CULTURE

Princess Michael of Kent was in Athens to present her latest book at festive dinner at Grand Balcon

The came to Athens from Russia, and she has already left for Prague, where she will present her latest book. The dazzling Princess Michael of Kent, born Marie-Christine in Austria, is the wife of Prince Michael of Kent, with whom she lives at Kensington Palace. Though brief, her stay in Athens impressed those who attended the festive evening that Marios and Irini Vassilopoulos held on October 3 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Grand Balcon. The princess was the center of attention: She gave a speech and showed slides, signed copies of her book «The Serpent and the Moon,» published by Simon and Schuster, and sat down to dine with the Vassilopouloses, Nicholas and Matti Egon and their guests. Not only is the princess, with her flowing blonde hair, a beauty, she has personality and talent as a historian. Her subject is the aristocracy, which she knows both through experience and research. Love, wars and conspiracy play their part in the story. HRH came to Athens to present the book in fulfillment of a promise she made to her friend Irini Vassilopoulou, owner of the St George Lycabettus Hotel, which had one of its most glamorous and interesting evenings. Among the notables were British Ambassador Simon Gass and his wife Marianne, Marianna Vardinoyiannis, German Ambassador Wolfgang Schultheiss, Austrian Ambassador Herbert Kroell and Russian Ambassador Andrei Vdovin, all with their wives, and Czech Ambassador Hanna Mottlova. The book describes in fascinating detail the love triangle in the court of Henri II of France. He was married at the age of 14 to Catherine de Medici, also 14, who fell madly in love with him and hoped to have a happy family. But Henri had eyes only for Diane de Poitiers. She was of royal blood, married to Louis de Breze, and became a widow the year Henri married, which was convenient for their passionate affair. When Henri ascended the throne, he performed his marital duties but his wife bore no children. Diane undertook to show them how to have children, which indeed Catherine eventually had – 10 of them, three of them sons who became kings of France. The queen waited years to take her revenge on her rival. Catherine was the «serpent» who intrigued, unsuccessfully, however, against Diane, who was known as the Huntress and the Moon Goddess. The three were always together, and it was only when Henri was fatally injured in a tournament that Catherine managed to send away her rival and force her to return the crown jewels. Renaissance painters depicted the queen as frowning and insignificant, compared with Diane, who was depicted as a beauty, often bare-breasted, with her arrows striking their target. Princess Michael charmed the audience with her lively account of the story, which has a special interest, given that she is descended from the families of both Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers.