Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"Lady in Waiting" by Anne Glenconner

I'd already started reading a new book, but after watching Prince Philip's funeral, I felt like something royal-related. ;)  

So I set aside my other book & picked up "Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown" by Anne Glenconner, who served in that position for Princess Margaret, a friend since childhood. I'd been wanting to read this book since it was first published last year, but decided to wait until it came out in paperback this spring. Before that, though, I was recently able to scoop up an epub version for my Kobo on sale for $3.99.  Score!! :) 

In the prologue to the book, Glenconner writes about having Helena Bonham-Carter over for tea and a chat about Princess Margaret before Bonham-Carter began filming the role for season 3 of "The Crown." (Nancy Carroll, cast as Anne herself, also came to tea.)  Afterwards, she found herself reflecting back on what she realized had been a pretty remarkable life. 

"I've always loved telling stories, but it never occurred to me to write a book until these two visits stirred up all those memories," she writes in the prologue. "From a generation where we were taught not to overthink, not to look back or question, only now do I see how extraordinary the nine decades of my life have really been, full of extreme contrasts."  And how!  

Anne Coke (pronounced "Cook"), daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester, grew up near the royal estate of Sandringham in Norfolk, and played with Princesses Margaret & Elizabeth when they were all children. Years later, she was one of Elizabeth's maids of honour at her 1953 coronation as Queen, and she served as a lady in waiting to Margaret from 1971 until the Princess's death in 2002.   

She was briefly engaged to Johnnie Althorp -- future father of Diana, Princess of Wales.  In 1956, she married Colin Tennant, Baron Glenconner, whose ancestors invented bleach and made a fortune from it.  Colin had a reputation for being "eccentric." Mentally ill was more like it, but unfortunately Anne didn't realize this until after the wedding. Despite some rather appalling behaviour on his part, she stuck with him for the next 54 years until his death in 2010.  (Spending plenty of time apart probably helped, as well as the British "stiff upper lip/just get on with it" mindset.)  They had five children together -- three sons and twin daughters.  Two of the sons died young -- one from hepatitis C, contracted from heroin use, and the other from AIDS -- a third was badly injured in a motorcycle accident.   

In 1958, Colin purchased the small Caribbean island of Mustique for $45,000, eventually turning it into an luxury vacation destination for the rich and famous (and giving a plot of land to Margaret as a wedding present).  

(As an aside: years ago, in the late 1980s, when I first started working, I sat at a banquet with a woman about the same age as me, who worked for the same company (different department) whose path would cross with mine many times over the next three decades (so far as I know, she still works there). She was just newly married and regaled us during the meal with tales of her honeymoon on Mustique, which most of us had never heard of. Fast forward 10-15 years later, when we ran into each other again. Her face lit up:  "You had a baby, didn't you??"  And then I got to watch her expression turn horrified, as I stammered out (not for the first time, and not for the last) that, well, yes, I HAD been pregnant, but... Come to think of it, I am not sure she ever had children herself. Anyway, I digress...) 

If you are fascinated by royalty and life among the British upper classes, particularly during the post-war period (as I will admit I am!), you will probably enjoy this book.  Four stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #21 read to date in 2021 (and Book #5 finished in April), bringing me to 58% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 11 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

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