Eight years after Princess Margaret received a wedding present — a piece of land on the island of Mustique — she telephoned the gift-giver, Baron Colin Tennant, with a question.
“Does it come with a house?”
“Colin, not wanting to disappoint, replied he would build her a house,” recalled the baron’s wife, Lady Anne Glenconner. “She was delighted.”
Glenconner was Margaret’s lady-in-waiting for three decades, serving as personal assistant and confidante to the princess. Now she’s written a book, “Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown” (Hachette), out Tuesday, about their friendship, which is portrayed in Netflix’s “The Crown.”
“A lot has been written about Princess Margaret by people who never knew her,” Glenconner, 87, told The Post. “I wanted to set the record straight. She was an absolutely marvelous person.”
The mom of five was appointed lady-in-waiting in 1971 after growing up with the Windsor family. Glenconner’s dad had been in charge of the stables for Princess Margaret’s father, King George VI, while her mother was a so-called lady of the bedchamber, or high-ranking personal attendant, to Queen Elizabeth.
Ladies-in-waiting are unpaid “companions” to the queen and other senior female members of the royal family. Their duties include walking behind a designated royal to take gifts and flowers given to them by well-wishers, introducing guests, stepping in to politely steer them away if the conversation goes on too long and generally serving as a wing woman.
Lady Glenconner said: “I was paid nothing during my time with Princess Margaret and nor were her other ladies-in-waiting. We didn’t expect to be.”
Instead, Margaret rewarded her with hilarious stories.
“She was known for her icy stare if she felt someone had overstepped the mark,” Glenconner said. “She had moments of being very grand, but I … [found] her quietly amusing.”
One Christmas, the princess gave an employee a toilet brush after visiting the woman’s home. “I noticed you didn’t have one,” she said.
Margaret didn’t hold back on strangers, either. “Once, she clapped eyes on a woman who was sitting on a park bench happily feeding the squirrels,” Glenconner recounted, adding that the royal loathed the animals. “She marched up and started whacking them with an umbrella.”
Glenconner was responsible for bringing some much-needed joy to Margaret’s life in 1973, when the princess’ marriage to Lord Snowdon was in tatters, introducing her to the 17-years-younger Roddy Llewellyn.
As chronicled on “The Crown,” shortly after meeting Llewellyn, Margaret insisted on taking him shopping for swimming trunks. She purchased an eye-poppingly tight pair, which Glenconner’s teenage son described as “budgie smugglers.”
Another time, the pair was visiting Australia. Although Margaret hated the feeling of sand between her toes, she allowed Glenconner to persuade her to walk onto Bondi Beach to greet a group of lifeguards who, the royal assumed, would be young and good-looking. Back in the car, she declared them “disappointing.”
She got her revenge on Glenconner at the Sydney Zoo. On arrival, the princess was offered a koala to hold. “No, thank you, but I’m sure my lady-in-waiting would like to hold it,” she responded. No sooner had the animal been placed in Glenconner’s arms than it peed on her dress.
“I think I laughed with Princess Margaret more than with anybody else,” Glenconner writes.
Margaret was not just Glenconner’s employer but also a true friend, with their bond strengthened by trials on either side, including the infidelity of their husbands. When Glenconner’s son was dying of AIDS, Margaret frequently visited.
“It was the ’80s, when people were terrified of AIDS and treated those affected like lepers,” Glenconner said. “Princess Margaret brought her children to see Henry and hugged him” — a private act similar to the public one that would later get Princess Diana saintly attention.
In turn, Glenconner helped nurse her old friend before Margaret’s death at 71 in February 2002.
“In the aftermath of her death, I found myself … lost in some ways without her in my life,” she writes.
But she has found solace in Mustique, where Margaret had been the toast of parties.
“On a visit in February 2018, I felt Princess Margaret’s spirit around me,” Glenconner writes. “And I stood there for a while, thinking she might walk out of one of her rooms, or if I turned the corner, I would see her in her favorite place looking out to sea.”
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