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Readers, be sure to read my preceding posts on Princess Margaret’s October 1979 Trip to America. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four

Hollywood celebrity powerhouse agent, Sue Mengers, and her client, Ryan O’Neal. After 1972’s hugely successful movie, “What’s Up, Doc?,” Sue became known as the most successful packager in the business: she had put director Peter Bogdanovich together with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. In 1979 when Princess Margaret dined at her Beverly Hills home, Sue Mengers was at the peak of her power. Her phone rang incessantly with calls from actors and directors and screenwriters, all wanting to work with her.

The 1970s era Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers was only interested in representing the top talent in the industry. Her“bulging celebrity contacts book” included Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson, Mike Nichols, Ali McGraw, Peter Bogdanovich, Faye Dunaway, Bob Fosse, Cybill Shepard, Sidney Lumet, Cher, Michael Caine, Ryan O’Neal, Candice Bergen, Gene Hackman, Burt Reynolds, and on and on.

Agent Sue Mengers, left, with clients Ali MacGraw and Candice Bergen.

The first female super agent Sue Mengers, left, with clients Ali MacGraw and Candice Bergen. Early 1970s.

For a time, there was only thing more star-studded than Sue Mengers’ client list: one of her parties at her mansion atop Bel Air. It was said that

“If a bomb went off on Bel Air Road, then half of Hollywood would be obliterated.”

Sue’s dinners were as exclusive as they were intimate. At one of Sue’s legendary parties at her grand home, Johnny Carson, the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” looked around at the other guests assembled and complained,

“God, there are too many stars here, not enough sycophants!”

Bawdy, brash, and pushy, Sue Mengers had met Princess Margaret in the fall of 1978 at the London home of literary critic, Kenneth Tynan, and said to her that she would love to throw her a party, should the Princess ever find herself in Los Angeles. The following March, Sue received a call from Princess Margaret’s social secretary, saying that the Princess would indeed be in L.A. in October and would like to take Sue up on her party offer.

‘It seemed like we did nothing from March to October but plan the party,’ said Sue’s assistant, Cindy Pearson. (1)

Usually, Sue set out sugar bowls filled with cocaine and rolled joints for party guests—but not on this occasion. For the formal sit-down dinner for fifty, she hired a chef and a staff of 25. She laid out her best china and silver and had to borrow some from Marcia Diamond, Neil’s wife. Although she was a seasoned and celebrated hostess, Sue, a chain smoker, was nervous as a cat. In the days leading up to the event, many of her friends and clients thought Sue was going to have a nervous breakdown. She lost weight and cut her beautiful, blond hair. Everything had to be perfect. For years, she had studied the lives of the British royal family and learned the finer points of protocol. She idolized Princess Margaret and hated her own mother whose name was Ruth. Sue always used to say,

“Sure—instead of being born to Princess Margaret, I got born to Ruth.”

Then, four days before the dinner, on Tuesday, October 16, 1979, the Los Angeles Police Department learned of a credible threat to the Princess’ life. Intelligence sent by the U.S. State Department indicated that an Irish Republican Army terrorist had been dispatched to murder Margaret during her three day stay in Los Angeles. Sue’s assistant Cindy Pearson said,

“The party was on a Saturday night and several days before, Scotland Yard people were sent with bomb dogs to smell the house.”

For some reason, a third-floor bathroom was locked after the dogs had cleared it, and no one could use it until the Princess’ arrival.

On Saturday, October 20, 1979, a few hours before the dinner at the Beverly Hills home of agent Sue Mengers, Princess Margaret made an appearance at a charity function held at Bullock’s Wiltshire Department Store, L.A. Outside she was greeted by an angry mob of 30 people yelling “Filthy Swine!” and holding up placards decrying the British presence in Northern Ireland. Members of “Action for Irish Rights” tried to present the Princess with a pig’s head on a platter. Two live pigs were there. The next day, she would travel to San Francisco where Irish-American activists promised to flood her hotel with 1,000 pigs (but only one would show up) and a crowd, some dressed as pigs or holding stuffed pigs, would chunk rocks at the limousine of her hostess, Mrs. Gordon Getty.

Security that Saturday night was intense. The dinner Sue Mengers gave in honor of Princess Margaret attracted every “twinkly” (star) in Hollywood. Everyone entering Sue’s palatial home was searched. The guest list at the informal affair included Barbra Streisand (and Jon Peters), Jack Nicholson (and Angelica Huston), Candice Bergen, Michael Caine (and Shakira), Robin Williams (and Valerie), Neil Diamond (and Marsha), Ryan O’Neal (and Farrah Fawcett, “fetching in black silk pajamas”), John Travolta, and Gregory Peck. Ali MacGraw, wearing a short black and gold dress came stag. Her boyfriend, Steve McQueen, was absent because he had snorted too much cocaine and had made himself sick. This made Sue furious. Hunks Nick Nolte (1992 People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive”) and Sean Connery (1989 People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and the “Sexiest Man of the Century in 1999”) were there. Princess Margaret had met Sean Connery on her 1965 visit to California. He had given her a gold lighter engraved with “007” which she proudly showed others. Gore Vidal, David Geffen, Barry Manilow, Joni Mitchell, and music agent Peter Asher also attended Sue’s bash.

Jerry Brown, governor of California and presidential hopeful, arrived with his longtime love, rocker, Linda Ronstadt, 33. Linda looked stunning, dressed way down, wearing a simple white cotton mini-dress and some little red boots. At that year’s American Music Awards Linda won two awards: Best female pop/rock vocalist and female country single “Blue Bayou.” She sang everything: rock, country, mariachi, rhythm and blues, big band tunes. Although the room was full of gorgeous women, men always turned to look at Linda. As singer Willie Nelson remarked,

 “There are two kinds of men in this world. Those with a crush on Linda Ronstadt and those who never heard of her.” 

Linda Ronstadt / photos by Annie Leibovitz, Malibu, 1976.

Fans said of her:

“She took your breath away.”

“Linda was electric in performance.”

In the 1970s, Linda Ronstadt was everybody’s sweetheart. She was a class act in concert, barefoot, wearing off the shoulder Mexican blouses, jeans, with a flower tucked behind one ear. She was sexy without twerking and her voice was clear and strong and could make sad songs feel even sadder.

Singer Linda Ronstadt and Governor Jerry Brown of California dated for a decade. Photo 1970s.

Linda Ronstadt and Jerry Brown had been going together since the early 1970s and were the source of much gossip. They were considered wildly different. People speculated on what she might be like as a First Lady should he be elected to the U.S. Presidency following Jimmy Carter.

The comic strip, “Doonesbury” by American cartoonist Garry Trudeau, chronicled the hard-to-pin down relationship between Linda Ronstadt and Governor Jerry Brown of California in the 1970s. These were freewheeling times and the country was paying attention to a couple that might occupy the White House.

Linda and Mick Jagger were great friends. At that time, Mick would stay at Linda’s Hancock Park home in L.A. when Linda wasn’t there while he was divorcing Bianca.

Princess Margaret was also friends with Mick and Bianca. Although this could have been a conversation that would have drawn the Princess and Linda into a friendship at the dinner, that was not going to happen. Linda was competition for the Princess.

At 8:30 p.m., the Princess arrived in a police motorcade with her lady-in-waiting, Lady Annabel Whitehead. The guests were seated inside. The Princess made her entrance. The guests would not have stood up in her royal presence. Perhaps they gave her a little clap, which was allowed.

The Princess was wearing a black and silver dress by Dior. She wore jewels handed down to her from her grandmother, Queen Mary: a necklace of blazing round diamonds (at least 3 carats each) and drop diamond earrings.

Sue Mengers had adhered to Emily Post advice for seating protocol when entertaining a dignitary such as Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. To the Princess’ right, she seated the person next-highest-in-rank, Governor Jerry Brown. The rest of the seating assignments were left to the hostess’ discretion. Sue decided to seat Margaret’s fellow Brit, actor Michael Caine, to her left. They fell into an instant rapport.

The same could not be said of her relationship with Governor Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown, as is true with many politicians, was never in doubt as to his prominence in a room. He started off his relationship with Princess Margaret by turning to her and saying,

“Good evening, Your Highness, I just dropped by to say hello. I have another appointment, so I’m only staying for the first course.”

Oh, my goodness. He must have not have gotten the memo. When you first speak to the Princess, you call her, ‘Your Royal Highness.” He had left out the all-important word, “royal.” If he had read his history, he would have known how all important that word was to a royal person. In 1936, King George VI, Margaret’s father, had denied Wallis Simpson the right to be called “HRH” even thought her husband, the Duke of Windsor, was allowed to remain an “HRH” following his exile to France. This slight caused such hurt that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor began to play around with Nazis, perhaps looking for a new kingdom they could rule.

The Duchess of Windsor (formerly Wallis Simpson) shakes hands with Adolf Hitler, 1937, in Munich, as her husband, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII of Great Britain), looks on. AP Photo.

The second faux pas committed by Jerry Brown, the visionary nicknamed “Governor Moonbeam” for his belief that solar power would one day power homes and offices, was his plan to get up and leave before the Princess left. This just was not done! Everyone could begin eating when she lifted her fork. Everyone could leave once she had left.

The Princess said not a word to Governor Brown. She turned her back on him and, turning to her left, struck up a conversation with Michael Caine who was breaking into American films after having made a name for himself in British ones.

As the dinner was informal, the dinner was a buffet style. The guests at the first table (we shall call, “Table One”) lined up in the buffet line, following the Princess. In her column, “Suzy Says,” (Daily News, Oct. 23, 1979), Suzy remarked that, along with the others at Table One, the Princess

 insisted on standing in the buffet line herself and helped themselves to a dinner of sesame chicken, lasagna, ham (obviously, Sue Mengers had not been following the Irish pigs scandal), and homemade ice cream.

Once Table One had returned to their seats with their plates, Linda Ronstadt rose from her chair from across the room—she was not seated with her date—and approached Governor Brown. She had not yet been through the buffet line. Standing by Brown’s chair, she asked, looking down at his plate,

“‘What are we having to start?” She then leaned over with the intention of taking a piece of food off his plate in order to taste it. In doing so, she not only put one hand on the governor’s shoulder, but she also put the other on the Princess’ shoulder.

Michael Caine was watching.

“‘I have seen people shrug many times, but the Princess’ shoulder shrugged like a punch from a boxer and with almost the same effect on Miss Ronstadt. She [Linda] almost overbalanced and fell on the floor.'”

Never once did Her Royal Highness even look up.

When Jerry Brown left the party in the middle of the meal, the Princess still had not spoken a word to him. Once he was gone, she turned to Michael Caine and remarked, “What a dreadful man.” (2)

Sue attached herself to the Princess for most of the evening, recalled Michael Caine.

“They got on like a house on fire.”

Sue could not stop curtseying to her exalted guest. Every time the Princess looked her way, she curtseyed.

Helicopters circled above all night, making the most tremendous racket. Police searchlights filled the garden. Guest Michael Black remembered that “Princess Margaret got a little sauced and was definitely coming on to John Travolta.” Prodded by Gore Vidal, Jack Nicholson offered the Princess some drugs, saying he wanted to get to know her better, but she turned him down.

Sue Mengers and Jack NIcholson. Photo by BEI/Shutterstock

At 12:30 p.m., Princess Margaret departed with the manager of the Rolling Stones, Prince Rupert Loewenstein (full name: Rupert Louis Ferdinand Frederick Constantine Lofredo Leopold Herbert Maximilian Hubert John Henry zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg, Count of Loewenstein-Scharffenecka), a Bavarian aristocrat who would turn out to be a financial wizard for the Stones’ fortunes.

Everyone told Sue that the party was perfect but she was sure that Jack Nicholson had ruined everything. Now she would never be invited to Buckingham Palace.

And she never was.

This cursed fund-raising trip was said to have raised a mere half-million dollars for the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, and much of that had been pledged before the Princess had even left Britain.

By the end of the month, the Princess had arrived on the island of Mustique to reunite with her younger lover, Roddy Llewellyn. He, too, had suffered from the fallout from the Princess’ less-than-choice remark, “The Irish, they’re pigs.” He had learned that some irate members of his community back in Fulham, England, had smashed up the terracotta pots outside his flat and emptied the plants and dirt into his basement. Roddy loved his plants. This upset him very much.

Sources:

(1) Kellow, Brian. Can I Go Now?: The Life of Sue Mengers, Hollywood’s First Superagent. 2015.

(2) Caine, Michael. What’s It All About? 1993.

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Readers, be sure to read my preceding posts on Princess Margaret’s October 1979 trip to America. Part One. Part Two. Part Three

Princess Margaret Is greeted by Lady (Bubbles) Rothermere at The Evening News British Film Awards In London. The Princess was the guest of honor and presented “The Major Award For The Year’s Best Film” which went To “Star Wars.” November 1978.  Photo by Evening News/Shutterstock (895422a)

Princess Margaret was in America.

On Monday, Oct. 15, 1979, Princess Margaret (1926-2001) departed Chicago and arrived in Houston, the second stop on her 1979 U.S. tour. She was in America to raise £4,000 in funds for the renovation of London’s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. As far as she could tell, things were going swimmingly.

But then, that Tuesday, just five days into her 16-day tour, the Chicago Sun-Times printed an article by gossip columnist, Irv Kupcinet, in which he accused the Princess of saying “The Irish; they’re pigs,” at a Chicago dinner party the previous Saturday. The Princess had been seated at a table with Mayor Jane Byrne of Chicago. According to the journalist,

Mayor Byrne, of Irish descent, “was very incensed…and left the party as soon as possible.”

The Princess was having lunch with her social secretary, Lord Nigel Napier, in Houston, when they learned of the article in the Chicago newspaper. They were aghast. Princess Margaret was scheduled to appear in public that very day and tour the space center, NASA. Lord Napier issued a statement to the press:

“There is no truth in the allegations whatsoever. I was not sitting at the same table with the Princess but she said she did not make that remark. The mayor said ‘goodbye’ to the princess in the nicest possible way. There were no ill feelings at all. We say again there is no truth to the allegations.”

 

Famed heart surgeon, Dr. Denton Cooley, right, explains the preparation of a patient for surgery to Princess Margaret. The Princess is touring the Cardiovascular Center at St. Luke’s Hospital, Houston. The patient is in the surgical suite one floor below. Fort Worth Star Telegram, Oct. 18, 1979. AP photo.

The next day, Princess Margaret toured the renowned Cardiovascular Center at St. Luke’s Hospital, Houston, in which she viewed an open heart surgery. By then, a spokesperson for Mayor Byrne had released a statement that the Princess was referring to the Irish Republican Army terrorists who killed Lord Mountbatten as “pigs.” The Mayor did say that she felt the word, “pigs,” was an unfortunate choice made by the Princess. Strangely, the Mayor speculated further that guests at the weekend party may have misinterpreted a conversation in which she and the Princess talked about dancing and “Irish jigs.”

The journalist Irv Kupcinet was livid to learn of this disingenuous explanation by the Mayor.

“I got my information from a good source right on the scene. Why the hell would they be talking about Irish jigs when they were talking about Lord Mountbatten’s assassination?”

Neither Mayor Byrne’s nor Lord Napier’s repeated statements to the press could stop the wildfire from spreading. Was Mayor Byrne truly being gracious in her many explanations or was she, in her own political way, fanning the flames while seeming to appear gracious? After all, she was Irish. Certainly Irv Kupcinet was complicit in keeping the controversy alive and painting a target on Margaret’s royal back. And Margaret was no help. She never backed down. Self-effacing was not one of her qualities. She continued to deny that she had ever used the words, “The Irish, they’re pigs.”

The issue would not die down. A certain segment of the Irish American community became infuriated. As the controversy grew, and the newspaper articles spread from sea to shining sea, the threat to the Princess’ safety escalated dramatically. Just 27 hours before the Princess landed in Los Angeles—her next stop following Houston— on Thursday, October 18, the Los Angeles Police Department uncovered a plot by a “high-ranking member of the IRA” to assassinate the Princess at the Friday, Oct. 19 dedication of a new Rolls Royce facility in Beverly Hills.

Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Edser was Princess Margaret’s bodyguard at all times. He was armed with a standard Smith and Wesson .45 revolver and had undergone extensive firearm training.

The intelligence had come from Scotland Yard through the U.S. State Department which was quickly relayed to the LAPD. The LAPD had a photo of the suspect which they did not release but there was talk that he went by the name, “The Jackal” and was suspected in the murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten. The hit man had hired a film crew as a cover. He was pretending to be making a documentary on the Princess and wanted photos of her at the caviar and champagne event at the Rolls Royce building. The LAPD conducted a search of a West Los Angeles motel where the suspect had hidden out for two weeks in advance of the Princess’ visit but the room was empty. The security to protect the Princess was heightened. On October 24, 1979, when the Princess was on her way out of the country to the island of Mustique, the Los Angeles Times broke the story in full detail. The article, that ran for several pages, began on Page One, with these headlines:

ASSASSIN SCARE IN L.A.

Protecting the Princess

Report of IRA Death Plot Triggers Massive Security

The Provisional Wing of the IRA responded to the rumor that they were planning to carry out a hit on Princess Margaret, stating coolly that while the Princess was a “legitimate target” for an assassination attempt, such an operation would not be carried out on American soil.

Despite the danger, the Princess went ahead that Friday with the Rolls Royce dedication ceremony, although the police advised her to avoid any of her characteristic side trips on the way, to which she agreed. Linda Gray, famous for portraying the alcoholic “Sue Ellen Ewing” character on the popular Friday night soap opera, “Dallas,” was to join Princess Margaret at the presentation of a plaque. Because there was no bulletproof Rolls Royce limousine in existence, the Princess arrived at the service center in a bulletproof Cadillac limousine, with presidential style security. Along the route to the location, her security detail included an armed motorcycle escort, plain-clothes State Dept. agents, and a helicopter fitted out as air ambulance. Marksmen were situated along the motorcade’s route, according to Capt. Larry Kramer, Chief of LAPD Metropolitan Squad.

For her Los Angeles October 1979 stay, Princess Margaret enjoyed presidential style security, including a motorcade escort of 13 motorcycle police. The Los Angeles Times, Oct. 24, 1979.

Disappointing the assembled crowd at the Rolls Royce plant, Princess Margaret did not linger. She neither chit chatted with the crew nor partook of the tony refreshments. She left after thirty minutes.

Her schedule in Los Angeles was tight. There was a private dinner that same evening, a charity event the next day in the afternoon (Saturday), and, at 8:30 that evening, an intimate dinner party at the Bel Air home of Sue Mengers, the super agent to the A List Hollywood stars.

Hollywood celebrity super agent, Sue Mengers, is shown here with one of her clients, Jack Nicholson. Sue Mengers was besotted with the British royal family. She longed for an invitation to Buckingham Palace.

American celebrity super agent, Sue Mengers, referred to her stars as “My Twinkles.” Shown at center, Sue is joined by actress Faye Dunaway and film producer Robert Evans.

As usual, Margaret had seen Sue’s guest list in advance and had made several changes. She requested that the singer Barry Manilow be invited. Margaret was more at home with show biz types—singers and actors—than with politicians like Mayor Jane Byrne. Plus, she liked men much better than she liked women. She wanted to talk to men, not to women. She was sure that Sue would seat her next to two gorgeous men, whom she could charm. Lord Drogheda (pronounced Droy-da), head of the Royal Opera fundraising committee, who was traveling with her U.S. entourage, thought Princess Margaret was charming. At least he had said just such a thing at the beginning of the tour and to a reporter, no less. His quote had appeared in the newspaper.  Speaking of the Princess and her fundraising tour before it was launched, he was quoted as saying that

“I think it’s rather splendid. She [Princess Margaret] has never done anything like this before in her life. But I think you’ll find that when she goes to these different receptions,the trouble she takes to shake hands with people, and to make an effort with people, is quite remarkable. She is very bright, very perceptive, and has enormous personal charm.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Oct. 17, 1979)

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READERS: Before reading this post, please read Parts One and Two of Princess Margaret’s Trip to America, 1979.

This family portrait of Princess Margaret and her children, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, 15, and David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, 17, was released to the press just as the Princess embarked upon her fundraising trip to America to raise money for the renovations to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. The Princess was President of the Royal Ballet. October 1979. Photo by Norman Parkinson.

On October 11, 1979, Princess Margaret (1926-2001) and her entourage landed in Chicago to begin her tour of America to raise funds for the renovation of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, London. As President of the Royal Ballet, she would appear in five cities over a course of sixteen days. She would start off with a stay of five days in Chicago’s Drake Hotel. Upon her arrival, she met with a group of journalists and made her first faux pas. She asked Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Irv Kupcinet, who wrote a syndicated column, “Kup’s Corner” a foolish question.

“Is Richard Daley still mayor of Chicago?”

Kupcinet was aghast. Not only had Daley been dead for three years, two other mayors had been elected since then. Jane Byrne was mayor now. She was the first woman to be elected mayor of a major city in the United States. Byrne was educated (bachelors’ degrees in both biology and chemistry), savvy, and powerful, having begun her political career in the Democratic Party as a volunteer in the 1960 U.S. presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.

John F. Kennedy was the 35th president of the United States — the youngest ever elected….But perhaps what most set him apart when he was elected was that he was Irish. And even more unthinkable: he was Catholic. His family was built on its faith. His campaign for president was almost crushed by it.

Jane Byrne, too, was Irish and Catholic. All Chicago mayors since 1933 were Irish. Jane, 46, had just returned from a trip to Ireland. She went there after her September 5, 1979, appearance in London at the funeral of Lord Louis Mountbatten, assassinated August 27 by Irish radicals of the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army. Mayor Byrne was part of a ten-member U.S. delegation headed by former New York Governor W. Harriman traveling to England at the request of President Carter. While she was there, Byrne met in Ireland with the Irish Prime Minister Jack Lynch to discuss the current political situation in Ireland and the United Kingdom. She went on to County Mayo to research her family’s Irish roots.

Mayor Jane Byrne of Chicago strums an Irish harp in a Dublin pub. She stopped over in Ireland after representing the U.S. at the September 1979 funeral of “the fallen warrior,” Lord Louis Mountbatten, assassinated by IRA terrorists the previous month. Byrne is in Ireland to research her family genealogy. Chicago Tribune, Sept. 8, 1979.

Sir Nicholas Henderson, newly-appointed as the British ambassador to America by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of England, was traveling with the Princess’ party. He was puzzled as to why Chicago was one of the stops. He wrote in his diary that it was

…not to my mind, an altogether straightforward piece of fund-raising, given that we are in the heart of the Middle West.

Henderson should have been briefed. True, Chicago was in the American Midwest, but the Chicago of 1979 was no longer the cow and pig town of the early Twentieth Century of which, in 1914, American Poet Carl Sandburg immortalized in his poem, “Chicago”:

Chicago 

 

Hog Butcher for the World,

   Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

   Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;

   Stormy, husky, brawling,

   City of the Big Shoulders

An even more disparaging portrayal appeared in print in 1952 in the book, Chicago: The Second City, written by A.J. Liebling, “a disgruntled and displaced New Yorker whose few months’ sojourn in Chicago provided him enough ammunition for a malicious attack on the City of Big Shoulders.”

For the cosmopolitan Mr. Liebling, Chicago consisted of an “exiguous skyscraper core and the vast, anonymous pulp of the city, plopped down by the lakeside like a piece of waterlogged fruit.” Liebling saw no cultural life in Chicago to speak of, no worthwhile theatre, no decent dining spots or nightclubs. To Liebling, the city was a conglomeration of dullards and conventioneers whose idea of a night on the town was a meal of “pig’s ribs” followed by a trip to the nearest strip joint. (1)

In 1954, with the building of its Lyric Opera House, Chicago hoped to distance itself from its former déclassé image as The Hog Butcher of the World where haute cuisine was considered a meal of pig’s ribs. The Lyric Opera House of Chicago is North America’s second-largest opera auditorium, after the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. On Sunday, October 14, Princess Margaret would attend a matinee performance of the Lyric Opera of Chicago where Leontyne Price and Luciano Pavarotti would perform. The night before she would attend a private dinner at the private home of millionaire Abra Prentice Anderson.

Chicago was cosmopolitan now, with a vibrant social life with lots of rich, well-coiffed women raising money for good causes. Rockefeller heiress and Chicago’s No. 1 debutante in 1961, Abra Prentice Anderson (b. 1944), was one of these social tigresses, a philanthropic treasure, who lent her energy to supporting the Lincoln Zoo, Prentice Women’s Hospital, and Ethel Walker’s Boarding School.

Actress Barbara Rush and journalist Abra Prentice Anderson appear at a 1969 Prentice Women’s Hospital Board tea. The hospital is named for Abra’s parents, the Rockefeller Prentices.

Abra, tall at 5’10, with thick, dark hair, began her career in journalism in 1966 as a fledgling reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly being one of the first to cover the story of the murder of eight Chicago nurses by Richard Speck. From 1969-1972, she and her husband the impossibly-handsome Jon Anderson had a gossip column of their own in the Chicago Daily News called “Jon & Abra.” At the time, the Andersons were Chicago’s No. 1 “young couple about town.” In 1972, Abra came into her fortune of $35 million and, with Jon, launched the short-lived monthly magazine, The Chicagoan. The two divorced in 1976. Abra was still employed by the Sun-Times. In a 1979 Tribune “Lifestyle” article, Abra was listed as one of Chicago’s ten most eligible women. She wasn’t in a hurry to remarry, she said in the interview for the piece:

“Basically, I’m financially independent, I’ve had my children, so there’s no reason for me to get married again unless I meet someone I can’t live without….I’m a better person than I was before I got married the first time. I’m more secure, I’m willing to take more risks, and I don’t have zits anymore.”

When Abra’s daughter, Ashley Prentice Norton, was eight or nine years old, ca. 1978-79, Abra sent out a Christmas card with a photograph of her and her three children posing stark naked. Ashley was mercilessly teased at school and Abra was raked over the coals in the Chicago gossip columns. Abra did not regret sending out the controversial snap, saying that the nudity was tastefully done. (2)

Saturday, October 13, Princess Margaret was the guest of honor at Abra’s Drake Tower penthouse with its posh address on North Lake Shore Drive, then called “the richest block in Chicago.” Abra and her little children lived on the 29th and 30th floors in the Drake Tower penthouse. Ashley Prentice Norton, in her novel, The Chocolate Money, described the penthouse:

I venture into the living room….[I]t’s the best room in the aparthouse…[I]t is two stories high and takes up one whole half of the aparthouse. Standing in it is like being in a Lucite box that’s suspended in the sky. Instead of a solid wall, there is a huge pane of glass that goes floor to ceiling and allows for an amazing view of Lake Michigan. Besides being really big, it has cool things, like the spiral staircase that winds up to her [Abra’s] bedroom. The steps are big chunks of creamy veined marble, and the railing is a long silver tube that curves like a Krazy Straw. Straight silver bars connect the railing to the steps….

What Abra Anderson really liked to do was throw a party. Everyone wanted an invitation. As was the custom, Abra’s fifty dinner guests arrived ahead of Margaret, allowing her to make her royal entrance. She was usually late, sometimes hours, but that was to be expected.  Princess Margaret was seated at the table with Mayor Jane Byrne (1933-2014) who had arrived on the arm of her husband, former reporter, Jay McMullen, also a colorful Chicago fixture. He was known for his bawdy tales of sexual conquest and weird ties made of yarn. McMullen had appointed himself the mayor’s “tough guy,” protecting her against the press and anyone else he deemed harmful to his new bride.

Mayor Byrne remarked to Princess Margaret that she had just returned from England where she had attended the funeral of the Princess’ second cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Out of Margaret’s loose mouth rolled these words,

“The Irish; they’re pigs.”

Too late, she realized her mistake. Turning to the Mayor, she gasped.

“Uh-oh. You’re Irish.”

Irv Kupcinet, known as “Kup,” who was the first journalist to report the story in his Tuesday, October 16, 1979, column says that the Mayor was outraged and left the dinner as soon as possible. It was not revealed for three weeks who had leaked the story. Later it was determined that it was Jay McMullen, the Mayor’s husband. This revelation ran in the Chicago Sun-Times at the end of the month, now outraging the hostess, Abra Anderson, who resigned her “Click” column at the Sun-Times.

Word of Margaret’s remarks traveled fast. Newspapers hounded her social secretary, Lord Napier. He denied that Margaret had used derogatory words. At first, Mayor Byrne denied Margaret had said those words. Then her press office said that the Mayor and Princess Margaret had discussed Irish jigs. This comment was so ridiculous that a Guardian journalist in London pondered sarcastically whether or not Princess Margaret does not eat Irish figs.

Later, Mayor Byrne confirmed that Margaret had made the remark but that she was referring to Irish terrorists as pigs, not the Irish people. Then Abra Anderson confirmed that Mayor Byrne had told her of the conversation. The proverbial poopoo hit the fan. Newspapers from New Zealand to Scotland to Tyler, Texas carried the story.

On the 1980 Census, forty million Americans would declare Irish ancestry. Many people in America and globally considered Margaret’s words to be an Irish slur. They became infuriated. They planned anti-British protests at each of the next of Margaret’s planned tour events. In Irish pubs across America, patrons passed tin cups at “Irish brunches” to gather dollars for NORAID, the IRA’s money source. NORAID claimed the money was used to support widows and orphans. Prime Minister John Lynch of Ireland called that “hogwash.” The money is used to create widows and orphans. Nevertheless, Margaret had given their cause of kicking the British out of Northern Ireland through guerrilla warfare a rallying cry.

Headlines excoriated the Princess:

‘Irish are Pigs’ causes work stoppage

Meg in Irish Stew

Margaret in hot water over ‘Irish pigs’ remark

Irish ‘pig’ puts her majesty in a poke

In England, however, where the British people and the Royal Family were still in shock and mourning for Lord Louis Mountbatten, feeling ran in a different direction. From the Newcastle Journal, October 23, 1979, a letter was published from a reader to the Editor:

Had no one a kind word for Princess Margaret? She’s not on the list of my next dinner party, but if she were, I would expect her to choose a rather stronger epithet than ‘pigs’ for the terrorists who assassinated her favourite uncle.

Then there was the British writer, Auberon Waugh, writing in his Private Eye diary from England, that “all over the country people are raising their glasses to toast the Bonnie princess.” This annoyed him, writing that for Princess Margaret’s entire life,

“this woman has been flouncing around embarrassing everybody with her rudeness, self-importance, and general air of peevish boredom. Now it looks as if everything will be forgiven for the sake of one bon mot.”

Then there were the pig lovers.

Margaret had traveled to America with 27 trunks full of jewels and designer clothing, the American ambassador, a lady-in-waiting, a social secretary, a Scotland Yard bodyguard, and three others but neglected what she needed most: a press secretary to quell the furor that erupted into a major international incident of dangerous proportion. Why had Buckingham Palace and the Foreign Office given Margaret’s trip the green light when anti-British feeling was at such fever pitch? Flames kept being fanned as more and more papers picked up the story and comments continued, both in favor of and against the Princess.

Readers: For more on Princess Margaret on this blog, click here

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First, please be sure you have read this post: “Princess Margaret’s Trip to America, 1979, Part One

It was August in 1979, a time when almost every Briton took a holiday to some faraway family home or destination. Queen Elizabeth II loved to go to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This year, as in many years, she was spending the late summer with her sister, Princess Margaret, and some of the children. Princess Margaret had celebrated her 49th birthday at Balmoral on August 21. She was resting up for her October U.S. tour. The Queen Mother stayed nearby at Birkenhall. The Queen’s husband Prince Philip (the Duke of Edinburgh) was in France. Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales) was fishing in Iceland.

Every year Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom spends the summer break at Balmoral Castle, where she is joined by other members of The Royal Family. Queen Victoria bought the Castle in 1852. The original castle was built in the Fifteenth Century.

Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland)

Monday, August 27, 1979

Braemer’s Royal guessing game

Although Balmoral [Castle] is the holiday base for the Royal family at this time of year, individual members are constantly coming and going to attend public and private engagements. This always leads to interesting speculation on who will occupy the Royal Pavilion at the Braemar Gathering. On current information, Saturday, September 1 looks like being pretty much a ladies’ day.

At Balmoral at present are the Queen, Princess Margaret, Princess Anne, and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones. The Queen Mother has been at Castle of Mey….On the male side at Balmoral are Prince Edward, Prince Andrew, and Viscount Linley [David Armstrong-Jones].

Royal visitors are a treasured tradition at the gathering but no one knows who will be present or when. It adds an intriguing touch to an already fascinating day.

“Uncle Dickie,” Prince Philip’s uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, 79, was at his usual summer haunt, the family’s home in Ireland, Classiebawn Castle.

Louis Mountbatten with his daughter, Lady Patricia Brabourne, and her children, from left, Joanna, Philip, Norton and Amanda, in front of Classiebawn Castle, County Sligo, Ireland. (Getty Images)

 

Lord Louis Mountbatten, white-haired and wearing a black turtleneck, is boating with his family and friends aboard his wooden cabin cruiser, Shadow V, probably in Donegal Bay, Ireland.

Lord Mountbatten was a prominent member of Britain’s Royal Family with an impressive record as a war hero and elder statesman. In 1947, as the last Viceroy of India, he negotiated that country’s independence from the United Kingdom. On September 12, 1945, he received the Japanese surrender in Singapore, signaling the end of World War II. Since the age of 16, he saw active service in the Royal Navy rising to its highest rank—Admiral of the Fleet. He was very popular and gregarious. He is credited with having brought together his nephew Prince Philip with the then-Princess Elizabeth when she was only a teen. Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth were friends of his daughters, Pamela and Patricia.

Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) dances with Lord Louis Mountbatten during a fundraising dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London. July 3, 1951. Photo by Jimmy Sime/Central Press/Getty Images)

 

Charles, Prince of Wales and Lord Louis Mountbatten (Louis, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma)  cutting a ribbon to allow the public to enter Lord Mountbatten’s home, Broadlands in Romsey, Hampshire. May 22, 1979 (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Prince Charles considered “Uncle Dickie” to be the grandfather he never had. He served as Charles’ mentor. By 1978, Mountbatten had grown concerned with Charles’ playboy behavior. He had hoped that Charles would settle down and marry his granddaughter, Amanda Knatchbull, but she turned down Charles’ proposal. Mountbatten warned Charles that he was “beginning on the downward slope that wrecked your Uncle David’s [Edward VIII, later, Duke of Windsor’s] life and led to his disgraceful abdication and futile life ever after.”

800px-Lord_Mountbatten_Naval_in_colour_Allan_Warren

Lord Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma

Aberdeen Press and Journal (Scotland)

Tuesday, August 28, 1979

Anger grows over killing of Lord Louis Mountbatten

Earl Mountbatten of Burma was killed yesterday when a bomb blew apart his boat as it sailed from a quiet harbor in the Irish Republic. A grandson and a teenage boatman died with him as terrorists struck at Mullaghmore, County Sligo.

Lord Mountbatten, 79, a second cousin of the Queen and uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh, was setting off on a holiday trip on his 29 ft. motor vessel Shadow V when the blast occurred.

The former Viceroy of India and wartime leader, known affectionately as “Uncle Dickie” to the Royal Family was already dead when he was brought ashore.

His 14 year-old grandson Nicholas was dead. So was 16 year-old Paul Maxwell, who was with the family as a crew member.

Lord Mountbatten’s daughter, Lady Patricia Brabourne, her husband, Lord Brabourne, and their son, Timothy, Nicholas’ twin—and the Dowager Lady Brabourne—were all badly injured.

After the blast the I.R.A. issued a statement in which they claimed responsibility for “the execution today of Lord Mountbatten.”

As fury over the latest violence mounted, the British Prime Minister [Margaret Thatcher] said, “By their actions today, the terrorists have added yet another infamous page to their catalogue of atrocity and cowardice. 

If reports of their involvement in the death of Lord Mountbatten prove true, they will earn the condemnation and contempt of people of goodwill everywhere.”

Speculation is that Mountbatten was checking the lobster traps on his boat when the fifty-pound bomb was set off by remote control by a terrorist at a distance. He did not die instantly, as was initially reported. His legs were blown off. Locals were carrying him out of the water but he died before reaching shore.

Belfast Telegraph (Northern Ireland)

Tuesday, August 28, 1979

Murder Toll Climbs

The death toll from the bomb explosion which killed Lord Mountbatten rose to four today. The latest victim was the Dowager Lady Brabourne, 82-year-old mother-in-law of Lord Mountbatten’s daughter. It was also learned today that three medical experts from Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital went to Sligo Hospital following a personal request from Buckingham Palace to give advice on the care of the survivors of the explosion.

Flags flew at half-mast throughout India today as a mark of respect for the country’s last Viceroy.

The Royal undertakers J. H Kenyon’s today flew in a chartered plane to prepare for the removal of the bodies of Earl Mountbatten and the Dowager Lady Brabourne.  A police spokesman said: “With the tides the wreckage has been scattered. There’s still quite an amount over Donegal Bay and on the shore. It’s a difficult job.” And it was also learned today that the bomb which destroyed Earl Mountbatten’s boat may have been left on the seabed in a lobster pot he [Mountbatten] checked each day.

There are reports that on Sunday holiday makers saw two skin divers emerge from the water near the line of lobster pots owned by Lord Mountbatten. This has strengthened the police theory that the bomb was in a lobster pot and not attached to the boat.

Viewpoint: Mountbatten: the glory and the grief

The murder of Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma and the killing of 18 British soldiers by the Provisional IRA in one day marks a watershed. The horror of Irish affairs and the cold ruthlessness of Republican terrorists has been shown to the people of these islands in a starker dimension than at any time during the past ten years….

The gravity of events has been such that, internationally, the busy world has had to stop and stare….The impact in Britain is literally incalculable. Lord Mountbatten was more than a mentor to the Queen and the Royal Family. He was a father figure to the nation and an embodiment of all that was best in the British character….

The British public and the public in Northern Ireland are absolutely clear about the reality of terrorist firepower within the Irish Republic. It is a firepower that must be faced and faced down.

There is no doubt that Mr. Jack Lynch and other political leaders in the Irish Republic are deeply shocked and ashamed that such evil can spring from their midst….[W]ords are not enough, messages of condolence are not enough….Terrorists should no longer be able to hide behind the lack of extradition for so-called political crimes. Extradition must become a reality.

Prince Philip flies home

The Duke of Edinburgh is flying back to Britain tonight, arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport at 8 pm. on board an Andover of the Queen’s Flight….The aircraft will go to Iceland to bring Prince Charles home from a fishing holiday….Arrangements for Lord Mountbatten’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 5 are being worked out by Lord Chamberlain’s office…the Queen drove from Balmoral Castle to nearby Birkenhall to tell the Queen Mother personally of the tragedy.

Reading Evening Post (England)

Friday, August 31,1979

Round Up—100 arrests in police purge on the IRA 

POLICE CELLS were bulging today as a massive round-up of IRA sympathizers continued in the Irish Republic in the wake of the “Bloody Monday” killings. More than 100 people with terrorist links have so far been arrested. But although two men have been charged with the Mountbatten murder, another two are still eluding police.

Mourners Expected in their thousands

Earl Mountbatten is home. His body lies in the marbled Sculpture Hall at Broadlands, his estate near Romsey at Hampshire….Prince Philip and Prince Charles stood in silence…as the bodies flown home by the RAF were gently carried to the hearses.

 

The Funeral Of Lord Mountbatten of Burma following his murder by the IRA (L-R), Reverend Edward Carpenter, HM Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Prince Andrew Prince Charles, Princess Margaret (at far right, straining to see something), Princess Anne, Captain Mark Phillips, the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester, gathered outside Westminster Abbey, London, September 5, 1979. (Photo by Central Press/Hutton Archive/Getty Images)

Click here to read:  “Princess Margaret’s Trip to America, 1979, Part Three.

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Princess Margaret, 1980

Hopes ran high for Princess Margaret of Great Britain‘s October 1979 fundraising tour in America. The cause was the London‘s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, a centerpiece of world opera and ballet. By 1979, backstage conditions at the 120-year-old building had become “rather grotty” said the Princess’ 30-year-old nephew, Prince Charles, and terribly cramped. Money was needed to construct an extension to contain rehearsal studios for both the Royal Opera chorus and the Royal Ballet dancers, modern dressing rooms, and improved wardrobe maintenance and storage areas. In her role as President of the Royal Ballet, Margaret was tapped to harness her star power among American “art cats” to rustle up another £4,000 to add to the £12,000 already raised by the Royal Opera House Development Appeal in the previous four years. In response, the American Friends of Covent Garden had sold advance tickets for one formal dinner at each of five stops in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Cleveland where Princess Margaret would be the guest of honor. The film, “Prince Charles Backstage at Covent Garden,” would be shown to highlight the downtrodden state of affairs at the Opera House.

Princess Margaret is to be in the Venetian Room at the Fairmont [Hotel] on Monday, October 22 for a dinner dance. $500 tickets. For tickets, write Mrs. Gordon Getty [Ann]. (1)

Princess Margaret speaks to David Wall of the Royal Ballet, 1978

As Princess Margaret (1926-2001) was not traveling as a representative of her government, the trip was semi-private and somewhat relaxed. There would be both times of pleasure and of duty. Margaret would attend the Lyric Opera of Chicago where Leontyne Price and Luciano Pavarotti would perform. In Houston, she would visit the NASA space center, have a luncheon with former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, and witness open heart surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital. In Los Angeles, she would unveil a plaque at a new Rolls Royce Facility. She would travel outside Cleveland to a horse farm. Social doyennes jockeyed for the opportunity to throw the Princess a cocktail party, dinner, or luncheon. She would mingle with Hollywood stars. The charity, Les Dames de Champagne, in Los Angeles scored a coup when the Princess’ social secretary squeezed their charity event into Margaret’s busy schedule:

On the evening of Saturday, October 20, Les Dames will play hostesses to H.R.H. Princess Margaret who’ll attend their reception upstairs at Bullocks Wilshire Los Angeles and promenade her royal presence past some interesting “international tasting tables”…It had originally been scheduled for Sunday, October 21 but when Les Dames founder Wanda Henderson read about the Princess’ visit to L.A., she got on the phone to the British consul general’s office and the wheels began to spin…[H]alf of the money raised will go to the Princess’ cause. (2)

Yet not everyone in America was as excited about Her Royal Highness’s impending visit. One reader of the L.A. Times wrote to the paper’s editor:

I resent Princess Margaret invading our country to beg money for refurbishing and expanding…[the] Royal Opera House….Princess Margaret inherited a fortune in jewels from her grandmother, the late Queen Mary. I wonder why she and her sister, Queen Elizabeth, don’t sell some of their jewels to restore some of their famous landmarks. (3)

American gossip columnists got a lot of mileage covering Princess Margaret’s love life:

Reader: I have been fascinated with that romance between Princess Margaret and her young boyfriend Roddy Llewellyn. Is that still going on?”(M.A., Greenwood, Louisiana.)

Columnist: I wouldn’t call it a romance. The royalty grapevine insists that Roddy is amusing and keeps the Princess diverted. They still are companionable and had been vacationing at a secluded villa on Spain’s Costa del Sol. (4)

Yet American gossip columnists enjoyed trashing Margaret in print, gleefully reporting the breakdown of her unhappy marriage with her former husband, the internationally-acclaimed photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon) and their bitter July 1978 divorce.

At

At left, Tony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon) watches as his fiancee at the time, Princess Margaret, takes a photograph at the Badminton Horse Trials. ca. 1960

Gossip columnists were keen to report Margaret’s fashion sense in their articles, often inserting subtly-catty remarks.

On a gray day, she wore…white platform sandals that showed the heel reinforcements in her hose….Before she plunged in to shake hands with everyone there, she extracted a cigarette holder and a cigarette case from her white ostrich-patterned bag. The Princess is adept at clenching the cigarette holder between her teeth as she lights up…. (5)

Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret, The Countess of Snowdon, the maverick in Britain’s royal family, will be back in L.A. Wednesday evening….[S]he is petite and inclined to plumpness….[with] startling blue eyes and a lovely British complexion. (6)

The timing of Margaret’s October arrival in America should have been favorable to her fund drive. The Royal Ballet that had just wound up its exceedingly successful North American summer tour on August 5 in Mexico City. For six days in late July, the company had performed in the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium, their repertoire including the ever-popular Shakespeare tragedy, “Romeo & Juliet.” The premiere had been at 8:30 p.m. on July 24, 1979. L.A. Times gossip columnist Jody Jacobs reviewed the premiere two days later with this headline: “Warm Hello for Royal Ballet.”

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English dancer Marguerite Porter became Senior Principal Ballerina at The Royal Ballet in 1978.

Jody Jacobs was not kidding about warmth! This was the first big event in which President Carter‘s strict temperature controls had been put in effect. Temperatures had soared into the 80s that day in L.A. with hazy sunshine predominating. The air conditioning thermostat in the Shrine had been set at the federally-mandatory 78 degrees. The Shrine, which had been “magically staged as an English Maytime tent,” became, in that summery, smoggy heat, a “giant communal steam bath.” The ballet fans were packed into their seats, wearing their best clothes, sweating profusely, mopping brows, dabbing at armpits. Middle-aged women suffered menopausal hot flashes and fanned themselves with the evening’s program. Nevertheless, aside from a few good-natured grumbles, the soggy but devoted ballet patrons and the dancers, in the spirit of the English, remembered to

Keep Calm and Carry On

Ironically, an article on menopausal health appeared in the L.A. Times alongside Jacobs’ review, with the headline,

Estrogen Useful

Later that week, Governor Jerry Brown of California would fill out the necessary paperwork to challenge President Carter in the 1980 Democratic primary. (President Carter would keep the Democratic nomination but he would not go on to win a second term.)

On August 21, 1979, just seven weeks before she disembarked for America, Princess Margaret celebrated her 49th birthday with her children, David, 17, and Sarah, 15, at Balmoral Castle, the Scottish holiday home of the British royal family. Margaret’s sister, Queen Elizabeth II, was there, as was her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. In her role as head of the British Commonwealth, the Queen had just returned from tense negotiations in Lusaka, Zambia, to discuss the Rhodesian conflict, where there was tremendous anti-British feeling.

gettyimages-139758977-1567612103

Queen Elizabeth II on a state visit to Botswana, summer 1979. See Prince Philip on our left and Prince Andrew on our right. SERGE LEMOINEGETTY IMAGES

Guerrilla forces were operating out of bases in Zambia and the Queen had put herself at great risk. The Queen arrived two days ahead of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of England. As was her custom, the Queen hosted a banquet and reception for all forty-two African leaders. Behind the scenes, she held private talks, bringing down the temperature so significantly in the negotiations that Thatcher called for a constitutional convention in London in September to pave the way for Rhodesian independence.

In a little over a month, Princess Margaret and six others would hop on a British Airways Concorde jet and fly from London to the U.S. to begin her fundraising swing through the States. The Princess’ lady-in-waiting, Lady Annabel Whitehead, had been steadily packing the Princess’ jewels, purses, shoes, and outfits in the 27 trunks that she would need for such a variety of appearances. Everything was falling in place and the Princess was looking forward to some good press.

Roddy Llewellyn and Princess Margaret not long after they met in 1973. Picture: SuppliedSource: News Corp Australia

Margaret had significant image problems at home. A recent poll had put her dead-last in royal family popularity, even below her niece, Princess Anne. The public disapproved of her romance with Roddy Llewellyn, an aspiring pop singer and gardener seventeen years her junior, who, just a month before Margaret turned 49, in July, had had his drivers’ license revoked for 18 months. The previous February, he had been arrested for drunk driving after he crashed his Ford van into an unmarked police car in Kensington High Street, London. Roddy had sped away and the police had given chase. Roddy’s car had skidded to a halt when it ran into a cement median in Highbridge. Roddy was fined a measly £12.25 but not being able to drive was proving to be hard on his gardening business as he needed it to haul soil, pots, and plants to landscaping sites. For months, Roddy’s drink-driving incident had been splashed across newspapers internationally. Even worse, the passenger in Roddy’s car that fateful night was a married woman whose husband later filed for divorce naming Roddy as his wife’s seducer.

Also that same July, Lord Snowdon (“Tony”) and his new wife, Lucy Lindsay Hogg, gave birth to a baby girl, garnering sweet headlines. Even worse, the baby would be christened just days before Margaret was landing in America. There would be photographs of Tony, Lucy, and the baby, Lady Frances at the ceremony, where Tony and Margaret’s daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong, was to be named as the baby’s godmother.

lord-snowdon-former-husband-of-princess-margaret-leaves-news-photo-1574273653 shortly after dec 1978 wedding

Lord Snowdon and his second wife Lucy Lindsay Hogg shown shortly after their December 1978 marriage. She is expecting a baby.

Then, in November, when Margaret had left America, Tony would arrive in America on a book tour.

Both Margaret and Tony craved constant attention and competed for center stage. Now Tony-Cheating Tony-was getting nothing but glowing press.

A London writer was calling for Margaret’s exile to America where, the writer said, the people had the bad taste needed to appreciate her.

Princess Margaret needed to get out of England. She needed an image makeover. Photos of her relaxing at her private home on the island of Mustique in the Caribbean were making their way into the tabloids.

Princess Margaret, center. Colin Tennant in white hat, to the left. Anne Tennant, short blond hair, to the right. Roddy Llewellyn stands behind Anne. On the island of Mustique where the Princess had a home, the land of which was a gift from the Tennants.

As President of the Royal Ballet, Margaret would be mingling with the rich and well-connected Americans; their cachet would build up her profile. Perhaps association with cultured ballet and opera folk could erase some of the damage done to her reputation by those photos that had appeared in The Daily Mail the previous fall. She had been at the Glen, the Scottish home of Anne and Colin Tennant, at a private costume party with Bianca Jagger and Roddy. Wearing a slinky black dress and blonde wig, she had channeled American sex goddess Mae West, crooning seductively, “Come Up and See Me Some Time.” Anne, the hostess at the Glen, was one of the Princess’ ladies-in-waiting. She snapped some pictures of the fun time. Unfortunately, Anne’s oldest son, Charlie, had a serious heroin addiction and wanted money to buy drugs. He found the photos that his mother had tucked away in her drawer and stole them. Through an intermediary, they were sold to the press.

Pictured l. to r., Roddy Llewellyn, Princess Margaret, Anne Tennant, Charlie Tennant. on Mustique ca. 1979

Margaret longed to return to America, and, in particular, to Hollywood (“Tinsel Town”) where she was popular and the movie star men were so good-looking. Writer Gore Vidal, a lifelong close ally of the Princess, said of her love for Hollywood,

Like many British royals, she was fascinated by the place.

 

Read the next installment: Princess Margaret’s Trip to America, 1979, Part Two: Lord Louis Mountbatten

Readers: For more on this blog about Princess Margaret, click here

Readers: “The Queen Mother and the Rogue Kiss” tells of the 1977 visit by President Jimmy Carter to meet the Queen and family. 

Readers: For more on the British Royal Family, click here

Sources:

  1. San Francisco Examiner, October 4, 1979
  2. Jody Jacobs’ column, L.A. Times, Sept. 21, 1979
  3. Virginia Cohen, Santa Monica. LA Times, Letters to the Editor, September 22, 1979
  4. Robin Adams Sloan’s column, The Indianapolis News, September 14, 1979
  5. L. A. Times, October 22, 1979, “Party Notes,” IV, page 6
  6. L.A. Times, Oct. 16, 1979

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Princess Margaret of Britain loved to dress up. Here she is at age 34 at a Georgian ball at Mansion House, 1964. A Georgian-themed affair is a throwback to the days of French Queen Marie Antoinette: heavy on white wigs and powdered faces. Getty Images.

From a very young age, Princess Margaret of Britain (1930-2001) loved to dress up in costumes, act, sing, and dance—and she had real talent. At the age of nine months, for example, she had astounded her grandmother with her gift for music, by humming the waltz from “The Merry Widow.”

Her enchantment with the magical world of music, dance, and theatre was cultivated early, in large part, by her childhood attendance at the annual Christmas pantomimes in London prior to the outbreak of WWII in 1939. Her parents, titled at her birth as the Duke and Duchess of York and then, after 1936, titled as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, would take Margaret and her older sister, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), to the rollicking shows every winter holiday.

In the Duchess’s box at the Lyceum Theatre, London, the Duke and Duchess of York and their daughters, Princesses Margaret (l.), 4, and Elizabeth, 8, enjoy the Christmas pantomime, “Dick Whittington,” in which Dick promises that his cat will rid the realm of rats. February 1935.

 

The 1934-35 playbill for the pantomime enjoyed by Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth and their parents in February 1935. Cast: Dick Henderson, George Jackley, Naughton & Gold, Molly Vyvyan, Elsie Prince, Audrey Acland and Eric Brock.

British pantomimes are a peculiar bit of theatre. The name, “pantomime,” is misleading, as the word “mime” evokes an image of the silent French mime Marcel Marceau alone on stage, in white face makeup, leaning into an invisible wind, battling to open an invisible umbrella, a sublime and subtle entertainment. A British pantomime, on the other hand, is pure camp—loud, boisterous, ridiculous and, sometimes, a little naughty. This musical comedy stage production is loosely based on a favorite children’s story such as “Cinderella,” “Aladdin,” or “Puss and Boots” but with dramatically-altered plot lines and a motley crew of characters. An assortment of costumed performers dance and sing, belting out tunes familiar to the audience but with new and absurd lyrics designed to draw a lot of laughs. Oddly, although pantos are Christmas entertainment, there are no references to Christmas in the scripts.

The panto audience is encouraged to participate. They shout out to the actors, “Look out, he’s behind you!” they hiss at the villain, they cry, “Awwwww” to the poor victims.

An example of audience participation in the pantomime version of “Sleeping Beauty”:

Wicked Queen – “I am the fairest of them all”

Audience – “Oh no you’re not!”

Queen – “Oh yes I am!”

Audience – “Oh no you’re not!”

There are sing-a-longs. Animals are usually humans in costume like the Pantomime Horse, with one person in the front and another pulling up the rear.

Famous English animal impersonator Albert Felino in the role of the cat in “Dick Whittington.” Theatre Royal, Edinburgh, Christmas (photo: unknown, England or Scotland, probably 1908; postcard, The Philco Publishing Co, London, Philco Series 3438E)

Think of a British pantomime as a cross between “Sleeping Beauty” and a vaudeville show with slapstick humor, bawdy jokes, gender-swapping, special effects like magical transformation scenes as in “Cinderella,” and capped by celebrity appearances.

With all their color, excitement, music, costumes, bright lights, gags, and laughter, these once-a-year pantomimes made a lasting impression on the young Princess Margaret. This special time with her loving family—before the bombs began to fall—was pure joy—and formed the foundation upon which she crafted her own talents as an amateur actress, mimic, and singer and developed a lifelong taste for theater, dance, and music.

Margaret’s childhood nanny from 1932-1948, Marion “Crawfie” Crawford, recalled:

In those happy pre-war days, theatre managers always had a large box of chocolates in the royal box. But the little girls’ great ambition was to sit in the stalls or the dress circle. They had to hang over the side of the royal box, to see properly. I can still see the Duke anxiously seizing his daughters’ petticoats, afraid they would fall over altogether in their immense enthusiasm. 

The children looked forward to these pantomimes for the remaining eleven months of the year. Margaret, as soon as she could talk at all, would reenact most of the parts….”

In 1936, the Duke of York became King George VI of Great Britain and his wife became Queen Elizabeth (who, in 1952, would be styled as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother or the Queen Mum). The young family, whom the King dubbed affectionately as “Us Four,” left their stately home at 145 Piccadilly and moved three miles, as the crow flies, across London to Buckingham Palace.

“Us Four.” The British Royal Family, 1937. Getty Images.

Four years later, in May 1939, England was at war with Nazi Germany. It was not safe for children in London during the bombing so Margaret and Elizabeth moved to Windsor Castle, a medieval fortress with thick walls, just 21 miles west of London. Margaret would live at Windsor until the war’s end in May 1945, from the age of nine years old to fifteen. The girls roomed in the “nursery” in the Augusta Tower.

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an aerial view of Windsor Castle, over 900 years old (2020), a working palace and a setting for a fairy tale. Photo credit: Organic Society.

For the most part, the King and Queen stayed in London at Buckingham Palace, visiting the girls on Saturdays and Sundays. By staying in town during the Blitz, the royal couple put their lives in great jeopardy as the Palace was bombed nine times by the German Luftwaffe. In September 1940, they were almost killed when the Nazis dropped bombs on the Palace Chapel, destroying it.

At about 11 a.m. on 13 September 1940, a week after the start of the London Blitz, a German bomber ducked under the clouds, flew deliberately low across the capital [London] and dropped five high explosive bombs on Buckingham Palace. George VI and his wife, Elizabeth, were just taking tea. At the precise moment that they heard what she described as the “unmistakable whirr-whirr” of the plane, the queen was battling to take an eyelash out of his eye and they rushed out into the corridor to avoid the blast. Two bombs fell in the palace’s inner quadrangle a few yards from where the couple had been sitting, a third destroyed the chapel and the remainder caused deep craters at the front of the building. 1

Windsor Castle was near enough to the repeated shelling of London for the sisters to feel the walls of the great Windsor Castle shake and to hear the “whistle and scream” of the bombs as they fell from the skies. Although we know now that the Germans never did succeed in invading England according to their plan, during the war, expectation of an imminent invasion was an everyday worry for Britons. Windsor Castle was reinforced by barbed wire which Margaret thought rather futile, saying in a later interview that it wasn’t very capable of keeping the Germans out. Rather, it kept her IN.

(l. to r.) Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth on the grounds of Royal Lodge, Windsor, 1940. Getty Images

Windsor was a giant beehive of thirteen acres with 1,000 rooms just for the royal family. Over 350 servants lived and worked there. In addition, officials, courtiers, guardsmen, soldiers on leave, soldiers convalescing, boys from Eton buzzed in and about. Margaret remarked, “I was brought up among men,” which is no understatement. So, although life was serious: daytime lessons for the girls in academics, dance, piano, and language, and, as part of the war effort, bandage-rolling, sock-knitting, and tinfoil collection was obligatory, and Windsor was dark, with the sparkling chandeliers taken down, the state apartments cloaked in sheets, windows blacked out, and with only log fires in the sitting rooms for warmth, there were still lighthearted times for those forced to be there. The girls sang in a Madrigal Society with the soldiers and boys from Eton. There were occasional balls. The girls loved to dance and the King loved to waltz, in particular. The sisters served tea to the soldiers and, afterwards, played guessing games and charades. Crawfie and the two girls played one-man charades in which each one took a turn imitating someone they knew and the others guessed. Crawfie said that the sisters—in particular, Margaret,

had considerable talent for acting…There was never any doubt about Margaret’s efforts! They were unmistakable. She kept us in fits of laughter with this first manifestation of a talent that was one day to amuse a much larger circle…Lilibet [Elizabeth] was always a more serious child….

After dinner at night with their parents and their parents’ guests, they played more charades until midnight. (The Queen Mother would later become incensed when Crawfie wrote a book—the first of many nanny diaries to come—about her time in the royal household. Crawfie wanted to include in her tell-all about a night of charades when the Duchess of Kent imitated pulling a lavatory chain—flushing a toilet—as a clue to the phrase, “royal flush.” The Queen Mother insisted that Crawfie had violated the terms of her employment. Crawfie edited out this story, as per the Queen Mother’s wishes, but from then on, she was persona non grata.)

It was at Windsor that Margaret’s talent for acting found both a wider audience and a larger appreciation. Each Christmas from 1941 until 1945, the two princesses took the leading roles in locally-produced pantomimes for the benefit of the Royal Household Concert Wool Fund. The full-scale productions were staged in the Waterloo Chamber of the Castle. Although Princess Elizabeth did a good job at acting and tap-dancing for more than five hundred, including townspeople and soldiers, it was Princess Margaret, with her sparkle and spunk, that stole the show. Margaret’s admirers remarked on her skill in impersonating cockneys or Southern belles or shy town clerks. She had a knack for mimicking regional accents and dialects.

This “gift of fun-poking—and very clever fun-poking” as Crawfie termed it, would, in her adult life, when she had grown old, alcoholic, and sickly, be used by Margaret to craft remarks that cut people to the quick, alienating even those who loved her, and for which she would become notorious, reviled, and ostracized. Her sardonic quips were repeated, becoming legendary. Given that she was royal, she was unstoppable, as no one dared correct a woman to whom one curtseys and bows.

1941: Princess Elizabeth discusses the pantomime with her mother, Queen Elizabeth of England, while her sister, Princess Margaret, looks on. AP photo.

Sources:

Crawford, Marion. The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford. (1950)

multiple bios of QEII, Princess Margaret

Readers, for more on Marie Antoinette, click here. For more on Princess Margaret, click here. For more on the British Royal Family, click here.

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Princess Margaret plays with Anne Glenconner’s hair. The two women had been friends since they were preschoolers. Undated photo. Anne Glenconner Collection.

Lady Anne Glenconner served as Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret from 1971 until Margaret’s death in 2002. Her husband, Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, was a member of the “Margaret Set,” a group of close friends of the Princess, almost entirely male, and completely wild. Lord Glenconner was once considered a possible husband for the Princess but that didn’t happen. Both Anne and Colin were slavishly devoted to the Princess.

Pictured: Colin Tennant (Lord Glenconner), Princess Margaret, and Anne Tennant, (Lady Glenconner) stroll onto the island of Mustique in the Caribbean. When newlyweds Tony Armstrong-Jones (later, Lord Snowdon) and Princess Margaret stopped at Mustique on their 1960 honeymoon, Colin Tennant gave them a gift of land on the island. Later, Margaret would build a home there. In the 1970s, when the Snowdons’ marriage began falling apart, Margaret would retreat to her “bolthole” on Mustique. Tony would never again return. Tony never warmed to Anne and Colin. He had been the photographer at their wedding yet had not been treated as a guest. Anne’s father referred to him derisively as “Tony Snapshot.” PA Images

The following includes excerpts from Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner.  1 The excerpts appear in a bold, purplish print. My comments appear in black.

Everybody she [Princess Margaret] had ever met had always treated her with the utmost respect. Except Tony [her husband], who was spiteful in creative ways and liked writing vile little one-liners which he hid in her glove drawer, or among her hankies or tucked into books.

The Princess had stopped opening drawers, afraid of finding nasty little notes from her husband. One said: ‘You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you.’ The marriage was on the rocks. Trading tit for tat, both Margaret and Tony became openly unfaithful. They traded insults “like gunfire.” Tony refused to speak to Princess Margaret, even when the children were present. He would spy on her through a hole in the wall. He reverted to a bachelor life, spending nights away from Kensington Palace. Margaret’s drinking picked up speed and she gained weight. The marriage had deteriorated so much by the early 1970s that the two led virtually separate lives. 2 

Princess Margaret and her husband, Tony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon, in happier times. 1963

This was the state of affairs in 1973 when we invited the princess for a long weekend at Glen, Colin’s [Anne’s husband’s] ancestral home in the Borders [Scotland].

Anne Glenconner, being the Princess’ Lady in Waiting, was hard put to keep the miserable Princess entertained, especially now that her marriage with Tony was so strained.

The Glen, an estate and country house in southern Scotland

I’d planned a huge dinner party, but a late cancellation left us one man short. Colin suggested that I should ring his ‘Aunt Nose’ — Violet Wyndham (who had a large nose) — because she was bound to come up with a suitable suggestion.

She did: she gave me the number of Roddy Llewellyn, whose equestrian father Harry had won the only gold medal for Great Britain in the 1952 Olympics.

We’d never met Roddy, but he was young and available. I remember feeling awkward ringing him up, but to my relief he accepted my invitation.

Colin drove to Edinburgh station to meet him, accompanied by our teenage son Charlie, and Princess Margaret, who was intrigued because she knew Roddy’s father. I stayed behind.

They didn’t return for hours. Forewarned by her protection officer, however, I was outside, ready to greet them, when the car pulled up. In the back, Princess Margaret and Roddy were more or less holding hands.

Colin explained that they’d met him off the train and gone for lunch at a bistro. The princess and Roddy had immediately clicked, even though he was 17 years younger. She’d then whisked him off shopping to find some tight swimming trunks — which my son described as ‘budgie smugglers’.

I said to Colin, ‘Oh, gosh, what have we done?'”

Roddy Llewellyn wears swim trunks Princess Margaret bought for him. Note the pattern is the Union Jack. ca. 1973

Roddy Llewellyn, Princess Margaret, Lady Anne Glenconner, and her son, Charlie. 1970s. Anne Glenconner Collection

According to Anne, Princess Margaret always took an interest in young men.

 

1 Glenconner, Anne. Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown. (2020)

2 Bradford, Sarah. Elizabeth: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen. (1996)

Readers: For more on the Royal Family, click here

 

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Princess Margaret of Great Britain sits in her living room at Kensington Palace. The walls are painted Kingfisher Blue, Margaret’s favorite color.

It was a summer day in 1980 when biographer Christopher Warwick first visited Princess Margaret in her home:

The first time I had lunch with her, we were just the two of us sitting in the dining room, having lunch at Kensington Palace, the house that William and Kate now live in.”

It would be the first of many such visits for the author. Margaret had selected Warwick to write her biography. Warwick said,

I got to know Apartment 1a very well indeed. The best way to describe it, it was like walking into an English country house. It was very elegant, it had an 18th-century quality about it, it was furnished with lovely antiques.

The entrance to Prince Margaret’s Apartment 1a was through Clock Court. 1961

When you went through the front door… straight ahead of you on the wall was [Pietro] Annigoni’s fabulous portrait of her from 1957.”

Biographer Christopher Warwick poses with Princess Margaret in the spacious entryway of her home, Apartment 1a, at Kensington Palace. June 1980. Note the 1957 portrait of Princess Margaret by Annigoni.

The painting features the 27-year-old royal standing in an English rose garden, a nod by the Italian artist to Margaret’s given name, Margaret Rose.

Princess Margaret by Pietro Annigoni, 1957. Exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery courtesy of then Viscount Linley. Photo © Christie’s Images Ltd, 2006. The artist captured Margaret’s sensuous beauty.

At that point in time, Margaret desperately needed Christopher Warwick or someone like Christopher Warwick. Her well-publicized affairs and 1978 divorce from her husband of 18 years, Lord Snowdon AKA Antony Armstrong-Jones, had made for bad headlines.  Her divorce was the first for a senior British royal in four centuries-since King Henry VIII.

Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon, stand in the Clock Court outside their home at Kensington Palace, with their two children, ca. 1964.

The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret (1930-2002) had established herself as the royal family’s ‘wild child’. She was an enthusiastic party princess – drinking a vodka and orange juice pick-me-up upon her noon awakening, wine at lunch, and guzzling Famous Grouse scotch all night long, chain-smoking Chesterfield cigarettes in a long, tortoise shell holder-even while eating, and mingling like a commoner with rock stars like Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.

Mick Jagger parties with Princess Margaret on the island of Mustique in the Caribbean. Both Mick and Margaret had homes there.

Spoiled and pampered, she kept late hours and did and said what she pleased—infamous for her acid-tongued put-downs and perverse cruelty to her hosts and guests—only occasionally performing royal duties such as ribbon-cuttings at new schools or showing up for a tour of a British factory to earn her keep of £55,000 annually, paid by the British people.

In 1970, the film producer Robert Evans flew to London to attend the Royal Command Performance of his film Love Story, in the presence of the Queen Mother. He was later to recall their brief encounter.

All of us stood in a receiving line as Lord Somebody introduced us, one by one, to Her Majesty and her younger daughter. It was a hell of a thrill, abruptly ending when the lovely princess [Margaret] shook my hand.

Margaret spoke. ‘Tony saw Love Story in New York. Hated it.'”

Princess Margaret defying convention. Smoking in public was just not done, not by a royal and certainly not by a lady. Undated photo.

Her servants and ladies-in-waiting were required to keep her ashtrays emptied after three cigarette butts and excoriated if they let her scotch glass run out of ice. If she was invited to a party, she required the hostess to let her see the guest list in advance. She struck off and added names of new guests as she pleased. As a guest at country homes or London dinner parties, she did not allow anyone to speak in her presence until she spoke first. Guests had to stay at the party until she left first. This might be 4 a.m. Upon her arrival at movie openings or galas, a tiara balanced on her elaborate, large and lacquered updo, she was presented with bouquets by adoring children. Women curtseyed. Men bowed and scraped. Flashbulbs popped.

Princess Margaret attends the opening of the Parliament in Jamaica, 1962.

The public could not get enough stories about Margaret—of her royal appearances and, later, of her bohemian life style—and the press kept churning them out. People had been engrossed in reading and hearing about the Princess since she had been born in 1930 in Glamis Castle, Scotland, during a thunderstorm.

Princess Margaret with her father, King George VI, ca. 1930

King George VI of Great Britain holds his daughter, Margaret Rose. 1931

Their interest heightened in the 1950s when she was eligible for marriage. She was glamorous and set fashion trends.

Who would Princess Margaret marry? Intense interest and speculation

An adoring fan broke into Margaret’s hotel room while she was touring Italy just to discover what color nail polish she used. Any indiscretions she made in the 1960s were largely suppressed by the press, in deference to the Queen and the Royal Family. But the Anti-Establishment changes brought about by the Swinging Sixties changed all that. By the 1970s, tabloids featuring lurid stories of famous people had become big business. The Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, and the Sun were just some of the British tabloids paying large sums to anyone with a telescopic lens taking embarrassing pictures of famous people.

Then there were those published 1976 swimsuit photographs of Princess Margaret in the Caribbean with the drifter/sometimes landscape gardener Roddy Llewellyn, a man 17 years her junior, while Margaret was still married to Lord Snowdon. To worsen matters, Roddy was offered a music contract and he became a sort of pop star, always available for interviews. He had lived at a commune in Wiltshire and Margaret had gone there. Even the townspeople of Wiltshire and the anti-Establishment hippies at the commune had a price, it turns out, as they awarded the highest bidding tabloid with interviews about the goings-on between Margaret and her toyboy lover.

Princess Margaret swims off the coast of Mustique where she kept a private home. Feb. 1, 1976.

Roddy Llewellyn, Princess Margaret’s paramour, in the surf off Mustique, with Princess Margaret. Feb. 1, 1976.

Their romance became a scandal of major proportions.

The Princess’ reputation was damaged and so was the Crown’s. At the time, the economy of Great Britain was in a free fall, and poverty was on the rise. Headlines appeared,

ROYALS: DO THEY EARN THEIR KEEP?

Give up Roddy or Quit!

The Queen was livid, asking her prime minister,

 ‘What are we going to do about my sister’s guttersnipe life?’”

For some time, there had been a steady drumbeat to get rid of the Monarchy—the cost!—and Margaret fed the flames, sparking some serious anti-monarchical threats in Parliament to cut off her allowance. A Labour Member of Parliament called on Princess Margaret to resign the Royal Family and give up her £55,000 for those in need. He called her a “parasite.”

Princess Margaret did give up Roddy. She divorced Tony, a serial philanderer who benefited from Margaret’s notoriety; the Queen Mum adored Tony. Headlines followed,

Goodbye, Roddy: Margaret Cools Romance

Then Margaret hired the biographer Christopher Warwick to revamp her image. The biography was released in 1983. Kirkus Reviews called the authorized biography “tame” and “fawning”. Warwick himself confesses to having fallen under her spell from that first luncheon meeting. When they sat down, she had turned to him and said,

‘I expect before you met me, you thought I was the sort of person the tabloids said I was.'”

She then paused and said,

‘And now you know I’m not.'”

Warwick said,

‘It was so true that the woman I was talking to, the person I was getting to know, really wasn’t the person that I had read about in the tabloid press. I suppose it’s not unfair to say the public perception of her is divided.'”

The title of Warwick’s biography is Princess Margaret: A Life in Contrast. Readers complained that there was no contrast in the supposed “tell-all”. Margaret was portrayed in a flattering light as the dutiful royal.

The book’s other emphasis is on Margaret’s busy schedule (samples are provided) in justification of her cost to the Realm. (Kirkus)

I’ll offer you some contrast.

About that painting in that entrance hallway. To truly appreciate the story I am about to tell you, it is necessary to acquaint you with the physical layout of Princess Margaret’s home at Apartment 1a, Kensington Palace, London. This is where, three years after their marriage in 1960, Margaret and Tony made their home. It is a royal residence, known as a “grace and favor” home, one that the Queen bestows on qualifying individuals. As Warwick mentions, Apartment 1a, Kensington Palace, is where the five Cambridges—Prince William, Kate, George, Charlotte, and Louis—live today. Although there are over 120 such grace and favor homes in  Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, the ones at “KP” are the most splendid.

Bird’s eye view of Kensington Palace. Find the highlighted apartment belonging to Prince William and Duchess Kate. Note the Clock Tower. The entrance to the inner courtyard known as Clock Court is under that Clock Tower. The entrance to the Cambridges’ home is through that private court.

President and Mrs. Obama visited the Cambridges and Prince Harry at Kensington Palace, Apartment 1a, in April 2016. These pictures give a better view of the entrance to the home.

The Obamas meet with the Cambridges and Prince Harry, April 2016, in Clock Court at Kensington Palace, just outside the entrance to the home of William, Kate, and their three children.

Princess Margaret dances with her husband, Lord Snowdon, 1962.

Apartment 1A is a four-story home with over 20 rooms. It is long and narrow. It is one of the homes in Kensington Palace, a grand, royal compound for many Windsors in Central London. To enter the home, one must drive under the Clock Tower into the secluded courtyard. The front door of 1A opens onto a long, wide, and spacious hall. This is where the romantic Annigoni portrait of Princess Margaret was hanging in February 1964 when Tony’s very good friend, the actor Peter Sellers, came for lunch. Tony had a brilliant career as a portrait photographer and was known widely. Sellers was famous for his “Pink Panther” role as the clumsy Inspector Clouseau.

On Seller’s arm that winter day was his new girlfriend. She was the Swedish film actress Britt Ekland, beautiful, big-eyed, with long, blond hair ALA Brigitte Bardot. She was 21 to Peter’s 38. Sellers had only met her the day before. He had seen her photograph in the newspaper and wanted to meet her, appearing at her room at the Dorchester Hotel.

Britt Ekland and Peter Sellers, early 1960s

On the way to KP, Sellers drilled Ekland on the protocol for being in the presence of a royal princess. Say, ‘Your Royal Highness’, on first being presented and ‘Ma’am’ thereafter. A deep curtsey was mandatory.

Ekland was surprised to discover that the Princess was quite relaxed. They sat down to a lunch of consommé, roast beef, and red wine. Brandy followed. Then Snowdon pounced. Would Britt like to pose for some ‘glamour pictures’? According to Ekland, the Princess supported this idea, rallying to the cause. Tony gave her one of his shirts to wear. Ekland said:

I was in a tweed costume and once the royal couple had gone, I slipped off my jacket and blouse and bra and exchanged it for the shirt.”

As she was changing, Tony and Sellers were hunting for the perfect place for the photo shoot. They settled on the wide hallway, where the Annigoni portrait was hanging. They opened the front door to let in the sunlight. Ekland did what she was told to do: pose in such a way that the incoming sunlight would silhouette her breasts and make them clearly visible through the shirt.

Ten days later, Sellers and Ekland were married. In April, they were in Hollywood, where Sellers was filming the Billy Wilder sex comedy, “Kiss Me, Stupid.” Around noon, Sellers took the sexual stimulant amyl nitrate. Over the next three hours, he suffered 8 heart attacks. He was rushed to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital where he remained for several weeks. On hearing of Sellers’ heart attack, Billy Wilder is reputed to have said, “Heart attack? You need a heart to have a heart attack!” Wilders replaced Sellers in the movie with the actor Ray Walston.

Ekland would go on to make more movies that revolved around her looks, including her turn as a James Bond girl, in 1974, starring alongside Roger Moore in “The Man With the Golden Gun.” She and Sellers divorced after four miserable years together, Sellers exhibiting a serious jealous streak. “I was really his little toy,” she recalled in an interview on “Loose Women.”

left to right: Peter Sellers, Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret, Britt Ekland, 1965

left to right: Peter Sellers, Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret, Britt Ekland, 1965

Lord Snowdon and Britt Ekland, 1967.

 

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Lady Diana Spencer reads a romance novel by her favourite author, Barbara Cartland. Diana is probably 16. Photo ca. 1977

Lady Diana Spencer reads a romance novel by her favorite author, Barbara Cartland. Diana is probably 16 years old. Photo ca. 1977

Princess Diana (1961-1997) loved to read romantic fiction. She devoured novels by British author Barbara Cartland, of which there was an endless and steady supply. In her lifetime, Cartland (1901-2000) is credited with having written 723 books. In 1983 alone, she wrote 23 of them. She holds The Guinness Book of World Records for writing the most books in a single year.

Reclining on a chaise lounge at her home, Cartland dictated her hundreds of stories to her secretary. They both wore pink. Pink was Cartland’s signature color.

British romance novelist Barbara Cartland dictates stories to her secretary while relaxing with one of her Pekinese pets.

British romance novelist Barbara Cartland dictates stories to her secretary Jean Smith while relaxing at home in Camfield Place in Essendon, U.K.

Cartland, self-styled as the “Queen of Romance,” was a celebrity favorite with journalists as she was always holding forth on topics of the day, and sometimes saying outrageous and unprintable things such as speculating on the private parts of the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

She was well-known for her flamboyant appearance, resembling a fairy queen with cotton candy hair. Her dresses were ultra-girly, adorned with feathers, frills, flounces, fluff, and froth. She was heavily perfumed and glittered with jewels. Her thick make-up was more suited to the stage, and the end result was often clown-like. To achieve a more youthful look, she pulled back her cheeks with the application of sticking plaster (which, sadly, often showed). Her “forests of false eyelashes” were legendary, jet black, and preposterous. Her secret? In 1959, she wrote to a fan that, instead of mascara:

I use Meltonian black shoe cream for my eyelashes.” (1)

Barbara Cartland up close and personal

Barbara Cartland up close

In her writing as well as her appearance, Cartland was an accomplished illusionist. Her books were fairy tales of the most fantastic nature. In them, the young virgin heroine – usually with an exotic name like Vada, Lalitha, Syringa, Fenella, Kamala, or Anthea – always marries Prince Charming. They live happily ever after. They never quarrel, they don’t have affairs, and they certainly don’t divorce.

More than one of Diana's Spencer's acquaintances remarked on her dreamy nature. Photo ca. 1977

More than one of Diana’s Spencer’s acquaintances remarked on her dreamy nature. Photo ca. 1977

Not so in the Spencer household. From her earliest years, Princess Diana’s parents had had a troubled marriage, and her home was a scene of violent quarrels. Diana’s mother, Frances, felt as if her husband Johnnie Spencer, Viscount Spencer, treated her like a brood mare, sending her to fertility experts to explain why she had given birth to three girls in a row. He wanted a male heir to carry on the royal family line. Diana listened behind the door when her parents had a shouting match and her sister turned up the record player volume.

Frances did give birth to a boy, Charles, but the breach in the marriage had become, by then, an unbridgeable chasm.

When Diana was six, her mother left her four children and husband to pursue an affair in London with Peter Shand Kydd, also married. In 1968, she divorced Diana’s father, Johnnie Spencer, who, surprisingly for the times, was granted custody of the children. It is not surprising once you know that a surprise witness at the divorce hearing provided the damning testimony that decided in his favor. Testifying to Johnnie’s superior parenting skills was Frances’s own mother, Lady Fermoy, testifying against her daughter.

Three months after the divorce, Frances married Kydd and they moved to Scotland. With her two older sisters away at boarding school, only Diana and her younger brother Charles remained behind at Park House on the Queen’s royal Sandringham estate. Her father holed up, silently, in his study, abandoned.

The spirit of gaiety was gone from Park House along with Frances’s furniture.” (2)

A Hazard of Hearts (1948) by Barbara Cartland

A Hazard of Hearts (1948) by Barbara Cartland

Cartland’s novels provided young Diana Spencer with an escape into a fantasy dream world. Diana came to believe in the magical rescue power of princes, waiting for her prince to ride up and take her away to her own happy ending. Her life view was shaped by this unreality and it would pitch her into a cold marriage to a man whose heart already belonged to another.

No fairy tale is complete without a wicked stepmother, and, in July, 1976, Diana got one. Her name was Raine, Countess Dartmouth. By this time, the Spencers had moved into the family’s stately home of Althorp, as Diana’s grandfather had died, passing the earldom on to Johnnie. He became the 8th Earl Spencer and Diana became Lady Diana. Raine began an extensive remodeling of Althorp, proving unpopular with Diana and her siblings, who hated their new (wicked) stepmother, calling her “Acid Raine.” Johnnie, however, became very happy after his marriage to Raine.

Princess Diana, at right, stands with stepmother, Raine, Countess Spencer, middle, and a friend. Undated photo, ca. 1977

Princess Diana, at right, stands with stepmother, Raine, Countess Spencer, middle, and a friend. Undated photo, ca. 1977

Now that you have seen this photo of Raine (above), you will not find it hard to believe that her mother was Barbara Cartland, Diana’s favorite novelist! That made Cartland Diana’s stepgrandmother. She learned of Diana’s love for her books and sent them to Diana by the cartload.

In 1977, Diana moved into Coleherne Court in South Kensington, London. Her roommates remember that she always got up before the meal was finished to clear the table. She hated dirty dishes. Diana loved to do the washing and ironing of shirts for friends. Her big sister Sarah paid her to clean her apartment. Diana was Cinderella, sweeping the hearth free of ashes.

Diana first revealed her crush on Prince Charles when on a ski holiday with friends in Val Claret in the French Alps. She surprised her friends one evening, saying that she was going to marry Charles AKA Prince Charming. According to those who knew her well, Diana kept herself chaste for her husband on their wedding night. (3)

Oxford student Adam Russell sits with Lady Diana Spencer. They are vacationing with a group in the French Alps. Russell is said to have had a ‘galumphing’ crush on Diana. Nothing, however, happened between them. According to royal author Andrew Morton, Mr Russell went travelling for a year, and when he returned to the UK in 1980 and told a friend that he liked Diana, he was told: ‘You’ve only got one rival, the Prince of Wales’. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2257321/Revealed-Mystery-rival-Prince-Charles-pictured-relaxing-Lady-Diana-1979-Old-Etonian-aristocrat-Adam-

Oxford student Adam Russell sits with Lady Diana Spencer. They are vacationing with a group in the French Alps. Russell is said to have had a ‘galumphing’ crush on Diana. Nothing, however, happened between them. According to royal author Andrew Morton, Mr Russell went travelling for a year, and when he returned to the UK in 1980 and told a friend that he liked Diana, he was told: ‘You’ve only got one rival, the Prince of Wales’. Source: The Daily Mail

And Lady Diana did indeed marry Prince Charles on July 29, 1981. Her fairy tale unfolded as she had imagined. Her father gave her away. She wore a confection of a dress with a 25 foot-long train. She rode to St. Paul’s Cathedral in a carriage. She became Her Royal Highness, Diana, Princess of Wales. When Charles became King one day, she would become his queen, and their son, a king, too.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana smile for their wedding photo. July 1981

Prince Charles and Princess Diana smile for their wedding photo. July 1981

As we all know, Diana’s life with Charles did not have a happy ending. Her marriage was miserable, ending in a nasty divorce (1996) which led to her disastrous loneliness and tragic death (1997). Diana’s story was a fractured fairy tale of the worst imaginable kind.

By the way, stepmother Raine attended the royal wedding. However, stepgrandmother Barbara Cartland – the fairy queen who nurtured this fairy tale of Diana’s – did not attend.  Someone – maybe the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret – considered her an embarrassment and did not want her there. We don’t know if she wasn’t invited OR was offered an invitation but declined because her seat was behind a column! Anyway, not being present at Diana’s wedding proved to be the biggest humiliation of Barbara Cartland’s life.

In 1993, Barbara Cartland remarked:

The only books Diana ever read were mine, and they weren’t terribly good for her.” (2)

In 1996, Cartland had figured out why the marriage had failed:

Of course, you know where it all went wrong. She wouldn’t do oral sex.”

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned….

For more about Princess Diana, click here.

(1)

(2) Brown, Tina. The Diana Chronicles. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

(3)

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What’s Prince Philip’s favorite drink? Check out our quiz to see how much you know about the Royal Family:

1. In which battle did George VI fight?
A. The First Battle of Ypres
B. The Battle of Loos
C. The Battle of Jutland
D. The Battle of Tumbledown

Queen Elizabeth II loves corgis.

2. What was the name of the first royal corgi, which was given to the Queen on her 18th birthday in 1944?

A. Sinbad
B. Susan
C. Senator
D. Sonata 

 
 

Queen Victoria celebrates her fiftieth year on the throne in 1887 at her Golden Jubilee. Queen Victoria lived from 1819-1901.

3. Who succeeded Queen Victoria?
A. Prince Albert
B. Edward VII
C. George V
D. Edward VIII

4. Of how many countries is the Queen head of state?
A. Four
B. Eight
C. 16
D. 21

5. What title did the British monarch also have until 1947?
A. King of India
B. Imperial Sovereign
C. Monarch of Asia
D. Emperor of India

6. In which naval engagement during World War II was Prince Philip mentioned in despatches?
A. Battle of Cape Matapan
B. Battle of Cape Potsandpans
C. Battle of Cape Cod
D. Battle of Barents Sea

The Duchess and Duke of Windsor in exile in France, years after the Duke AKA King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in 1936.

 7. What was Edward VIII’s relationship to his successor, George VI?
A. First cousin
B. Father
C. Elder brother
D. Younger brother

8. What was the Queen Mother’s maiden name?
A. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
B. Lady Elizabeth Glamis
C. Lady Elizabeth Bows
D. The Countess of Strathmore

9. Which king reigned throughout World War I?
A. Edward VII
B. George V
C. George VI
D. George VII

 
 
 

King George VI sits with Prince Charles of Wales. Charles was just 3 when the King died of lung cancer on Feb. 6, 1952.

10. What relation is Prince Charles to George VI?
A. Maternal grandson
B. Paternal grandson
C. Maternal nephew
D. Paternal great-grandson

11. How old was the Queen when she came to the throne?
A. 55
B. 45
C. 35
D. 25

12. Who did the Duke and Duchess of Windsor meet at Berchtesgaden in 1937?
A. Adolf Hitler
B. Charlie Chaplin
C. Tsar of Russia
D. Winston Churchill

13. In which war did Prince Andrew fight as a helicopter pilot?
A. Gulf War
B. Iraq War
C. Falklands War
D. Korean War

14. What was the name of the royal yacht decommissioned in 1997?
A. Britannia
B. Queen Elizabeth
C. Elizabeth and Philip
D. Queen Mary

15. What is Prince Philip’s favorite drink?
A. Bass
B. Brandy (Greek, of course)
C. Boddingtons
D. Bacardi

16. In which war did the Royal Family change their dynastic title from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor?
A. Boer War
B. World War I
C. World War II
D. Cold War

 
 
 

Princess Diana, spring 1997, photographed by Mario Testino

17. What was the maiden name of Diana, Princess of Wales?
A. Lady Diana Spencer
B. Diana, Lady Spencer
C. The Lady Diana
D. The Lady Spencer

18. Why is Prince Michael of Kent not in the line of succession to the throne?
A. He converted to Islam
B. He married a Roman Catholic
C. He became a Zoroastrian
D. He married without the Queen’s permission

19. What was the name of the most famous of Edward VII’s mistresses when he was Prince of Wales?
A. Lily Crabtree
B. Nell Gwynn
C. Mary Robinson
D. Lillie Langtry

20. Which monarch of the House of Windsor has reigned the longest?
A. Edward VII
B. George V
C. George VI
D. Elizabeth II

 
 
 

Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, as portrayed on a commemorative stamp

21. How old was the Queen Mother when she died in 2002?
A. 90
B. 95
C. 75
D. 101

22. Where was the then Princess Elizabeth staying when she heard of the death of her father George VI in 1952?
A. Treetops Game Reserve in Kenya
B. Stardust Casino in Las Vegas
C. Government House in Auckland, New Zealand
D. Ice Station Zebra in Antarctica

23. What post does the monarch hold in the Church of England?
A. Supreme Pontiff
B. Senior Governor
C. Supreme Ruler
D. Supreme Governor 

Queen Elizabeth's little sister, Princess Margaret, enjoying her bath.

24. Who did the Queen’s sister marry?

A. Antony Armstrong-Andrews, Lord Snowdon
B. Andrew Armstrong-Jones, Lord Mountbatten
C. Andrew Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon
D. Antony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon 

25. What was Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick, later Edward VIII, called by his family?
A. Edward
B. Bertie
C. Albert
D. David

26. Who was prime minister at the time of the Abdication Crisis?
A Stanley Baldwin
B Neville Chamberlain
C Winston Churchill
D Ramsay Macdonald

Queen Elizabeth II is greeted by Winston and Clementine Churchill as she arrives for a dinner given at 10 Downing Street on April 4, 1955. In leading his guests in the loyal toast to Her Majesty, Churchill noted that as a young cavalry officer he had proposed similar toasts during the reign of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. He resigned as Prime Minister on the following day.

27. How many prime ministers have served under the Queen?
A. 13
B. 10
C. 14
D. 12

28. Who is The Keeper of the Royal Conscience?
A. The Archbishop of Canterbury
B. Prince Philip
C. The Prince of Wales
D. Ken Clarke

ANSWERS: 1 C. 2 B. 3 B. 4 C. 5 D. 6 A. 7 C. 8 A. 9 B. 10 A. 11 D. 12 A. 13 C. 14 A. 15 C. 16 B. 17 A. 18 B. 19 D. 20 D. 21 D. 22 A. 23 D. 24 D. 25 D. 26 A. 27 A. 28 D (as Lord Chancellor).

Source: The Daily Mail, Jan. 11, 2011

Readers: For more on the British Royal Family on this blog, click here.
11th January 2011

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Queen Elizabeth and her consort Prince Philip visit Richmond, Virginia, May 3, 2007.

Prince Philip of England’s upbringing was far from normal. He was born June 10, 1921, on a kitchen table on the Greek island of Corfu in a house that had no electricity, hot water, or indoor plumbing. The only son and fifth and final child of Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark was christened Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark. The platinum blond toddler learned sign language to communicate with his deaf mother.

Prince Philip (center) with parents, ca. 1923 (Lisa’s History Room)

Prince Philip of Greece’s father was a professional soldier in the Greek Army. When Turkey invaded Greece in 1922, Prince Andrew was accused of treason; he was tried, convicted, and jailed and faced possible execution by firing squad. Princess Alice (known as Princess Andrew to English speakers) appealed to her British relative, King George V, for help. Remembering what had happened to his Russian cousin the Tsar when he had refused his cry for rescue, the King quickly dispatched the HMS Calypso to remove Andrew, his wife, their four daughters, and Baby Philip from Greece. Prince Andrew boarded the ship carrying his 18-month-old son in an orange crate. They sailed for France.

For the next eight years, Prince Philip’s family lived in exile in Paris. Philip learned to speak English, French, and German, but no Greek. His family was royal – but not rich – and depended upon the charity of relatives and friends to feed, house, clothe, and educate them while in exile from their mother country.

Prince Philip of England’s family poses for a photograph October 1928. A young Prince Philip stands to the right of his mother, Princess Alice and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. From left to right are Philip’s sisters, all Princesses of Greece & Denmark: Margarita, Theodora, Sophie, and Cecilie.

In 1930-31, the family fell completely apart. All four of Philip’s sisters, who were educated in Germany, married German noblemen and moved to Germany. Then Prince Andrew abandoned his wife and Philip and ran off to live with his mistress on her yacht anchored in the Mediterranean off Monte Carlo where Andrew quickly became addicted to the gaming tables.

Philip’s mother collapsed under the strain. She suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized in Switzerland at the famed Bellevue Sanatorium. That left little Philip all alone in Paris, with no one to care for him. He was only nine.

Philip was then sent to England to be cared for by his maternal grandmother.  But then she died. Next he moved in with his Uncle George, who, by 1938, was dead also. Philip was 17 at the time.

Then another of his maternal uncles, Lord Louis Mountbatten, British sea lord and the last Viceroy of India stepped in and took Philip under his wing. “Uncle Dickie” took an intense interest in his promising nephew. He made grand plans for him.

Prince Philip as a young midshipman in the Royal Navy, ca. late 1930s

Even though Philip was a Greek citizen, Uncle Dickie pulled a few strings so that Philip could join the Royal Navy as a midshipman. Then Uncle Dickie began to pave the way for Philip to marry the future Queen of England. In 1939, he arranged for Philip to entertain King George VI‘s two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, while the King and Queen Elizabeth toured Dartmouth Naval College.

When Princess Elizabeth met Philip, she was only 13. She fell head-over-heels in love with the tall, handsome, and athletic young man. The two became pen pals and wrote constantly to one another during the next six years of world war. He celebrated the Christmas of 1943 with her and her family at their Scottish estate, Balmoral. The press hailed the romance as the love match of the century.

I

In this July, 1951 photo (a year before King George VI’s death and Princess Elizabeth’s ascension to the British throne), Princess Elizabeth and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, arrive at Westminster Abbey to attend the wedding of Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott to Mr. Ian Hedworth Gilmour. Princess Elizabeth’s mother – who styled herself “Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother,” after her daughter became Queen Elizabeth II – had a fussy, overdressed sense of fashion. Her hats were generally broadbrimmed, trimmed in lace or swaths of chiffon, or piled high with feathers. Her neckline was often V-shaped and adorned with her trademark triple strand of pearls. Her dresses were feminine, flirty, and accented by enormous brooches and rings. As she aged, she dressed in fruity colors like pink, lime, and yellow. Her dresses and hats always matched in color. Her girlish style, peaches-and-cream complexion, pudginess, and sunny smile suggested a sweetness and wholesomeness that made her extremely popular at home and abroad. The Queen Mother, nee Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, died in her sleep in 2002 at the age of 101. (Lisa’s History Room)

It was no surprise when, on July 9, 1947, the Palace announced that Prince Philip of Greece and Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain were officially engaged. Philip was 26; Elizabeth, 21. The wedding was set for November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey. The King and Queen were not wild about the idea of Elizabeth marrying before the age of 25, but it didn’t matter what they wanted. Elizabeth wanted Philip and she was going to have him.

Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain and Prince Philip of Greece announce their engagement, July 9, 1947. (Lisa’s History Room)

Buckingham Palace shifted into high gear planning the royal wedding:

“This was not simple a marriage ceremony, but an affair of state that would focus world attention on the British monarchy. Consequently the King and Queen told him [Prince Philip] that his sisters and their German husbands, some of whom had supported Hitler’s Third Reich, could not possibly be included. So they remained in Germany and listened to the service on the radio.” (1)

Still focused on the guest list, the Queen addressed the issue of Philip’s mother, Princess Andrew, whom she considered “pleasant but odd.” Although Philip’s mother had had nothing to do with Philip since he was 9, Princess Andrew had nevertheless been quite busy while others raised her son. After several years of Swiss therapy in the early 1930s, she had rejoined society and taken up charitable works. During WWII, she saved a Jewish family named Cohen from being sent to the death camp by sheltering them in her Greek home.

After the war, Princess Andrew founded a religious order called the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary dedicated to helping the sick and the needy in Greece. Princess Andrew became a nun, taking a vow of celibacy, although she had born 5 children. She had a habit – a nun’s habit – that she wore all the time. It consisted of a drab gray robe, white wimple, cord, and rosary beads. She was commonly referred to as “Sister Andrew.”

Queen Elizabeth was understandably terrified that Princess Andrew would show up at the wedding at Westminster Abbey wearing her nun’s habit and embarrassing the family in a large way. The Queen pressed the issue with Philip. As a result, Princess Andrew appeared at her son’s wedding wearing a demure hat and a simple silk dress, which the Queen later described as “very pretty and most appropriate.”

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip marry on November 20, 1947

Six years later King George VI was dead. Elizabeth and Philip returned to Westminster Abbey for Elizabeth to be crowned Queen.

The coronation was held on June 2, 1953 and televised, at Elizabeth’s request, so that all her subjects could see her crowned. Twenty million viewers watched the seven-hour BBC-TV marathon. The ceremony began as the guests began their stately procession down the long aisle of Westminster Abbey, ahead of the Queen, to take their seats.

Prince Philip’s mother was among the guests. She turned heads as she processed up the aisle wearing a long grey dress and a flowing head-dress that looked remarkably like a nun’s habit! She had had it especially made for the coronation.

Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Prince Philip’s mother (bottom left) processes down the aisle of Westminster Abbey for her daughter-in-law Elizabeth’s coronation as Queen Regnant of Great Britain. June 1953. Princess Andrew is dressed in an outfit resembling her usual attire – a nun’s habit. (Lisa’s History Room)

Princess Andrew, 1965

Princess Andrew died at Buckingham Palace in 1969. According to her wishes, she was buried in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. On October 31, 1994, Princess Andrew’s two surviving children, Prince Philip and Sophie, Princess George of Hanover, went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, in Jerusalem to witness a ceremony honouring their mother. Princess Andrew was called “Righteous among the Nations” for having hidden a Jewish family in her home in Athens during WWII.

(1) Kelley, Kitty. The Royals. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1997.

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Shown in the photograph is Queen Mary (1867-1953), grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Mary was a manic collector of jewelry and other fine pieces. During the reign of her husband, King George V (1865-1936), she vastly expanded the Royal Collection, often from the houses of friends. Mary is shown here wearing “the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara” which is also referred to as “Granny’s Tiara,” which she gave to Elizabeth in 1947, the year she married Prince Philip.

Shown in the photograph is Queen Mary (1867-1953), grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Mary was a manic collector of jewelry and other fine pieces. During the reign of her husband, King George V (1865-1936), she vastly expanded the Royal Collection, often from the houses of friends. Mary is shown here wearing “the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara” which is also referred to as “Granny’s Tiara,” which she gave to Elizabeth in 1947, the year she married Prince Philip.

Queen Mary was Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother. She was married to George V. George V was the father of Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, who preceded Queen Elizabeth on the throne.

Queen Mary got it wrong. One is supposed to “love people and use things.” She did the very opposite. Mary loved things and used people. The Queen had an “emotional lurch of the heart when she saw beautiful jewels,” but hated to pay for them. On seeing something she coveted, she said, “I’m caressing it with my eyes.” But it didn’t stop there. She acquired jewels, furniture, Faberge animals, watches, and gold musical boxes by means that ranged from begging to extortion to outright theft. She loved to visit India where the “maharajas handed out jewels like blackberries.” (1)

Antique dealers, jewellers, and estate owners locked away their valuables before Queen Mary came calling. If she spied a small silver vase or a china plate that she fancied, she would hint that she expected to be given it as a gift. At that point, the host or proprietor had no choice but to hand it over to the Queen. The Queen then instructed her chauffeur to put her new bauble in the car to add to the Royal Collection.

One day Queen Mary almost met her match. She was taking tea one late afternoon with Old Lady Hudson. The Queen began admiring a set of chairs that belonged to Lady Hudson. The chairs were painted by Angelica Kauffman. The Queen remarked that Lady Hudson’s chairs would go splendidly with the Kauffman table she owned. Lady Hudson no doubt smiled but did not offer her chairs to Queen Mary. The clock ticked on. Queen Mary continued to sip her tea. The sun went down. Queen Mary still showed no sign of getting up and departing.

More time passed. Finally, when the clock struck nine o’clock, Lady Hudson capitulated. She had held on valiantly, but, at the end, she was an old woman and she was ready for the Queen to go home. So  “the chairs went off in the royal Daimler.” (1)

At times, when Queen Mary wasn’t given something she desired, it is rumored she went ahead and stole it.

In the early  20th Century, wearing expensive jewelry was a way of defining status and Queen Mary was all about defining status – her status – as an elevated member of society. She was born the daughter of two royals who frittered away their money, infuriating their benefactress Queen Victoria, resulting in the whole family being tossed out of their apartments at Kensington Palace and run out of London. Mary ended up studying in Italy. Years passed and Mary returned to England. Queen Victoria cast her eye about looking for a suitable spouse for her grandson George, second in line for the throne. She selected Princess Mary, seeing in her “queen potential.” Upon the death of King Edward VII in 1910, George ascended the throne and Mary became his Queen.

Queen Mary with granddaughters, the Princesses Margaret Rose and Elizabeth

Queen Mary with granddaughters, the Princess Margaret Rose and the future Queen Elizabeth II

Mary then set about to fulfill the potential seen in her by Queen Victoria and to become as royal as royal could be. She proceeded to outdazzle the royals around her, projecting such a flawless image of majesty that, to many, she ceased to be human. She was so decorated and gem-encrusted that, “at Lord Harewood’s wedding, a myopic E.M. Forster bowed to the iced and many-tiered cake under the impression that it was Queen Mary.” (1)

Queen Mary was so busy collecting, carrying out her royal duties, and hobnobbing with nobility that she had little time for motherhood, though she had borne six children. She had no passion for them. She left their care to cruel servants who pinched them. She did not kiss, cuddle, or hug her children. They were all starved of love, particularly her youngest child, John, born handicapped and epileptic. He was hidden away in a cottage with caregivers until his death at fourteen.

Upon her death from lung cancer in 1953, her son, David, Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, remarked:

I somehow feel that the fluids in her veins must always have been as icy-cold as they now are in death.
(1) Brendon, Piers and Whitehead, Phillip. The Windsors: A Dynasty Revealed. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1994)

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