Princess Michael of Kent’s varied activities include her charity tours, journalism and interior design. As a designer she was commissioned by the Baltschug Kempinski hotel in Moscow to oversee the fit out of their luxury apartments directly opposite the Kremlin. In her interview with DE I Princess Michael of Kent shared her theories on bringing up children and her faith in the power of love.
DE I: Are your ambition and independence the result of high birth and a special upbringing?
The star under which I was born is responsible for my ambition, regardless of who else I am. The word ambition has a negative aspect to it, but I consider ambition to be very positive. How can you reach the highest heights without ambition? I have a close relative who set out for the North Pole on foot. On her own! Twice! The first time she was in a group. She had already been to the South Pole where she dragged her own sled behind her. She is a member of the Queen Mother’s family. So what makes her do this? Her parentage plays a much smaller role than her ambition.
I keep telling my children ‘if you want something very much and if it’s a good thing, then it will happen because all your inner energy with be concentrated on that goal’. There is evidently a kind of energy that we radiate. In German, which is my native language, it’s called Strahlung. These are the rays omitted from you that attract your goal towards you. We attract our desires if the goal is good. I’ve tried to teach my children this and I hope that they have faith in it. If we’re speaking about upbringing, then the parent’s task isn’t just to change nappies and feed and dress their children. They are obliged to pass on values to them, to distinguish between good and evil, to teach them what is worthy of admiration and what should they should reject. The modern world is so full of danger! You will very rarely hear young people today talking about their duty. When I was a child, I used to hear things like ‘you must do this, it’s your duty’ all the time. But nowadays you hardly hear that at all. You have a duty, a debt to your family, to your country, to yourself. Now everyone is more focussed on pleasure and profit, especially young people. I was brought up like a soldier. One’s attitude to oneself should be strict. You can’t let yourself go. Alongside a good education and good manners, children should be taught self-discipline. And they should know for certain when to hold back. When you meet someone with good manners, you subconsciously are positively inclined towards them. And you have to love children limitlessly. I used to tell them ‘Even if you were serial killers, I would still love you. You can break my heart, but don’t throw away my love. There is nothing that would stop me from loving you.’ There are parents who tell their children ‘if you do this or that, I’ll stop loving you’. How can you threaten someone with taking away the love of their parents? You can lose the love of a friend or a husband but never, ever the love of your parents. I think it’s very important to get that across to your children. My children are convinced of it and it protects them, embraces them. In the modern world there is so much to lose so the security of parental loyalty is necessary for children. It’s the only guarantee we can give them. You know yourself that when you feel loved, you can do anything. Napoleon conquered Egypt thanks to his love for Josephine. Determination, self-discipline, love are very serious things!
DE I: What is your reaction when someone declares they’re in love with you?
What is my reaction? Joy, gratitude, pleasure, a range of pleasant feelings. You know that I’ve written a romantic novel. It’s a great love story set in the Renaissance when there was still idea of love at a distance which dated back to the Middle Ages. A person could love someone with whom they had never even spoken and live their entire life acting out of love for that person. Now there’s nothing even close to that. In my day, a girl couldn’t phone a man herself. She had to wait for her suitors call. I consider the concept of ‘pure love’ to be something very beautiful. And there are still some examples of it. Sailors or soldiers who rarely see their loved ones. They still have to love at a distance.
DE I: Have you ever tempted fate?
There are many many paths and crossroads in life. I think that the end result is long since planned out, and all roads lead to Rome. So when it’s said that the future is mapped out, I agree. But there are different ways of reaching the future.
When I was younger, I planned to study in London, and then continue my studies in Paris. But I met my future husband, and my plans changed and we got married. Years later, 10 years ago, we visited Biarritz with the children. We always went there with them as a lot of our friends holiday there with their own children and it’s very good fun. After Australia, I started to love surfing. But the sea is very dangerous in Biarritz and once I got caught by the current and was carried out to sea far from the shore. Only then I noticed that the flags on the beach were yellow which means that you should leave the water immediately. The waves were getting bigger and bigger, and I looked back and could see my husband swimming towards me. I shouted out to him ‘Go back! The waves are too big! They’ll be too much for you!’ After each cry, I went under another wave full understanding that I would drown.
When I was small, I used to dream I was drowning. It seemed as if everything was getting darker and darker and I was quietly falling asleep. And this was exactly as it had been in my dream. And my life passed before my eyes. And suddenly, the angel Gabriel appeared before me. He was very handsome, with light coloured curls, blue eyes, and a white robe. And when he took off his robe, I understood I was in heaven. But the robe turned into a lifejacket as the lifeguards appeared in front of me. I understood everything immediately and started to shout out ‘Save my husband!’ It was very interesting to see how they save people who are drowning. A helicopter descends close to the water and they attach the person who is drowning to a rope and then he hangs from the rope as the helicopter flies along the length of the beach and all the holiday makers cry out ‘Hurrah!’, congratulating them with a mission accomplished. And I shouted out to them that I didn’t want to fly in the helicopter. All in all it felt very silly, hanging there on that rope. And that was the second time in my life when I nearly died.
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST ¹-1. "A ROYAL PORTRAIT"