Published: 08:35 BST, 19 August 2023 | Updated: 09:35 BST, 19 August 2023
You might associate royalty with a world of painstaking stage management and endless rules about how to dress and speak.
Who on the planet is more closely scrutinised than, for example, the Princess of Wales?
So perhaps it’s no wonder Princess Olga Romanoff is delighted that she’s not a front-line royal.
Instead, the late Queen’s rebellious third cousin is happy to knock about in skinny jeans and a gilet, makeup-free and smelling of horses. And speaking her mind.
MailOnline’s royals section takes a look at the life of 73-year-old Princess Olga Andreevna Romanoff and her very refreshing take on the business of royalty.
Averse to dressing up on a daily basis and admitting that she would not have been the best at front-line royalty, Princess Olga Romanoff speaks her mind
Olga had a charmed upbringing and was home-schooled before moving between London, Scotland and Kent.
She had the constant presence of a chaperone, as well as her own ballet teacher.
‘It always seemed like there was a bottomless pit of money and indeed there was until my grandmother died,’ Olga said.
Her daughter Alexandra Mathew added: ‘Mum very much grew up as a princess. In terms of making money, she literally has no concept of that.’
However, Olga suggests that her encounters with her cousins in the Royal Family did not always run smoothly.
‘The Queen used to take Charles and Anne to have tea with my grandmother (Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna),’ she said.
‘They apparently had beautiful manners and I had terrible manners.’
Palace invitations stopped when Olga’s father married her mother without permission from the late Queen Mother – a courtesy expected at the time.
‘I believe that p***ed off the Queen Mother,’ she told an ITV documentary, The Queen and Her Cousins.
Princess Olga pictured with her parents, Nadine and Prince Andrei Alexandrovich Romanoff
Olga grew up in a privileged position. ‘It always seemed like there was a bottomless pit of money,’ she said. ‘And indeed there was until my grandmother died’
Palace invitations stopped when Olga’s father married her mother without asking permission from the Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother
‘So his invitations to the Palace and all that dried up. The protocols were quite strict.
‘They thought of it as being a big thing then,’ she said.
‘A lot of that is a pile of poo.’
Princess Olga said she was ‘horrified’ when she read an article describing her a potential love match for her third-cousin Charles, the Prince of Wales, in 1967. She was 17 years old.
She said: ‘Harpers & Queen, or Harpers as it was then, did an article on me being a potential bride.
Princess Olga said she was horrified when she read an article describing her as a potential love match for Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1967
‘But they also did about other foreign royalty, like the Swedes, the Luxembourgs, all princesses of that era as possible ones suitable as brides for poor old Prince Charles.
‘My mother did the blurb and I didn’t know anything about it until it came out and I was horrified’.
‘Did you not fancy the job?,’ she was asked on the documentary.
‘Not at all,’ she told the camera. ‘My mother said all these things about me and I wasn’t allowed to speak for myself.’
Princess Olga also spoke about her mother’s hopes for a royal marriage more recently on ITV’s Keeping up with the Aristocrats.
‘My mother always had delusions that she could get me married off to poor Prince Charles,’ she said.
‘That obviously wasn’t going to happen because I was the wrong religion and a lot of other things. But mother was determined that it was to happen. God knows why.
‘I would have been terrible for him. He definitely had a lucky escape.’
Reflecting on what she looks for in a man, she says that Prince Philip would have been her ideal type, adding that he was ‘tall, blonde’ and ‘everything that was charming.’
She continues: ‘The type of man I’ve always liked is a trained killer, ex-SAS, ex-Special Forces… I’ve always liked the idea of the perfect relationship and romance but I have a knack for picking the wrong people.’
Olga ended up marrying commoner Thomas Mathew and they had four children together – Alexandra, Nicholas, Francis-Alexander and Thomas.
Speaking about motherhood to the Daily Mail last January, Olga said: ‘My husband came from a big family and I remember him showing me how to change a nappy.
‘I loved it. My regret is that I didn’t realise how much, at the time. It’s so fleeting.’
Reflecting on what she looks for in a man, Olga says that Prince Philip would have been her ideal type – blond and charming. But she also yearned for the ‘trained killer’
Olga’s daughter, Alex, created a profile on a dating app to try and spice up her romantic life
Motherhood has not always been easy for Princess Olga. Her fourth child Thomas was born with a heart defect and passed away at the age of 18 months in 1989.
Olga said: ‘Tom died on my daughter Alex’s eighth birthday.
‘He had been in the intensive care unit in Edinburgh, and we had stayed with him, but the night before, I’d gone home to get things ready for her birthday and I got the phone call at 10am the next day to say ‘he has died.’
Olga did not tell her daughter as she thought that would be ‘mean’, but added that Alex is ‘still upset’ that the family did not inform her immediately.
Princess Olga has been single since her divorce ended in 1989, but Alex hilariously set up a dating app profile for her mother to try and spice up her love life.
Olga told the Daily Mail: ‘They were trying to get me to go on a date and I said “no f***ing way”. She didn’t use my name for the profile either. She couldn’t really put b***** Princess Olga Romanoff, could she?’
Despite her aristocratic heritage, the outspoken Princess has a no-nonsense attitude and previously said she was unsuited to royal life.
Olga told the Telegraph that she would have made a ‘lousy imperial princes,’ adding that she ‘would rather shovel s*** than have to be very charming and dressed up on a daily basis.’
Princess Olga added that if she was to liken herself to a Downton Abbey character, it would be Lady Sybil – a non-conforming aristocrat who ran off with a chauffeur.
Having been branded the Queen’s ‘rebellious cousin’ due to her forthright manners, Olga said she felt the soubriquet didn’t really apply to her, because she never did drugs of strayed from conventions when she was younger.
She said she never drank or ‘screwed around,’ as a young woman, but admitted she would have liked to rebel against the establishment.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, she also insisted that the interviewer called her Olga, adding: ‘No one gives a stuff about titles any more.’
The Romanov family ruled Russia since the 17th century. But their reign met a bloody end with the Russian Revolution, which saw 15 members of the royal family murdered.
The Bolsheviks assassinated Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children in 1918 bringing the Russian monarchy to an end.
Princess Olga Romanoff is the daughter of Nadine Sylvia Ada McDougall and Prince Andrei Alexandrovich, Tsar Nicholas II’s oldest nephew, who fled Russia on a British warship in 1919.
He was ‘due to be shot’, says Princess Olga, who believes family escaped Russia ‘by the skin of their teeth’.
The Romanoffs are linked to the British monarchy because Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice was mother-in-law to Tsar Nicholas II and grandmother to his children, including Anastasia.
Olga Romanoff is descended from Nicholas’s sister, Grand Duchess Xenia.
In 1918, the Bolsheviks assassinated Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children (pictured), bringing an end to the Russian monarchy
A family tree showing our Royal Family’s links with the Romanoffs
Prince Philip was also related to the Romanovs through his parents.
Philip was the great-nephew of Alexandra Romanov, Tsar Nicholas II’s wife, and the last Tsarina of Russia.
When the remains of two of Nicholas’s children, thought to be Maria and Alexei Romanov, were discovered in a field in 2007, Prince Philip’s DNA was used to try and identify them.
Nicholas II was Russia’s last ruler and also the first cousin of King George V, Elizabeth’s grandfather.
There is another connection between the families on the female side.
Princess Olga says that her family spent time living at Buckingham Palace after they escaped the Bolsheviks. Pictured: Olga at a ball at the Dorchester, 1968
Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandmother Queen Alexandra of Denmark, who married King Edward VII, had a sister, Maria Feodorovna who married Alexander III of Russia.
Princess Olga’s grandmother Xenia set up home in the UK with the help of her cousin, King George V.
She says that, after they fled Russia, her family spent some time living at Buckingham Palace.
Princess Olga taking part in an ITV documentary to celebrate The Queen in 2021
Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were related to the Russian Royal Family
Queen Elizabeth was a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Philip was Victoria’s great-great-grandson – the royal married couple were third cousins.
Victoria is widely known as the ‘grandmother of Europe’ as her children married into various different royal families across different countries in the continent.
Through her mother, Princess Olga is also a descendant of William Paterson, who founded the Bank of England in 1694.
She returned to live in the family home, 13th century Provender House near Faversham, in 2000.
Provender House had been purchased by her grandmother Constance Borgström in 1921 and is now laden with portraits of illustrious Russian relatives.
Princess Olga does not have staff and does the chores herself, including mowing the one-acre garden.
The Princess said her mother got into ‘deep s***’ financially, and the debts soared.
This meant Olga had cut costs and think about ways to generate income to keep her family home.
She remembers a time when she had staff to keep the estate running. ‘I love the garden but I loved it more when we had people doing all this,’ she says, mowing the lawn, ‘and I could just lie in the garden’.
She has even put a two-bedroom cottage on the estate – which was once the servant’s quarter of the historic home – up to rent out on Airbnb at £100 a night.
Olga remembers a time when she had staff to keep the estate running. ‘I love the garden but I loved it more when we had people doing all this,’ she says
Provender House in Kent was bought by her grandmother Constance Borgström in 1921 and is laden with portraits of Russian relatives
Despite her aristocratic heritage, the outspoken Princess has a no-nonsense attitude and has said she is unsuited to royal life
She admitted she has to clean up after her guests, doing their dishes and even change the sheets, something she swore she would never do.
This extra income helps Olga with the upkeep of the house, which she estimates to be at around £50,000 a year.
Even so, the Princess estimates that she only generates £10,000 through her business projects.
Members of the public can be shown around Provender House by Princess Olga herself for just £20 a person.
Olga also sells souvenirs such as soaps, mugs and candles.
In-keeping with her outspoken character, Olga provides customers with the opportunity to buy a printed tea towel which says ‘Bugger S***, F***’ on it.
The Princess says the cocktail of swear words has become a sort of catchphrase:
‘As I drop something or see something ghastly it just sort of trips out of my mouth,’ she said.