Daily Mail

Was Philip really a philandere­r?

A secret love child. Flings with showgirls. A gay affair. For 70 years he has been stalked by scurrilous rumours. Now with TV’s The Crown set to explore the Duke’s private life, a leading royal biographer asks . . .

- by Michael Thornton

WHEN a female journalist once had the temerity to question Prince Philip about rumours of his extramarit­al activities, he erupted in anger and exasperati­on.

‘Good God, woman,’ he bellowed. ‘Have you ever stopped to think that for years, I have never moved anywhere without a policeman accompanyi­ng me? So how the hell could I get away with anything like that?’

His irritation was understand­able. Ever since he joined the Royal Family, Philip has been the target of persistent rumour and innuendo about his alleged womanising.

He told a confidant long ago he had become ‘more or less hardened’ to the allegation­s, but the assumption he has cheated on the Queen, to whom he will have been married for 70 years in November, clearly has the power to rouse his fury on occasion.

So it will be with a deep sigh of weariness that the Prince, now 95, views the resurgence of interest in his love life after it emerged this week that it will inform the second series of the acclaimed Netflix TV drama, The Crown.

Its creator, Peter Morgan, who wrote the screenplay for the 2006 film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, said he has ‘not shied away from the theory’ that Prince Philip (played in The Crown by Matt Smith) ‘had an affair early in [the] marriage’ and even spirited a mystery woman on board the royal yacht Britannia on an overseas tour.

Morgan, a London ‘ luvvie’ who’s said he has no interest in the Royal Family and described the Queen as ‘ an out-of-touch bigot’, has insisted that the drama — six series spanning the Queen’s life are planned — is impeccably researched. So he knew exactly what he was doing when he asked flippantly: ‘Doesn’t everyone in Britain

know he had an affair?’ The worldwide success of The Crown — it picked up two Golden Globes in January — guaranteed that Morgan’s mischievou­s question made headlines. It also demands an answer: what exactly do we know?

Over more than seven decades, Philip has been accused of liaisons with a Greek cabaret singer, several actresses, three peeresses of the realm, a famous TV personalit­y, a renowned female novelist and the Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra.

It has also been claimed he has fathered 24 illegitima­te children — and even that he once had a gay fling with the former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

THATabsurd suggestion aside, it is easy to understand why, at the time of his marriage in 1947, he was pegged as a potential philandere­r.

With his dashing Viking looks and appetite for fun, the 26year-old naval officer had long been very attractive to women.

At the age of 18, there had been a romantic friendship — although not a full-blown affair — with Canadian- born debutante Osla Benning.

And at the end of the war, by then a bearded Adonis with a taste for dancing, he had joyous flings with three girls while in Australia (a certain boathouse in Sydney, owned by a titled friend, was apparently the setting for his sexual dalliances).

There was a society beauty, Sue Other-Gee; a close friend, Georgina Kennard; and Sandra Jacques, about whom little is known other than that it was ‘a

very full love affair’. So Philip Mountbatte­n certainly came to marriage with more experience of the world than 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth and, among the courtiers at Buckingham Palace, this inspired grave misgivings. King George VI’s private secretary, Sir Alan (‘Tommy’) Lascelles, noted that ‘ they felt [Philip] was rough, uneducated and would probably not be faithful’.

There was also concern over the nature of his relationsh­ip with a childhood friend, the Greek-born cabaret star Hélène Cordet. While she was separated from her first husband, Cordet had two children by a French airman, Marcel Boisot, who became her second husband.

Owing to her uncertain marital circumstan­ces, Cordet declined to reveal the children’s paternity, and when Prince Philip became godfather to both, it was assumed he was the father.

This belief persisted until 1989, when Cordet’s son, the economist Professor Max Boisot, openly dismissed the idea as ‘ridiculous’.

Philip’s amorous adventures in Australia were also alleged to have resulted in a child.

‘I know all about Philip’s illegitima­te daughter in Melbourne,’ the novelist Dame Barbara Cartland once confided to me, ‘but I’m not going to talk about it.’ She claimed that her informant was her close friend, Philip’s uncle and mentor, Earl Mountbatte­n of Burma.

There was anxiety among courtiers during the first year of the royal marriage over some of Philip’s raffish male friends, notably his Australian equerry Mike Parker, and the Jewish court photograph­er, Baron Nahum. His regular attendance at the bibulous weekly ‘stag’ meetings of the Thursday Club, founded by Baron, at Wheeler’s restaurant in Soho, were also a cause for concern.

It was after one of these gatherings, in October 1948, that Philip’s reputation as a royal Lothario took off. Baron introduced his friend to actress and singer Pat Kirkwood, the highest-paid star on the London stage, with whom the photograph­er was in love.

Her fans included King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who invited her to Windsor Castle to perform. Then 27 years old, the sensuous and flirtatiou­s actress with legs once described as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ was separated from her husband.

Philip was smitten and he and Kirkwood created a sensation by dining a deux at Les Ambassadeu­rs restaurant in Mayfair, packed with celebritie­s and staff who could not tear their eyes away from their table. They went on to dance the night away, cheek to cheek, at the Milroy nightclub and ended up eating scrambled eggs at dawn in Baron’s apartment.

This encounter created headlines all over the world. Princess Elizabeth was eight months pregnant with their first child at the time, and the King and Queen were furious on their daughter’s behalf.

Pat Kirkwood spent the rest of her life haunted by the ‘Prince and the Showgirl’ label, vehemently denying any impropriet­y, either then or later. But she became the target of lurid rumours and a claim Philip had given her a white Rolls-Royce. I know for a fact that my friend Pat never owned such a vehicle.

There was a genuine friendship between Philip and the Manchester-born star over many decades and they were correspond­ents. It was in a letter to Kirkwood that Philip confided that ‘ invasion of privacy, invention and false quotations are the bane of our existence’.

The private letters that passed between them — which are now in my possession — give the lie to the supposed affair. But the ‘scandal’ was still being regurgitat­ed by royal biographer­s in

the Nineties. around the time of this furore, there was another episode that might have pointed to infidelity on Philip’s part.

a royal footman and former Grenadier guardsman, Norman Barson, who worked for Elizabeth and Philip at windlesham Moor, their weekend home near ascot, claimed to have seen Philip arriving in his MG convertibl­e midweek, accompanie­d by a pretty, well-spoken woman.

Barson prepared them beef sandwiches and gin and orange. ‘I could later hear them laughing and joking,’ he was quoted as saying in Robert Lacey’s book Monarch: The Life and Reign Of Elizabeth II, ‘but I never once heard him refer to her by name ... I never saw them kiss or canoodle.’ The woman, perhaps a friend or relation, remains unidentifi­ed.

among numerous other women alleged to have featured in Philip’s extramarit­al love life were Jane, Countess of westmorlan­d, widow of the Queen’s late Master of the Horse; the novelist Dame Daphne du Maurier; the actresses Merle Oberon and anna Massey; and TV personalit­y Katie Boyle.

OFTHEsE, I know anna Massey only met Philip once socially and never saw him again. Du Maurier, whom I knew well, met the Queen and Philip occasional­ly during the years her husband, Lieutenant-General sir Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning, was Comptrolle­r of their household. Daphne was invited to Balmoral but was never a close friend of the royal couple.

Katie Boyle certainly met Philip several times, but has described suggestion­s of an affair as ‘ pure fabricatio­n’ and utterly denied a story that the Prince once rapidly exited through the back entrance of her house as her husband arrived at the front. It is true that Hollywood beauty Merle Oberon, who was ten years Philip’s senior, kept a signed photograph of him in a silver frame and entertaine­d him lavishly at her estate in Mexico City. But Merle’s couturier, Luis Estevez, ‘ never saw anything romantic going on between them’.

Rumours Philip had a relationsh­ip with the Queen’s first cousin, Princess alexandra, are especially distastefu­l. Her late husband, sir angus Ogilvy, described Philip as ‘a good man, a really good man, hopelessly misreporte­d, misreprese­nted and misunderst­ood’.

In 2003, the Queen appointed Princess alexandra as a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter, a great honour that she would have been unlikely to bestow on her husband’s lover.

The two women in Philip’s life on whom the most concentrat­ion has been focused are the Duchess of abercorn and Lady Brabourne. ‘sacha’ abercorn, the strikingly attractive wife of the Lord steward of the Royal Household, is 25 years younger than Philip.

while admitting to a ‘ highly charged chemistry’ with him, she has denied any physical relationsh­ip, adding that they had a mutual interest in the ideas of the swiss psychiatri­st Carl Jung.

while visiting the abercorns’ holiday home in the Bahamas, Philip and the Duchess were spotted holding hands on the beach. He was draped only in a towel, she in a swimsuit. ‘It was certainly not a full relationsh­ip,’ she told royal biographer Gyles Brandreth. ‘I did not go to bed with him ... he isn’t like that.’

How did the Queen view such encounters? The Duchess replied: ‘she gives him a lot of leeway. Her father told her: “Remember he’s a sailor. They come in on the tide”.’

Indeed, the Queen has always appeared relaxed about Philip’s relationsh­ip with Penelope Lady Brabourne, the estranged wife of Lord Mountbatte­n’s grandson, Lord Brabourne. Blonde, slim and stunningly attractive at 63, she has for many years partnered him in carriage-driving competitio­ns.

ALWAYSpres­ent to cheer them on is the Queen. One saturday evening, after a newspaper had carried a picture of Philip and Penny together suggesting something more than a sporting partnershi­p, the Queen made a point of asking her: ‘Penny, are you planning to go to church in the morning? If you are, would you like to come to church with me?’

Philip has learnt to bear the outrageous statements published about his private life. In 1995, a German newspaper announced he had fathered 24 illegitima­te children. It recanted after it was pointed out to its editor they had mistransla­ted Palace informatio­n that said he had 24 godchildre­n.

yet it seems that many presume him guilty until proven innocent — which I believe is grossly unfair.

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, may have had a lifelong eye for a pretty woman. His admiration, at 86, for the stunning former First Lady of France, Carla sarkozy, was impossible to miss when she accompanie­d her husband to London in 2008. and six weeks short of his 90th birthday, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after william and Kate’s wedding in 2011, the curvaceous charms of Pippa Middleton brought an unmistakab­le twinkle to his eye.

But despite a tidal wave of gossip down the years, proof of Philip’s liaisons has never been forthcomin­g. Everyone in Britain does not know he had an affair, Mr Morgan.

yes, the ‘ playmates’ have come and gone. But his only true and lasting love is for Lilibet, the woman he still calls ‘Cabbage’ and who, on the occasion of their Golden wedding in 1997, described him memorably as ‘ my strength and stay all these years’.

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 ??  ?? The dashing Duke and his leading ladies: (Clockwise from far left) ‘Showgirl’ Pat Kirkwood, Philip in 1961; old friend Helene Cordet; actress Merle Oberon
The dashing Duke and his leading ladies: (Clockwise from far left) ‘Showgirl’ Pat Kirkwood, Philip in 1961; old friend Helene Cordet; actress Merle Oberon
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