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Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  3,699 ratings  ·  579 reviews
A witty and profound portrait of the most talked-about English royal

She made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando tongue-tied. She iced out Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Andy Warhol photographed her. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine. Gore Vidal revered her. Francis Bacon heckled her. Peter Sellers was madly in love with her. For Pablo Picasso, she was th
Hardcover, 423 pages
Published August 7th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published September 21st 2017)
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 ·  3,699 ratings  ·  579 reviews

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Petra Eggs
From beginning to end a total hatchet job on the late Princess Margaret, or Priceless Margarine as John Lennon called her, less nasty perhaps than another of her nicknames, The Royal Dwarf.* The book is extremely funny and is about 95% based on printed material, letters and interviews. 5% of it is invented utter rubbish, like her marriage to Picasso or Captain Peter Townsend. No one it seems had a good word to say about the imperious Margot, perhaps because she would pull rank on them and they n ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved Craig Brown’s previous book, “One on One,” and so, although a biography of Princess Margaret did not particularly appeal; having heard so many good things about this unusual biography, I decided to give it a try. Subtitled, “99 glimpses of Princess Margaret,” this book has 99 chapters – some short, some longer. Unlike most biographies, this skips across time, backtracks and even veers into fantasy, at times. For example, there is an inspired piece about Princess Margaret marrying Pablo P ...more
Valerity (Val)
I’ve been a bit of a royal watcher again of late the past few years, with the marriage of Prince William and Kate and the births of their three beautiful children. I’ll even admit to my insomnia having me up when Prince Harry and Meagan recently tied the knot. So it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to have grabbed this book about Princess Margaret because she’s mostly a mystery to me, and I wanted to check her out. I wasn’t disappointed at all. So unlike her sister Queen Elizabeth! She’s a bit of ...more
This is a vastly disjointed tale of eye witness and "he said, she said" conversations and observations within the times and places of Princess Margaret's company. And in nearly all periods of her life, too. Not in chronological order or in any such grand feature of continuity unless you count the derision and general hatchet job that rules in each portion. And in this case that disjointedness is probably not a bad thing for the book as a whole. Because it justly does rather portent what you are ...more
Karen Witzler
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good - but this is not fun gossip - it made me quite melancholy. 99 anecdotes and not one of them happy. Unexpectedly the book asks larger questions about the construct of identity and what it is to live as much in the imagined lives of others as in your own. Brown builds several alternate realities for Margaret throughout the book suggesting not only that she had other choices, but how those choices might have reverberated in the public consciousness. This somehow feels relational to our o ...more
Gretchen Rubin
Wonderful. I knew nothing about Princess Margaret so learned a lot, but more importantly, this account contains deep insight into human nature.
Jo Chambers
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, royalty
My criteria for a 5* read is that I miss its world when I've finished the book. I'm missing Princess Margaret already, though I don't think I would have liked to meet her in real life! The Queen's younger sister was a snob and the mistress of the sharp put-down. She liked to mix with the arty bohemian set, but was quick to make sure they knew she was Royal. Even her closest friends still had to call her 'Ma'am'.
This book is not the conventional sort of biography, but 99 chapters (sometimes shor
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Its title should have been: 99 Ways to Hate on Princess Margaret.

I made it two-thirds through and I’m done. Poor little Royal rich girl meets mean biographer.

It is no surprise that Princess Margaret was a mostly unhappy person. Royalty or not, being #2 in that family must have been awful. But she also made it very difficult to be liked. I doubt as she aged she was any easier to really know. Odd that her children don’t have any anecdotes in their voice. Might have spoiled the view— again this i
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never thought I'd ever read a biography of Princess Margaret, let along thoroughly enjoy it but that is exactly what happened.

I read a couple of very favourable reviews of 'Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret' and then heard Andy Miller praise it to the skies on an episode of the Backlisted Podcast, and so I was convinced to give it a go. Andy described it as a royal biography for people who wouldn't ordinarily read a royal biography. I think that's spot on.

'Ma’am Darling: 99 Gli
Literary Soirée
NINETY-NINE GLIMPSES OF PRINCESS MARGARET by Craig Brown leaves a raging debate on both sides of the Atlantic. Brits seem to love this intimate, often catty bio of the Princess who never would be Queen. Americans seem appalled ... by Margaret’s excesses, her cruelty, her seemingly wasted life that began flush with promise. For she was beautiful, witty, a brilliant mimic, once considered among the most desired women in the world. By the time of her death, however, a friend remarked that he had ne ...more
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The structure of this book didn't work for me. There were some interesting bits but in the end I can't say I liked it. I didn't hate it but I would have appreciated some more historical context. I found myself googling over and over for information so I could understand what was being described. Overall, I feel very sad for Princess Margaret.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
Biographies should humanize their subject, not de-humanize them, and therefore I am booing this book off the stage. The last thing the world needs is another biography that looks at a woman through the male gaze--or many male gazes. The choice to excerpt particular men's drooling elegies over Princess Margaret's body or encounters with her is, in the least, distasteful; they're only vaguely described as "creepy," and yet here they are, rearing their heads decades later, re-immortalized in anothe ...more
After watching the TV series The Crown, I became somewhat bewitched with the portrayal of Princess Margaret by Vanessa Kirby. So I picked up this book to know more about who Princess Margaret was. The concept of 99 glimpses or chapters is ingenious, in the sense that the Princess comes off sometimes glamorous, sometimes pitiful, sometimes insufferable, sometimes petty, sometimes a scorned woman, sometimes ahead of her time, sometimes very much springing forth from Edwardian royalty. This is very ...more
Dead John Williams
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed is books like this that make the ridiculousness of life seem somehow worth it. There is so much here to marvel at for sheer lunacy and pathos. I don't know what this book would be like for someone who wasn't British and wasn't around at the time of PM. But reading this I guess you could only wish that you were. I'd swap a thousand Trumps for just one PM.

Best quote: "the most highly paid dwarves in Europe"

Loved it
Philippa Leah
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quirky, full of cracking anecdotes and humour - I’m a big fan of HRH but wasn’t sure I liked her very much by the end. Her acerbic wit shines through, but also her lack of purpose, which seems to have rendered her rudderless. He is spot on with his description of her tumbling down the order of succession whilst the empire crumbled, yet her becoming more and more imperious and demanding (as she felt befitting of her status). I felt enormous sympathy for her, although I imagine it would have been ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the most part an interesting book. A lot of bitchy gossip but then a LOT of filler, entire chapters written in the vein of "What if?" What if HRH married Pablo Picasso, etc? That to me, was a complete waste of time. I found myself hopping over these chapters as quickly as possible so I felt like I bought 1/3rd of a book.
Sayde Scarlett
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved every word of this. What a fantastic antidote to the typical stodgy biographies of Royals. If you're looking for a typical biography - this is *not* for you! The whole book is terrific fun.
Apr 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Badly (terribly) written with a lot of amused speculation on the part of the author, and hearsay, along with some actual documented accounts by servants, letters, etc. It's fun as tawdry one-sided gossip, but that's ALL it is. It is in no sense a biography.

Princess Margaret comes off as a relentlessly selfish, difficult and impossible-to-please snob and harridan whom nobody could possibly want to put up with ever, let alone care for as a friend or lover. As with most people though, there must s
Mrs. Danvers
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is how biographies should be written, particularly those of royals. Very fresh and clever, with just the right amount of awareness that Princess Margaret didn't have such an easy time of it balanced by clear awareness of what she brought on herself.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

I was in the mood for a light, funny, perhaps slightly snarky portrayal of the royal family. I was happy when I was provided this book, which seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

My problem with this book was the snark. Perhaps if it was toned down a bit this could have been a hoot. As written, there was too much poking fun of dead people who cannot defend themselves. Princess Margaret had no r
Anna Baillie-Karas
I’ve been watching The Crown and fascinated by Princess Margaret, so this was a great gift. There are some funny excerpts of diaries & letters - she befriended theatre types and as Brown puts it “it was her misfortune that many of them kept diaries”. An insider view of her life from a range of sources. But even if accurate, it’s an unflattering portrait of an unhappy woman. I was torn between joining in the fun and tiring of the meanness.
Carolyn Harris
A biography of Princess Margaret assembled from more than 99 perspectives from the Home Secretary who witnessed her arrival at Glamis Castle in 1930 to the Christie's auction catalog of her possessions at the time of her death in 2002. In between, Margaret struggles to find a satisfying public role, decides not to marry the divorced Peter Townsend amidst constitutional controversy, endures a turbulent marriage to Antony Armstong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon, goes on holiday in Mustique, is asked to le ...more
Oct 29, 2018 marked it as to-read
100th glimpse: I saw Princess Margaret in 1996 (pinpointed thanks to ) when she reopened my little brother's eponymously named school in Toronto. I remember being impressed by her massive green Rolls Royce.

Very good review in NYRB by Darryl Pinckney:

My anglophilia is piqued! I wonder how Margaret's London of the 60s will contrast with ER Braithwaite's (To Sir With Love).
This is very much made up of glimpses of Princess Margaret, from various perspectives over time. It makes for a somewhat disjointed and external portrait of its subject, which seems to me appropriate for a member of British royalty, but the style may not be for everyone.

I would not usually be interested in a book about the Royal Family, and it wasn’t as funny as I had expected, although there were various scenes of Princess Margaret saying witty and cutting things. Instead I finished with a more
Some of it was interesting, but the overriding impression I had of this book was that it was over long and the chapters which wandered off into an alternative imagined life for Princess Margaret were rather pointless and silly. Ultimately I felt it didn't seem to know what it was - a serious biography or a parody of a biography or perhaps neither.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you’re looking for a respectful royal biography, well, this ain’t it. On the other hand, it’s not simply a royal send-up either. It’s a creative and novel approach to biography. As a serious fan of biography, I was curious. This non-linear glimpse into the infamous Princess Margaret looks at her notoriously awful behavior but kept slyly nagging at me to consider: What is worse, Margaret’s behavior, or the royal customs which inevitably controlled every relationship and every event? With its n ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Satirist Craig Brown says that for most royal biographers "there is no division between the interesting and the uninteresting." His deliciously gossipy and unconventional biography of HRH Princess Margaret (1930-2002) avoids the humdrum by creating a fascinating patchwork of stories culled from histories, memoirs and diaries of historians, servants, royal watchers and celebrities including Michael Palin, Alec Guinness, Nancy Mitford, Noël Coward, John Fowles and Christopher Isherwood.

As the daug
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
Here's my problem with this book. You'd think it should be TRUE. Imagine how confused I was reading in chapter 19 about an announcement from Kensington Palace about Princess Margaret's marriage to Pablo Picasso. How had I gone this long without knowing about this? BECAUSE IT'S NOT TRUE. Argh.
Annie Booker
Occasionally funny. Mostly dreadful.
"Ma'am knows about your advantage in life and would really like to see it." --how a friend relayed Princess Margaret's request to see the twelve-inch flaccid pen¡s of a stranger

"Bollocks . . . She already knew all about his tackle." --another friend who believed that Margaret had already been having an affair with the pen¡s-haver in London before the incident in question

So there's this weird passive-aggressive thing where rich British people are really nice to the royals no matter how mean, diff
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Craig Edward Moncrieff Brown (born 23 May 1957, Hayes, Middlesex) is a British critic and satirist from England, probably best known for his work in British magazine Private Eye.
“Lord Curzon who, accused of knowing nothing of the common man, jumped on a bus, then ordered it to take him to No. 1 Carlton House Terrace.” 1 likes
“Yet, miraculously, the Queen has managed to avoid saying anything striking or memorable to anyone. This is an achievement, not a failing: it was her duty and destiny to be dull, to be as useful and undemonstrative as a postage stamp, her life dedicated to the near-impossible task of saying nothing of interest. Once, when Gore Vidal was gossiping with Princess Margaret, he told her that Jackie Kennedy had found the Queen ‘pretty heavy going’. ‘But that’s what she’s there for,’ explained the Princess.” 1 likes
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