Princess Marina stunned Britons on arrival: ‘Don’t let them change you!’

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Princess Marina was the last foreign royal princess to marry into the British monarchy. She had a shattered childhood, forced into exile aged just 11 after the Greek royal family was overthrown. Marina’s family fled to Paris, while she remained with extended family scattered across Europe.

A documentary, which airs tonight, lifts the lid on how Marina became an incredibly important player in the British Royal Family.

Marina of Greece: The Forgotten Royal airs on Channel 5 tonight at 8pm. It will also be available on My5.

Having spent the early part of her childhood in Greece, Marina was baptised towards the end of 1906.

Her godparents included King Edward VII and Mary, Princess of Wales, who later became Queen consort as the wife of King George V.

Marina’s first recorded visit to British shores was in 1910, when she was just a toddler, after the death of Edward VII. It was the first time she would meet her godmother Queen Mary, who would later be her mother-in-law.

Mary treated Marina and her sisters like her own children.

She met Prince George in 1932 in London. Their engagement was announced in August 1934.

The Telegraph’s columnist Hannah Betts wrote in 2018 that they were the “golden couple of their generation” and were fashion trendsetters.

Ms Betts wrote: “Fashion wise, Marina was ‘the Margaret before Margaret’, who in turn might be seen as the ‘Diana before Diana’ — attracting global admiration not merely for her commitment to clothes, but her appreciation of fashion as a national industry.”

Marina stunned Britons when she arrived, and cut a “distinct dash”.

Prince George, described as a “notoriously natty dresser himself”, recalled her arrival in London.

He said: “Everyone is so delighted with herm the crowd especially, ‘cos when she arrived at Victoria station they expected a dowdy Princess such as unfortunately my family are — but when they saw this lovely chic creature — they could hardly believe it.

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“Even the men were interested and shout: ‘Don’t change — don’t let them change you!’

“Of course, she won’t be changed — not if I have anything to do with it.”

Princess Marina was a fashion trailblazer. She appeared in the song title of English rock band the Kinks — She’s Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina. 

When her mother-in-law gave her a piece of her mind for having red nails, Marina kept true to her personality.

With just a hint of sass, she replied: “Your Georgie may not care for painted nails, but my Georgie is crazy for them.”

Edward Molyneux, the leading fashion designer tasked with creating her wedding dress, spoke very highly of her style: “She will not let herself be stormed by any whimsical change of fashion, but wears only what suits her.”

This was echoed by Isabella Coraca, curator at Historic Royal Palaces. She told The Telegraph that Marina knew “exactly what suited her” and opted for “simple, but elegant silhouettes over changing trends”.

Marina’s cousin, Prince Philip, married the then Princess Elizabeth in 1947, five years after Prince George was killed in a flying accident.

After her husband’s death, she continued to serve as an active member of the Royal Family, and was president of the Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for 26 years.

She was president of the RNLI from 1943 until her death, and also served as the University of Kent’s first Chancellor.

She continued to be a fashion icon, appearing in Vogue, Tatler and more, and earned a place in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1960.

When she died of an inoperable brain tumour in 1968, Ms Betts said: “The nation lost not only one of its most popular royals, but one of its most cherished fashion icons.”

Marina of Greece: The Forgotten Royals airs on Channel 5 tonight at 8pm. It will also be available on My5.

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