Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, CI, GCVO, GBE (Greek: Μαρίνα, later Duchess of Kent; 13 December 1906 – 27 August 1968) was a princess of the Greek royal house, who married Prince George, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary in 1934. They had three children: Prince Edward, Princess Alexandra, and Prince Michael.
The Princess was widowed in 1942, when her husband was killed in a plane crash on active service. In later life, she carried out many royal engagements, including the independence celebrations for Ghana and Botswana.
Princess Marina was born in Athens, Greece, on 13 December 1906. Her father was Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark, the third son of George I of Greece. Her mother was Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia, a granddaughter of Emperor Alexander II of Russia. She was the youngest of the couple's children. One of her paternal uncles was Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, the father of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (making her Philip's first cousin).
Marina spent her early years in Greece, and lived with her parents and paternal grandparents at Tatoi Palace. Along with her sisters, she was raised to be devout and religious, which was encouraged by her grandmother, Queen Olga of Greece.
Marina's family travelled outside of Greece often, especially during the summer months. Her first recorded visit to Britain was in 1910 after the death of her godfather, Edward VII. She officially met her other godmother and future mother-in-law, Queen Mary, who treated Marina and her sisters like her own children.
The Greek royal family was forced into exile when Marina was 11, following the overthrow of the Greek monarchy. They later moved to Paris, while the Princess stayed with her extended family throughout Europe.
In 1932, Princess Marina and Prince George (later the Duke of Kent), a second cousin through Christian IX of Denmark, met in London. Their betrothal was announced in August 1934. Prince George was created Duke of Kent on 9 October 1934. Marina's engagement ring was made out of a "square-cut Kashmir sapphire set in platinum with a baton diamond on either side".
On 29 November 1934, they married at Westminster Abbey, London. The wedding was a grand affair, as it had been more than ten years since the last royal wedding with Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.
The wedding of Prince George and Princess Marina was the first royal wedding ceremony to be broadcast by wireless, and with the use of other technology, such as microphones. The service was broadcast locally and abroad to other nations, and loudspeakers allowed spectators from outside the Abbey to hear the proceedings.
The wedding was followed by a Greek ceremony in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace, which was converted into an Orthodox chapel for the ceremony. This was the first time this had been done since the wedding of Princess Marina's great-aunt, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, during the reign of Queen Victoria. The wedding was the most recent occasion on which a foreign-born princess married into the British Royal Family.
The bride's gown was in white and silver silk brocade, designed by Edward Molyneux, and worked on by a team of seamstresses including, at Marina's request, Russian émigrées. The dress featured "sheath silhouette, a draped cowl neckline, trumpet sleeves, and a wide train." A tiara, given to her as a wedding gift, secured her tulle veil.
The Royal School of Needlework made a quilt as a wedding gift for Princess Marina and the Duke of Kent.
The Duke and Duchess set up their first home at 3 Belgrave Square, close to Buckingham Palace. She became a patroness of several organizations and charities, which she would support for the rest of her life. She became very close to her mother-in-law, Queen Mary, with whom she would usually spend time while her husband was off performing his own royal duties.
The couple had three children:
-Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (9 October 1935);
-Princess Alexandra, The Hon. Lady Ogilvy (25 December 1936);
-Prince Michael of Kent (4 July 1942).
The Duke of Kent was killed on 25 August 1942, in an aeroplane crash at Eagles Rock, near Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland, while on active service with the Royal Air Force.
During World War II, Marina was trained as a nurse for three months under the pseudonym "Sister Kay" and joined the civil nurse reserve.
After her husband's death, the Duchess of Kent continued to be an active member of the British Royal Family, carrying out a wide range of royal and official engagements. She was the president of the Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for 26 years.
In March 1957, when the Gold Coast achieved independence from Britain as Ghana, the Duchess of Kent was appointed to represent the Queen at the celebrations. Fifty years later, at the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence, it would be her son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, who would be appointed by the Queen to represent her.
Marina earned a place in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1960 together with the Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, Patricia Lopez-Willshaw and Merle Oberon.
In September 1966, when the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland became the new Republic of Botswana, the Princess was appointed again to represent the Queen at the celebrations. The main public hospital in Gaborone, the new Botswana's capital, is named "Princess Marina Hospital".
She served as the first Chancellor of the University of Kent at Canterbury from 1963 until her death from a brain tumour at Kensington Palace at 11.40 am on 27 August 1968, aged 61.
The funeral service for the Princess was held at the St. George's Chapel on 30 August. She was buried in the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore.Her funeral was the final royal ceremony attended by her brother-in-law, the former King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor.