Formal three-quarter length presentation photograph of Prince George, Duke of Kent in full dress naval uniform by Bertram Park, 43 Dover Street, Piccadilly, London W1. Autograph signed and dated by the duke lower right. Contained in a bespoke easel backed, silver frame engraved with ‘G’ cypher within the Garter motto and surmounted by the coronet of a Royal duke. Maker’s mark of Royal Warrant holder Henry Hodson Plante of Bury Street, St James’s. Hallmarked London 1934.
Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942) was the son of King George V and Queen Mary. He was educated at Osborne Naval College, and Dartmouth and served in the Royal Navy until 1929. He then held posts in the Foreign Office and the Home Office. In 1934 George married Princess Marina of Yugoslavia, and was granted the title of the Duke of Kent. Both before and after his marriage, Prince George enjoyed a long string of affairs with men and women. The better known of his partners included the African-American cabaret singer Florence Mills; banking heiress Poppy Baring; socialite Margaret Whigham (later Duchess of Argyll); and musical star Jessie Mathews. Claims that he had a 19-year affair with Noel Coward were denied by Coward's long-term partner, Graham Payn. Intimate letters from the Duke to Coward are believed to have been stolen from Coward's house in 1942.
The Duke of Kent is said to have been addicted to drugs (notably morphine and cocaine) and reportedly was blackmailed by a male prostitute to whom he wrote intimate letters. Another of his reported sexual liaisons was with his distant cousin Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia; the traitor and art historian Anthony Blunt was reputedly another intimate.The Duke was known to have attempted to court Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. She spurned the overture and married Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Bisterfeld instead. In addition to his legitimate children, the Duke is said to have had a son by Kiki Preston (née Alice Gwynne) (1898–1946), an American socialite whom he reportedly shared in a menage a trois with Jorge Ferrara, the bisexual son of the Argentine ambassador to the Court of St. James's. Known as ‘the girl with the silver syringe’, drug-addict Preston died after jumping out of a window of the Stanhope Hotel in New York City.
Prince George supported British appeasement of Nazi Germany. According to the authors of Double Standard (2001) the Duke of Kent met Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg during the 1930s. A report written by Alfred Rosenberg for Hitler in October 1935 stated that the Duke of Kent was working behind the scenes ‘in strengthening the pressure for a reconstruction of the Cabinet and mainly towards beginning the movement in the direction of Germany.’ In late 1937 a Foreign Office document pointed out that the Duke of Kent had developed a close relationship with Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German Ambassador in London. In 1939 the Duke of Kent allegedly approached George VI with a plan to negotiate directly with Adolf Hitler. On the outbreak of war the Duke of Kent and his family moved to Scotland, living in Pitliver House, near Rosyth. He returned to active military service in the rank of Rear Admiral, briefly serving on the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty. In April 1940, he transferred to the Royal Air Force serving as Staff Officer, Training Command in the rank of Air Commodore.
In 1940 the Duke of Kent travelled to Lisbon to meet the dictator of Portugal, Antonio Salazar. The Duke of Windsor, who was in Madrid at the time, planned to meet his brother while he was in Lisbon. British officials were instructed to prevent the former king from going to Portugal until the Duke of Kent had left the country. On 10 May 1941, Rudolf Hess flew an Me 110 to Scotland with the intention of having a meeting with the Duke of Hamilton. Hess hoped that Hamilton would arrange for him to meet George VI. According to the authors of Double Standards (2001) the Duke of Kent was with Hamilton at his home (Dungavel House) on the night that Hess arrived in Scotland. As the Duke of Kent's papers are embargoed it is impossible to confirm this story.
The Duke of Hamilton's diary records several meetings with the Duke of Kent during the early months of 1941. Elizabeth Byrd worked as a secretary for Hamilton's brother Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton. She claims he told her that the Duke of Hamilton took the "flak for the whole Hess affair in order to protect others even higher up the social scale". Byrd added that ‘he (Lord Malcolm) had strongly hinted that the cover-up was necessary to protect the reputations of members of the Royal Family’.
Prince George was killed on 25 August 1942 when the S-25 Sunderland Mk III Flying Boat in which he was a passenger crashed into Eagle’s Rock at a height of around 650 feet causing the 2,500 gallons of fuel in the wings to explode. The plane was en route to Iceland where it had been arranged for Prince George to visit RAF personnel, and then on to Newfoundland. The pilot and crew had been specially selected for the task. The captain, Flight Lieutenant Frank Goyen, was considered to be one of the best Sunderland pilots in the RAF. The rest of the crew were also highly regarded. The co-pilot was Wing Commander Thomas Lawton Mosley, the commanding officer of 228 Squadron. Mosley was one of the RAF’s most experienced pilots having completed 1,449 flying hours. He was also a navigation specialist and was a former instructor at the School of Navigation. The flying boat was well off course when the accident happened.