Lady in Waiting

My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown


By Anne Glenconner

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Discover untold secrets with this extraordinary memoir of drama and tragedy by Anne Glenconner—a close member of the royal circle and lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. 

Anne Glenconner has been at the center of the royal circle from childhood, when she met and befriended the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister, the Princess Margaret. Though the firstborn child of the 5th Earl of Leicester, who controlled one of the largest estates in England, as a daughter she was deemed "the greatest disappointment" and unable to inherit. Since then she has needed all her resilience to survive court life with her sense of humor intact.

A unique witness to landmark moments in royal history, Maid of Honor at Queen Elizabeth's coronation, and a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret until her death in 2002, Anne's life has encompassed extraordinary drama and tragedy. In Lady in Waiting, she will share many intimate royal stories from her time as Princess Margaret's closest confidante as well as her own battle for survival: her broken-off first engagement on the basis of her "mad blood"; her 54-year marriage to the volatile, unfaithful Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, who left his fortune to a former servant; the death in adulthood of two of her sons; a third son she nursed back from a six-month coma following a horrific motorcycle accident. Through it all, Anne has carried on, traveling the world with the royal family, including visiting the White House, and developing the Caribbean island of Mustique as a safe harbor for the rich and famous-hosting Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Raquel Welch, and many other politicians, aristocrats, and celebrities.

With unprecedented insight into the royal family, Lady in Waiting is a witty, candid, dramatic, at times heart-breaking personal story capturing life in a golden cage for a woman with no inheritance.

New York Times Bestseller
USA Today Bestseller
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The Globe and Mail Bestseller
ABA Indie Bestseller
The Times (UK) Memoir of the Year
One of Newsweek's Most Anticipated Books of 2020


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The Greatest Disappointment

HOLKHAM HALL COMMANDS the land of North Norfolk with a hint of disdain. It is an austere house and looks its best in the depths of summer when the grass turns the color of demerara sugar so the park seems to merge into the house. The coast nearby is a place of harsh winds and big skies, of miles of salt marsh and dark pine forests that hem the dunes, giving way to the vast stretch of the gray-golden sand of Holkham beach: a landscape my ancestors changed from open marshes to the birthplace of agriculture. Here, in the flight path of the geese and the peewits, the Coke (pronounced “cook”) family was established in the last days of the Tudors by Sir Edward Coke, who was considered the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, successfully prosecuting Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. My family crest is an ostrich swallowing an iron horseshoe to symbolize our ability to digest anything.

There is a photograph of me, taken at my christening in the summer of 1932. I am held by my father, the future 5th Earl of Leicester, and surrounded by male relations wearing solemn faces. I had tried awfully hard to be a boy, even weighing eleven pounds at birth, but I was a girl and there was nothing to be done about it.

My female status meant that I would not inherit the earldom, or Holkham, the fifth largest estate in England with its 27,000 acres of top-grade agricultural land, neither the furniture, the books, the paintings, nor the silver. My parents went on to have two more children, but they were also daughters: Carey two years later and Sarah twelve years later. The line was broken, and my father must have felt the weight of almost four centuries of disapproval on his conscience.

My mother had awarded her father, the 8th Lord Hardwicke, the same fate, and maybe in solidarity, and because she thought I needed to have a strong character, she named me Anne Veronica, after H. G. Wells’s book about a hardy feminist heroine. Born Elizabeth Yorke, my mother was capable, charismatic, and absolutely the right sort of girl my grandfather would have expected his son to marry. She herself was the daughter of an earl, whose ancestral seat was Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire.

My father was handsome, popular, passionate about country pursuits, and eligible as the heir to the Leicester earldom. They met when she was fifteen and he was seventeen, during a skiing trip in St. Moritz, becoming unofficially engaged immediately, he apparently having said to her, “I just know I want to marry you.” He was also spurred on by being rather frightened of another girl who lived in Norfolk and had taken a fancy to him, so he was relieved to be able to stop her advances by declaring himself already engaged.

My mother was very attractive and very confident, and I think that’s what drew my father to her. He was more reserved so she brought out the fun in him and they balanced each other well.

Together, they were one of the golden couples of high society and were great friends of the Duke and Duchess of York, who later, because of the abdication of the Duke’s brother, King Edward VIII, unexpectedly became King and Queen. They were also friends with Prince Philip’s sisters, Princesses Theodora, Margarita, Cecilie, and Sophie, who used to come for holidays at Holkham. Rather strangely, Prince Philip, who was much younger, still only a small child, used to stay with his nanny at the Victoria, a pub right next to the beach, instead of at Holkham. Recently I asked him why he had stayed at the pub instead of the house, but he didn’t know for certain, so we joked about him wanting to be as near to the beach as possible.

My parents were married in October 1931 and I was a honeymoon baby, arriving on their first wedding anniversary.

Up until I was nine, my great-grandfather was the Earl of Leicester and lived at Holkham with my grandfather, who occupied one of the four wings. The house felt enormous, especially seen through the eyes of a child. So vast, the footmen would put raw eggs in a bain-marie and take them from the kitchen to the nursery: by the time they arrived, the eggs would be perfectly boiled. We visited regularly and I adored my grandfather, who made an effort to spend time with me: we would sit in the long gallery, listening to classical music on the gramophone together, and when I was a bit older, he introduced me to photography, a passion he successfully transferred to me.

With my father in the Scots Guards, a regiment of the British Army, we moved all over the country, and I was brought up by nannies, who were in charge of the ins and outs of daily life. My mother didn’t wash or dress me or my sister Carey; nor did she feed us or put us to bed. Instead, she would interject daily life with treats and days out.

My father found fatherhood difficult: he was straitlaced and fastidious and he was always nagging us to leave our bedroom windows open and checking to make sure we had been to the lavatory properly. I used to struggle to sit on his knee but because I was too big he would push me away in favor of Carey, whom he called “my little dolly daydreams.”

Having grown up with Victorian parents, his childhood was typical of a boy in his position. He was brought up by nannies and governesses, sent to Eton and then on to Sandhurst, his father making sure his son knew what was expected of him as heir. He was loving, but from afar: he was not affectionate or sentimental, and did not share his emotions. No one did, not even my mother, who would give us hugs and show her affection but rarely talked about her feelings or mine—there were no heart-to-hearts. As I got older she would give me pep talks instead. It was a generation and a class who were not brought up to express emotions.

But in many other ways my mother was the complete opposite of my father. Only nineteen years older than me, she was more like a big sister, full of mischief and fun. Carey and I used to shin up trees with her and a soup ladle tied to a walking stick. With it, we would scoop up jackdaws’ eggs, which were delicious to eat, rather like plovers’. Those early childhood days were filled with my mother making camps with us on the beach or taking us on trips in her little Austin, getting terribly excited as we came across ice-cream sellers on bicycles calling, “Stop me and buy one.”

The epitome of grace and elegance when she needed to be, she also had the gumption to pursue her own hobbies, which were often rather hands-on: she was a fearless horsewoman and rode a Harley-Davidson. She passed on her love of sailing to me. I was five when I started navigating the nearby magical creeks of Burnham Overy Staithe in dinghies, and eighty when I stopped. I used to go in for local races, but I was quite often last, and would arrive only to find everyone had gone home.

Holkham was a completely male-oriented estate and the whole setup was undeniably old-fashioned. My great-great-grandfather, the 2nd Earl, who had inherited his father’s title in 1842 and was the earl when my father was a boy, was a curmudgeon and so set in his ways that even his wife had to call him “Leicester.” When he was younger, he apparently passed a nurse with a baby in the corridor and asked, “Whose child is that?”

The nurse had replied, “Yours, my lord!”

A crusty old thing, he had spent his last years lying in a trundle bed in the state rooms. He wore tin-framed spectacles, and when he went outside, he would go around the park in a horse-drawn carriage, with his long-suffering second wife, who sat on a cushion strapped to a mudguard.

Influenced by the line of traditional earls, Holkham was slow to modernize, keeping distinctly separate roles for the men and women. In the summer, the ladies would go and stay in Meales House, the old manor down by the beach, for a holiday known as “no-stays week” when they quite literally let their hair down and took off their corsets.

From when I was very little, my grandfather started to teach me about my ancestors: about how Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester in its fifth creation (the line had been broken many times, only adding to the disappointment of my father at having no sons), had gone off to Europe on a grand tour—the equivalent of an extremely lavish gap year—and shipped back dozens of paintings and marble statues from Italy that came wrapped in Quercus ilex leaves and acorns, the eighteenth-century answer to bubble wrap.

He told me all about when the ilex acorns were planted, becoming the first avenue of ilex trees (also called holm oak, a Mediterranean evergreen) in England. My grandfather’s father had sculpted the landscape, pushing the marshes away from the house by planting the pine forests that now line Holkham beach. Before him, the 1st Earl in its seventh creation became known as “Coke of Norfolk” because he had such a huge impact on the county through his influence on farming—he was the man credited with British agricultural reform.

Life at Holkham continued to revolve around farming the land, all elements of which were taken seriously. As well as dozens of tenant farmers, there were a great many gardeners to look after the huge kitchen garden. The brick walls were heated with fires all along, stoked through the night by the garden boys, so nectarines and peaches would ripen sooner. On hot summer days I loved riding my bike up to the kitchen gardens, being handed a peach, then cycling as fast as I could to the fountain at the front of the house and jumping into the water to cool down.

Shooting was also a huge part of Holkham life, and really what my father and all his friends lived for. It was the main bond between the Cokes and the Royal Family, especially with the royal estate of Sandringham only ten miles away—a mere half an hour’s drive. Queen Mary had once rung my great-grandmother, suggesting she come over with the King, only for my great-grandfather to be heard bellowing, “Come over? Good God, no! We don’t want to encourage them!”

My father shot with the present Queen’s father, King George VI, and my great-grandfather and grandfather with King George V on both estates, but it was Holkham that was particularly famous for shooting: it held the record for wild partridges for years and it’s where covert shooting was invented (where a copse is planted in a round so that it shelters the game, the gun dogs flushing out the birds gradually, allowing for maximum control, making the shoot more efficient).

It was also where the bowler hat was invented: one of my ancestors had got so fed up with the top hat being so impractical that he went off to London and ordered a new type of hat, checking how durable it was by stamping and jumping on it until he was content. From then on gamekeepers wore the “billy coke,” as it was called then.

There were other royal connections in the family too. It is well documented that Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, had many love affairs with married, often older glamorous aristocrats, the first being my paternal grandmother, Marion.

My father was Equerry, an attendant to the Duke of York, and his sister, my aunt Lady Mary Harvey, was Lady in Waiting to the Duchess of York after she became Queen. When the Duke of York was crowned King George VI in 1937, my father became his Extra Equerry; and in 1953 my mother became a Lady of the Bedchamber, a high-ranking Lady in Waiting, to Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation.

My father especially was a great admirer of the Royal Family and was always very attentive when they came to visit. My earliest memories of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret come from when I was two or three years old. Princess Elizabeth was five years older, which was quite a lot—she was rather grown-up—but Princess Margaret was only three years older and we became firm friends. She was naughty, fun, and imaginative—the very best sort of friend to have. We used to rush around Holkham, past the grand pictures, whirling through the labyrinth of corridors on our trikes or jumping out at the nursery footmen as they carried huge silver trays from the kitchen. Princess Elizabeth was much better behaved. “Please don’t do that, Margaret,” or “You shouldn’t do that, Anne,” she would scold us.

In one photograph we are all standing in a line. Princess Elizabeth is frowning at Princess Margaret, suspecting she is up to no good, while Princess Margaret is staring down at my shoes. Years afterwards, I showed Princess Margaret the photo and asked, “Ma’am, why were you looking at my feet?”

And she replied, “Well, I was so jealous because you had silver shoes and I had brown ones.”

In the summer the Princesses would come down to Holkham beach where we would spend whole days making sandcastles, clad in the most unattractive and prickly black bathing suits with black rubber caps and shoes. The nannies would bundle us all into the beach bus, along with wicker picnic baskets full of sandwiches, and set up in the beach hut every day, whatever the weather—the grown-ups had a separate hut among the trees at the back. We had wonderful times, digging holes in the sand, hoping people would fall into them.

Every Christmas, my family would go to a party at Buckingham Palace, and Carey and I would be dressed up in frilly frocks and the coveted silver shoes. At the end of the parties, the children would be invited to take a present each from the big table in the hall near the Christmas tree. Behind the table stood the formidable Queen Mary, who was quite frightening. She was tall and imposing, and Princess Margaret never warmed to her because every time she saw her, Queen Mary would say, “I can see you haven’t grown.” Princess Margaret minded frightfully about being small all her life, so she never liked her grandmother.

Queen Mary did teach me a valuable life lesson, however. One year Carey rushed up to the table and clasped a huge teddy bear, which was sitting upright among the other presents. Before I chose mine, Queen Mary leaned down towards me. “Anne,” she said quietly, “quite often rather nice, rather valuable things come in little boxes.” I froze. I’d had my eye on another teddy bear but now I was far too frightened to choose anything other than a little box. Inside it was a beautiful necklace of pearl and coral. Queen Mary was quite right. My little box contained something that is still appreciated to this day.

Our connection to the Royal Family was close. When I was in my late teens, Prince Charles became like a younger brother to me, spending weeks with us all at Holkham. He would come to stay whenever he had any of the contagious childhood diseases, like chickenpox, because the Queen, having never gone to school, had not been exposed to them. Sixteen years younger than me, Prince Charles was nearer in age to my youngest sister Sarah, but all of us would go off to the beach together.

My father taught him how to fish for eel in the lake, and when he got a bit older, my mother let him drive the Jaguar and the VW Mini Minor around the park, something he loved doing, sending great long thank-you letters telling her he couldn’t wait to return. He was such a kind and loving little boy and I’ve loved him ever since—the whole family have always been deeply fond of him.

As soon as I was old enough to ride, I made the park at Holkham my own, riding past the great barn, making little jumps for Kitty, my pony. When we were a bit older, Carey and I would follow one of the very good-looking tenant farmers, Gary Maufe, on our ponies. Many years later I became a great friend of his wife, Marit. He used to gallop across the park on a great big black stallion, and after him we would go on our hopeless ponies, giddying them up, desperately trying to keep up.

It wasn’t just my family who were part of Holkham but everybody who worked on the estate, some of whom had very distinctive characters. Mr. Patterson, the head gardener, would enthusiastically play his bagpipes in the mornings whenever my parents had friends to stay, until my mother would shout, “That’s quite enough, Mr. Patterson, thank you!”

My early childhood was idyllic, but the outbreak of war in 1939 changed everything. I was seven, Carey was five. My father was posted to Egypt with the Scots Guards so my mother followed to support him, as many wives did. Holkham Hall was partly occupied by the army, and the temple in the park was used to house the Home Guard, while the gardeners and footmen were called up, and the maids and cooks went off to work in factories to help with the war effort.

Everybody thought the Germans would choose to invade Britain from the Norfolk coast, so before my mother left for Egypt, she moved Carey and me up to Scotland, to stay with my Great-aunt Bridget, away from Mr. Hitler’s U-boats.

When she said goodbye, she told me, “Anne, you’re in charge. You’ve got to look after Carey.” If we had known how long she was going to be away, it would have been even harder, but no one had any idea how long the war would last and that, in fact, she and my father would be gone for three years.


Hitler’s Mess

WE WENT TO live with our Ogilvy cousins in Downie Park, one of the Ogilvys’ shooting lodges in Angus: their main house, Cortachy Castle, had been requisitioned and was being used as a hospital for Polish officers.

Although Carey and I were unsettled by the separation from our parents, going to Scotland felt like an adventure. I loved my Ogilvy cousins. There were six of them, and the three youngest—David, Angus, and James—were all about the same age as me and Carey. We knew them well because every summer they would come and stay at Holkham, having great fun together, exploring and making up games. We watched as the boys played endless rounds of cricket on the terrace, wearing their special linen kilts that Carey and I wished we had. Our nanny wasn’t quite so keen on them all because the best fruit—a valuable treat in those days—was kept for them and she would say they had come to “take over.”

They were all very welcoming at Downie Park, and I was especially fond of David, whom I followed everywhere. I adored their mother, my Great-aunt Bridget, who was born Lady Alexandra Coke and was my grandfather’s sister.

Great-aunt Bridget was a Christian Scientist—a nineteenth-century religion established by Mary Baker Eddy, which, during the First World War, cut a swathe through the aristocracy, converting many to it. It operates on the belief that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer. This provided comfort for Great-aunt Bridget and her husband, my Great-uncle Joe, the Earl of Airlie, because he, like many men, was suffering from the effects of the Great War. Great-aunt Bridget practiced her beliefs and passed on many useful pieces of advice to me. Perhaps the advice that stuck with me most is “Things have a habit of working out, not necessarily in the way you expect, and you must never force them.” Her grounded approach served Carey and me well, because we both found it very disconcerting to be away from our parents, with the outbreak of war.

On September 3, 1939, Great-aunt Bridget brought us down to the drawing room in Downie Park, where we listened to Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war on the ancient wireless. There was something heavy and serious in the Prime Minister’s voice, which mirrored the atmosphere in the room. I stared at the carpet as I listened, not really knowing what was happening, wondering when we would be able to go home.

There was a very different atmosphere when, in 1940, Princess Elizabeth directly addressed the children of Britain. Again, we sat on the carpet in the drawing room, huddled round the wireless craning our necks towards Princess Elizabeth’s voice, excited that we all knew her. It felt as if she was talking directly to us. At the end, Princess Elizabeth said, “My sister is by my side and we are both going to say goodnight to you. Come on, Margaret.” And Princess Margaret responded, “Goodnight, children.” We all answered back, thinking they could hear us, somehow imagining they were in the wireless. The Princesses were our heroines. So many children of our parents’ friends had been sent off to America in order to escape the war and there were the two Princesses, still in England, in as much danger as us all.

The war meant that Carey and I and the Princesses were no longer in Norfolk together and the only time we saw them was when Carey, the Ogilvys, and I visited Glamis Castle—Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s family estate, where Princess Margaret had been born.

Glamis is said to be the most haunted castle in Scotland and Princess Margaret knew every nook, cranny, and ghoul. As we were exploring the grounds, she told us stories about the ghosts, the gray lady who is said to haunt the chapel and the tongueless lady who runs across the lawn. The Ogilvys relished the stories and told their own, all about how there was a ghost at Cortachy, who would beat a drum whenever someone in the family died, leaving me relieved that Cortachy had been requisitioned. Just before we left, Princess Margaret took us down to see the train, which puffed along the edge of the grounds, standing on the bridge over the railway line, being enveloped in steam.

Apart from that, we didn’t see them and life was quite limited. With no petrol and living in a big house far from the nearest town or city, we stayed within the grounds of Downie Park, only once going to Dundee when Uncle Joe took us to the theater.

In the winter we would skate on the frozen lake, and when we weren’t having lessons with our governess, we would do our “war work,” collecting sphagnum moss for the Red Cross, who used it to help dress wounds, knitting gloves for the sailors on the minesweepers, and entertaining the Polish officers at Cortachy Castle by playing snakes and ladders on their beds and putting on amateur dramatics for them.

Every afternoon, we would take our fresh air and exercise by walking down the long drive, then return to the house where a man from the nearby town of Kirriemuir would teach us to dance. Carey and I put on our black dancing shoes and in the vast dining room, with our cousin James, who was the same age as Carey and always wore a kilt, learned how to do the Highland Fling and the Sword Dance.

James was not always so beguiling. He and Carey would regularly gang up on me. This might have been because I spent a great deal of time, rather pathetically, hugging trees, climbing up them, and pretending they were my friends. Once up them, however, I would be too frightened to come down, so Carey and James would stand below, teasing me with their particular catchphrase: “Cowardy, cowardy custard!” I had arrived at Downie Park a rather shy child, but I gradually came out of my shell. Being in a big pack of Ogilvys and part of a boisterous group soon toughened me up.

My parents had sent our own governess to Downie, my mother telling me before she left for Egypt: “You’re now too old to have a nanny, so Daddy and I have chosen a governess for you called Miss Bonner and she is very nice, and you will be very happy with her.” Well, it turned out that Miss Bonner was not very nice. She was fairly all right with Carey, but really cruel to me. Every night, whatever I had done, however well I had behaved, she would punish me by tying my hands to the back of the bed and leaving me like that all night. I was too frightened of Miss Bonner to ask Carey to untie me, and Carey would have been too frightened to do it anyway. Both Carey and I suffered badly through this. I wanted to protect Carey, fearing Miss Bonner might do the same to her, so neither of us told anyone. While Miss Bonner did not do the same to my little sister, Carey witnessed this inexplicable behavior towards me and felt powerless that there was nothing she could do. Her distress would manifest itself in high temperatures linked to no specific illness.

Because my mother had chosen Miss Bonner, I thought she knew what the governess was doing to me and didn’t mind, or even thought it was good for me. It caused me terrible confusion because I couldn’t understand why my parents would want me to be treated like that.

Fortunately, Great-aunt Bridget’s Christian Science saved me. Eventually, Miss Bonner was sacked, not because of her ill treatment of me (which I am sure Great-aunt Bridget knew nothing about) but for being a Roman Catholic and taking me to Mass. There was nothing worse than Catholicism, as far as Great-aunt Bridget was concerned. When Miss Bonner left, I made a big fuss, pretending to be really upset that she was going, fearing she might somehow blame me and do something even more horrible.

Miss Bonner left an invisible scar on me. To this day, I find it almost impossible to think about what she did to me. Years later, she sent me a card congratulating me on my engagement, which triggered the most unpleasant rush of memories and made me physically sick.

Luckily, Miss Bonner was replaced with Miss Billy Williams, who was wonderful, although she looked rather daunting with a nose that was always running and one leg longer than the other so she had a limp. But she twinkled with kindness.

The minute Billy Williams set foot in Carey’s and my lives, everything changed, and within days, we were devoted to her. I think she realized I’d had a difficult time with her predecessor, because she often gave me treats, taking me on fun days out. One of my favorite places was an Ogilvy shooting lodge, which was tucked into the hillside, surrounded by heather. She’d take us all off, walking along a pretty stream that ran through the bottom of the garden, stopping for a picnic, during which we would roll heather in a piece of newspaper and pretend to smoke it. We thought that was frightfully dashing.

As the months turned to years we became more aware of the horrors of the war, overhearing conversations referring to the increasing attacks on Britain. Even though we had been sent up to Scotland to get away from danger, we weren’t far from Dundee, which was targeted heavily. In fact, there were more than five hundred German air raids on Scotland so we would probably have been safer staying in Norfolk. Once a German plane was shot down just above Tulcan lodge and, as a “great treat,” Billy Williams took me up to the wreckage to have a look. It was still smoking, although we saw no body, and I still have a piece of map I took from the plane, which was scattered in the heather.

As Carey and I absorbed more information, mostly through the wireless that James’s nanny listened to tirelessly, we became convinced that Hitler and all his henchmen would come to England and each choose a stately home to live in. We had some idea that Hitler was going to Windsor and presumed, rather grandly, that either Himmler or Goering would choose Holkham. We weren’t far wrong. It transpired that the Nazis had indeed planned to take over the country estates, although Hitler had his sights on Blenheim.

Carey and I, I suspect like many other imaginative children of the time, felt helpless in the face of the war. Knitting gloves and playing board games with Polish officers somehow didn’t feel helpful enough. Our father was fighting and our mother, we had been told, was doing “war work,” but we were doing nothing to stop Hitler.


  • "Anne Glenconner's life story is a combination of royal magic, personal tragedy and resilient survival. With humor, courage, and preternatural poise, Anne Glenconner triumphed over all of it and at last tells the story of her uniquely fascinating life."
    Tina Brown
  • "Exceptional."—Andre Leon Talley
  • "A remarkable memoir--containing, at last, a genuine portrait of Princess Margaret from one who knew her well. But this book is poignant too, and through the pages shine [Anne's] courage and good-humored acceptance of her demons and tragedies."—Hugo Vickers
  • "A smart, dishy, and truly touching autobiography."—Town & Country
  • "Stalwart and disarmingly honest....Emotion resonates through this delightful memoir...candid, humorous."—The Wall Street Journal
  • "I couldn't put it down. Funny and touching - like looking through a keyhole at a lost world."—Rupert Everett
  • "Riveting...[Anne's] stiff upper lip never quivers."—Oprah Magazine
  • "This memoir of consorting with Princess Margaret and the royal family is remarkable."
    The Sunday Times (UK)
  • "A startling, rare, beguiling insight into a lost world of royalty and celebrity with as many tears as there are titles... Anne's story - a breath-taking array of top-drawer gossip--is told with an endearing modesty and with an extraordinary sense of surprise that all these things happened to her... The book is a diamond-mine of glittering asides."
    Daily Express
  • "Extraordinary."—Loose Women
  • "[An] upfront account of her life... [you'll] laugh out loud, exclaim in shock, and cry as [you] read it....An amazing read. There's so much humanity... as well as stories of glitz and glamour and royalty... it's a life fully lived."—"Nightlife" ABC radio (AU)
  • "Gentle, wise, unpretentious, but above all inspiring."—The Times (UK)
  • "A candid, witty and stylish memoir."—Miranda Seymour, Financial Times
  • "Astounding memoir."—India Knight
  • "Discretion and honor emerge as the hallmarks of Glenconner's career as a royal servant, culminating in this book which manages to be both candid and kind."—The Guardian
  • "It's a total hoot - I can't put it down."—Janet Street-Porter, Daily Mail
  • "A romp of an autobiography."—The Times (UK)
  • "As her memoir makes clear, her capacity 'to get on with life and not dwell,' even in the most extreme circumstances, is heroic. There is, nevertheless, a vein of quiet anger. The book is a retaliation as much as a reminiscence. It is also a finely drawn double portrait. Margaret is in the foreground, spotlit, while behind her Glenconner's life plays out with such self-effacing matter-of-factness that it takes time for the reader to realise that of these two intertwined biographies Glenconner's is by far the more remarkable....Glenconner has an eye for detail, and if her picture of Princess Margaret dwells on the positives, it makes no attempt to conceal the difficulties....Lady Anne brings out a touchingly naive side of Margaret's character, visible only to an insider familiar with the realities of royal life....Her book is partly a meditation on how much or how little she could have done differently. Although regret isn't in her emotional register, there is an unmistakable sadness when she remembers certain things, especially about her children, and her 'heart sinks.'"—London Review of Books
  • "Marvelous book . . . one's eyes were on stalks."—Jan Moir, Daily Mail
  • "Lady in Waiting...will make you laugh and cry and gasp....At the heart is loss, grief, stoicism, and love."
  • "I hooted my way through Anne Glenconner's Lady in Waiting... Glenconner's memoir of three decades as Princess Margaret's chief courtier is matter of fact about her bonkers life, making it all the more amusing"—Marcus Field, Evening Standard
  • "A record, funny and sometimes dazzling, of a way of life now almost disappeared."—Rachel Cooke, Observer
  • "Rollicking... a fascinating, anthropological portrait of the... privilege-soaked world of the British aristocracy... extraordinary anecdotes... Anne's book paints such a rich picture of the aristocracy it's impossible not to marvel at the institution, both in admiration and horror."—Sydney Morning Herald
  • "One of the most enjoyable books of 2019."—Alison Pearson, The Sunday Telegraph
  • "Royal obsessives and casual observers alike will devour this memoir by the confidante-a noble herself-of Princess Margaret. Glenconner candidly writes about the unimaginable tragedies she endured in her personal life, and of the gilded affairs she witnessed on the periphery of royal life."—Newsweek
  • "It's an astonishing story and narrated with a deceptive simplicity. There isn't a boring sentence in the entire book."—Daily Mail
  • "A must-read book of the year."
    Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
  • "A page-turner, filled with humor and tragedy."
    Carleton Varney, Palm Beach Daily News
  • "Meticulously detailed....[W]hat makes this account fresh and poignant is Glenconner's use of affluent characters to demonstrate the extent to which class trumps power....By unflinchingly examining everything from her troubled marriage and her fraught relationship with her children to the solace she found in service, the author emerges as a flawed yet steely woman worthy of respect. In laying her life bare, she demonstrates the limitations of being a woman in the British class system, showing that privilege is no insulation from suffering or pain. A must-have for loyal royal fans."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "In this genuine and candid work, Lady Anne recounts her story, offering some rare insight into the uniquely fascinating world of royal life."—BookRiot
  • "Whether describing scenes of delicacy or debauchery, these insider accounts are fascinating. Glenconner is unfailingly perceptive, honest, and amazingly down-to-earth, a survivor who embodies the British trait of "getting on with it.""
    Booklist (starred review)
  • "Lady Glenconner provides an open and honest look into the private lives of England's royal family and the most elite members of society. The author's sense of humor shines through in her writing, bringing levity to some of the difficult times that peppered her life."—Library Journal (starred review)
  • "Spectacular....Royal watchers know that Lady Glenconner is a sharp-tongued wit who pulls no punches."—Bustle
  • "An affectionate but honest and down-to-earth portrait of time spent with the royals behind palace doors."—Amazon Book Review

On Sale
Mar 16, 2021
Page Count
336 pages
Hachette Books

Anne Glenconner

About the Author

Lady Anne Glenconner was born Lady Anne Coke in 1932, the eldest daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester, and growing up in their ancestral estate at Holkham Hall in Norfolk. A Maid of Honor at the Queen's Coronation, she married Lord Glenconner in 1956. They had 5 children together of whom 3 survive. In 1958 she and her husband began to transform the island of Mustique into a paradise for the rich and famous. They granted a plot of land to Princess Margaret who built her favorite home there. She was appointed Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret in 1971 and kept this role – accompanying her on many state occasions and foreign tours – until her death in 2002. Lord Glenconner died in 2010, leaving everything in his will to his former employee. Lady Glenconner now lives in a farmhouse near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.
Lady Glenconner’s memoir, Lady in Waiting, was a New York Times bestseller and spent over thirty weeks in the Sunday Times top ten. She has also written two acclaimed novels, Murder on Mustique and Haunting at Holkam.

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