Prince and Princess Michael of Kent
Princess Michael of Kent –
The Hungarian Connection to the British Royal Family
Charles Bálintitt Jr.
When I was a child, my mother told me that I was a distant relative of the English Royal Family. She would see Prince Charles on television or mentioned in the newspaper and she would say, “That’s your cousin”. It is true that Queen Elizabeth II actually does have some Hungarian blood running through her veins. Her great-great-grandmother was Countess Claudia Rhédey de Kis-Rhéde (1812-1841). I’m not sure exactly how distant a relative I am. I would guess that it is somewhere in the 6th to 9th cousin range, but I would have to do a lot more research to find out for sure. But I do know that on the Count Rhédey family tree you can find the names Bánffy, Bethlen, Teleki and Tholdalaghy: and in fact Claudia’s grandmother was Baroness Bánffy Teréz. I do know that one or, in some cases, both of my parents have second cousins from all four of these families.
Prince Charles has actually been to Transylvania a number of times, has visited some of the graves of his Hungarian ancestors, has bought property there and has become friends with Count Kálnoky Tibor. Tibor has gotten back some property in Miklósvár in the southeastern part of Transylvania, where he has some guesthouses. (If anyone is interested in going on a trip to Transylvania and doesn’t have any relatives in that truly beautiful area of the world, this could be a very nice place to spend a few days. See Count Kálnoky’s Guesthouses on tripadvisor.com). I did visit there 10 years ago and was taken on a tour by one of his managers. There was a very nice wine cellar with a fireplace and an old thick wooden dining table. In the dimly lit room I could see the Kálnoky family coat of arms displayed on one of the walls and then as I turned I noticed the Apor family’s coat of arms on the adjacent wall. It turns out that we are 7th cousins with Tibor on my mother’s side, through one of my ancestors, Apor Péter, who married Kálnoky Borbála in the 1690’s.
So actually through the Rhédey connection there are many Hungarians who are related to the British Royal Family. But currently, the closest Hungarian relation to the Queen is the former Marie Christine von Leibnitz, who married Prince Michael of Kent in 1978, making her Princess Michael of Kent. Her father was Baron Günther von Reibnitz and her mother was Countess Szapáry Maria Anna von Muraszombath. Prince Michael is the first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, being the grandson of King George V and Queen Mary.
The Prince and Princess don’t have official positions in the British government. But they have on occasion represented the Queen at certain functions, such as weddings and funerals, in various countries around the world. They also do a lot of charity work. In recognition of this activity, the Queen pays the rent for their apartments at Kensington Palace, which amounts to £120,000 per year. This as well as large sums of money that the Prince has received over the years from a rich Russian businessman has led to some critical articles about the couple in the British press. But a Russian connection is not surprising, since the Prince does speak Russian and does have Russian relatives. As we learned from History, the grandchildren of Queen Victoria populated many of the other royal families of Europe. Among them were German Emperor Wilhelm II; Sophia, the Queen consort of Greece; Alexandra Feodorovna, the Empress of Russia, wife of Tsar Nicholas II; Marie of Romania, wife of King Ferdinand I; and Princess Margaret of Connaught, first wife of the future King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden.
Marie Christine (her full name was Baroness Marie Christine Anna Agnes Hedwig Ida von Reibnitz) was born on January 15, 1945 in the town of Karlsbad in the German Sudetenland region, which is known today as Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. Three decades earlier, this town had also been known as Karlsbad, but in the Bohemia region of the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She was married (1971) for a short time to an English banker, Thomas Troubridge. They separated after 2 years and were divorced in 1977. Around that time she met Prince Michael at a hunt. They instantly hit it off due to his wonderful sense of humor and their mutual love of history. A month after her first marriage was annulled by the Pope, she married Prince Michael of Kent on June 30, 1978. From that moment on, she was to be officially addressed as Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent. After the marriage, due to her being a Roman Catholic, Prince Michael lost his right of succession to the throne based on a law that dated back to 1701. However, this was changed a few years ago, and now, by virtue of the Succession to the Crown Act of 2013, he is 45th in line to the British throne.
The Princess was once an interior designer, which she took up again for a while a few years ago, but currently is more involved with certain charities, among them the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia. When she married into the Royal Family she knew that she would have to give up her chosen career and was a little depressed about it. She then spoke to her mother, who suggested that since she studied history in school, she should write about history. As a result, over the last 3 decades she has written five books, three non-fiction: “Crowned in a Far Country: Portraits of Eight Royal Brides”, “Cupid and the King” and “The Serpent and the Moon: Two Rivals for the Love of a Renaissance King”: and more recently two novels: “The Queen of Four Kingdoms” and “Agnes Sorel: Mistress of Beauty”.
The royal couple have two children: Lord Frederick Windsor, born April 6, 1979 and Lady Gabriella Windsor, born on April 23, 1981. Through their son they also have two very young granddaughters: Maud Elizabeth Daphne Marina, born on August 15, 2013; and Isabella Alexandra May born on January 16, 2016.
Princess Michael has been known to speak her mind and as a result has been criticized in the media on occasion. She actually has a lot of company there. These days with so many ways of instant communication, almost anything a public figure says is transmitted somewhere by someone and more often than not, there is someone out there to find fault with it.
So now we Hungarians have more than one link to the British Royal Family. Some of us may be quite distant relatives, but it looks like there is a whole other group that now have much closer ties. Is anyone out there in the Szapáry family or closely related to them? Maybe your cousin Elizabeth will take your call or welcome you at the palace. You never know…
Charles Bálintitt Jr. is a working Customs Broker in Lawrence, NY and a member of the Magyar News Online Editorial Board.