Lady Glenconner, 87, recalls a life-long friendship with Princess Margaret who was “naughty, fun and imaginative…”
Lady Glenconner was just three years old when she met Princess Margaret (Image: Hal Shinnie)Sign up for FREE now and never miss the top Royal stories again. SUBSCRIBE
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“This is my favourite photograph of Princess Margaret and me. It looks very dated now because we’re wearing headscarves and mackintoshes, but you can see how close we were. It was taken in Queen Alexandra’s summer house on Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Sandringham was closed at the time, so the princess would stay at my farmhouse and we’d visit to admire the rhododendrons and azaleas.”
“We always made a point of touching a golden Buddha in the garden which was believed to bring good luck.
I was just three years old when I first got to know Princess Margaret because she and her sister, Princess Elizabeth, would visit my family’s ancestral home at Holkham in Norfolk.
She was naughty, fun and imaginative – the best sort of friend to have.
We used to rush round Holkham Hall, jumping out at the nursery footmen as they carried silver trays from the kitchen.”
“We’d also go to Holkham beach and dig holes in the sand, hoping people would fall in.
In later life, Princess Margaret enjoyed coming to stay with me in Norfolk. There was no glamour, but I think that appealed to her.
She’d turn up with her Marigold gloves and her own kettle, not wanting to be an imposition without her maid, so she could make tea in her bedroom.
Mind you, she didn’t know how to work the kettle, so I ended up doing everything anyway.”
Lady Glenconner has written a book which details her experiences amidst royal life (Image: Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock)
“She always adopted the same routine: she would insist on cleaning my car and laid all the fires with the words, ‘You weren’t a Girl Guide, but I was, so leave the fires to me.’
Similarly, I would often find her dusting the bookshelves.
She also relished her time on the private Caribbean island of Mustique, which my husband, Colin, bought in 1958.
We gave her some land as a wedding gift and she built a house there, which provided a sanctuary when her marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones started to falter.”
“When she first stayed with us, there was no running water or electric light, but she never complained. When she needed a shower, she’d use the bucket in the tree, just like we did.
To ward off mosquitoes, we dressed her in Colin’s pyjamas with string tied round her ankles.
I was also Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting for three decades. People complained that she was difficult, but she was often simply bored or fed up.
At private weekends, her idea of fun wasn’t sitting next to the mayor, bishop or chief of police.
The formalities never interfered with our friendship. I laughed with her more than anybody and she was a marvellous friend.”
“When my son, Henry, was diagnosed with HIV, she’d ring to say, ‘I’ve heard of a doctor who might have a cure.’
She also used to hug Henry, even when there was a lot of fear surrounding the illness, and accompanied me to the London Lighthouse, an AIDS hospice, to talk to the young men and their families.
She wasn’t touchy-feely like Princess Diana, but would sit in their rooms and joke and talk. She was very good with the patients.
She had other friends, but I was probably one of the closest because I lived with her in Kensington Palace for a year when my flat was being renovated. Her death in 2002 was a terrible loss. After the funeral, the Queen thanked me and said, ‘You gave Margaret some of the happiest years of her life.’”
Source: EXPRESS CO UK