An encounter between wartime star Pat Kirkwood, who spent the final years of her life in Ilkley, 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. Aged 92, Mr Knight, a retired solicitor and former president of the Bradford & Bingley Building Society, said the letters were proof an alleged relationship was a myth.
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 career, the Salford-born star was a leading lady for Cole Porter, Noel Coward and Leonard Bernstein.
Miss Kirkwood started her career singing on the radio as a child, and at 17 starred in her first film. Described as ‘Britain’s first wartime star’, she sang with Glenn Miller.
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. 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 this month, leaves it up to the audience to decide what happened.
In 1999, speaking about her meeting with the Prince, Miss Kirkwood said: “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.”