Princess Michael's Secret Amour with a Lone Star Romeo Stirs a Royal Scandal in Britain

UPDATED 07/29/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/29/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

All eyes at Wimbledon were on the match. No, not the match on Centre Court where Boris Becker was making history against Kevin Curren, but on the love match in the Royal Box where Princess Michael of Kent was making amends—openly, theatrically—to the Prince, her husband. "She stared lovingly into his eyes," said a London tabloid, bumping young Becker off page one in order to feature the Princess' courtside performance. "She took his hand. She played with his beard. She put her head on his shoulder. She whispered to him...."

The spectators loved it and gave the Princess a standing ovation. Alas, Queen Elizabeth was said to be un-amused. Just a few hours before the Prince and Princess staged their idyll of togetherness, London's gaudy News of the World had disturbed the Sunday quiet and sent a shiver through Buckingham Palace with what it called a "Royal Love Sensation: Princess Michael Torn Between Prince and Her Dallas Millionaire." The latter was John Ward Hunt, 38, one of the oil-rich Hunts of Texas, who had been sighted with the Princess on both sides of the Atlantic—trysting in a London apartment, in the Cotswolds and on a California ranch not far from Ronald Reagan's Western White House.

Mum was the word from the Windsors. "I don't comment on sewage journalism, and you can quote me on that," said Michael Shea, the Queen's press secretary. "There will be no statement from Buckingham Palace or any other palace." But last week the Prince and Princess flew to Monte Carlo, to board the 200-foot, $14 million yacht of an Argentinean millionaire, bound for warmer and presumably friendlier climes. According to the Daily Express, "Buckingham Palace has merely suggested that the couple 'disappear' for the summer holidays in the hope the scandal will be forgotten by September."

Fat chance. The English press seems just to be getting started on the latest royal scandal. So potent have been Princess Michael's charms and so wide her net that there have even been rumors of a liaison with Sen. John Warner. Warner recently felt obliged to state, "During 1982 I attended a formal dinner in Princess Michael's honor at the British embassy in Washington.... I have not seen either of them for years."

The most interesting conjecture centers on Buckingham Palace itself and its possible role in the Princess' crucifixion in the press. "The hunt is on for a royal mole," wrote James Whitaker in the Mirror. "It is now quite clear that somebody in a very senior position—maybe even a member of the Royal Family—has decided to ruin Princess Michael." How did reporters come to be waiting at the London apartment when Princess Michael turned up in a red wig to meet Texas millionaire Ward Hunt?

How indeed? It's no secret that the Queen has taken a strong dislike to the Princess. The royals think her arrogant-pushy is the word they use—and find her penchant for publicity distasteful. To marry her in 1978 the Prince had to renounce his place of succession to the throne because Marie-Christine was a Catholic and a divorcée. Then last April came the distressing revelation that the Princess' father, the late Baron Gunther von Reibnitz, had been a Nazi SS officer in the war.

Despite the alleged affair and the tawdry publicity, the Prince has shown unswerving loyalty to the woman he married eight years ago. Although the royal family is said to be discreetly urging a divorce, the Prince has reportedly confided to friends, "I couldn't face life without Marie-Christine. I love my wife and need her by my side. Our marriage will survive." Time will tell.

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