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“Men in my life haven’t come out too well”

Glenconner, third from left, as a maid of honour at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation day in June 1953. Keystone/Getty

On the face of it, Anne Glenconner has led a charmed life, says Henry Mance in the FT. Born into an aristocratic family, the 89-year-old spent three decades as Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting and hung out with the likes of Mick Jagger on the Caribbean island of Mustique. But while “her fortunes have been extreme, so have her misfortunes”.

Glenconner’s late husband, a charismatic but cruel aristocrat called Colin Tennant, was so open about his mistresses that he used to complain to her about them. She took it in her stride: “One knew that men have affairs. And if it gets too bad, then one has one oneself.” But Tennant also had a violent side. Glenconner says he used to beat her up with sticks – so much so that she is permanently deaf in one ear. The rest of her family life was no easier. Their two eldest sons died – one was a heroin addict, the other had HIV – and their third was left severely injured after a motorbike accident. “Men in my life haven’t come out too well,” she says.

When Tennant died in 2010, it was revealed he had cut Glenconner and their children out of his will and left his land on Mustique to his valet. It was, she admits, another “humiliation”. Yet she remains fabulously upbeat. She has blossomed in her late eighties, publishing two novels and a memoir (Lady in Waiting) that has sold more than half a million copies. “I’ve been in the shadow all my life,” she says. “Suddenly, yippee, I came out with a bang.”

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