The scandalous, brief life of Prince George, Duke of Kent

He was the handsome, vivacious younger brother of Kings Edward VIII and George VI. Let’s call him the prince you’ve never heard of.

Although Prince George was known in his day, his biggest legacy is that he’ll be forever known as a mysterious ‘party prince.’ Not only was he said to enjoy affairs with both women and men, the Duke of Kent also had a habit of being in the centre of countless high profile love scandals.

His public image was never up for public scrutiny, and because he wasn’t required to behave in a regal fashion at all times, he was relatively free to live his live as he chose.

His untimely death in 1942 rocked the royal family, and there were rumours he fathered at least two illegitimate children.
Prince George, uncle to the Queen, had a ‘party prince’ reputation. (Getty)

Let’s take a look at the original party prince — Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle George — and whether his life really was as scandalous as many believed.

Early days

At the time of his birth in 1902, George was fifth in the line of succession to the throne, behind his father King George V and three older brothers Edward, Albert and Henry.

In the 1920s, George served in the Royal Navy and became the first royal to be a civil servant.

On 12 October 1934, shortly before his marriage to his second cousin, Princess Marina of Greece, he was given the title Duke of Kent. The couple had three children: Edward, Alexandra and Michael.
The Duke and Duchess of Kent with Princess Alexandra and Prince Edward. (Getty)

The Duke lived a life in stark contrast to most royals, as he was free to indulge his many passions, including aviation. A skilled pilot, he was the first of the royal family to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air.

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However, George lived a very different life behind the façade the public was allowed to glimpse.

Secret scandals galore

Rumour has it the juiciest information about George is hidden under lock and key at Windsor Castle, with no royal biographers ever allowed to take a look.

It was widely believed the Duke was bisexual, which may be one reason the papers are hidden from view, due to perhaps holding some “unsavoury” information the royals didn’t want the public to know. The royal family, which Princess Diana referred to as “The Firm”, is serious about guarding its secrets.
Young George gets a piggyback from his mother, then known as Mary, Princess of Wales. (Getty)

In many ways, George had a lot in common with Prince Harry — he knew he would never be king, which gave him the freedom to do almost whatever he liked. Apparently, he liked to indulge in that potentially toxic duo: sex and drugs.

In 1934, George was under pressure to get married, so he tied the knot with his second cousin Princess Marina of Greece on November 29, 1934. (It was a union that produced the current Duke and Prince of Kent.)

He was said to be romantically involved with the heiress Poppy Baring, US cabaret artiste Florence Mills, and singer Jessie Matthews.

He also reportedly had a fling with Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, who made headlines with the “headless man” photographs that appeared during her divorce case.
“Rumour has it the juiciest information about George is hidden under lock and key at Windsor Castle.” (Getty)

When it came to his affairs with men, there were persistent rumours George became the lover of British playwright Noël Coward, as well as Jorge Ferrara, the son of the Argentine ambassador.

It was with Jorge that George apparently enjoyed a threesome with US socialite Kiki Preston, a drug addict who was known as “the girl with the silver syringe”.

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A covered-up arrest

George’s bisexuality was known in high society, but back in the 1920s, the press knew not to report on anything that might portray the royal family in a negative or scandalous light.

When George was allegedly arrested for a homosexual act, police released him once his royal identity was confirmed, and the news never made headlines.
George (left) was the younger brother of Prince Albert (far right), who later became King George VI. (Getty)

A prolific and indiscreet letter writer, the Duke would apparently write love letters to his numerous male and female lovers.

It’s believed he was once blackmailed by a male prostitute over his love letters, so it’s no wonder the palace has George’s personal information locked away.

When it came to drugs, the Duke was known to indulge in cocaine and morphine, even being put under house arrest by a member of the royal family (the rumour was that it was his brother Edward) in a bid to cure his addiction. The attempted intervention only stopped his drug abuse for a short time.

Plane crash

George’s colourful life came to an end when he died in a plane crash in August 1942, at the age of 39.
The Duke of Kent lived a colourful life until his untimely death. (Getty)

There are two versions of the event; the official version is that the pilot miscalculated the flight path and crashed into a mountain. The other version of the story is that George, who was also a pilot, had been flying under the influence of alcohol.

There were even rumours circulating that the crash wasn’t an accident, and that George’s death was ordered by the British government. (This has never been proven.)

Family ties

Following the Duke’s death, rumours persisted that he had fathered two illegitimate children.

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The first a daughter, Raine, born in 1929 to author Barbara Cartland, who was married to Alexander McCorquodale at the time. (Raine later became the stepmother of Princess Diana.)
George married his second cousin, Princess Marina of Greece. (Getty)

The other rumoured love child, Michael Temple Canfield, born in 1926, was the son of Kiki Preston, who continued to be a “bad influence” in the Duke’s life when it came to his drug abuse. It’s believed his brother Edward did everything he could to try and get George away from Kiki.

Interesting note: baby Michael was later adopted by Cass Canfield, and went on to marry Caroline Lee Bouvier, the younger sister of American first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Dancing on the Edge

A BBC drama Dancing on the Edge focused on the partying ways of Edward, the then-Prince of Wales who abdicated in 1936, and Prince George — not to be confused with his older brother Albert, later George VI.

The brothers spent much of the 1920s socialising with the famous jazz musicians of the pre-war era.
Prince George with his brothers Edward (later King Edward VIII), Albert (later King George VI), and Henry. (Getty)

Directer Stephen Poliakoff, who researched diaries written at the time, has said the behaviour of Prince George was quite outrageous.

“It was a very indulgent life. I don’t think anybody knew the total truth about it, but there were stories of a series of affairs and drugs,” Poliakoff says.

“There was not the same press back then. It was much more respectful, and friends like Lord Beaverbrook [newspaper publisher] ensured nothing untoward about them would ever appear.”