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Bingley's Pat Kirkwood and the Duke of Edinburgh: the musical
An encounter between wartime star Pat Kirkwood, who lived in Bingley , and the Duke of Edinburgh has been made into a musical.
The one-woman show draws on letters from Prince Philip left by Miss Kirkwood to her last husband, the late Peter Knight.
Hailed as the last great star from the golden age of British musicals, Pat Kirkwood died in 2007 in an Ilkley nursing home, aged 86, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
During her 56-year showbusiness career, the Salford-born star was a leading lady for Cole Porter, Noel Coward and Leonard Bernstein. Her legs were described by critic Kenneth Tynan as “the eighth wonder of the world”.
Miss Kirkwood started her career singing on the radio as a child, and aged 17 starred in her first film, Save A Little Sunshine. Described as “Britain’s first wartime star,” she sang with Glenn Miller and starred in 1939 stage revue Black Velvet, watched by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
The four-times-married singer was courted by stars such as Danny Kaye and Peter Lawford, but it was speculation about her association with the Duke of Edinburgh that haunted her for six decades.
As she revealed in her autobiography The Time Of My Life, she met Prince Philip in 1948 when he was brought to her dressing room at the London Hippodrome, where she was headlining in the show Starlight Roof. She dined with the Prince and they danced in a London nightclub, creating headlines worldwide. The encounter was particularly scandalous because the then Princess Elizabeth was eight months pregnant with Prince Charles.
Letters expressing the Prince’s anger at the allegations feature in Pat Kirkwood is Angry, written by and starring mezzo-soprano Jessica Walker Miss Walker said her play, which runs at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and then the Leeds Grand Theatre in October, leaves it up to the audience to decide what really happened between Miss Kirkwood and the Prince.
In 1999, speaking about her meeting with the Prince, Miss Kirkwood told the Telegraph & Argus: “There were so many yards between us that he might as well have been in Manchester. I’ve been furious with the Prince Philip story.”
At a service celebrating her life at All Saints’ Parish Church, Bingley, her friend, columnist and royal biographer Michael Thornton , claimed she had been snubbed by the establishment because of her alleged relationship with Prince Philip.
She married Peter Knight in 1981.