Did ru­mours of af­fair with Philip cost star an OBE?

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Femail - By Chris Hast­ings

SHE was a stun­ning beauty and one of the most fa­mous women of Bri­tish stage and screen, en­joy­ing a long and dis­tin­guished ca­reer.

So it is hardly a sur­prise that vet­eran show­girl Pat Kirk­wood should have been deemed wor­thy of an honour.

Now The Mail on Sun­day can re­veal that she was in­deed twice rec­om­mended for an OBE but also twice re­jected, amid per­sis­tent ‘em­bar­rass­ing’ ru­mours link­ing her to Prince Philip.

Al­le­ga­tions of an af­fair cast a shadow over the early years of the Royal mar­riage, af­ter Philip vis­ited Kirk­wood in her dress­ing room and had supper with her.

The ru­mours dogged Kirk­wood through­out her life and are now to be res­ur­rected in the new se­ries of tele­vi­sion drama The Crown.

This news­pa­per can also re­veal that much of the Gov­ern­ment pa­per­work re­gard­ing the snub has been de­stroyed – fu­elling spec­u­la­tion over why she missed out.

Dubbed Bri­tain’s an­swer to the ma­jor US star Betty Grable, Kirk­wood found fame as a mu­si­cal the­atre star at the be­gin­ning of the Sec­ond World War and con­tin­ued to per­form even as Ger­man bombs fell on London. Af­ter the war, she be­came the first woman to be given her own show by the BBC.

It was at the height of this suc­cess that Prince Philip en­tered her life.

Dur­ing a per­for­mance at the Hip­po­drome in 1948 the Prince vis­ited Kirk­wood in her dress­ing room.

Later that evening the pair en­joyed supper at Les Am­bas­sadeurs in May­fair while a heav­ily preg­nant Princess El­iz­a­beth spent the night alone at Clarence House.

Kirk­wood later re­called: ‘He was full of life and en­ergy. I sus­pect he felt trapped and rarely got a chance to be him­self. I got off on the right foot be­cause I made him laugh.’

The meet­ing cause a sen­sa­tion at the time and there were sub­se­quent un­founded re­ports that the Prince had con­tin­ued to see Kirk­wood and had given her a white Rolls-Royce.

The star al­ways de­nied they had an af­fair.

Cab­i­net Of­fice pa­pers ob­tained un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion laws re­veal that Kirk­wood was rec­om­mended for an OBE first in the Birth­day Honours List and then the New Year’s Honours List of 2000.

But de­spite the rec­om­men­da­tion by the De­part­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport, Ms Kirk­wood, then aged 79, never re­ceived it.

The pa­pers do not spec­ify why, and the rest of the pa­per­work re­lat­ing to her was de­stroyed by the Cab­i­net Of­fice in 2002. The snub to Kirk­wood, whose legs were once de­scribed by the the­atre critic Ken­neth Ty­nan as ‘the eighth won­der of the world’, will raise eye­brows, not least be­cause of her stel­lar suc­cess on stage and screen.

The up­com­ing sec­ond se­ries of tele­vi­sion drama The Crown will res­ur­rect the ru­mours in scenes show­ing the Queen re­act­ing jeal- ously to Prince Philip. Royal bi­og­ra­pher Mar­garet Holder said yes­ter­day: ‘I think giv­ing Kirk­wood an honour would have been em­bar­rass­ing for the Queen re­gard­less of whether or not the ru­mours are true.’

In a con­tri­bu­tion to an obituary of the star, a con­fi­dante said: ‘In the nor­mal course of events, she would have been a CBE or even a Dame, but she didn’t get so much as an MBE, not even for her war work when she per­formed with the bombs rain­ing down. She was de­nied the recog­ni­tion she de­served.’

It is un­likely that Kirk­wood, who died on Christmas Day 2007, aged 86, turned down the honour.

TV pre­sen­ter Gyles Bran­dreth, who knew four-times-mar­ried Kirk­wood and is a friend of Philip, said: ‘There was ab­so­lutely noth­ing in the story about her and the Duke of Ed­in­burgh.

‘Pat re­sented the dam­age that the sto­ries caused her and the em­bar­rass­ment it has caused the Duke.’

A spokesman for the Cab­i­net Of­fice said: ‘We can only com­ment on peo­ple who are on the honours list, not on names that don’t ap­pear.’

‘An em­bar­rass­ment for the Queen’

Pa­per re­ject­ing Pat Kirk­wood, left in 1944, for an OBE. Right: Meet­ing the Queen in 1953. Be­low: the new se­ries of the Crown fea­tures mar­i­tal ten­sions be­tween the Queen and Philip (be­low), and his friend­ship with a dancer (in­set)

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