One day, in 1993, the man whom Princess Margaret had ever wanted to marry passionately came to her for lunch at Kensington Palace. It was 40 years since she last saw him.
I happened to be there, looking out of a window when Peter Townsend, now a very old man, got out of his car and walked slowly to the door.
In the 1950s, when they had fallen in love, he was her father's father and 16 years older than her. But he was also divorced – and a marriage between a divorced woman and a member of the royal family was considered shameful at the time.
Lady Anne Glenconner, depicted in the center with Princess Margaret, became her maid of honor in 1971
The princess was given an ultimatum: choose between him and your royal life.
I did not go to the reunion lunch, but when Townsend had left, Princess Margaret asked me to sit with her.
"How did it go?" I asked her.
"He hasn't changed at all," she replied.
It was a moving reaction, given its brittle appearance and all the years that had passed.
I asked her: "Madam, when did you first fall in love with him?" She did not need much encouragement and began the story of the royal tour of 1947 to South Africa.
Every morning and evening she went riding, accompanied by the king of the king. They had fallen in love – and although this had all happened a long time ago, her thinking was just about talking about their relationship.
Would she have been happier if she had married Townsend instead of Tony Armstrong-Jones, who was unfaithful and often cruel?
I felt sad for her. But the princess has never thought about things that could not be changed. After a short break, she continued with another topic of conversation.
To be honest, I shared her sober attitude. It has done both of us well, allowing us to laugh, have fun and get the best out of things – despite problems in our private lives.
In the 1950s, when Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend had fallen in love, he had been her father's father and 16 years older than her. But he was also divorced – and a marriage between a divorced woman and a member of the royal family was considered shameful at the time
As the daughter of the Count of Leicester, equivalent to King George VI, I knew the princess when we were both small children. But our friendship really started when I married Colin Tennant, the heir to Baron Glenconner, who was part of her inner social circle.
Then, early in 1971, not long after Princess Margaret became godmother to our daughter, May, she said to me: "I really hope you won't have any more children."
I answered: "Absolutely not. Three boys and twin girls are enough. & # 39;
& # 39; Well, in that case, & # 39; she said, apparently satisfied with my answer, & # 39; do you want to be one of my maid of honor? & # 39;
The invitation could not have come at a better time because Colin – always unpredictable and hot – was going through a particularly difficult phase. The princess was fully aware of this, but fearless by his behavior.
She was used to her father's mood and was often called upon to get him out of a bad mood. These could be frequent: my father always said that he always brought out trash cans that the king had kicked through the room.
The princess knew only too well that I sometimes needed a break from him. And Colin, for his part, was in awe of the royal family, so he was proud that I had been given an official role.
I think he felt it somehow confirmed his proximity to Princess Margaret. She was no fool and deliberately chose friends to be her maidservants – so many of us were present: one as a friend and one who performed her official duties.
Princess Margaret was not a fool and deliberately chose friends to be her court ladies – so many of us were present: one as a friend and one who performed her official duties
Every year she had Christmas tea for all of us and she would hand out packages under a huge tree. Sometimes she gave us thoughtful gifts, but at other times she gave us things she thought useful. She loved kitchen gadgets and once gave her maid Jean Wills a toilet brush and said: & i found that you didn't have one here when i came to stay. & # 39; In fact, Jean had hidden the toilet brush when Princess Margaret was visiting and was quite upset by the gesture.
I knew the princess well during her marriage to Tony. He had similar characteristics to Colin: he was eccentric, unpredictable and demanding, and often rubbed people in the wrong direction. And, like Colin, he could be incredibly charming.
The marriage was tense by 1968. Not only was Tony – like Colin – susceptible to mood swings, but they also both had affairs.
When Princess Margaret and I were alone, she did not complain about him for hours: she would simply speak and then simply put aside her last problems.
Lady Anne Coke and Colin Tennant in Holkham, Norfolk, before their wedding day
For example, she told me that she no longer opened her chest of drawers – she let her maid do it instead – because Tony had developed the habit of letting in annoying little notes. One of them said, "You look like a Jewish manicure and I hate you."
Everyone she had ever met had always treated her with the utmost respect. Except Tony, who was spiteful in creative ways and liked to write disgusting little one-liners that he hid in her glove box, or hidden in her handkerchiefs or in books.
This was the situation in 1973 when we invited the princess for a long weekend in Glen, the ancestral home of Colin in the Borders.
I had planned a large dinner, but a late cancellation left us one man short. Colin suggested that I call his "Aunt Nose" – Violet Wyndham (who had a big nose) – because she would no doubt come up with a suitable suggestion.
She did: she gave me the number of Roddy Llewellyn, whose horseman father Harry had won the only gold medal for Great Britain at the 1952 Olympic Games.
We had never met Roddy, but he was young and available. I remember feeling uncomfortable, but to my relief, he accepted my invitation.
Colin drove to Edinburgh station to meet him, accompanied by our teenage son Charlie and Princess Margaret, who was intrigued because she knew Roddy's father. I stayed behind.
They didn't come back for hours. Warned in advance by her protection officer, however, I was outside, ready to greet them when the car stopped. In the back, Princess Margaret and Roddy more or less held each other's hands.
Colin explained that they had met him from the train and went for lunch in a bistro. The princess and Roddy had clicked immediately, even though he was 17 years younger. She then dragged him to shop to find a pair of tight-fitting swimwear – which my son described as "budgie smugglers."
I said to Colin, "Oh, god, what have we done?"
When Roddy Llewellyn had been to Glen for about two days, he told me how beautiful he thought Princess Margaret was, and I said: & # 39; Don't tell me, tell her. & # 39; So he did and from that moment on they were inseparable, staying up late, sitting together at one of the card tables in our salon, long after the games were over. I noticed that their heads almost touched each other. It soon became clear that they had fallen in love
When Roddy had been to Glen for about two days, he told me how beautiful he was about Princess Margaret, and I said, "Don't tell me, tell her." So he did, and from that moment on they were inseparable, staying up late, sitting together at one of the card tables in our salon, long after the games were over. I noticed that their heads almost touched each other.
It soon became clear that they had fallen in love. Roddy had a striking physical resemblance to Tony, but unlike Tony, he was very nice and had a sense of humor for a schoolboy who appealed to the princess.
After that weekend they were together for eight years and friends for life. Roddy even made the difference for Princess Margaret, who had been through some years of accident with Tony by that time.
By the mid-1970s, marriage was at the breaking point, but she did not want a divorce – partly because she was very religious and partly because they had two children.
During this crazy time, Princess Margaret would often stay with me, either in Glen or in my farm in Norfolk. Roddy would arrive later in the evening and I would let them relax. There is no glamor in my old flint farm – people wear Wellington boots and Mackintoshes – but I think that appealed to Princess Margaret.
Day The queen wore marigolds
Sometimes Princess Margaret invited Colin and me to spend weekends with her at Balmoral or Royal Lodge, the home of the Queen Mother in Windsor.
The royal family loves picnics, although their idea of a picnic does not lie with most people. According to Princess Margaret: "It's impossible to have a picnic without your butler."
As for the queen, she has her own meticulous way of doing things. One summer, when we were staying in Balmoral, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh took us every night to a shooting lodge on the estate. There were also their children and the Queen Mother.
Dinner would arrive in a specially made mobile kitchen – a small caravan towed behind a Land Rover. Everything had a permanent place within this beautiful construction. The queen supervised the whole thing, taking everything out and setting the table. And after dinner she put on her marigolds to clean up.
The first time we went to one of these big picnics, Colin and I started carrying things back to the mobile kitchen to clean up.
Suddenly Princess Anne roared to us: & # 39; What are you doing? & # 39;
"We just put things away. We hope we put them in the right place, & we said.
& # 39; Well, I hope so, & # 39; said Princess Anne, looking furiously, & # 39; because if you are not, the queen will be damn angry with you. & # 39;
Colin and I almost fainted with horror. The idea that the queen was "bloody angry" was enough to prevent us from helping right away.
She would show up with marigold gloves and a kettle because she was used to having breakfast in bed and thought she could make her own tea. The problem was that she didn't know how the boiler worked.
"Oh, Anne, do you think you could help?" I think something is wrong with my kettle. It doesn't seem to work well. & # 39;
In fact, that boiler was more trouble than it was worth, and in the end I did everything.
Over the years she has followed the same routine: she insisted on cleaning my car – with Roddy when he was there – and she would light all fires and remind me: & # 39; You were not a girl's guide, but I was , so leave the fire to me. & # 39;
She enjoyed everyday activities much more than I did. I would dust her the bookshelves and dismantle my chandelier more than once to clean it in the bath. She loved being outside and we spent whole days hanging out in my garden, kneeling next to each other.
When we went out, she didn't want to meet anyone new: she just wanted to put on her brown laces and explore Mackintosh and gardens, churches or country houses with me and Colin, if he was there, and some select people I would invite.
& # 39; In the evening we were all sitting in my salon, always in the chair to the left of the fireplace, and talking for hours.
& # 39; What about another small drinkie winkie? & # 39; She would say, and Colin would appear with a new round of drinks – whiskey for her, vodka tonic for me.
People complained that Princess Margaret was difficult, but I often think it was because she was fed up or bored. It is not surprising that her idea of pleasure did not sit next to a mayor, a bishop or the police chief for Sunday lunch.
During this time I went on a few engagements with both the Princess and Tony, who were not nice at all. When I arrived at Kensington Palace to pick her up, I would know if he was there because there would be an uncomfortable atmosphere.
Once, when Princess Margaret was unwell, another lady-in-waiting and I was asked to sit outside her room to stop her husband. Tony was very angry with our new role as guards and wanted to let Princess Margaret know how he felt.
He stormed away, slammed the front door, and got into his car. He ran his engine, drove around and around the courtyard by her window and honked the horn.
Tony eventually pushed her into divorce when his mistress, Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, became pregnant with their first child in 1978. Princess Margaret was devastated that her marriage had failed, but it was impossible to do anything about it.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret would invite me and Colin to stay at Royal Lodge. It was a relatively modest house. The bathroom had a cracked lino floor and many of the rooms were a little tired, but the Queen Mother didn't want to change anything. Every evening we drank drinks in the salon, where we would often see her standing in front of the television, fixed by Dad & # 39; s Army.
One of the protocols to be in the company of a member of the royal family is that if they stand, you cannot sit down until they do. So we just stood with the Queen Mother watching her favorite TV show – she was a big fan of Captain Mainwaring – sipping on a dry martini, laughing until the credits ran out.
When Dad & # 39; s army was ready, we would all go to the dining room. Wine was served with each course and the highlight was when she started her toast ritual.
A first-class meltdown
Princess Margaret, who had a difficult marriage herself, was always able to ignore Colin's histrionics – and remind me to do the same.
From time to time she witnessed one of his biggest collapses – the most public of which led him to receive a letter from the head of British Airways, forbidding Colin to use his planes for life.
The three of us flew back from America, and for some reason, while Princess Margaret and I had first class tickets, Colin did not: he was brought to the right as we boarded the plane while we turned left.
He turned around and demanded to be close to us. And when the cabin crew said it was not possible, he was lying on the floor in the middle of the aisle with a tantrum.
His wailing was loud enough for us to hear in First Class, and we were shocked by the scene he made. Instinctively I got up to figure it out. & # 39; Sit down, Anne, & # 39; said Princess Margaret very forcefully.
There was a hoe when the security pulled my husband out of the plane. We saw him being pulled out of our window, screaming: & Help me, Anne! Help me! & # 39;
"Take absolutely no knowledge, Anne," said my royal companion.
Colin was arrested and the plane left without him. He appeared three days later, but nothing more was said about the incident.
She would say the name of someone she liked and raise her glass above her head. And we would all follow. For anyone she didn't like, she would lower her glass under the table and say their name, and we would do the same.
These toasts went on for centuries, accompanied by roaring laughter and abundant amounts of alcohol. Then Princess Margaret would play the piano and we would all sing. If we felt particularly cheerful, we would dance to gramophone music on the carpet.
Those weekends at Royal Lodge were always fun, despite periods of bickering between the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, who sometimes had a somewhat tense relationship.
One of them would do things like opening all the windows, just for the other to go around and close them. Or one would suggest an idea, and the other would immediately reject it. Maybe they looked too much alike.
In 1990, Colin sold our house in London without warning – not for the first time. Princess Margaret suggested that I move in with her and that I ended up staying at 1A Kensington Palace for a year.
She fought a constant battle with Prince and Princess Michael's cats – who also lived in the palace – and encouraged her driver to drive to them or to twist the hose in the garden.
If I were there, she would give me the snake and shout: & # 39; Go, Anne, get them! & # 39; While I dutifully ran through the garden and made sure I didn't spray her by accident.
When I returned from a night out, I was often tired and wanted to go to bed, but Princess Margaret always stayed up late and liked to talk.
I would sneak through the door and down the corridor as quietly as I could and then I heard her shout: & Anne, is that you? Come and take a nightcap. & # 39; So I will be there for a few hours.
While I lived with her, we did very common things together, such as listening to the radio or going on a trip to Peter Jones. We would usually have lunch at Kensington Palace and then take a walk in the gardens.
She liked that, though she hated gray squirrels – she had a vendetta against them.
Once we were walking when she looked at a woman on a bench, happily feeding the squirrels. She marched towards her and started slapping her with her umbrella. Her protection officer had to intervene, while the woman on the couch looked bewildered.
Otherwise the princess was very easy to live with – I think we both felt that about each other, especially compared to living with Tony or Colin.
The princess burned her feet in the bath in 1999. She was on vacation in Mustique – the island that Colin had bought in St. Vincent and the Grenadines – and I flew to her.
Bedridden, she insisted that I personally take care of her – so I finally went to the other single bed in her room and we watched videos together.
"Oh, Anne, is this a boarding school?" She asked me.
"Yes, ma'am." I said. & # 39; Except that we were not allowed to lie in bed and watch movies. & # 39;
Her feet did not improve, but when I suggested flying back to England for good hospital treatment, she refused.
So I called Buckingham Palace and asked to speak to the queen, who was listening while I explained the situation. She was very understanding, worried and supportive. Fortunately, she persuaded her sister to come home.
Once back in London, Princess Margaret underwent an intense treatment for the burns at her feet. One day she called and said: & # 39; You never guess what they are doing with my feet. Come for lunch and I'll show you. & # 39;
So I left and after lunch saw how leeches were removed from a bag and placed on her feet. Apparently they helped heal wounds faster – and she didn't mind sucking her blood.
In the years that followed, Princess Margaret had one or two strokes and lost most of her eyesight. Because she liked being surrounded by men, she now refused their company, even that of Colin.
Some of us would read to her regularly. During one visit I came across her extremely animated. "I have a new book," she said excitedly. "Would you read it to me? It's all about seeds. & # 39;
My heart sank. A very destroyed book about plant seeds. What's duller? But Roddy had given it to her, and not only was she happy, but she was clearly genuinely interested.
I came to a chapter about potatoes before I said: & ma'am, are you interested in this book? Isn't it pretty boring?
& # 39; Keep going, & # 39; she said, without missing a beat. & # 39; It's fascinating. & # 39;
During Christmas 2001, I was contacted by one of the queen's maidservants who said that Princess Margaret seemed to have given up life. I went straight to Sandringham and found her in bed, the blankets up to her chin.
I decided to be determined, ignored the gloomy atmosphere and greeted her enthusiastically. & # 39; Madam, Antiques Roadshow is so on. Let's watch while we drink tea. & # 39;
Her face lit up a little and she agreed to get out of bed. But after Christmas, Princess Margaret continued to fall. Her death in February 2002 made me feel extremely sad, even lost. We had been such good friends and had spent so much time together that her absence had left a huge gap in my life.
- Extracted from Lady In Waiting by Anne Glenconner, published by Hodder & Stoughton on October 17 for £ 20. © Anne Glenconner 2019. To order a copy for £ 16 (P&P free), visit www.mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155.
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