Prince George: A Forgotten Royal
Forgotten Royal: Prince George
Prince George of Kent. British Royal Scandals
One historical British royal I've always rather liked is Prince George. He was good looking, dashing and enjoyed fast cars, fast airplanes and, it has to be said, fast women. True, he was a bit naughty and the extent of this isn't yet known - there may be more to his life than meets the eye. That is good.
But there are three scandals (or mysteries) surrounding his short life. They are:
- The mystery of his alleged illegitimate son
- The fact that it’s said that there were those in power who wanted him to be king
- His mysterious and untimely death
So, let’s take each of these individually....
Prince George: The illegitimate son
The prince was known for enjoying life. He was the fourth son in the family and although in line to the throne, he was relatively free to indulge his tastes. George, charming and good-looking, made the most of this and had, let’s say, eclectic tastes.
Historians are certain that there was indeed an illegitimate son. In those days, without social media,the internet and the freedom of the press, it was only those on royal circles who were aware of the prince’s numerous affairs. Even his relationship with scandalous socialite Kiki Preston, a cousin of Gloria Vanderbilt, was known by only a few.
For many years, historians believed that she was the mother of the illegitimate son but in recent years, it has been thought that Violet Evans, who the prince had met via her brother, was indeed the woman in question.
When she discovered her pregnancy in 1926, a solution was found. Another of her admirers, Ian Karslake who was a friend of George’s, agreed to marry her on the condition that the baby would be adopted. When the child was born, he was adopted by a wealthy American couple, who were living in England at the time, and he was named Michael Canfield. The family returned to the United States where the boy was brought up with the best of everything. In the ship’s log, Michael Canfield to be is named ‘Anthony Karslake’. There is no doubt that he was Violet’s son.
It’s said that Violet and Ian lived a rich and luxurious lifestyle afterwards, the implication being that they were handsomely rewarded for their silence. They lived abroad, almost as if their presence in Britain was a condition of their newly luxurious lifestyle
Duke of Windsor
What happened to Michael Canfield?
He knew that he was adopted by his true heritage was never revealed to him. His privileged life enabled him to mix with the cream of society and he married the sister of Jacqueline Bouvier - or Jackie Kennedy as she was later known. Indeed, he was an usher when Jacqueline married John Kennedy.
When he later lived in England, there were constant comments about his likeness to George of Kent. The rumours intensified.
His marriage failed and it was when he was married again that someone who should know, revealed Michael’s paternity. This time his wife, Laura the Duchess of Marlborough, was certain that she knew his true father. The person who told her this was none other than George’s brother Edward; once King Edward VIII and by this time, the Duke of Windsor.
In 1969, Michael boarded a commercial aircraft to fly to London. On the flight, he was discovered to be dead. The cause was his long-time abuse of alcohol and other substances. He was forty-three years old.
Will we ever know the truth about Michael Canfield’s parentage?
Kik Preston threw herself out of a window in 1946. Violet, who has been shown to be Michael Canfield’s mother, also took her own life in 1951. ‘Allegedly’, they say.
We know that Prince George had relationships with both women. Everyone involved is now dead. In the absence of private papers or letters being discovered, we may never know.
Should Prince George be king?
When George V died, the British establishment was in a turmoil.
Most peers, members of parliament and top officials agreed that it would be disastrous for the country should the late king’s eldest son, Edward, become king.
It wasn't just his refusal to give up Wallis Simpson, his American, twice-divorced mistress. Indeed, Edward was adamant that he wanted to marry her. But this was the least of their worries.
The search for a king
With the situation in Europe, and particularly Germany, worsening the elite knew that Edward was sympathetic to Hitler’s cause and indeed saw him as a great leader. They knew that Edward was working to avoid war with a country whose policies he admired. He believed that Germany was a good role model for Britain.
This was an appalling situation. When it became clear that Edward wouldn’t give up Wallis, then it became more and more likely that he would abdicate. This meant that the throne would be taken by the next in line, Albert.
But Albert, Bertie as he was known,was weak. He was shy and had a speech impediment that meant that, just as war was looming, he would be unable to rouse and motivate the population and keep morale high.
The country’s popular but wilful king had abdicated. If there was now a weak king, how would the public react? Could this be the end of the monarchy? Bertie was known to be terrified at the thought of becoming king - he was happy playing the country squire with his comely wife and his two small daughters.
And for that chauvinistic period of time, those daughters were another problem. Was Bertie not capable of fathering a son and heir? Plus, with Bertie as king,the throne would eventually pass to a woman - Princess Elizabeth. This looked like the end of the monarchy. First a headstrong, lovelorn king who had no backbone, then a weak, stammering king and then a queen?
Next in line would be the third brother, Prince Henry. Not a whiff of scandal had been attached to him. But although he had been married for several years, there was no son and heir. The fourth son though, George, had been married to a European Princess since 1932. He was handsome and charismatic. She was beautiful and elegant. They were a glamorous couple.
He also had two children, the eldest being a boy. Had George become king, Britain’s present monarch would be that son, Edward, the present Duke of Kent, pictured on the right.
The mother of the potential kings was the strong and opinionated Queen Mary. Originally a German princess, she persuaded Bertie that it was his duty to follow royal protocol and accept the fact that he must be the next king. Messing with the natural order of succession could be even more damaging to the monarchy.
Bertie became George VI and with the huge support of his wife, overcame his misgivings and became a strong king whole the country through the Second World War.
The mysterious death of Prince George
George had always believed that flying was an important development and the way of the future. When the Second World War began, he became a group captain in the Royal Air Force. As a protected royal, his duties weren’t dangerous. Or were they?
In 1942, he was aboard an aircraft - a flying boat - that crashed into a hillside in Scotland. They were en route to Iceland. The prince,and everyone else aboard except one man, we killed instantly. The prince was thirty-nine years old.
Points to consider
- It is said that when the prince’s body was found, a briefcase containing a large amount of money (possibly Icelandic currency) was still handcuffed to his wrist
- Flying boats usually flew over the ocean, not the land. Why was the aircraft off course and flying over Scottish hills?
- The plane crashed about fifty minutes into its flight and yet it was only about twenty minutes away from its place of departure. Why the time anomaly?
- Several experienced pilots and navigators were aboard. Why was the aircraft so badly off course with such an experienced and extensive crew? It’s suggested that this could not be accidental
- The plane took off with fifteen people aboard. At the crash site, fifteen bodies were found. And yet it was later discovered that the tail of the plane had been sheared off and its occupant, the rear gunner, survived. Who was the extra passenger?
- Why was the one survivor made to sign the Official Secrets Act whilst recovering in hospital?
- The occupants had told their relatives that they were embarking on a ‘secret mission’. What was this?
- Why have the official documents related to the flight and the accident disappeared?
The sons of King George V
How would the history of Britain have been changed if Prince George had been on the throne in place of Bertie (George VI)?
George VI's wife, Elizabeth, played a large part in converting this shy man into an admired king. This film tells their story.
- By curious coincidence, George’s nephew also died in an aircraft thirty years later, almost exactly to the day. He was thirty years old. He too was a good looking and dashing prince who, like George, is largely forgotten. Read more here
- Find out more about Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She married Bertie and became the Duchess of York. When he became king, as his consort she was Queen Elizabeth, When her daughter Elizabeth II became Queen, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon became the much-loved Queen Mother. Read more.
- Laura, Michael’s second wife, was the widow of the Duke of Marlborough. His mother was Consuelo Vanderbilt from the wealthy American family. This means that her mother-in-law was the eccentric American socialite Gladys Deacon who you can read about here.
- George’s elder brother Edward is best known for being the king who abdicated so that he could marry his mistress, American Wallis Simpson. But his mistress prior to Wallis was another American with a Vanderbilt connection who had married into the British aristocracy. She was Thelma, Viscountess Furness
See photographs of Prince George of Kent
© 2014 Jackie Jackson