Many royal romances are played up to be fairytale stories. A young woman meets Prince Charming. The couple falls in love. They then live happily ever after.

Peter and his mother Marie

This was not to be the case of Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark (1908-1980), son of Prince George of Greece and Denmark (1869-1957) and Princess Marie Bonaparte (1882-1962), and his wife Irène. Prince Peter first met Irène, Marquise de Monléon (1904-1990; née Irina Aleksandrovna Ovtchinnikova), in the summer of 1935. The couple did fall for one another, but many obstacles would await them.

Irène

Born in the St. Petersburg of Imperial Russia, Irène was the daughter of Aleksandr Ovtchinnikov and Lydia Zourio. With the fall of the empire, the Ovtchinnikov family fled Russia for Western Europe. In November 1919, at the age of fifteen, Irène married Marquis Jehan de Monléon (1885-1950), the son of Marquis Paul de Monléon and Marie Anne Louise Carré‐Kérisouët. The pair were divorced in 1930; they had no children.

Lewis Sloden in 1915.

Two years later, in November 1932, Irène married Lewis (Louis) Sloden (1892-1961). Mr Sloden worked as an art dealer. In the 1910s, Mr Sloden was hailed as “one of the most perfect ballroom dancers in the world.” It was towards the end of this marriage that Irène met the man who was to be her third and final husband: Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark. Irène Ovtchinnikova and Lewis Sloden divorced in 1936.

Prince Peter

In September 1939, Irène Ovtchinnikova, erstwhile Marquise Jehan de Monléon and Mrs Lewis Sloden, wed Prince Peter in a civil ceremony at the Danish consulate at Madras, India. The couple had been in India since March 1939. Needless to say, Peter’s parents were not thrilled with their only son’s mésalliance with “the Russian woman,” as Marie Bonaparte often referred to her daughter-in-law. Prince George ceased communications with his only son. However, Irène and Peter would not be deterred: in June 1941 they were married in a Greek Orthodox ceremony at Jerusalem.

Irène and Peter

Peter and Irène’s marriage would stand the test of time in name only. Irène did eventually win over her mother-in-law Princess Marie. Prince Peter and his wife shared an enthusiasm for anthropology: the prince had studied anthropology between 1935-1936 at the London School of Economics under the Polish-born anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski and the New Zealander ethnologist Sir Raymond Firth. Irène assisted Peter with his academic endeavours in the Orient.

Following the fall of the Greek monarchy, Prince Peter and Princess Irène separated, but they never divorced. Making his base in Copenhagen,  Peter formed a relationship with a young British woman. Irène went her own way and moved to Hong Kong, before returning to Paris in the twilight of life.

After forty-one years of marriage, Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark died on 15 October 1980 at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London. Peter had been admitted to hospital on 5 October after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

On 13 March 1990, Princess Peter of Greece and Denmark died at Paris. She was eighty-five years-old. Irène was buried next to Peter at the Bernstorff Palace Park at Hovedstaden, Denmark.

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More about Prince Peter and his wife Irène can be read in Marie Bonaparte: A Life by Ceclia Bertin. 

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