23.12.19

BOOK REVIEW: Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

The remarkable life of Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret who was also a Maid of Honour at the Queen’s Coronation – and is a character in The Crown this autumn. Anne Glenconner reveals the real events behind The Crown as well as her own life of drama, tragedy and courage, with the wonderful wit and extraordinary resilience which define her.
Anne Glenconner has been close to the Royal Family since childhood. Eldest child of the 5th Earl of Leicester, she was, as a daughter, described as ‘the greatest disappointment’ by her family as she was unable to inherit. Her childhood home Holkham Hall is one of the grandest estates in England. Bordering Sandringham the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were frequent playmates.
From Maid of Honour at the Queen’s Coronation to Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret, Lady Glenconner is a unique witness to royal history, as well as an extraordinary survivor of a generation of aristocratic women trapped without inheritance and burdened with social expectations.
She married the charismatic but highly volatile Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, who became the owner of Mustique. Together they turned the island into a paradise for the rich and famous, including Mick Jagger and David Bowie, and it became a favourite retreat for Princess Margaret.
But beneath the glitz and glamour there has also lurked tragedy. On Lord Glenconner’s death in 2010 he left his fortune to a former employee. And of their five children, two grown-up sons died, while a third son had to be nursed back from a coma by Anne, after having suffered a near fatal accident.
Anne Glenconner writes with extraordinary wit, generosity and courage and she exposes what life was like in her gilded cage, revealing the role of her great friendship with Princess Margaret, and the freedom she can now finally enjoy in later life. 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 
Pages: 336

I simply loved this book! I saw it on the author Harriet Evans’ page and I was intrigued, I’m go glad I bought a copy as it was a complete delight. I am not a huge fan of the royal family so don’t think you have to be in order to enjoy this memoir. Anne Glenconner has led such an interesting and varied life, it is impossible not to be entertained by her writing. She offers a glimpse into a very different world and it was not quite what I expected. She very much shows the role and limitations of aristocratic women at her time, she always felt a huge disappointment to her family as she was not a boy and therefore would be not be able to inherit Holkham Hall, the family estate meaning it would pass to a different line of the family. Laws have now changed but these circumstances were very common. Glenconner also offers an insight into the ways in which wealthy families with vast estates were affected by the war and the change of life it brought about. 
Her connection to the Queen and Princess Margaret is fascinating and I particularly enjoyed the chapter where she took part in the Queen’s coronation. It was so interesting to learn about the planning and detail that goes into such a historic event plus I felt that she really gave you a good sense of just how she had felt on the day, taking part in such a momentous occasion at such a young age. 
Anne Glenconner does not hold back, she is searingly honest about the difficult relationship she had with her husband, the rather eccentric Colin Tennant. She details how Colin bought the island of Mustique and spent a vast part of his life developing it into the revered place that it is today. She talks candidly about the tragedies endured by her family, she lost two sons and had to nurse one back from a coma. Throughout the book, she is honest about having Nannies and leaving the children for long periods of time in order to carry out royal duties and so on but in those times that was the done thing within the aristocracy. Despite this, the deep love and pride she has in her children shines through and you can see that she revels in the freedom to spend more time with them in this part of her life. 
I think Anne Glenconner does a superb job of showing how difficult it was for Princess Margaret being the sister of the Queen and although it afforded her a life of great wealth and privilege it also had many limitations and negatives. Anne’s relationship with Princess Margaret was extremely close and it was so lovely to hear of the thoughtful things that the Princess did for her friend and her family, it was not a one-way friendship as some may assume. 
I cannot recommend this book enough, I flew through it and was so sad to reach the final chapter. Anne Glenconner writes with warmth, wit and honesty, it is one of the best memoirs I have ever read.

No comments:

BOOK REVIEW: Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd

Meet the forensic pathologist, Dr Richard Shepherd. A detective in his own right, he must solve the mystery of sudden and unexplained death...