Royals

Princess Margaret’s former lady-in-waiting Lady Anne Glenconner dishes on the royal family

For 34 years Lady Anne was Margaret's lady-in-waiting so she knows only too well what being a royal entails.
Lady Anne Glenconner

“I feel so very, very sorry for the Queen,” says Lady Anne Glenconner, former lady in waiting to Princess Margaret.

She is chatting to the Weekly on the phone about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, in particular their decision to renounce their positions as senior working royals.

“It is so very sad because everybody was thrilled when [Prince Harry and Meghan] got married,” adds Lady Anne.

“It was a wonderful wedding and then everybody was so pleased when they had their little boy Archie.

“It’s rather sad because they, well especially she, doesn’t seem to like being a royal. Maybe she imagined being a member of the royal family in rather a different way.”

Lady Anne and Margaret were friends for more than 30 years.

For 34 years Lady Anne was Margaret’s lady-in-waiting so she knows only too well what being a royal entails.

“A lot of it isn’t glamorous and fun, you know, it’s a job and maybe Meghan didn’t realise that. Princess Margaret really buckled down and did a great job with all of her charities, but I have a feeling Meghan didn’t realise this is what you do.

“I just feel very sorry for Prince Harry. He loved being in the army, he had lots of friends and he had a great life here and he’s given that all up.”

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge live near her when they’re in Norfolk and are “absolutely wonderful” though, she declares.

“The Duchess of Cambridge really is a star now and the newspapers just love her. They’ve been really building her up and she does a great job. Thank God for them!”

Lady Anne’s family has always had a close association with the royals.

As a child she played with Her Majesty and Margaret many times, and her father was an equerry for their father, King George VI. Her mother was also a lady in waiting to the Queen Mother and many other family members have been part of the royal court.

Despite this, until recently Lady Anne considered herself to be very much in the shadows − a woman with an ordinary life.

That is until she wrote her memoir Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown, which has become a bestseller and rocketed her to stardom.

“One always thought I had quite a run-of-the-mill life, but when I started to write the book I realised I had quite a story to tell,” she says.

“I’m really glad I’ve had this phenomenal success and all sorts of people from all walks of life have been interested in it.”

Lady Anne (third from left) was one of six maids of honour at the Queen’s coronation ceremony in June 1953.

(Image: Getty)

She says that one of her primary motivations for writing the book was to set the record straight about Margaret.

“I wanted to tell people what a wonderful friend she had been to me, especially when my son Henry was ill with AIDS.

“She used to come with me to a place called The Lighthouse, where all the young men would go to die. Quite often their families wouldn’t have anything to do with them. Princess Margaret used to talk and make them laugh and they absolutely loved her. She wasn’t touchy-feely like Diana [Princess of Wales] but she made a difference.”

She continues, “There had been a couple of books written about her by people who really never knew her and I was upset by that. I wanted people to see the real Princess Margaret.”

The two were very close, with Margaret stepping in to support Lady Anne many times during their friendship, including to help her cope with her husband Lord Glenconner (formerly Colin Tennant) who spent much of his life having tantrums in public, cheating on her and making bad decisions.

In 1956, Lady Anne wed Colin, but the happy times (above in 1973) weren’t to last.

(Image: Getty)

In her book she describes him as a “man of extremes” and tells of a flight she once took with him and Margaret where he was upset that he couldn’t sit with his wife and the princess at the front of the plane.

“He lay on the floor in the middle of the aisle, having a full-blown tantrum… I instinctively got up to try to sort it out. Princess Margaret said very firmly, ‘Sit down, Anne.’

“There was a kerfuffle as security dragged him off the plane. We saw him out of our window being hauled away, still screaming, ‘Help me, Anne! Anne! Help me!’

“Princess Margaret said, ‘Take absolutely no notice, Anne.’ Colin was arrested and the plane took off without him. Just like my mother would have done, Princess Margaret disregarded the incident and knew only too well that I sometimes needed a break. Colin turned up three days later, but nothing more was said.”

WATCH: Lady Anne Glenconner’s shocking honeymoon story. Story continues below…

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The 87-year-old says she stayed with her husband for 54 years because he needed her.

“I hadn’t realised before I married him that he had had two nervous breakdowns, and when things got really tough I would talk to him about the possibility that we should go our separate ways but he always said he couldn’t live without me, so really one just carried on.”

The couple had five children, but heartbreak was on the horizon as her three sons each encountered tragedy.

Her eldest, Charlie, became a heroin addict. He recovered and had a family but then died from hepatitis C, a result of his heroin use.

Another, Henry, contracted HIV and died within a year, while youngest son Christopher was left in a coma after a car accident.

He eventually recovered and is very close to his mother today.

Anne with Roddy Llewellyn, Margaret and son Charlie on Mustique in the 1970s

After getting through all of this, when her husband died in 2010 Lady Anne discovered he had left his entire fortune to a former employee.

“I really thought I couldn’t carry on at one point, I was so exhausted, but my faith helped me,” she tells.

Lady Anne reveals that Margaret was a steadying hand in times of crisis, even giving her a home when she needed one, as well as helping her with her sons.

Her favourite memories of the royal are when they would get together at the farmhouse in Norfolk.

“She would come and stay and always do my flower arranging because she said she’d been a Girl Guide and I hadn’t. We’d garden together and she’d even wash my car.

“I also lived with her in Kensington Palace for a year, which was wonderful. We didn’t see each other the whole time, but whenever we weren’t doing anything we’d have lunch and go for walks in the park.

“I suppose my favourite times with her were when she wasn’t having a royal life, when we were just friends together.”

Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown, Hodder & Stoughton, RRP $34.99.

As she approaches her 88th birthday, Lady Anne says she’s having the time of her life right now.

“The book’s success has completely altered my life.”

While New York is on the cards first, she is looking forward to connecting with relatives when she visits New Zealand.

“My grandmother was from New Zealand and she never kissed me, we always rubbed noses. She told me that was a Māori thing,” she says.

“She came to England to find a husband and during World War I she set up a hospital for New Zealand soldiers.

“Since the book came out I’ve heard from some relatives in New Zealand, so I’m looking forward to meeting them.”

Though it may feel as though she’s lived her life in the shadow of the Crown, as her book title says, Lady Anne has actually had parts of her life portrayed on the hit Netflix series The Crown.

She says Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Margaret is “spot on” but that the show is “not very accurate”.

And as for her best-selling book, she’s unsure if the Queen has read it.

“One doesn’t ask that sort of thing,” she explains.

“I’ve seen the Queen once since the book came out, but only at a cocktail party, and I would never ask.

“I do hope if she did read it that she’s pleased that someone has written kindly about her sister. But I’m sure she’s never seen The Crown or read my book. That’s my gut feeling.”

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