. Olga married a cousin of King of Yugoslavia because he had money (she had given up CP Frederik of Denmark thinking of him as a poor man) and tried -unsuccessfully- to upstage the real Queen - Queen Marioara, popular and loved by the Serbian people. To sum up, princess Nicholas' best match for her daughter was the FOURTH son of King George V.

    I admit - Marina was fashionable (although in some photos of her youth years she looked disastrous and overweight), loved glamour, at least one of her children is classy, hard-working royal (Princess Alexandra) but that's it.

    This book is just like the late Duchess of Kent. Nothing interesting. Sorry.