Few lives could be described as extraordinary, but my guest this week on My Life in Seven
Charms has truly lived one. It is not an overstatement to describe Lady Anne
Glenconner's life as one of extremes. Born into the richest social hierarchy of the English aristocracy
in the 1930's, stitched into the tapestry of the Royal household over decades, and then plunged into the
hedonistic, louche world of the super rich, created by her husband Colin, Lord Glenconner on Mustique.
And now, a late flowering writer. Described as candid, kind, witty, and self questioning, I am delighted
to welcome Lady Anne to My Life in Seven Charms.
Lady Anne: Hello.
Annoushka: Hello, Hello.
I was so thrilled, Lady Anne, that you agreed to come and talk to me about your life in
Lady Anne: Well, you were so kind of ask me. I was simply thrilled when you got in
touch, because I think it's the most lovely idea to have your life, really, in seven
absolutely ravishing charms. I can't think of anything nicer, and I'm
just looking forward to talking to you about them.
Annoushka: Well, let's start with the first. Your first charm is the holm oak
tree. Now, I know you're going to tell us why you've chosen that. But the way I visualize that charm
is quite three dimensional. I think that the trunk ... I see it as quite an old oak tree, so it's
got lovely gnarly bits on the trunk, and we get all the textures of how the trunk would be. And then
gorgeous leaves made of, I think, probably some emeralds, some sapphires, because oak trees aren't all the same
color, are they? They've kind of got yellow leaves, and if possible, they'll move a little bit, so
that we can find them kind of-
Lady Anne: [inaudible]
Annoushka: That's how I'd seen it. But, I'd love to know why. I know how important
Holkham is to you. Obviously that's where you were born. But tell me a little bit about the Holkham
Lady Anne: Well, Holkham was my home. And the reason that the Holkham oak, came to
Holkham, was that in the 18th century, my ancestor did the Grand Tour, and bought a whole lot of
statues. And when they arrived back in England, they were packed in oak leaves and acorns. Rather
like 18th century bubble wrap.
And I think they thought, well, we've got these acorns. Let's try and plant them and
see what happens. And they flourished. So Holkham was the first place in England that had this oak
tree. And it's been so much part of Holkham, the oak tree, because it meant so much to me when I was
a child, and still does. Because I live quite near Holkham. And I go up the long avenue, which has
these marvelous oak trees, either side, and they're quite old, and they dip right down to the
ground, some of them.
Annoushka: I mean I think I'm right in thinking that Holkham is the fifth largest
house in the country.
Lady Anne: Yes it is. And it's enormous. It doesn't look so big. It's so
beautifully proportioned. But the great thing about Holkham, is it's a centre block with four wings.
And each wing is like a smallish house. And so, there was a family wing, where we lived. There was a
nursery wing, or the chapel wing. The kitchen wing. And then what's called the stranger's wing,
which is actually used for friends who come stay. And so that when you're at Holkham, in your wing,
you don't really have to go around the estate rooms. And that was what made it rather cosy. It
doesn't look very cosy, Holkham, the outside. But it was very cosy and nice living there.
Annoushka: So were you in the nursery wing?
Lady Anne: Well, we were in the nursery wing when we were small. And that was
before the war.
Lady Anne: When we had our own nursery footmen. Looking back. And the kitchen was
so far away, that when the footman used to bring our breakfast, he put the eggs in a hot dish. And
by the time it reached the nursery, the eggs were done.
Annoushka: Oh my goodness.
Lady Anne: Because it took so long.
Annoushka: It must have been absolutely extraordinary growing up there. Because
... who did you play with? Because actually, it was all very well being on this huge estate, but
Lady Anne: Well, in a book I wrote called Lady in Waiting, I talk about the Queen,
Princess Margaret, who used to come over. And there's a lovely photograph of us all standing, which
included my cousin, who is David and Angus, who married Princess Alexandra.
And I always played with Princess Margaret, because she was more my age. And we had
great fun, whirling around the pastures on our tricycles. And round the outside of the house. But
there were always cousins. I mean, I remember always in the nursery and at Christmas, there were all
the families came, there were six of them. I think probably about 20 children.
Annoushka: Oh God, so it was a really ... so memories of just a house full of lots
and lots of children.
Lady Anne: Lots of children. And Christmas, I remember, a wonderful, huge
Christmas tree in the long gallery. And then we all had all these card tables all around. And then
people put your presents on the card tables. And I remember looking to see if anybody got more
presents or what.
Annoushka: I bet you did.
Lady Anne: Or how big they were, because you were small, it was always how big
they were. Talking about that, a tiny story, which relates a little bit to your jewellery you know,
you make the most lovely
jewellery. My sister and I went to a Christmas party at Buckingham palace, and when
we left there was a table full of presents, with Queen Mary standing behind them, looking absolutely
Anyway, my sister rushed forward. There was a huge teddy bear, which she clasped, and
as I went, I had my eye on a doll, actually. And Queen Mary said, "Anne, can I give you a bit of
advice?" I was so frightened. I froze. And she said, "If I were you," she said, "Often, better
things come in little boxes."
So, I chose a little box. And in it was something, actually she was quite right, was a
pearl and coral necklace that my great granddaughter, Ruby, wears now. She's five.
Annoushka: Oh, how absolutely ... what a very good bit of advice. But, tell me a
little bit more about life at Holkham. I think I read in your book that you had a rather scary
Lady Anne: Well that wasn't at Holkham.
Annoushka: It wasn't at Holkham, okay.
Lady Anne: No, because she was so scary, was that my parents were in Egypt. And my
sister and I went to see my Great Aunt in Scotland. Because Hitler was expected to land here. He had
all these flat bottomed boats in Belgium and Holland, and of course the sea is so shallow here. And
so all the children, not only us, but all of the children who lived right on the coast, were moved
I think my aunt didn't know she was unkind to me, but thank God she left, and then we
got the most lovely governess called Billie Williams. I mean, you know, she's like Mrs. Doubtfire.
Annoushka: Oh, how wonderful. Because the first, I mean, did the first one tie you
to the bed?
Lady Anne: Yes. Every night.
Annoushka: That is just unbelievably shocking.
Lady Anne: And I thought, because my mother had chosen her, that my mother knew
what was happening somehow, you know? And of course, you're far too frightened to tell anybody.
Lady Anne: I never dared tell anybody. And when she was leaving, I was so
frightened of her, that I pretended I was sad. Because I thought if I in any way showed that I was
pleased, I didn't know what she would do to me.
Annoushka: Oh my goodness.
Lady Anne: Actually, going back for a moment, to my bestselling book, because I
think on every level, I touched people. And I've had, I could actually ... my new role when I get so
old I can't move at all will be an agony aunt, for people who have had people being really unkind to
them when they were children. I mean, not particularly nannies or governesses, but mothers and
fathers, you know. And this awful thing of not being able to tell anybody. Because you're too
Annoushka: Yeah. One of the other things you talk about, is you say that you
thought that you were the biggest disappointment when you were born.
Lady Anne: Well I was. I've got a photograph you'd like to see up there. Because
there I am, and there's my father holding me, and my grandfather and my great-grandfather. And you
can see they're looking at me, how could she be a girl? There it is in a nutshell.
Annoushka: Did you feel that through your life?
Lady Anne: Yes.
Annoushka: I mean, obviously-
Lady Anne: I was too small there, but yes. And then of course my sister came two
years later, quite the disappointment. And then the real disappointment was my sister is twelve
years younger, and I remember being at school and my aunt rang up and said, "Mummy's had a darling
little baby girl." And we burst into tears. Because we were so sorry for my mother. I mean, the
pressure. And my father was distraught.
Lady Anne: Yeah, because of primogeniture, you know-
Annoushka: Of course.
Lady Anne: The aristocracy still has primogeniture. The queen doesn't. I mean, if
Princess Charlotte had been born first, she would be queen rather than Prince George.
Annoushka: Yes, isn't that interesting.
Lady Anne: Yeah.
Annoushka: But then, tell me how you ended up being a traveling saleswoman.
Lady Anne: Well, that was ... my mother started a pottery ... my mother was the
most remarkable woman, actually. My mother ran the house.
Lady Anne: Powerhouse. And she said she thought, in those days, she didn't want my
sister and I to go work in London. She wanted us to have something to do. And she started the
pottery. Which is partly because we had a prisoner of war camp in the park. First of all, had
Italians. None of them wanted to run away. In fact, their sisters and things came after the war to
work at Holkham. We had our own brickyards. Everything was made for the estate. Tiles, bricks,
everything. And we ended up with 100 people. It was the largest light industry in North Norfolk.
We sold everywhere, and I was not very artistic. I did try. And my mother said, "Anne,
okay, what would you like to do?" And I said, "Well, I'd like to sell." Always liked to sell. That's
why I love promoting my book. That's why I'll write, another one. But that's what I enjoy doing,
actually. So off I set, in my mother's car with my pottery packed in a suitcase. And I had to stay
in these really grim traveling salesman hotels. I was the only woman, and I was only 17.
Lady Anne: I mean, and then I went to America. I travelled, I didn't know one
person in America. I travelled on the Queen Elizabeth, steerage. Five other women in my cabin, all
Annoushka: But that was so brave. To get onto the Queen Elizabeth and just go to
Lady Anne: And just go. Well, I know. Looking back.
Annoushka: It's extraordinary. With no mobile phone. None of that.
Lady Anne: No, nothing. That's why when I was asked the other day to speak, I
think I said to the [inaudible] Union, which would have been a young audience, because on the whole
my audiences aren't too young. I would have liked to have told them a bit about, not only the war,
but because of the war, we were brought up and we just did things. A, we did exactly what our
parents told us to do. Which I don't think any of them do now. But you know, and it was very good
for us. I mean, it was difficult. It was hard. We had to cope, you know?
Annoushka: So did you get the pottery into Bergdorf's and Saks?
Lady Anne: Oh yes.
Annoushka: You did?
Lady Anne: And of course my finest moment came, I was there back in New York,
staying with this very kind friend, Mrs. Ryan.
Annoushka: So this is Ryan, the grand New York socialite.
Lady Anne: Very, very. And her parents, Otto Kahn, very, very rich. That's where
okay comes from. When you say okay, it came from the Otto Kahns. Because they were frightfully rich.
And evidently, when they okayed a thing, they used to put O. K., Otto Kahn.
Annoushka: How absolutely fascinating.
Lady Anne: And that's why we say something is okay.
Annoushka: God. Absolutely fascinating.
Lady Anne: Anyway, in those days, if anything one wanted to you know, get people
to know about, it came as a telegram.
Lady Anne: So the maid came in, and I was horrified. Because telegrams always
filled me, you know, something awful.
Annoushka: Something awful happened.
Lady Anne: Anyway, luckily there it was, my mother saying, please come home Anne.
You've been asked to be a maid of honour at the Queen's coronation.
Annoushka: And how did that make you feel?
Lady Anne: Well I was amazed. And so was everybody else having breakfast. And it
got out in the New York Times, I think, saying ... and from that moment on, I had with me, a
[inaudible] the Queen and the Duke of [inaudible]. Hadn't gone so terribly well. But I absolutely
Annoushka: Oh of pottery stock?
Lady Anne: Yes. And when I came back on the Queen Mary, my mother met me, and all
the press did too, because, you know. And I was waving my order, I've got a full order mum. And she
said, no, no, you've got to pose. You're going to be maid of honour.
Annoushka: Yes, this traveling salesman thing is getting on.
Lady Anne: Forget about traveling sales. You're no longer a traveling salesman.
Going to be a maid of honour.
Annoushka: So we come to the coronation. And of course your next charm has got to
be a crown. So I thought we'd try and replicate it as far as possible. But I don't want to make it
kind of thimble sized, but difficult to replicate. It's got 2,868 diamonds on it.
Lady Anne: Absolutely lovely. It's got sort of sapphires and rubies, I can see.
Annoushka: I want to try to get the fleur de lis, and the cross, and all of those
things. And the velvet, the kind of purple velvet cap. I thought we'd kind of carve out of amethyst.
Lady Anne: No, well, I think that may be asking a bit much. But I must say, the
queen did look fantastic in it, don't you think ... it weighed a ton.
Annoushka: I know. Did you ever try it on?
Lady Anne: Me?
Annoushka: Did you ever get to try it on?
Lady Anne: No, no, no.
Annoushka: Just checking.
Lady Anne: I wouldn't dare touch it. No, no, completely sacred. Prince Charles got
his paws on it, however old he was, when we got back to Buckingham Palace. Because he took it off,
put it on a table, and Prince Charles made a beeline for it. And we thought he was going to drop it.
We thought, oh my goodness, that would be a bad omen. But luckily I think my mother, as a lady in
waiting, seized it from him and took it away.
Annoushka: Because it's kind of four kilos, or something, that crown. I mean, I
think it weighs-
Lady Anne: Well she used to wear it when she was writing letters. I think Prince
Charles says he remembers going in and seeing her-
Annoushka: Wearing the crown.
Lady Anne: Wearing it. And asked her why she's wearing. And she said she was
Annoushka: Oh my God, that's amazing. I love the idea of her sitting there.
Lady Anne: Yes, I know.
Lady Anne: I mean, it was ... and we were very heavily made up, because the
lights, they took a film, it was televised too, very early on. And so I think it was, [inaudible]
when somebody came around. My mother was also in the procession. Because she was lady in waiting.
She had just been made lady in waiting to the Queen. So she's walking just behind and we were
heavily made up. We looked at each other and my mother said, "My God, we look like George [Robey],
which you probably wouldn't know, but he was a sort of comedian and he played dames in sort of
pantomimes or something. And we had great dark eyebrows and brilliant red lips, and pink cheeks.
Annoushka: But looked absolutely normal once you on television.
Lady Anne: You're absolutely right. I mean, it looked fine, you know?
Annoushka: And wear did you get dressed? Did you get dressed at Buckingham Palace?
Lady Anne: We were lent my uncle, a tiny flat, great uncle actually, Jack Cook,
whose grandson married Princess Eugenie.
Annoushka: Oh is that-
Lady Anne: Was having a baby. And he moved out to his club. But it was only one
bedroom. And I slept on the floor on a mattress.
Annoushka: That's great, the day before the royal coronation-
Lady Anne: Exactly. I hardly slept a wink.
Annoushka: So was it a laugh? Did you have a real laugh during it?
Lady Anne: Well up to a point. I mean, we were being watched by 40 million billion
people, you know? It was quite scary.
Annoushka: That wasn't a laugh.
Lady Anne: If it hadn't been for the Duke of Norfolk.
Lady Anne: Who was incredible, and sort of drilled us, you know? We knew exactly
what to do. But no, it was really serious, you know. But of course it was serious.
Annoushka: No, I imagine it was serious. But you know, in my head it's actually,
if you're all there, was there any kind of giggling?
Lady Anne: Well, I mean, we did have a laugh. I mean, for instance, the last
rehearsal we were told to wear our dresses and to sort of cover them up a bit. And I was sure when I
came down the stairs, the steps from the Abbey afterwards, the wind blew my shawl. And the next day,
front page, was a sketch. Huge picture of me. And she didn't know it was a secret. There's me, sort
of exposed. And I thought well, I'm going to be rung up.
Annoushka: For showing the dress that you weren't meant to show.
Lady Anne: Yes, and sorry Anne, but I thought it was a bit late for him to get rid
of me. But that was, I was horrified by that. And of course, I mean, we did get together
occasionally for tea afterwards. And then we laughed. Certainly not in the Abbey. I think the Duke
of Norfolk [inaudible].
Annoushka: Was he quite scary?
Lady Anne: Wow, yes.
Lady Anne: But he had to be. And he'd done the king's coronation when he was quite
young, before the war. And of course the Queen had watched it, as princesses would. So she knew. She
was fantastic. I mean, she was so calm.
Annoushka: Extraordinary. So young.
Lady Anne: So young. Completely calm. Which made us, because we waited ... four of
us went to the Abbey to wait for her. And we could hear, suddenly, it was extraordinary, it was
pouring with rain. And being driven there, I mean the crowds, you know, were shouting. I mean, I
didn't know whether I should wave or not.
Annoushka: Did you?
Lady Anne: Well sort of.
Lady Anne: Quick little wave. But anyway, the Queen, you could hear her coming,
you know. This roar, and then we knew she was coming. And it was extraordinary. It was like a Disney
film nowadays. Round the corner came this golden coach. Which even shone in spite of the rain, it
sort of ... and then came to halt. [inaudible] got out the other side. Quite fussy he was. Because I
think, well suddenly he lost his row completely.
Annoushka: Terrifying [inaudible].
Lady Anne: And he wanted to make, I'm sure, the day perfect for her. But we knew
what to do. "Come on, Anne!" Anyway-
Annoushka: Oh he was bossing you around?
Lady Anne: Oh yeah, he bossed us around. And a really bad boss was when we were
being photographed by Cecil, who the Queen mother had insisted. He had wanted Baron. Which is one of
his friends, you know.
Lady Anne: And anyway, he was sort of fussy. He was telling us how to stand. I
could see Cecil getting more and more irritated. So Cecil put his camera down, looked at the Duke,
and said, "Would you like to take the photographs, sir?" And started to walk off. Everyone, the
Queen Mother, "No, no, no Cecil!" You know, the Queen looked over, and then [inaudible] realized
he's gone too far, and went off.
Annoushka: And went off. God.
Lady Anne: So he had to contend with him, as well as doing what we knew, you know.
But, she didn't say anything to us. She looked incredible. She would make a lovely little charm,
Annoushka: She would. She does.
Lady Anne: Wonderful dress. Sparkly dress. I could just see. But she didn't say
anything until we were all waiting. I mean, there was a tiny little bit of, it was a blue carpet,
tiny red piece of cotton, the Duke had gotten some minion to sort of sew in, so that she knew
exactly where to stand. She was waiting. And the train had little handles underneath, you know,
satin. And we were waiting. And we were a bit nervous. Because we had always practiced with the
Duchess of Norfolk. We did it on one practice with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, when she wore
some curtain or something. And we wandered up and down.
Anyway, and then she did look around, she anyway, she just said, "Ready girls?"
Annoushka: Oh, did she appear nervous?
Lady Anne: Not at all.
Annoushka: Not shaking, nothing?
Lady Anne: Nothing, nothing, nothing. And because she was so absolutely calm and
like that, of course, it was incredible for us. Her calmness sort of went back through the train,
like an electrical current, and off we went. And we did adjust. Because she did walk slightly faster
than the Duchess. But we were so good. So we had a moment or two to adjust. And then of course, we
came through the route. All the choir were up on top, because the choir stores were full of people
from all the commonwealth. And they were all in their-
Lady Anne: I was going to say fancy dress. Finery.
Annoushka: I think it's the word.
Lady Anne: It's very difficult to know what to say now. But they were what we call
fancy dress. And you know, then the music, and I mean, it was the most marvellous day of my life, I
say. And people say, well how was your wedding? And I say, well the awful thing was, I was afraid it
was a coronation.
Would you be frightfully kind and put another log on? Thank you so much. I'm sitting in
the chair Princess Margaret always used to sit in. So I'm sort of pretending I am Princess Margaret.
And treat you as if you were me, you see.
Annoushka: I'm absolutely delighted.
Lady Anne: If you don't mind.
Annoushka: No, I feel very, very privileged to be sitting in your chair, thank
you. It's absolutely perfect.
So at this point, you had been made lady in waiting to Princess Margaret.
Lady Anne: Yes, I was ... after the coronation, I was made lady in waiting in '72.
Annoushka: The reason I'm asking you this, is because now you're talking about her
and saying "Ma'am" but-
Lady Anne: I always said Ma'am.
Annoushka: Did you? Did you always call her Ma'am before you were lady in waiting?
Lady Anne: Oh yes.
Annoushka: Oh you did. And that's the way you had to-
Lady Anne: I mean, when I was small, we called her, I called her Princess
Annoushka: Okay. So you never just called her Margaret?
Lady Anne: Never, never.
Lady Anne: Never.
Annoushka: That's interesting.
Lady Anne: And I wouldn't have wanted to. I mean, I think possibly, my family
always being in the Royal household in some respects. My father was a query to the Duke of York
before he became king, and then became an extra to her when she was king. My mother was a lady in
waiting to the Queen. My uncle was lord in waiting to Queen Mary. And so on, and so on.
Annoushka: So it was absolutely ingrained.
Lady Anne: And I mean, you know, we wouldn't have dreamt of calling-
Annoushka: So they were always Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth.
Lady Anne: When we were children. Always called her Ma'am. Everybody called her
Ma'am. Except, I think their relations didn't.
Lady Anne: They called her Margo. Prince Charles called her Margo.
Annoushka: Called her Margo?
Lady Anne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Annoushka: And was it a very different kind of relationship once you were lady in
waiting to her?
Lady Anne: Well it was slightly, because it was when I was on duty, it was a job,
you know? Yes. And I was always looking out for, you know, you're a sort of go-between really.
People always get in touch with you to ask what she was wearing tomorrow, because then they could
make the flowers suitable, you know, so they wouldn't clash with what she was wearing. And when one
went out with her, one knew, I told them what she'd like to drink, what she'd like to eat. I would
ask where the lavatory was. Because all of those things, just to make her life very much easier, and
mine too, you know. I knew exactly. And then I was sent out quite often at cocktail parties to find
people to introduce them to her. And that was a great skill. Because you had to wait. And if she was
talking to somebody, you couldn't interrupt her, if she was having a nice interesting conversation.
You had to wait for that moment, where you felt the conversation was kind of flagging, then you came
in with the next person. But it was quite a skill, that. And often, because she was really quite
small, I lost her quite often.
I'd come back to where I thought she was, and she wasn't there. And I remember looking
out, being quite tall, so looking out. And suddenly, quite often she was dressed in some bright
colors, and was a spotter. And of course, all the trips abroad, I mention it in my book, it was so
funny, a lot of them. We had wonderful sort of odd things, amusing things, happen to us.
Annoushka: So you were able to kind of bridge that kind of deference, I guess, as
a lady in waiting, and her friend, and her mate.
Lady Anne: Well the thing was, I was her friend, and she, on the whole, lady in
waiting were always people she knew, because it was so important. In the evening, when we would stay
at government houses or whatever it was, you know, she would often say, "come and have a chat," and
after we'd gone to bed, and I used to sit there and we'd roll with laughter quite often.
Annoushka: I'm sure.
Lady Anne: Things that had happened.
Annoushka: Very amusing.
Lady Anne: The trouble is, when I really laugh, I cry. I don't know, I sort of
cry. And quite sometimes, she was so naughty, and used to look at me with something quite funny
happened when we really couldn't laugh, you know. And she'd just look at me. And I said, "please,
ma'am, don't look at me." Because I just knew I was going to laugh and then I can't stop.
I mean, one instance was that we were staying at the government house in Sydney, in
Australia. So Roland, and Lady Cutler, Roland, frightfully grand. Far grander than the Queen,
really. And he took everything frightfully seriously. And Lady Cutler came to me, she was always
dressed in a sort of uniform, with medals or something, I don't know what. And she said, "Would the
Princess accept a present?" And she said, "It's really very special, because it includes so many
people have worked on it." So I said, "Well I'm sure she would. Could you tell me what it is?" Well
she said, "It's a boomerang cover."
Well, I went back to Mrs. Margaret. And I said to her, "Ma'am, you'll never guess what
they're giving. They gave me a boomerang cover." And Princess Margaret said, "Well how big do they
name my boomerang?" And I said, "Well I don't know." And she said, "Anne, you must have got it
wrong." I said, "No I haven't. Shall I ask Lady Cutler to come in with the boomerang cover? Because,
you know, and please don't look at me. Because I'm just going to dissolve into tears." And she said,
"Well don't look at me either."
In came Lady Cutler, and of course what it was, was a quilt that had gone out to
somewhere in Australia, then come back to Sydney and gone out to Perth, and-
Annoushka: Oh, to be embroidered.
Lady Anne: And all the women had sewn it. And because it went out and back it was
called a boomerang cover.
Annoushka: Oh I see. I thought you meant it's actually a cover.
Lady Anne: Well that's what we thought. And of course, we screamed with laughter.
I mean, tears were pouring down.
Annoushka: Princess Margaret obviously had a wonderful sense of humour.
Lady Anne: Well we'd laugh, you know, I'm sitting here, the laughter we've had in
this room. I mean, well often quite a bit too. But I feel she may be sitting there enjoying it all.
Because she always when she came to stay here, she was lovely. I was very careful about making it
all perfect for her. I thought, if you've got Princess Margaret staying, you might as well do what
she wants. You know, why not? And quite a lot of people didn't. And that's why she was considered so
Annoushka: But was that because they didn't know what she wanted? Because you had
obviously had known-
Lady Anne: Oh they didn't ask.
Annoushka: Oh, they didn't ask.
Lady Anne: They didn't ask. And sometimes I got the opportunity to say to the
host, you know, would you like me to give you one or two hints to-
Annoushka: Helpful hints.
Lady Anne: Help the weekend go well. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn't.
Annoushka: And she would-
Lady Anne: Well, she said, you know, the weekend is my time off. And they would
use her. They would have the Chief of Police, and the Archbishop, you know. And a lot of people like
that for Sunday lunch.
Lady Anne: And she said, well you know, I do those sort of things all week. And
the weekend is my time off.
Annoushka: My time, my time.
Your book is called In the Shadow of the Crown. What I wanted to ask you was, did she
feel very much, did Princess Margaret feel very much in the shadow of the crown?
Lady Anne: I don't know. She might have felt slightly in the shadow. But she was
very, very loyal to the Queen. She adored the Queen. But I think from the only point of view, she
would have liked perhaps to be educated better. I mean, the shadow, when I talk about that, it was
more my shadow.
Lady Anne: Which was, I was also under the shadow, Colin. I was under the shadow
of quite a lot of things, actually.
Annoushka: A lot of things.
Lady Anne: Because when Princess Margaret or Colin were with me, of course one was
invisible. I didn't mind a bit with Princess Margaret, because that was my role. I walked always
behind her. And I used to pick up quite interesting things. People used to talk, because I was
invisible. So people sort of talked about her and didn't realize what one was there.
Annoushka: So you could listen-
Lady Anne: Sometimes I told her, I said, "You'll never know what somebody said."
Oh do tell me. And Colin, I was completely invisible.
Lady Anne: You could see that. He just took over. And I let him in the end. It's
Annoushka: Now should we talk about your number three charm, which is the map of
Lady Anne: Oh yes. Lovely. Well, of course Mustique played such a huge part in my
life. Because when I married Colin, Colin was going to the city every day, wearing a bowler hat and
an umbrella. And I was doing charitable work and looking after our eldest son, Charlie. And that was
what I thought my life is going to be. Weekend shooting and all that sort of thing. Exactly what my
parents had imagined my life was going to be.
Annoushka: Where were you ... were you moved to Kent?
Lady Anne: Well we lent a house there, and Colin could easily, he caught the train
every morning at Westmorland, I think, went up to the city. But the tenants had a merchant bank and
made a huge amount of money. And then they bought land and things all around the world. And one of
the things they had, actually, originally, was the Asphalt Lake in Trinidad. And I went out with
Colin to visit. But while we were there, Colin heard about an island in the Grenadines that was
being sold by two spinster ladies. And I then went back-
Annoushka: And that island was Mustique.
Lady Anne: Yes, it was Mustique. And it was a small cotton estate. Colin knew
absolutely nothing about cotton or anything, really, in the West Indies. He came back absolutely
thrilled. He said, "I bought an island." I said, right okay. And he said, "Aren't you longing to see
it?" So I said, "What if I am, really? What's it like inside?" "Well, actually, I haven't landed. It
looked all right as we sailed around, it had lovely beaches."
So off we sailed. We landed. It was a nightmare. I mean, the mosquitoes were huge. It
wasn't called Mustique for nothing. And wild animals and [inaudible] trees, which are poisonous. I
mean, we could hardly land. We were met by somebody from the village who was in charge of the cotton
estate. And I said, Colin drove me around on a tractor, that was the only way of getting around. And
he said, "What do you think of it, Anne?" And I said, "Well Colin, you are mad." I mean, nobody is
going to want to come here. A nightmare place. It might have lovely beaches, but that's about all.
There's no water, no electric lights. And so he then said to me, "Mark my words, Anne, I'm going to
make it a household name."
Annoushka: He said that? Because he bought it in 1957? Or-
Lady Anne: '58.
Lady Anne: Yes. And I mean, I've just written another book called Murder on
Annoushka: I'm dying to read that.
Lady Anne: Which I think people will enjoy. I'm going to take them around
Mustique. But I've dedicated the book to him because fiction and truth-
Annoushka: They're quite ... yes, that's why I'm fascinated. And has this been
bubbling away for many years, this book?
Lady Anne: Yes, but it-
Annoushka: Was it before Colin died or after Colin died?
Lady Anne: You're actually right, it was bubbling away. But Colin isn't in the
book, because he'd obviously take it over.
Annoushka: But joking apart, how long has the plot been buried?
Lady Anne: It happened when I first went there.
Annoushka: Okay, all those years ago?
Lady Anne: I can't actually stand being on this island, and I thought, you know,
and I used to ... awful, this. But I used to think, you're kidding, Colin. And this time, I went to
Mustique, I had all sorts of ways of how, you know, and then I thought of one moment of hiding him
in the cotton bales. I thought, how can I get him off the island?
I didn't think further, I suppose he would've been discovered in Lancashire, where they
were spinning the cotton. God's sake, what have we got here? A body. But anyway ... Rather shocking,
this section. You're the only person I've told.
Annoushka: Because the book is what it is, I haven't read it yet, but I was like,
you surely this hasn't been going on for a long time? This plot.
Lady Anne: It started when I first went. Because hours, I was unable to read, you
know, I then retired to bed with my eye mask on, my anti-mosquito ... dreaming up-
Annoushka: Dreaming up what you were going to do.
Lady Anne: Yeah, and it's been a long time.
Annoushka: It's been a long time in the making.
Lady Anne: But you're absolutely right. And it's dedicated, it's for Colin,
because he said he would make Mustique a household name. Although, he had failings in lots of ways,
he did have a dream. He had ideas. And that was what was so exciting. And people say, do you regret
being married to Colin? And I say no. It was extremely difficult. I had a very difficult time. But I
don't regret it. I would never have had such an extraordinary life like I have had.
Annoushka: So we're going to talk about your fourth charm. Obviously it's a book
and a pen. Well, that's entirely obvious why that's a book and a pen. But I think it should be, I
would love to make it a little miniature book, but a locket, so that we can open it up, and you
could put a little handwritten note inside. But I thought we could put the pen either on top of the
book, or inside. But the book will absolutely have engraved on the front the name of your book. I'm
not sure whether it should be, which book should it be. Murder in Mustique?
Lady Anne: No, I think Lady in Waiting.
Annoushka: Lady in Waiting. So we'll have Lady in Waiting engraved on it. And
then, inside I think it should have your name, and probably your signature. Because we can get that
engraved kind of perfectly.
Lady Anne: I'm so excited. I thought you might do some of those old fashioned
Shakespearean books with a great big pen, quill, on it. No, but what you suggested is brilliant. I'm
so proud, actually. I mean, it's been amazing-
Lady Anne: Well absolutely extraordinary. I mean, what I really find is all the
people who have written to me about my book. And I'm so humbled, actually, by people who have
enjoyed my book. It's meant something to them. It's even helped them.
Annoushka: It's so beautifully written. Because you've got, obviously, some
unbelievable stories to tell. And yet, at no point are you nasty about anybody or, you know, it's
just so lovely the way that you've written it. And it just makes you want to know more and more. So
I am so looking forward to the next one.
The only question I do have about it, is why now? Or why did you wait so long to write
your first book?
Lady Anne: Well I had to wait until Colin and Princess Margaret had been gathered.
I couldn't possibly have written it while they were there. And I didn't think, I've always, as you
probably gather having this lovely chat with you, that I've always told stories. And I met a
publisher, Tom [inaudible] at a weekend, actually. And he said, have you ever thought about writing
a book? And I said, no, I can't write. I mean ... and he said, no, no, but you could dictate it. And
then they all kept saying, come on, have a go. And Hugo Vickers is a great friend of mine, who
writes wonderful books, said, you know, we'll help you if you get ... and off I went. People said,
did you get writer's block? I said, absolutely not. I got writer's diarrhea. It all came flooding
out. Rather too much.
Anyway, [inaudible] not even this time last year, but in a month it came out, and it
took off. It had wings of its own.
Annoushka: I know, and the New York Bestseller's list for how many weeks?
Lady Anne: Four. I was number four.
Annoushka: For how many weeks?
Lady Anne: Well, in England it was 35 weeks. In New York, I'm not sure. About 12.
Annoushka: So, Lady Anne, let's talk about your fifth charm, which is an Indian
elephant. Now I see this elephant with wobbly legs, a tail that moves, and his trunk that moves, and
he's an Indian elephant, I think you've said. So I think he's got to have a gorgeous embellished
saddle cloth with lots of
semi precious stones and diamonds on him. But tell me why you've chosen an elephant.
Lady Anne: Well I've chosen the elephant for two reasons. First all, we had an
elephant. She was called [Bupa], and she arrived from the Dublin zoo. She became redundant, poor
Bupa. And Colin saw the advert in some paper, and immediately said, I've got to have an elephant. So
he bought the elephant and she came to St. Lucia. And she was wonderful. I absolutely loved her.
Twins used to ride on her. She was quite small when she first arrived, but she grew bigger. And she
used to come up when I was doing something in the kitchen, and put her trunk into the kitchen, and I
always used to give her a banana. She was so sweet.
But we had her for a number of years, and she was part of the family. That's partly why
I chose an elephant. The other reason is, that every year for 26 years, I've been to India, and I
absolutely ... I've got a friend called Margaret [Viner], and we traveled very well together. Often
people say, you're so lucky having Margaret. Because I didn't think I've got a friend I could spend
a month every year with.
But anyway, we had the most wonderful time. We travelled all over India together.
You've really depicted on this charming little elephant the elephants we saw in India, which were
made up and painted, and you know. And we rode only once on an elephant. It's the most uncomfortable
thing we've ever done. And we just said, when she got off, we're never going to do that again.
Annoushka: Deeply uncomfortable.
Lady Anne: And that's why I've chosen an elephant.
Annoushka: And is India your favourite place, that you've-
Lady Anne: Absolutely magical.
Annoushka: But your sixth charm is a little sailing dinghy. And actually, I mean,
the way I've seen it, because I love things to be as perfect and miniature as they can be, so I had
seen it with a little ebony, beautifully carved ebony hull, with all the replicas of the wood that I
assume it was made of. With a gold mast, and I've seen it with kind of beautifully carved rock
crystal sails. But you might have ... because I don't know what the boat was, but that's how I'd
Lady Anne: Well I've had various boats. And I'd love it to look as you've
described it. Because sailing has been part of my life since I was five. And I've sailed every
since, until I had ... 80. I sailed until I was 80. And then I had a rather nasty sort of accident,
where my boat was tipped over and the mast went into the sound. And I was in my life jacket, and I
couldn't get under the boat to get out. And I had to take the life jacket off. And actually, a
canoe, somebody in a canoe, had thought whoever it was was dead under the boat. And suddenly I
arrived. And I thought, that was the time to stop.
Annoushka: Oh gosh.
Lady Anne: But it's been part of my life. I mean, sailing, stopping and having
picnics and I've always loved the sea. But I'm Cancer. I'm a moon subject. And the sea and the moon-
Annoushka: So important, absolutely. But, was it kind of a real source of peace
for you? I mean, did you sail on your own?
Lady Anne: I sailed on my own. It's a way of getting away from everybody.
Annoushka: I can imagine.
Lady Anne: And, although I used to race sometimes, but I was absolutely, well I
somehow always used to come in last. I came in last once and everybody else had gone home. I was so
Annoushka: But it's so interesting. Because I've sailed a bit, I'm an absolutely
lousy sailor, but it is absolutely, for me it's all about courage. Because actually, it's quite
scary going out there.
Lady Anne: I mean, I quite enjoy it. I mean, the great thing about sailing, is
that you forget everything. And when the boys are ill, I came up occasionally. Colin and my sisters
and things took over, and I came up to sail. And it was the most marvellous thing.
Lady Anne: Escape.
Annoushka: Now your last charm is a-
Lady Anne: Pea pod. And I will have five peas in a pod.
Annoushka: So you've chosen this to represent your five children.
Lady Anne: Absolutely. And I just thought it was such a charming idea.
Annoushka: Will you tell me a little bit about your children?
Lady Anne: Well like I said, I had Charles and Henry, and sadly they both died
very young. Charlie, he was a drug addict most of his life. But he then married the most wonderful
girl called Sheila. And they had Cody. They had a son. And I got the most lovely grandson, who is a
Annoushka: Oh my goodness.
Lady Anne: Charles would be absolutely amazed. I didn't think in his wildest
dreams would he have thought about having a son that was a banker. And he's absolutely charming.
And then Henry married darling Tessa. And they lived at Glen.
Annoushka: Glen was Colin's house? Is that right? Glen Castle?
Lady Anne: Yes, so Glen is the family house, which is a magical castle in a valley
in the borders. And I went there actually last week to stay. And it was just as it always has been.
It looked ravishing.
Annoushka: And that was home for you when you-
Lady Anne: And that was home. And so, Henry sadly died of AIDS. He was married to
Tessa and they had Euan, and then he decided he was gay and came out. But it was a terrible time to
be gay, then.
Annoushka: I mean, it is so hard to imagine losing two children.
Lady Anne: Well, I know. It was ... and what was perhaps even worse, I mean,
Charlie was really ill. I knew he was going to die. I knew that Henry was going to die quite soon.
And then Christopher had his accident in Belize. Was in a coma for a year. And again, I write in my
book about how we-
Lady Anne: Barbara, my darling nanny who went to look after Prince William and
Harry, came back to me. And we did it together. And although he's quite badly disabled since, he's
been married twice. Got two wonderful girls. The eldest one's just got her first kings. Very clever
Annoushka: But you've got twin girls as well.
Lady Anne: Yes. Well the girls are wonderful. One is married to the most lovely
son-in-law. And they live in Cambridge. They've got a business in Cambridge. And Amy, the other
twin, isn't married, but she lives in Cambridge. And she never really wanted ... well she wanted
children. But she said, well I've got two. I mean Mae's. They're mirror twins.
Annoushka: Oh gosh that's lovely.
Lady Anne: So Mae's children are like her children.
Annoushka: How wonderful.
Lady Anne: She helps Mae, and she helps in the business, and, my son in law he
said, you know, I'm going to marry Amy as well.
Annoushka: Oh gosh, how wonderful.
Lady Anne: So I'm so lucky. I mean, although I haven't got Charlie and Henry, I've
got their sons. And I sent a book to my grandson. [inaudible] was very, very sweet, because nothing
happened. They just come back to me. I thought, well perhaps they haven't read it at all. I got so
terribly upset. So I said, Euan and Donnie, have you read it? And he said, "Yes mum, a
rollercoaster. But, and I couldn't stop crying, but I'm so glad you wrote it." Because of course he
was three when his father died, and he never really knew about how his father died.
Tessa, his mother, who died the other day, never had. And he said, "At least I know now
how dad died, and how you felt." And all this sort of thing.
Annoushka: That must have been so ... and were you able to chat to him about it in
a bit more detail?
Lady Anne: Yes.
Annoushka: Gave him the opportunity.
Lady Anne: Absolutely. And I said, I hope you don't mind me writing. And he said,
"No. I'm so glad." And Cody is too, I mean, all the children are wonderful. I mean, God, I'm lucky.
I mean, my life was pretty awful at one point. But I've been so fortunate since. God, I mean, I had
this amazing moment when I was so tired looking after Christopher. I thought I was going to die,
actually. And this healer, Mrs. Black, I think I say that, anyway, she worked on me. She prayed for
me. And I was rejuvenated. I mean, I felt that God ... I always felt, funny enough, that I was so
pleased that it didn't happen to my sisters. Because I felt my sisters just couldn't have coped. And
I felt God had chosen me. Because I am quite a strong person. And I was able, you know, to manage. I
did it. But with God's help.
Annoushka: Lady Anne, you've got through your seven charms, and we've touched on
so many parts of your life. It's been completely, completely lovely. But I'm dying to know which of
the seven charms will you choose? Because I'd like to make you one. Which one will you choose?
Lady Anne: Gosh, how thrilling. I didn't know I was going to get one. Thank you so
much. Well, you know, thinking about it, I think I must choose the book. Because I suppose that was
the one thing in my life that I've really done myself. And I'm quite proud actually of Lady in
Waiting, because it's gone worldwide.
Annoushka: And so will Murder on Mustique. I feel sure.
Lady Anne: Well I'm hoping that will too.
Annoushka: I'm going to make it absolutely beautiful for you. And I'm really
looking forward to giving it to you.
Lady Anne: Well thank you so much. It's been lovely, lovely talking to you. I've
really enjoyed my life recently. I mean, I'm so happy. And I just, you know, feel I've been so
Annoushka: Thank you so much for listening to My Life in
Seven Charms, with me, Annoushka Ducas. I would so appreciate it if you could rate,
review, and subscribe, which will help other people to know about us.