Royal of the day: Prince George
In the lead up to the Royal Tour of New Zealand, we look back at the salacious, noble and sometimes tragic lives of Britain's lesser-known royals. Today, we explore the life of Prince George, Duke of Kent ...
If you thought Harry's drunken Vegas shenanigans were the most scandalous thing the Royal Family's dealt with to date, you'd be wrong. Prince George, Duke of Kent would probably take the gold home in a most-fun-at-parties-but-most-difficult-for-the-palace's-PR-department competition (before his death he was the current Queen's uncle).
Born in 1902, the fifth child of King George V and Queen Mary grew up knowing he was only the fifth in line to the throne, and spent his 20s in the Great Gatsby-era 1920s partying, pursuing both men and women and reportedly addicted to morphine and cocaine.
In 1934, the Duke of Kent married his second cousin, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, and while they had three children together it is widely said that the Duke had affairs throughout their marriage. His rumoured lovers include romance novelist and lover of fandango pink Barbara Cartland, socialite and later Duchess of Argyll Margaret Whigham as well as playwright Noel Coward.
But, according to The Scotsman, it was his lover American socialite Kiki Whitney Preston, known as the 'girl with the Silver Syringe', who introduced him to cocaine and morphine.
Rumours also abound of the Duke's illegitimate children - royal author Christopher Wilson claims Canadian socialite Violet Evans gave birth to a son of Prince George who was put up for adoption in Switzerland, while author Michael Thornton claims that Barbara Cartland told him that her daughter Raine Spencer - who was Princess Diana's stepmother - was actually fathered by the Duke.
While the Duke had a short-lived career in the Navy (he got terribly seasick) he did seem to find his way in the Foreign Office and later the Home Office (in fact he was the first member of the royal family to be a civil servant).
In 1938 it was announced that the charismatic and personable prince would be the Governor General of Australia, but that appointment was postponed after the outbreak of World War II and he became a Royal Air Force Vice Marshal (a rank that he relinquished in 1940 so that we wouldn't be senior to more experience officers).
On Tuesday, 25 August 1942, the 39-year-old prince died in a true aviation mystery aboard Sunderland flying boat W4026 DQ-M, which was on its way to Iceland on Air Force business.
Why it happened we don't know, but 30 minutes after the plane took off it was flying at an unfathomable altitude of only 700 feet, causing it to hit an 800-foot hill in the Scottish countryside and leading to an explosion of 2,500 gallons of aviation fuel and the death of all but one of the crew members on board.
George's death was the first death of a British royal family member during active service in over 500 years.