OFF THE SHELF
Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
This month’s book was Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner
This memoir was written in 2019 at the age of 87 by Anne Veronica Tennant, Baroness Glenconner. A British peeress who after a brief engagement to Johnnie Althorp, father of Princess Diana, was married at the age of 23 to avid socialite, and extremely wealthy Colin Tennant, the future Baron Glenconner. Tennant was part of the fast-living London set and a former suitor of Princess Margaret. He was a difficult, explosive man, and a philanderer whose idea of a Parisian honeymoon was to take his wife to visit a brothel.
Anne (Lady Glenconner) grew up with close connections to the royal family, her paternal grandmother was Edward VIII’s mistress, and her father was equerry to George VI. A confidante of Princess Margaret, she became her lady in waiting 1971 until the Princess died in 2002. She reveals many royal escapades in her book but does not disclose confidences. Soon after their marriage Tennant purchased the island of Mustique on which he gifted a plot of land to the Princess as a wedding present.
Lord and Lady Glenconner had five children, three sons and twin daughters. The couple were married for 54 years until Lord Glenconner’s death in 2010. For at least half their marriage they kept separate residences — hers in Norfolk, his in the Caribbean — and yet the marriage endured.
The insight into the Glenconners’ personal life was breath-taking. Tennant was handsome, witty, and a bully. He insisted on telling his wife about his holidays with his many girlfriends, he was mentally unstable and had several breakdowns. Lady Glenconner didn’t appear at all fazed at the arrival of an illegitimate son, fathered after Glenconner’s dalliance with an artist’s model. “I married all of my husband,” Lady Glenconner writes. “Colin could be charming, angry, endearing, hilariously funny, manipulative, vulnerable, intelligent, spoilt, insightful and fun’. Only a very few confidants apparently knew of the physical abuse she suffered and which she only divulged after writing the book
There was a final insult of mischief and malice from beyond the grave when it was revealed that Lord Glenconner had made a new will shortly before his death in 2010 aged 83 in which he left his £20 million estate, to his valet. The family contested this will, and after a legal battle that lasted several years, the estate was divided between the servant and the fourth Lord Glenconner.
Although autobiographies are not the preferred genre of some, the reading group thought this to be an entertaining read. Members objected to the excesses of Glenconner, but the group had great sympathy for the long-suffering author. Anne wasn’t a victim and was admired for getting on with life in her own way. The part many found most interesting was the author’s efforts in supporting her adult children. She suffered the death in adulthood of two sons; a third son Lady Glenconner nursed back from a six-month coma following a horrific motorcycle accident. At such time, money didn’t help.
Overall, the group found the book to be good read and gave it 8/10.