An extraordinary memoir of drama, tragedy, and royal secrets by Anne Glenconner--a close member of the royal circle and lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. As seen on Netflix's The Crown.
Anne Glenconner has been at the center of the royal circle from childhood, when she met and befriended the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, the Princess Margaret. Though the firstborn child of the 5th Earl of Leicester, who controlled one of the largest estates in England, as a daughter she was deemed "the greatest disappointment" and unable to inherit. Since then she has needed all her resilience to survive the vipers of court life with her sense of humor intact.
A unique witness to landmark moments in royal history, Maid of Honor at Queen Elizabeth's coronation, and a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret until her death in 2002, Anne's life has encompassed extraordinary drama and tragedy. In Lady in Waiting, she will share many intimate royal stories from her time as Princess Margaret's closest confidante as well as her own battle for survival: her broken-off first engagement on the basis of her "mad blood"; her 54-year marriage to the volatile, unfaithful Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, who left his fortune to a former servant; the death in adulthood of two of her sons; a third son she nursed back from a six-month coma following a horrific motorcycle accident. Through it all, Anne has carried on, traveling the world with the royal family, including visiting the White House, and developing the Caribbean island of Mustique as a safe harbor for the rich and famous-hosting Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Raquel Welch, and many other politicians, aristocrats, and celebrities.
Anne Veronica (Coke) Tennant, LVO, Baroness Glenconner is a daughter of Thomas W.E. Coke, MVO, GOC, 5th Earl of Leicester and Elizabeth Mary (Yorke) Tennant, Countess of Leicester.
Lady Glenconner served as a maid of honour at the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. She was Extra Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth II's sister, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon from 1971 until the Princess died in 2002.
In 2019, Lady Glenconner’s memoir was published by Hodder & Stoughton. Speaking on her reason for publishing the book, she said: "I was so fed up with people writing such horrible things about Princess Margaret."
I take exception to Anne Glenconner asserting that the local mixer for rum on her husband's island, Mustique was a 'revolting pink liquid' made from hibiscus and called sorrel. It is actually a really delicious drink made from the sepals of roselle.
So anyway, Anne doesn't like the local bevvy. There are a lot of things Anne doesn't like, but nothing like as many as Princess Margaret about whom I read the hilarious book, Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret. I thought she couldn't have been that bad in real life, but actually she was much worse and Anne was her childhood friend and for 25 years her Lady in Waiting which is what royalty call a combined servant and friend that they don't have to pay and come from the non-working, aristocratic class.
The author said she wrote the book because, "I was so fed up with people writing such horrible things about Princess Margaret." I can't say I got any better impression of PM from her book than the other, "horrible" one.
Despite their friendship as children and PM calling her 'Anne' she always had to address her as 'Ma'am'. Once when 'Ma'am' got sick in a house not her own palace, she said that she didn't know the servants in the house so none were allowed to come into her room. Anne had to sleep next to her, help with her hygiene, clean the room, bring the food, and keep her amused for an entire week. When she escaped to have a swim, within minutes 'Ma'am' would be asking for her. How can anyone be that spoiled and that self-indulgent, or in common parlance, up her own arse?
And why did Anne not actually resign from the position? She couldn't have been that enamoured and awed by royalty, that was her social circle. Couldn't have been the foreign travel, she could afford to do anything she wanted (and did). Couldn't have been the friendship. You can't be real friends with anyone who can order you to clean the room and you have to address as 'Ma'am', how could you ever speak the truth if it was something that would upset her? A mystery to me.
Anne had troubles in her life that her money and connections often helped mitigate. A son desperately injured in a third-world tropical place was instantly helicoptered out to a hospital with a quick call to the embassy. Another son a heroin addict was helped so he didn't end up living on the streets or in prison like ordinary folk (He died of hepatitis C after recovering from his addiction). Her third son died of AIDS. She also has twin daughters to whom nothing bad seems to have misfallen so hopefully they bring her joy.
Possibly her worst tribulation was her husband. I couldn't make up my mind if he was extremely neurotic and thought throwing tantrums like a 2 year old actually on the floor and screaming was perfectly fine for him as an eccentric aristocrat (he adored being eccentric). Or if he was genuinely quite mad and if he had not been so wealthy but lived on an ordinary life, working for a living, people not kow-towing to him, would have ended up sectioned? He had as was said of "Ma'am's" husband, Tony Armstrong-Jones, only a 'loose acquaintance' with monogamy. But that's all right because Anne (and Margaret) both had their 'special friends' themselves.
When her husband, Colin, died, he had changed his Will and left his vast fortune to his manservant and best friend of 30 years, Kent Adonai a St Lucian, leaving the family with "only" the Scottish estate, The Glen. This is a 22 bedroom house on 5,000 acres built next to the Queen's holiday home of Balmoral. The family, outraged by this, contested the will and won back half of it after 7 years in court. I'm glad Kent got some of it, about £11M though! Actually Colin was a generous soul, who did treat the islanders on Mustique very well, helped with the school, businesses, health care. A decent man, if crazy - he once bought an elephant for a pet (which Kent looked after) and kept it in St Lucia.
The book was fascinating in the way documentaries on the royals often are. They are like us, kind of, but not really. The royals have money and privilege. But money alone, enough of it will buy you privilege too, as it did Anne and her family. It made me think back to this last summer with the billionaire racing car driver. I was in the kitchen of his beautiful house and he said I needed to drink more. I said I didn't like water. He opened a fridge that had nothing in but splits of French champagne, and asked me which of the many brands was my favourite? Like I am on quaffing terms with a dozen brands of champagne? ______
Notes on reading These aristocrats are really different from us. Judging by this book they don't have the faintest idea of how people really live. The author grew up in one of the biggest houses in England. Her family had no money so her mother decided to start a pottery on their grounds to make some extra cash. The father called it "the potting shed". Are you thinking small place in the garden - hardly , their 'grounds' were so big there were villages in it! No, the mother had dinner sets designed and the 100 people she employed made them. 100 people, no wonder she didn't have any money, or not the sort of money she called money.
Despite that, when the author was sent to America to sell these sets, not to ordinary shops, but Bloomingdales and Hollywood stars to whom she can always get introductions, she travelled steerage, third class, because of their relative poverty. Perhaps it was the cost of her coming-out ball that naturally had the most popular band of the day brought down from London to play. She was gorgeous and was on the cover of Tatler and whatever was the Hello! magazine of the day.
The book is a good read because it is a weird look at a tiny portion of society that is entirely insular. If you aren't an aristocrat, your relationship with them is probably as a supplier of some service or product. You won't be invited to have lunch with them, you won't be considered as a potential love-interest, you wn't go to school with them, and you won't be on first name terms with members of the royal family. What you will do is be ruled by these out-of-touch people since they sit in the House of Lords! Time that went.
""The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the most tempting moment." Dorothy Neville-Rolfe, owner of the The Story Of The House Of Citizenship, one of the finishing schools the author attended." And the best quote in the book.
16/2020 Rewritten 4 July 2022 because I can't sleep
Lady Glenconner goes straight onto my fantasy dinner guest list - this biography is the most entertaining I’ve ever read and confirms that most of the British aristocracy are mad as a box of frogs. Fascinating insight into the parallel universe of high society as seen through the eyes of a lovely lady who is able to simply narrate without boastfulness or judgement. Every page holds a nugget of entertainment - my favourite is the good sense to never travel without a bottle of vodka!
One definitely has to be amazed at Anne Glenconner’s stiff upper lip when it comes to dealing with adversity. Even though she was born into an aristocratic family, she certainly wasn’t pampered or coddled as a child. Besides, she was suppose to be a boy, since a male heir was needed. She speaks of that matter in a less dramatic way than Princess Diana did, however. There’s no gloominess to Lady Glenconner in this book. No self-pity.
When she finally fell in love and got engaged; to Princess Diana’s father, no less; he was told by his family to break the engagement, since insanity ran in her family. Interestingly, Anne Glenconner would then go on to marry another aristocrat who was actually mentally ill--Colin Tennant. He had a personality disorder. Or call it whatever you want, but just don’t call it eccentricity.
Lady Glenconner called it eccentricity, as well as using other not too serious terms. No, Colin Tennant was mentally ill. He was the type of man who made embarrassing public scenes when he didn’t get his way. For example, one time, he threw himself down on the floor of an airplane, screaming like a two-year-old, when they wouldn’t put him in first class. Another time, he started wailing at the opera for his manservant. And on and on and on.
He was very cruel to his wife at times and repeatedly cheated on her. Their honeymoon has to be one of the worst ones ever described in a memoir. Yet Lady Glenconner sings his praises in this book to no end. She likes to say she married “all” of her husband, the good and the bad. At one point, she said adultery was so common in the aristocracy that she knew of no marriage where it wasn’t happening. Really?
When Lord Tennant finally died, he left his entire estate to his manservant, the one he was wailing for at the opera. Now, THAT surprised and shocked Lady Glenconner. Really? Why? It’s not like he was a loving husband, a doting father, or someone who deeply cared and worked for others less fortunate, as did his grandmother Lady Muriel Paget.
He was a narcissistic nutcase, and his presence wrecked what started off as a highly interesting memoir. Lady Glenconner gets no points for sticking up for him and staying married to him. More importantly, she gets no points for suggesting in this memoir that taking the good with the bad means a spouse should tolerate mental cruelty. Obviously, the most important thing for an aristocrat in her time was to marry another aristocrat, and to try to keep all the family money and property in the family.
(Note: I received an e-ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher or author.)
Clunky, ungrammatical prose detailing an incident-filled life. Oh, those wacky aristocrats! Yet there’s no real appreciation for the vast wealth frequently squandered and lives of unearned privilege. The only thing that was mildly amusing about this tedious memoir was the subversive revenge on people who treated the author badly, most significantly her husband and Princess Margaret. Her husband, one senses, wouldn’t have cared and Princess Margaret would have seen it as a betrayal, but they’re dead anyway and somewhere, I suspect, are having the last laugh. They had the best of it.
This could go long. Like Anne Tennant, Baroness of Glenconner's life. Zowza!
If she would have been a tad more forthcoming about her elderly years I would have given it a 5 star review. Despite her forgiving herself fairly easily for some major glitches passed to her next generation. Although I find myself solidly on Anne's page in nearly all- I have to note that particular exact judgment from the get-go. It's a flaw. A huge one, one that this noble class and UK culture seems to hold nearly endemically. Because so much of protocol, tradition, personality whims and wants, and establishment hierarchy and "what we do" comes first. She solidly exists herself and always did within this intrinsic structure of "us". So take all my praise coming forth in that exact light of her own world's essence.
Because Anne is of the "rock of granite" core with a diamond temperament to go along with it. She's stolid when it counts, has a type of common sense practical application skill that is rare, and knows pleasing when it hasn't gone all the way to sycophant. Her combined sets of attributes are RARE. Rare for self-identity. Rare for endurance. Rare for her capacity to change and adjustment. JUST PLAIN RARE. A true keeper in the sense of you want this person to hold the stern line when all else is "at sea" and sinking.
What a life! And the travel and sheer numbers of homes she had or lived within. At one time she counted 26 trips to India alone. And there is hardly a city, country or building in any of their cores she doesn't "know". Think about her tale after reading this, folks! Could you be that adjustable to change? Few could. Let alone the marriage she had or the 30 plus year service to Princess Margaret. That travail of move, move, move itself? Even with some dozens of staff or not. She had at least 12 or 15 homes sold in and out from under her in England alone.
But the Mustique (an island in the Caribbean her husband bought and "settled") tales of every year and every aspect from the days of living in jungle /beach? And all the vehicles, ships, airplanes and every form of movement contrivance ever invented that she or hers used. Including an elephant. Back and forth between continents and hemispheres at least 4 or 5 times a year. Must be at GLEN (Scotland estate) in August to host the hunts.
And the tragedies survived! Not only with her children. But being a "controller" or kind of caretaker to that mentally ill bipolar and more than mean spirited husband (Colin Tennant, Baron of Glenconner) for 54 years! Even if she only lived in his vicinity for maybe 4 months out of each 12 on the same continent. STILL! Can you imagine an adult you are married to biting strangers or throwing tantrums on a plane and laying down in the aisle crying and beating the floors and other people NOW? Can you imagine the treatments of people he got away with then- if that happened in public today. Or with some of the Margaret "requests" too?
Because I have read several books of non-fiction re Margaret and her highly intelligent and apt to be the entertainer herself lifestyle/ personality, I was not so shocked as most readers will be. But I was by the surrounds of acceptance on Mustique. And how Colin (Anne's husband) literally created another whole world for and of "his" where all personal eccentricities could be accommodated within "private"- no reporters, no public. And then didn't even live there more than 1/2 the time himself either. It doesn't surprise me that he ended up in St. Luciens.
Read this book, folks. You will be amazed at what can be fit into 90 plus years when you hold the right sets of circumstances- and aristocracy is plopped on your plate. And what women, especially the women, just assumed would be givens if their secured "correct" role was accepted and full kept with "grace". She was briefly engaged to Princess Diana's father. She had 5 children in 4 pregnancies and a 54 year long marriage in which women like myself would never have gotten past the honeymoon. A hint here: if a spoiled royal tells you that your perspective fiance is wonderful but also DECADENT, take her at her word. Margaret was correct and loved Colin as a friend for many decades. And decadent was one of his more sprightly attribute descriptions that could be said about him. Timely mental anguish / mean spirited and invisibility exits for 3 or 4 months at a time were the other two. Often leaving you holding the crisis, nanny, where to sleep at all "bag".
Anne herself is happy. Except for some bottom rung tragedy years she always was and is within memory too a joyful person. There is certainly a different component to "pleased" "happy" or "peaceful" for various human beings. Some quite opposed in their very cores to how others would describe those states. Was Margaret ever happy? Maybe when she was the entertainment and singing. This book leaves you with deep thoughts about the quotient of "happy" or "fulfillment" not in just aristocrat life but any life.
I strongly recommend this book to those under 40 years of age now. It was a different world and one I do remember myself although I was not a "grown up". The first 1/2 of the book is a 5 star. So much sorrow comes within the years of her late 40's to early 50's that the second half is almost as good but not such a ROCKET to read as the first half is. I would never have made this life. Not the tough war childhood or any of the uncertainty associated with being Lady Anne or Lady in Waiting. Couldn't stand the clothes, the servants (minimum 4 most of the time with Margaret and 2 or 3 on her own) or the histrionics. The histrionics being just constant. It was like an Epstein island but not with a core of pedophile onus- instead it was histrionics of tantrums, displays and constant and eternal chat drinking (no drunken) amorality. Infidelity needs another whole definition when it is attached to this era and situation. Their approach to religion or moral code is also blindly and economically convoluted.
I could never, ever live this type of life. Few could. I would never stand for hours holding trains (there were 12 to 16 different rehearsal days alone for Elizabeth's coronation) or getting people in and out of beds that were too tall for them. UGH! Not 100 world tours would make it worthwhile. Nor homes or rentals on all continents either. Thank God, she bought that house near Holkham in Norfolk when told to do so by much wiser, elderly relatives.
4.5 stars and rounded all the way to 5 for telling of the outcomes. Kudos too for telling some of them in "somewhat" of the sensibilities of a post 1990 world. That itself almost needs a 30 page translation alone. Good was bad and bad often very good. Sorry for the length reaction- but this was intrepid to read and to digest. Buying back your own silver bed at 86 or 87? Kind? Fair? All definitions seem to waver and trip. Some of them fall down.
It's also 5 stars for gifts given and taken, how to pin a medal on a King who wears next to no clothes, and for the fact I did not know that only married ladies wear tiaras.
I don't know what possessed me to pick up this memoir. I thought it might be fun, but I should have really known better. Anne Glenconner is a British aristocrat who served as a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth II's sister). I didn't even know who the lady was to whom Anne was a lady in waiting, so you can see where I am coming from. I am definitely not one of those all agog with the doings of the British royals.
The book started off quite interesting with Anne's childhood. She came of age in the middle of a world war. Unfortunately, the lack of a penis precluded her from inheriting her father's estates and money, which all went to somebody else who had one. Anne, meanwhile, got ready to hunt a groom for herself. I think I sort of enjoyed the book until this time. I genuinely enjoyed Anne's brief foray into the world of the living with her 'job' as a saleswoman for her mother's pottery business.
Anne's marriage to Colin Whatshisname brings a downward quality to both book and Anne's life. While Anne is forced to put up with the big baby throwing tantrums, we are forced to read about it. What really annoyed me was she simply brushes off his abuses and calls him 'eccentric'. Whatever next? I got the feeling she would have brushed off anything her husband did. I soon got bored of his antics. In the end, he gave her a royal up yours for the last time, leaving all his money to a servant.
Princess Margaret was another very boring character. Coming from a place of ignorance about her, I don't see why she was so loved by the press (according to Anne). I didn't find her amusing or interesting in the least. The power imbalance in their friendship put me off as well, though their 'friendship' seemed quite important to Anne. She even had to address her as 'ma'am' even in private. If my bff tried to make me call her ma'am, I'd give her a swift kick up the butt.
Luckily, both the arseholes pass away eventually, leaving Anne to talk about her struggles with her children. This portion was more interesting and I finally got involved in Anne's story. Two of her sons died of disease and her third son almost died after a motorcycle accident. These stories were heartfelt and emotional and made the book worthwhile to an extent.
There are times when I was completely flummoxed by Anne's lack of awareness of her own privilege. In the end, I felt sorry for Anne. With all the money in the world, she had nobody to rely on and nobody who loved her for herself (except maybe her children). The aristocratic and sexist lifestyle sent her sons to the arms of death, one by one. She has been close to royalty all her life, but what really did she achieve at the end of it?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Lady Glenconner's memoir has a conversational feel, in which the reader feels the author is speaking with them - reminiscing on her distinctly personal take on the extraordinary decades through which she lived. The selling point of "Lady in Waiting" is Lady Glenconner's lifelong friendship with the late Princess Margaret, whose household she joined as lady-in-waiting. The heart, however, is Lady Glenconner and it's hard to imagine a more charming narrator. Charm often trumps honesty, yet there is no feel of deception in "Lady in Waiting." Instead, a memorable series of vignettes pepper the narrative - her coming out ball as a debutante at Holkham Hall; travelling on a tourist (3rd)-class ticket on the "Queen Mary" to continue her work as a travelling salesperson for her mother's pottery business, then coming back to Britain to personally attend Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation; feeding bananas through her kitchen window to an elephant rescued by her husband; accidentally finding herself at an orgy in Paris; watching as the late Queen Mother drank a dry martini while watching "Dad's Army" on the television (we are told that Her Majesty was particularly amused by Captain Mainwaring); the slightly aloof rudeness of Nancy Reagan against the consummate charm of Barbara Bush; Mick and Bianca Jagger partying on Mustique; Raquel Welch's pathological lateness, and encountering a solitary Buddhist monk on an Indian roadside.
These are, however, set in the context of the history witnessed by the author - the AIDS crisis is told with devastating honesty through a family story; she captures the fears of living in London through the IRA bombing campaign by discussing a bomb planted in the same letterbox into which her young son had posted mail only a few hours before the device exploded; the birth and development of Mustique as a private island and luxury retreat is woven into the difficulties of Lady Glenconner's marriage to the exuberant, eccentric Liberal peer, Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner. Changing British attitudes to mental health awareness are likewise exposed through her personal experiences of living with, and loving, somebody who was crippled by obsessive compulsive disorder.
How I loved every sentence of this book, with my glimpse into Royal life and the aristocracy (with my last job before retiring ) I had some idea the life the author had led,but soon realised there was so much more to learn The memoirs start at her birth and end with her aged 87 and still discovering new things to do and see having experienced the most wonderful yet at times harrowing life, the book covers her 25 years as Lady In Waiting for Princess Margaret (up until her death) her personal life,including very moving accounts of 3 of her 5 children who experienced tragedy early in their lives, she speaks openly on subjects of Aids, Heroin, Brothels and even live sex shows she went to on her honeymoon and all this sits between tales of growing up with the Royal Family and being part of the ‘Court’ also included are fascinating accounts of her husband ( who bought Mustique ) and his shocking frequent histrionics and how she coped with immense privilige and yet vast sorrow, often in the same day I kept thinking when reading ‘this is more bizarre than the fiction I read’ and honestly it was, it’s hard to believe this lady saw and did as much as she did Superb, delightful and scurrilous as well as informative and at times upsetting this book had me mesmerised from cover to cover, interestingly it is far from a Princess Margaret memoir and every bit a memoir of herself and her life and a very open look into her most fascinating life
Interesting memoir from one of the ladies in waiting of Princess Margaret Mixes the personal with what happens in court Takes the reader on a trip through the Island Of Mesquite Takes the reader to the highlands of Scotland To Leicester Around the globe Into the turmoil of a family that had losses Into what it feels like to be a mother who lost her sons and her husband
Anne Glenconner has lead a life of privilege among royalty and the aristocracy, but it hasn't protected her from marriage to a terrible man and the tragedy of losing two of her children. I can't help thinking she would have been better off if she had focused on getting a good education and had continued to work for her mother's pottery business.
I have to preface this review by saying that this book sat on my bedside table firmly stuck on page 50. For close to six months. It was all “Earl” this and “Duke” that. I’m stifling a yawn typing this line.
Being very aware that it was well overdue to be returned to its rightful owner, over the weekend and last few days I bit the bullet and started to read it. Again. This time I wasn’t stuck in third gear, and actually managed to cruise along quite nicely at a decent clip.
Actually, thanks have to go to Ms. Skinny (the tabby princess) who demanded to be let out at 3.00am and 4.00am recently. Being a light sleeper at the best of times, her keeping feline hours helped me to finally finish this book.
What stood out to me and what did I learn? * Money does not buy happiness or love (didn’t someone write a song about that once?). * Three-barrelled-surnames exist. Truly. I had no idea. Seems that two are not enough. * Class cannot be bought, and money (or a title or two) allows you to get away with appalling behaviour. That would not be tolerated elsewhere. * Beware the honeymoon in Paris. * Eccentricity can be quite charming and fun, until it becomes, well, boring and too eccentric. * The need to produce a male heir is of the utmost importance. Never mind that it’s the female half of the species popping him out. Bravo, tally ho and all that. * Ian Fleming’s friends roared with laughter when after dinner he read them a few pages of the novel he was working on named Casino Royale. Touché.
Once I got my snarkiness out of the way, and realised that I was reading about people who do not share the same oxygen as me, I began to appreciate the book. Well, I stopped being frustrated by it. I thought, as I often do, that truth is stranger than fiction. And took it all with a huge grain of salt. Or lump of sugar. Pinky finger up while sipping from the tea cup. It turns out that Anne Glennconner comes across as quite convivial, and she’s certainly been through a lot and put up with a great deal. Her childhood seemed to lack warmth, it sounded like a “typical” upper class approach to child rearing. Her hubby was certainly a handful, with behaviour more suited to a toddler in the lolly aisle of Woolworth’s than an adult. Including the blatant affairs he made no effort to hide, even talking with Anne about the holidays he’d taken with his mistress/es. Whaaaaaat? I cannot pretend to understand. It seems that a bit of money and a “name” allows this carryon to be expected and even excused.
”Rarely, it seemed, were there just two partners in a marriage. It was an aristocratic curse. Affairs were expected, and wives just worked around it.”
“Aristocratic curse”? Is that what you call it? Bah humbug.
Being one of six “Maids of Honour” at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 was most certainly an honour. Reading about this momentous event, all the preparation, pomp and ceremony was quite beautiful and fascinating. What a thrill it must have been! Being asked to be Princess Margaret’s “Lady In Waiting” twenty years later, perhaps not so much. Though they moved in the same rarefied circles, it must have been odd to switch from being someone’s friend to servant, despite the pride that supposedly goes with the unpaid role. And the fact that Margaret was “misunderstood” and had a good sense of humour, according to Ms. Glennconner.
There’s the tedium and wonder of travel, moving house continuously as her husband got involved in some venture or another, over the top parties where hundreds of thousands (I’d imagine pounds rather than dollars) were spent putting them on for terribly important VIPs (very important peeps). Truly a lifestyles of the rich and famous flavour to her life.
The chapters featuring her children, particularly her sons, touched me. This is where the story came to life for me. It cannot have been easy to deal with. One son becoming a heroin addict at the age of sixteen, another becoming HIV/AIDS positive, and the third involved in a horrific motorcycle accident. Her fears and feelings and love truly shone through on these pages. And all the while with such momentous concerns and worries, the show had to go on. It cannot have been easy. I appreciated seeing this side of her, rather than guests lists of parties.
If you’re in the right mood when you start this, it’s not a bad read to fill in some hours. It really is about a very different class of people. One that perhaps has less of a place and impact on society today than it once did.
The book is a memoir by a woman who was a Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth at her coronation and for 30 years a Lady in Waiting and good friend to Princess Margaret. Apparently a Lady in Waiting is a kind of personal assistant and companion to a Royal. Someone who does mundane tasks and is always at their side so there will be someone familiar in the room.
This might have been a more interesting book if the author had concentrated on the aspects of her life while she was acting as a Lady in Waiting. Instead, she reveals all the minutiae of her life as an uber-privileged aristocrat, in mind numbing detail. All the houses she has owned, all her friends with multiple hyphenated names, her marriage to a man who is either bi-polar, schizophrenic or just a garden variety asshole, her dysfunctional children and her many travels. Maybe 25% of the book is about her relationship with the Royal family, which, let’s be honest, is why anyone would read this book.
There is an interesting story, though. At one point she was engaged to Johnnie Althorp. She introduced him to one of her friends, Frances Fermoy. He almost immediately broke off their engagement. “Not only did Johnnie them marry Frances, but their youngest daughter was Lady Diana Spencer, who later became Diana, Princess of Wales.” How history might have changed if she had married Johnnie Althorp!
Regarding her own extremely dysfunctional marriage, she once asked her husband why he married her. “He replied, “Well, I knew that with you, you would carry on, you would never give up.” Believe me, her gave her plenty of reasons to give up.
Regarding the aristocratic marriages: “Almost every single couple I could think of was interlaced with other people’s husbands and wives. Rarely, it seemed, were there just the two partners in a marriage. It was an aristocratic curse. Affairs were expected and wives just worked around it.” Interesting.
This book was a huge disappointment. I wasn’t looking for salacious gossip, but I really had no interest in her overly privileged life. A lot of skimming got me through this book. I cannot recommend this book.
Read this after seeing Lady Glenconner on the Graham Norton show. Ordered it from the library for my wife who is much more interested in the Royal Family than I am but ended up reading it myself first.
Some intriguing insights about the Queen, her sister, mother and husband but most of all very revealing about how the aristocracy live. It was Princess Margaret that Anne Glenconner knew best so in essence it is a book about her. The section about the Queen’s coronation is a must read for anyone interested in the Royals as well.
Lady Glenconner has also led an absolutely fascinating but tragic life (two sons died young, another miraculously recovered from an accident which left him in a coma - the section about his recovery, I found especially interesting). Very hard to put this down once you get into it.
If you loved Downton Abbey, then you will love "Lady in Waiting." This is a memoir written by a woman who lived a life of privilege that makes the girls of Downton Abbey look like they belong in a Charles Dickens novel...in a workhouse. Anne Glenconner was born into mind-boggling wealth and privilege as one of the daughters of the Earl of Leicester whose ancestral home Holkam Hall is to this day used as a set for period films and costume dramas. She lived in a world of where people married for titles and money, debutantes were yearly presented to the king and queen, the rich went into London for "the season", summered in their family homes in Scotland, and shot up the countryside in the autumn. She rubbed elbows with everyone titled who had an elbow and she married a half-mad aristocrat with a suitable family fortune that allowed him to buy the island of Mustique and make it into a playland for the likes of Princess Margaret, Mick Jagger, Prince Phillip, and the Queen. She traveled the world as Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret and somehow managed to stay married for 54 years to a man who threw public tantrums (he was banned forever from British Airways for throwing himself into the aisle and screaming till he had to be removed from the plane) till the day he died, producing five children with them, only to see two of them die in early adulthood, one of Hepatitis C from the years of his heroin addiction and the other from AIDS. No matter what you've done or whom you've met in your life, it will pale in comparison to hers. If you're interested in how "the other half" or really the 1% in England lives, this is the book for you. It's incredible.
Vis galvoju, kaip, jei man reikėtų šią knygą leisti, knygą apibūdinčiau, nei lūkesčius sukeldama, nei autorę sumenkindama. Viena vertus, ji kur kas daugiau, nei tik rūmų dama. Kita vertus, be princesės Margaretos vardo šalia josios, Anne tarsi ne tokia įdomi – na, tikrai ne tiek, kad knygą imtumeis skaityti. O tiesa ta, kad ir be karališkosios šeimos šešėlio čia yra ką veikti ir apie ką kalbėti. Pirmasis šimtas puslapių atrodė ištęstokas – keičias miestai ir veidai (ypač rūmai ir visokie erlai), tik ir laukiau: tai kur čia ta princesė? O vos autorė pasuko santuokos keliu, buvo aišku: ne Margaretos asmenybė gros pirmuoju smuiku . Bet vietos užteko visiems. Tai, su kokia pagarba Anne pasakoja apie absoliučiai VISUS, tik įrodo, kad diplomatijos meno išmoko iš geriausių, tačiau vietomis kiek vargino – patikėti susitaikymu su visais gyvenimo sunkumais, ypač tais, kuriuos buvo galima pakeisti, mano charakteriui buvo sunkiai pakeliama. Lengva būtų kaltinti autorę dėl daugelio LABAI abejotinų jos pasirinkimų, bet atidėjus į šalį pasipiktinimą ir pradėjus tiesiog plaukti per jos gyvenimą, pasidarė lengviau. Ir tikrai ne kartą gniaužė kvapą: ne suknelės ir ne kelionės, ne tiaros ir ne deimantai, o tiesiog iššūkiai, kuriuos vienai šeimai tenka patirti. Tokie, kurių jokiais deimantais neišspręsi.
Nesuvokiamas vertėjos Ievos Sidaravičiūtės darbas: kaip ji išlaviravo jūroje vardų, vietų ir titulų, man lieka mistika, tikrai vertėtų už darbą ją karūnuoti. Negaliu pasakyti, kad knyga dėmesį išlaikė tolygiai, bet įpusėjus nebesinorėjo paleisti – jeigu gyvenimo įžangai būtų buvę skirta mažiau laiko, o viduriui – kur kas daugiau, tikrai sakyčiau, kad galima būtų rašyti cielas 5*. Pirma atrodė, kad čia bus tikras perlas kostiuminių dramų gerbėjams, bet iš tiesų karališkas gyvenimas man nepasirodė knygos esmė – autorė įrodė, kad ir be monarchijos priedų nugyveno tokį gyvenimą, kuriuo gali tik žavėtis, baisėtis ir tikrai abejingu nė per kur nelikti. Net kelios vietos man visus saugiklius išmušė be didelių pastangų. Todėl linkiu šią knygą imti į rankas kaip tiesiog pasakojimą apie įdomų gyvenimą su monarchijos prieskoniu. Tikriausiai taip knygą apibūdinti būtų teisingiausia, o nusivylusių likti neturėtų – rūmų damos gyvenimas už rūmų ribų vertas jūsų laiko kaip tiesiog nepaprastai pagavi ir kokybiškai, neištemptai papasakota gyvenimo istorija.
Having read a very funny review, I came to this book with high hopes. Boy, what a disappointment it turned out to be. Lady Glenconner cannot write for toffee. She is a person who has had quite a life but her account of it has all the excitement and narrative drive of a telephone directory. Understatement and stiff upper lippery is so pronounced in her character that her verdict on her marriage to a serially unfaithful man who regularly erupted into unspeakable rage and occasionally bought elephants on impulse is merely this:
"Apart from his infidelity and his temper, we got on so well."
But perhaps she didn't know there were other kinds of marriage. After all, as she explains, her:
"sister Carey had trouble with her husband ... after a few years, [he] refused to talk directly to her and instead would talk through his Labrador, saying things like 'Tell her to bring the bloody paper over here'."
Furthermore, Lady Glenconner's father in later life believed his wife and the writer's youngest sister "were Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields. At his insistence, they sang songs like 'The Biggest Aspidistra in the World'." As if this were not enough, Lady Glenconner's "father got into a habit of chatting up women on the train to London and inviting them back to Holkham, where he would take them off on the fire engine, encouraging them to ring the bell.'
The book really brought home to me what an extraordinarily good writer the Duchess of Devonshire was. Describing a similar milieu but provided with far fewer eccentrics, the Duchess was able to produce hilarity from the flimsiest of material. Lady Glenconner has much more exciting substance, but her supreme gift is to render everything banal. Take her account of the demise of an acquaintance called Laura Brand, who was, she explains:
"the rather eccentric sister of Lord Hambleden ... [She] always wore sombreros and was always in the sea. ... Laura drowned [when] she and her husband Micky were in Grenada and she went for a swim. Micky was on the beach when all of a sudden her hat floated past, out to sea."
That is the full extent of that story. We move rapidly on to a party, while the hat and the memory drift away.
But then in Lady Glenconner's social circle it seems very little is required to make someone appear wonderfully entertaining. A ritual of the Queen Mother's involving drinking toasts to people is portrayed as the height of wit but isn't, while one of Princess Margaret's entourage, a man called John Harding was, we are told, always welcome, since "the children adored [him] on account of his ability to tear telephone directories [them again] in half." It does seem to me that that particular party trick would pall quite quickly, but not so far as the Glenconner children were concerned, apparently.
Mind you, some of those children went on to rather grisly ends, so perhaps something in their way of life - possibly the forced gaiety expected when witnessing the wanton destruction of telephone directories - did have long term bad effects. Or perhaps their mother's steadfast refusal to do anything but look on the bright side provoked them. Her tone remains constant even when she tells us how one of her sons would go off to rehab clinics packed "with other members of high society", (who she then lists). When her husband suggests disinheriting the boy, she remarks, utterly inconsequentially, "I didn't know what to think, but could quite see where Colin was coming from."
Just as Lady Glenconner seems unable to differentiate between tragedy and daily life, she appears to have absolutely no idea what is funny and what is boring. Thus she mentions in passing, as if she hadn't even noticed it, that the undertakers she dealt with after her husband's death were called Lazarus Funerals, but devotes a whole paragraph to a story with no punchline at all:
"In the late afternoon we [Lady Glenconner and Princess Margaret] would often go and sit in Basil's Bar, watching the sunset, sceptically waiting for the 'green flash' that is supposed to appear on the horizon just after the sun vanishes. Neither of us believed it, yet we always seemed to be distracted by the thought, pausing our conversation to stare at the view, just in case we saw it. We never did but it became a fun habit."
A fun habit! Elsewhere in her narrative we have Princess Margaret trying to beat grey squirrels to death. Another fun habit? Possibly.
In the end, I even began almost to sympathise with Lady Glenconner's monstrous loony husband. A few hundred pages spent in her dull, dull company was bad enough; if one had to spend a lifetime with her, who knows how angry and irrational one might not become.
What a crazy, fascinating, eventful life story. From her close friendship with Princess Margaret to sleeping in a brothel in Swaziland, from her front row seat at hundreds of glitzy parties to stumbling into a Parisian orgy, from travelling to Russia with a friend who wanted to hire a hitman to visiting karaoke bars with Imelda Marcos - she has had one hell of a life.
Anne was born into the aristocracy, the daughter of an Earl who grew up in a grand house on a vast estate in Norfolk. Her interactions with the Royal Family are a large part of her story although not necessarily the most interesting parts. What did strike me though was how vividly she writes about being a lady in waiting at Queen Elizabeth's Coronation, as if it was only a few years ago. Her stories about Princess Margaret also made me feel like I really knew her (they are mostly, but not always, kind).
But her marriage! After a brief engagement to Princess Diana's father, she met and married Colin Tennant, the wealthy son of a Baron with a 50 room Scottish castle. Anne describes him and his family as "flamboyant", "eccentric", "highly strung" and "never boring". (Members of the family did things like riding horses into the house and using rashers of bacon as bookmarks). I don't know what diagnosis one would give Colin but he most definitely was mentally ill. He was prone to frequent, violent and irrational tantrums: one time when unhappy with a hotel room he yelled and screamed so much that he woke up every guest in the hotel, another time he was so angry at not being in First Class on a plane that he lay in the aisle screaming hysterically, another time he lost his temper with a taxi driver and bit him.
Early in the marriage Anne went home to her mother who told her: "Go straight back, you married him". So she did, and she stayed with him, mostly prioritising him above her children for the 54 years that they were married. They split their time between the castle in Scotland, the elegant town house in London and the island of Mustique in the West Indies that Colin bought on a whim (despite it having no running water or electricity) and developed as a playground for the very wealthy.
Recently I read The Mountbattens and I was struck by the way that infidelity was so accepted among the upper classes and by what neglectful parents they were. The same things struck me reading this book. Colin was frequently unfaithful, Anne only once or twice (she is vague about this) but she comments that this was equally true of every marriage she knew. When she was young she was treated terribly by a nanny who tied her to her bed every night and she writes how this scarred her, as did going for three years without seeing her parents during the war. But when her first two sons were born, she repeats the same mistakes: "we got a new nanny, but it turned out she wasn't very kind and I didn't find out very quickly" she writes. "Like everyone else I knew, we left our children in the care of a nanny or governess when we went away for weekends" and later "while the children's lives were in London, Colin spent most of his time on Mustique...I felt torn, leaving my children, but so much was happening on Mustique and Colin was desperate to have me there in support".
I could write so much about this book: there are so many amazing stories and insights into a way of life that is very, very different from mine. I recommend it!
England, 1932. “I had tried so hard to be a boy.” Anne Glenconner’s Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown is the dynamic memoir of Lady Glenconner’s life with all its tragedy, drama, adventure, disappointments, travel, and friendship with the British Royal Family. While in NYC selling pottery made at her home, Holkham Hall, one of the grandest estates in England, Lady Anne received a telegram informing her that she was to be one of the Maids of Honor at Queen Elizabeth II’s coranation. The author draws the reader into her life as she debuts into society, marries (at age 22) Lord Colin Tennant, son “of the 2nd Baron Glenconner” whose ‘country pile’ , Glen, was in the Borders of Scotland. Lord Tennant was charming, had gone to Eton then Oxford, but Lord Tennant had a vile temper when it appeared. Lord and Lady Glenconner went on to have 5 children. Charlie, Henry, Christopher, and twin girls, May and Amy. In 1971 Lady Anne was asked by Princess Margaret if she would like to be one of her Ladies in Waiting., and Lady Anne happily said yes. She became a very close friend with Princess Margaret. The author, also, wrote a “genuine portrait” of Princess Margaret. This reader now knows the real Princess Margaret!
The following stories of Charlie and Henry showed the courage Lady Anne had. The ‘miracle’ of Christopher is just that. I am extremely inspired by what Lady Anne did in this ‘hard to read’ section on Christopher. God bless her and her determination! One other exciting part of this memoir explains that Colin bought the island of Mustique which was producing cotton when he bought it - producing very little cotton. Colin and Anne turned this island completely around and made it the place everyone wanted to visit. Congratulations to them. They gave a piece of land to Princess Margaret as a wedding present, and I believe that the Princess was at her happiest there!
There is a great deal more in this memoir, and I highly recommend it. What a woman Lady Anne Glenconner is! 5 stars
Subtitle: My Extraordinary Life In the Shadow of the Crown
Glenconner has spent her life as an intimate friend of the royal family. As a child she played with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, her family estate (one of the grandest in England) being next door to the Royal Family’s country retreat, Sandringham. She served as a Maid of Honor for Elizabeth II’s Coronation, and as Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret.
Her life has been full of ups and downs, including a broken first engagement, followed by marriage to the Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner who exhibited violent outbursts, engaged in extramarital affairs, and bought an island on a whim. That was Mustique, which became THE place where Jet-Setters escaped in the 1970s – ‘80s. Despite the volatility of her marriage, Anne stayed by her man; it was what was done in their set.
This is quite the autobiography, and Glenconner reads the audiobook herself. It took me a bit to get used to her delivery, but I cannot imagine anyone else (well, maybe Maggie Smith) doing a better job of it.
A fascinating and honest account of a truly extraordinary life. The writing feels a little clunky here and there but you can't help but keep reading, intrigued by the unpredictable twists and turns in Lady Glenconner's life. I didn't always like the person being revealed to me, but it's impossible to deny her strength of character. Quite something.
Увлекательная книга, потрясающе интересная (счастливая, сложная и трагичная) судьба, совершенно иной, непохожий на обычный мир (мир, в котором маленькая девочка слюнявит пальчик и листает рукопись Леонардо, рассматривая картинки).
What a memoir! Her years as lady in waiting to Princess Margaret are just a small part of what makes her life story fascinating. And she’s such a good storyteller that I didn’t want the book to end.
The first laugh I got in the book was when she described how during WW2 she and her sister made plans in case the Germans invaded. They were sure the top Nazis would take over all the great country houses, so they decided they would charm their ways into whichever one Hitler had taken and poison him. She remarks something to the effect that the Mitford girls were also keen to be with Hitler in Britain—but not to murder him. (It’s a good joke if you’re familiar with the famous Mitford daughters.)
Her description of being one of the young aristocratic women (daughters of two dukes, three earls and a marquess) who were Maids of Honor and held Queen Elizabeth’s train at her coronation is gripping, especially the contrast between the pomp and circumstance of that event and some other elements of her life at the time. For example, her family had neglected to make hotel reservations in London so she and other family members had to sleep on the floor at an uncle’s flat. At the time of the invitation for her to be an attendant, she was in the US acting as a salesperson for her family’s china business, sleeping in 1-star hotels and rooming houses that catered to salesmen.
This is another book that will convince Americans that all British aristocrats not only know each other, but are intimately connected. Anne’s first love broke off their engagement because his father told him that Anne’s family had “mad blood.” That ex-fiancé was “Johnny,” Viscount Althorp, a/k/a Princess Diana’s father. Anne hired Barbara Barnes to take care of her younger children, and Barnes later became nanny to Princes William and Harry. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the many connections of Anne to other aristos and celebrities. Celebrities she mentions include Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Raquel Welch, Rupert Everett and Dame Judi Dench, many of whom she met on the island of Mustique, which her husband bought and developed into a playground for royals, the wealthy and celebrities..
The bulk of the book is about Anne’s relationships with her husband, Princess Margaret, and Anne’s five children. She had an incredibly trying time with a husband who sounds like he was charming but probably bipolar, the often demanding Princess Margaret, an eldest son who was a drug addict and died as a result, a second son who died of AIDS, and a third son who had a motorcycle crash and was in a coma for months. Despite it all, she always had a positive and accommodating attitude. Even though she describes some terrible behavior from her husband, including public temper tantrums, frequent affairs and an outrageous final will, she always loved and supported him.
A large part of Anne’s inspiration for this book was a desire to combat the often negative portrayals of Princess Margaret. She writes over and over about how much fun she had with the Princess and how thoughtful and witty she was. Anne spent a day with Helena Bonham-Carter (whose family she knew) to help prepare Helena for her role playing Princess Margaret in the third season of The Crown.
I’m especially glad I listened to the audiobook, read by the author. She’s certainly no professional narrator, but she’s personable and I was fascinated by her extreme upper-class Received Pronunciation.
I am not generally drawn to books about royalty or aristocracy because I am completely unfamiliar and always end up doing online searches just to understand the names and titles. When I saw Lady Glenconner on Graham Norton's show, I decided this book may be worth the extra effort in learning more about the British royal family. It absolutely was.
In her television interview, I was captivated by the author's casual tone and description of her life as if she never thought it was that extraordinary, followed by a jaw-dropping story about her husband's "surprise" for her on her honeymoon. She came across as being very open about her life in a way that most people in her position would never speak openly about. It was very refreshing to see her interview and I immediately requested an advance copy of the U.S. edition from Netgalley.
I admit, I did have to do some online searches because I didn't even know that Princess Margaret was Queen Elizabeth II's sister, among other relationships in the book. Even with all of the extra homework, this was a quick and captivating read for me. Anne Glenconner has been very privileged in her life, I quickly lost track of how many houses they owned and all of the places she lived. She writes about a lifestyle beyond my social or economic comprehension, but she never comes across as entitled. From the time she was born, she seems to have felt a duty to her family, her country, her husband, the royal family, and her children - in varying order of importance throughout her life. She came of age during WWII and times of post-war rationing, and never complains about her coming-out dress being made from repurposed material from a parachute.
I was thoroughly engaged through this quick read and I'm sure that she could fill hundreds more pages with stories of her complicated family life, and her relationships with the royal family. I found Lady Glenconner's memoir delightful.
Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for providing me with a copy for review.
Proof if you ever needed it, that money doesn't always lead to happiness. Lady Anne Glenconner has had her share of trials for sure. The death of two of her sons, a philandering and exhibitionist husband who made her life interesting and not always in a good way. Her tolerance for the odious sounding Colin was well beyond anything that I can imagine putting up with.
This is a wonderful biography, full of the lives of the rich and famous as they gad about living their monied lives in fabulous locations. The most fascinating thing is the life that Lady Glenconner led alongside Princess Margaret, they grew up as childhood friends and ultimately she became confidant and life long companion. Their lives woven together, both with trials in love and a strong bond between them. Their other great bond was over the island of Mystique, where they both holidayed and frolicked with other well heeled people. Frolicking amongst the poor folk of the island. Colin bought the island and was determined to create a paradise there.
It all makes for a fascinating read. For fans of The Crown it is a proper treat. I particularly loved the outrageous costumes for the parties. If you like name droppy biographies you'll love this, but it is also poignant as terrible things happen to this family.
Glenconner's book is a snapshot into days gone by. The book appears to be transcribed from an oral history. Or it could be a compilation of Hello! articles.
These are the tales of an 87-yr-old great-grandmother, who delights in namedropping and laments the loss of an era where everyone "knew their place." There are lots of British royals, lots of lewd and outright abusive behaviors, perfect and not-so-perfect children, much aristocratic jockeying for position and nattering on and on about what a great "friend" the Princess was to her. Not.
Anne Glenconner was a lady-in-waiting for Princess Margaret, which is not much different from being a punching bag to a mercurial spoiled brat. And speaking of brats, Anne's husband Colin takes brat one step further. He's a narcissist and extremely abusive personality fraught with generations of untreated mental illness. In fact, this is a main takeaway from Lady in Waiting: if you have enough money and your daddy is a peer, you can wreak havoc on others' lives and get away with it.
This poor woman was so emotionally abused by her father and husband, and don't forget Johnnie Spencer (because she certainly hasn't) that it would have felt unusual to be a lady in waiting for a benevolent Royal.
Lady in Waiting begins with an interesting snapshot of aristocratic life in the 1930s and 1940s. Glenconner shares intriguing snippets of wartime tales and her own foray into pottery sales, which took her to America. However, when she marries the utterly pathetic Colin Glenconner, the narrative takes a nosedive into the absurd and almost unreadable.
I am sorry I am not more charitable here, but I could only take so much of this. Poor Lady Anne thinks all along that Princess Margaret is her friend, when it was clearly a one-sided relationship. I had an extremely wealthy "friend" like this (since cancelled), who delighted in one-upmanship and emotional abuse, and maybe that's why I am triggered.
It was extremely hard to read about her son Charlie's drug abuse while she galavanted around the globe with Princess Margaret. I realize children were raised by nannies in aristocratic Britain, but the misplacement of priorities sent me over the edge. I had a fine headache by the time I finished Lady in Waiting.
I would recommend this book if you have read all about the Windsors and want some more dirt to add to your mental catalogue. Otherwise, skip this book entirely and watch The Crown -- it is much more redeeming and worthy of one's time.