Column on…Lady Glenconner

PM. Fond of both silly hats and crosswords.
Beano recently, having chewed a black pen and given himself a beard.

More about Lady Glenconner from my Sun Tel column below. I realise I sound obsessed with her but the book’s a hoot.


I’ve made three friends in Norfolk. One of them is Kate, the lady who runs the excellent bookshop in Burnham Market. I nipped in a couple of weeks ago to see if she had any copies of Lady Glenconner’s much-discussed new memoir. The former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret lives nearby and has become a local celebrity, especially after her appearance on The Graham Norton show last weekend when she shocked Olivia Colman with tales of her dismal Parisian honeymoon. I won’t ruin the story here. Read it for yourself.

‘She says your grandparents are in the book,’ said Kate told me, having spoken to Lady Glenconner that morning.

Ah. I knew that my grandfather had connections with Mustique, the island that Lady Glenconner’s late husband Colin turned into a glamorous holiday isle, but I wasn’t sure of the details. Was there scandal and bad behaviour? Was my grandfather about to be unmasked as a bounder who partied on the infamous island where Princess Margaret once appeared on the arm of a man dressed only in a codpiece made from a golden coconut shell?

Visions of The Honourable Galahad Threepwood swum before me. PG Wodehouse fans will recognise him as Lord Emsworth’s younger brother and the subject of the plot in Summer Lightning. Gally had a wild youth and is writing his memoirs. The family are concerned about these revelations; there was a particularly unfortunate incident involving Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe and prawns at Ascot one year. Various characters gather at Blandings, some charged with stealing this book to prevent its publication, and Wodehousian chaos follows. It’s a scream.

As is Lady Glenconner’s terrific book. I needn’t have worried since all it mentions is that my step-mother imported ‘a boatload of horses’ to Mustique and that my grandpa used to fly them to St Vincent for supplies in a tinny little plane, his wife equipped with a bottle of gin and Colin with a snorkel and mask in case they plummeted into the sea.

Were the horses much use on a tropical island, I asked Lady Glenconner over a cup of tea on Thursday. She was doing a signing at Holkham Hall, the Palladian house in which she grew up. ‘Well, sort of,’ she said, laughing. She said she’s having such a gas promoting her book (tours of America and New Zealand are being organised), and it’s selling so well that her publishers are keen on a follow-up. Apparently there are plenty of aristocratic high-jinks she left out, so Grandpa may not yet be in the clear.

Almost inevitably, the Mitfords squabbled over their various memoirs. Debo, the late Duchess of Devonshire, talked of the ‘malicious imaginings’ of her sisters Nancy and Decca. ‘Odd that Muv and Farve, the 2 most honest people born, could have produced 2 such fancifiers,’ she wrote to Diana in 1991.

Perhaps it’s better to say too much than too little? In 1997, my mother’s father, Bill Deedes, proudly sent his editor the first draft of his autobiography. It was full of derring-do, tales of war reporting and his role in the war, but scant on a few other specifics. ‘Our family weren’t so much outraged as invisible,’ jokes my mother, for Bill’s editor had just one question: ‘were you married?’


On the subject of Princess Margaret, did you know she could complete a crossword in 11 minutes? This little nugget has been revealed by Helena Bonham-Carter, who plays her in the latest series of The Crown (released on Netflix today). In 1954, PM entered the Good Housekeeping crossword competition and won first prize, although I can’t find any trace of what this prize was. Is there a reader who could enlighten us? I myself have never completed a crossword which obviously marks me as a total dunce but I suspect there may be Telegraph fiends who could give her a run for her money. Any advance on 11 minutes?


Finally a festival I can get behind. The Duke of Richmond is launching a festival of dogs next year. Called ‘Goodwoof’ (see what they did there?), it’s aiming to build on the success of Glorious Goodwood and the estate’s various car festivals. Around 12,000 dogs are expected to descend over the May bank holiday to enjoy the stalls flogging dog food, doggie demonstrations, competitions and so on. My mum lives half an hour away so I’m hoping to pinch her terrier puppy, Beano, and go along. The only trouble is Beano’s recently been expelled from puppy school for trying to roger the others. If you’re planning on attending too, apologies in advance from both of us.

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