It should be obvious by now to any reader of this blog why I’d want to read this one! I actually read parts of it in a British paper last year.
Lady Anne Coke [“Cook”] grew up with visits from Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret and their parents. Like Lady Diana Spencer, her father was a courtier and often hosted the King for shooting parties at their family estate. As part of the King’s household, her father regularly saw the King’s fabled “gnashes” or fits of over-the-top anger. Anne’s life as “a disappointment”–i.e. the first of three girls born to a peer needing a male heir has been very colorful. And emotional. Princess Margaret is merely one of the good parts!
“I once asked [Colin] why he had picked me, when he had millions of sophisticated girlfriends. He could have married any of them. Why was it that he wanted to marry me?
He replied, ‘Well, I knew that with you, you would carry on, you would never give up.'” (p.109)
When virginal, lovely, young Lady Anne married Colin Tennant [later Baron Glenconner] a member of the so-called “Princess Margaret set,” she went off to her wedding night with a quick remembrance shared by her mother of something one of the dogs had done. Her new husband, who even Princess Margaret had described as “decadent” educated her in the rites of the marriage bed in a unique way [no spoliers].
Appalled? Yes, I was. I was also left wondering on today’s spectrums of sexuality and gender-identity where Colin Glenconner would place himself if he was a young man today. It also occurred to me that had fetal alcohol syndrome been a diagnosis in 1926, if he’d have had some of its effects. (Similarly, if Anne and Colin’s oldest son wasn’t touched by that). Finally, I had to ask myself if Colin had been molested. He was just that abnormal–not 100% of the time, but something was truly “off” with him. [Wedding photo: Alamay/Shutterstock]
What I did not expect was to have something in common with a woman four years older than my late father and for it to be something so horrific. I knew the Tennants were one of those families like the Kennedys who are often referred to as “cursed.” Heroin takes hold of rich and poor, aristocratic and the lowliest of villagers all with the same vicious hold. I nearly cried in part of that story–for both our sons, though mine is still with me.
“Colin never tried to divorce me. As he always said, ‘We were brought up not to throw in the towel but to bite bullets and fold towels neatly.'”
That Anne stayed with Colin and kept focusing on his good “side,” is a tribute to the British Stiff Upper Lip indeed. But far worse than the life he gave her was the ending he gave [no spoilers] her upon his death. Wow, again.
Photo: Corbis via Daily Mail
But what about Princess Margaret? Understandably, she comes off looking fairly decent. Spoiled? Entitled? Of course, but also vulnerable and human. I liked Anne more than I did Margaret, but it was refreshing to see such humanity in a woman often spoofed as cold as ice and full of herself. I suppose after Colin, Anne never notices those traits!
Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
To read more about the Tennant family see this post at the Esoteric Curiosa
Here’s a hilarious recent interview that shows Anne’s true personality while she tells the most outrageous, but true, story from the book: