Pat Kirkwood, 86, once a star of British musical theater, died Tuesday at a nursing home in Ilkley, northern England, said author and royal biographer Michael Thornton, a family friend. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease and a chest infection.

Her career included leading roles in musicals written by Noel Coward, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein. But Ms. Kirkwood, who married four times, was dogged her whole life by rumors of a romantic liaison with Prince Philip - which she always denied - after the two were spotted dancing at a London nightclub.

She made a bid for Hollywood stardom, appearing in

No Leave, No Love

in 1946. But the musical was a flop.

She had a sparkling postwar career. Bernstein offered her the lead in his 1955 London production of

Wonderful Town

. Ms. Kirkwood continued to work on stage throughout the 1960s, appearing in Somerset Maugham's

The Constant Wife

and Coward's

Hay Fever

. She took her farewell bow in 1973, at 52.

- AP