Princess Margaret confidante reveals how turned Mustique from wasteland to a hedonistic playground

On Saturday, in our first extract from her joyous new memoir, Princess Margaret’s closest confidante painted an intimate portrait of her remarkable relationship with the Queen’s sister — from pottering about in the garden to sharing secrets about their cheating husbands. 

Here, in the second part of our exclusive serialisation, Lady Anne reveals how her idyllic Caribbean paradise became a celebrity hotspot…

We were on holiday in Trinidad when my husband Colin heard about the Caribbean island of Mustique. 

After sailing round it he bought it for £45,000 — without even having set foot on it.

It had no running water and no electricity, and only about a dozen acres were under cultivation, growing cotton. 

Lady Anne Glenconner reveals how her idyllic Caribbean paradise of Mustique became a celebrity hotspot. Above: Princess Margaret centre stage on the island in 1986 between Lady Anne (far right) and her husband Colin Tennant (left)

Lady Anne Glenconner reveals how her idyllic Caribbean paradise of Mustique became a celebrity hotspot. Above: Princess Margaret centre stage on the island in 1986 between Lady Anne (far right) and her husband Colin Tennant (left)

Lady Anne Glenconner reveals how her idyllic Caribbean paradise of Mustique became a celebrity hotspot. Above: Princess Margaret centre stage on the island in 1986 between Lady Anne (far right) and her husband Colin Tennant (left) 

The rest of the island’s 1,300 acres or so were frazzled to a crisp.

Anybody else who had considered buying it must have concluded it was a non-starter, because by then — 1958 — it had been on the market for five years.

When Colin turned to me and asked what I thought, I didn’t hold back. ‘Colin,’ I said, ‘this is sheer madness!’ 

He looked at me. ‘You mark my words, Anne,’ he said defiantly. ‘I will make Mustique a household name.’

It was only the bravest of friends who visited in the early years. Among them was Princess Margaret. 

After she and Tony Armstrong-Jones married in 1960, they set off on a six-month tour of the Caribbean on the Royal Yacht Britannia and made their way to Mustique.

A smart little boat came to shore and a man in white naval uniform appeared at the door with an invitation to dine on the yacht.

A Royally Revealing Costume

In the daytime, Princess Margaret would wear one of her many whale-boned swimming costumes with a short skirt.

I began to notice that whispers circulated whenever she got out of the water.

I soon realised it was because her swimming costumes were transparent when wet. 

Approaching the subject delicately, I said: ‘Ma’am, I wonder whether you are aware that your swimming costume is rather see-through. 

‘Perhaps I could get it lined for you.’

‘Oh, Anne,’ she said, somewhat exasperated.

‘I don’t care. If they want to look, they can look.’

And that was that.

I wrote back, saying, ‘Ma’am, it is very, very kind. We’d absolutely love to, but we haven’t had a bath for about two months and we really, really stink.’

A reply came, saying they quite understood but wished for our company regardless and would have a cabin put at our disposal. 

I was thrilled and took the opportunity to soak, for quite some time, in the bath. It was bliss.

The next day, we took them on a tour of the island. For the rest of their stay, we invited them to use any beach they liked, and reassured them that they would be left undisturbed.

On the last day, they came and had a drink with us. That was the moment when Colin said, ‘Ma’am, we haven’t given you a wedding present. 

‘Would you like something in a little box or would you like a piece of land?’

Princess Margaret turned to Tony and made up her mind without waiting for him to respond. ‘Oh, I think a piece of land would be just wonderful,’ she said.

It was Tony’s first and last visit. Years later, someone asked him about Colin and he blurted out that he had always detested him. 

Apparently, he referred to Mustique as ‘Mustake’. But for Princess Margaret, Mustique would eventually end up providing her with a whole new life.

Out of the blue one day at the beginning of 1968, she rang Colin to ask: ‘Did you really mean it about the land?’

‘Yes,’ replied Colin, thrilled that she was taking an interest.

‘And does it come with a house?’ Princess Margaret asked.

Colin, not wanting to disappoint, replied that he would build her a house. She was delighted, saying she would come out to Mustique to see the land.

She arrived with no fuss a few months later, happily using the bucket of water in the trees to shower, just like we did. 

The food, too, was basic: although we had fresh fish, everything else was tinned. She didn’t seem to mind.

The Queen's first visit was in 1977 with the Duke of Edinburgh, who always made me nervous, writes Lady Anne Glenconner. Above: The Queen stands alongside Princess Margaret (right) with Prince Philip walking behind (left)

The Queen's first visit was in 1977 with the Duke of Edinburgh, who always made me nervous, writes Lady Anne Glenconner. Above: The Queen stands alongside Princess Margaret (right) with Prince Philip walking behind (left)

The Queen’s first visit was in 1977 with the Duke of Edinburgh, who always made me nervous, writes Lady Anne Glenconner. Above: The Queen stands alongside Princess Margaret (right) with Prince Philip walking behind (left)

We had no proper furniture, so we sat on plastic or wicker chairs, playing cards when the light wasn’t good enough to read.

Mosquito nets covered the beds, and during the night we were inundated with some extraordinary mice. 

Princess Margaret called them ‘flying mice’ because they would rush up to the net, then jump to the next one in great leaps that seemed to defy the laws of gravity.

She was surprisingly adaptable —and very excited when we took her to Gelliceaux Point at the top of the island, where her house would be built. 

Colin suggested it because it was difficult for people to get to, therefore more secure.

Of course, this meant that it was also difficult for us to get to and it was covered with scrub.

I offered her a pair of Colin’s cotton pyjamas. 

There she was, clambering up the hill, wearing Colin’s pyjamas, with string tied around her ankles and wrists to stop the brambles scratching and the mosquitoes biting.

She wore wide sunglasses, a straw hat and a big smile, not minding at all. She wasn’t vain. She just got on with things.

Even though it was basic, and for years there were no celebrities and no grandeur on the island, she had privacy. A bolthole.

She became increasingly excited about her house’s completion and when we were both in London in the months leading up to it being finished, rang me several times to ask me to go shopping with her.

Lady Anne and Colin Tennant turned Mustique into a celebrity magnet, with David Bowie buying a villa and a host of others including Bryan Adams visiting. Above: Lady Anne poses between the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and actor Rupert Everett

Lady Anne and Colin Tennant turned Mustique into a celebrity magnet, with David Bowie buying a villa and a host of others including Bryan Adams visiting. Above: Lady Anne poses between the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and actor Rupert Everett

Lady Anne and Colin Tennant turned Mustique into a celebrity magnet, with David Bowie buying a villa and a host of others including Bryan Adams visiting. Above: Lady Anne poses between the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and actor Rupert Everett 

I had been delighted at the invitation, looking forward to going to Colefax & Fowler or some other glamorous place. But she always chose Peter Jones — it was all very low key — and she chose mostly white furniture and Laura Ashley-type curtains.

In February 1972, she came to stay in her newly completed house, naming it Les Jolies Eaux — French for ‘pretty waters’. 

It was the only house she ever owned and it made her very happy, because apart from being beautiful it provided her with an independent base from her husband.

Not only was Tony prone to mood swings, like Colin, they were both also having affairs. 

We complained to each other but without over-indulging, speaking bluntly — then, brushing our troubles aside, concentrated on doing the things we enjoyed.

She loved collecting shells to decorate tables, so we would comb the beach, then take them back to the house to clean. 

It is surprising how such activities can have a calming effect and divert attention from any difficulties.

The Queen’s first visit was in 1977 with the Duke of Edinburgh, who always made me nervous. 

He made everyone nervous and knew it. The first thing he said to Colin when he came ashore from Britannia was: ‘I can see you’ve ruined the island.’

Colin was dashed by the remark, especially because he had gone to such lengths to plan the itinerary with the Duke in mind, including snorkelling with sharks.

Lady Anne, Princess Margaret and Lord Glenconner wait on the jetty to greet the Queen arriving on Mustique on the Royal Yacht during her Silver Jubilee tour of the West Indies

Lady Anne, Princess Margaret and Lord Glenconner wait on the jetty to greet the Queen arriving on Mustique on the Royal Yacht during her Silver Jubilee tour of the West Indies

 Lady Anne, Princess Margaret and Lord Glenconner wait on the jetty to greet the Queen arriving on Mustique on the Royal Yacht during her Silver Jubilee tour of the West Indies

The planning paid off because when he was leaving, he turned to Colin, saying: ‘I really like your island. I really loved my time here.’

The next week, Nick Courtney, the general manager of the island’s management company, was showing people around the island, and when he got to Macaroni Bay, he said: ‘The Queen swam here last week, and we haven’t changed the water since.’ Mustique seemed to be a hit with everyone.

But I quietly resented the parties that Colin continued to throw because of the expense. Some of them cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The money was haemorrhaging out. When we needed more, Colin would simply sell a painting or two. 

By the time the Peacock Ball was being organised in the mid-Eighties, Colin had sold anything hugely valuable and was running out of options.

But he said it was all worth it because the parties made Mustique famous and therefore more profitable. 

I think from that point of view he was proved right: it attracted the top rock stars, from David Bowie, who bought Mandalay Villa, to Bryan Ferry and Bryan Adams, as well as multitudes of celebrities from all over the world.

Ever since Mick Jagger bought his house, now 30 years ago, he has made an effort to be part of the local community, giving money for a new school and joining in with village life by playing cricket. 

Quite often we’d go into Basil’s Bar and find Mick joining in with a live singer.

One New Year, we organised a skit in which Mick was the doctor and we told everybody he was looking for people to play patients. 

Of course the whole community turned up, wanting to be cast for the part.

Princess Margaret loved the island of Mustique and holidayed there every year for thirty years. Above: Lord Glenconner poses with his arm around Margaret on Mustique in 1986

Princess Margaret loved the island of Mustique and holidayed there every year for thirty years. Above: Lord Glenconner poses with his arm around Margaret on Mustique in 1986

Princess Margaret loved the island of Mustique and holidayed there every year for thirty years. Above: Lord Glenconner poses with his arm around Margaret on Mustique in 1986

David Bowie, too, was a very charming man, immediately sitting my twins on his lap the first Easter he was there, completely at ease with everyone as though we were all old friends.

Today, it still attracts the same sort of people as it did all those years ago. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge take their children, the newest generation of Jaggers have grown up there, and people from the fashion world are still drawn to it, from Poppy and Cara Delevingne to Tom Ford, who named one of his pink lipsticks ‘Mustique’.

Amazing, really, because it still hasn’t got all the mod-cons that other places have.

There is a small supermarket but nothing major, and there is no golf course or marina and not a single nightclub.

I think the reason it’s so popular is that it has kept Colin’s distinctive bohemian spirit and adopted it as its own.

By the mid-seventies, a steady trickle of articles was being published about how Mustique was the new ‘place to go’.

This was a huge exaggeration — but it was easy to believe.

Colin decided that if he threw extravagant parties, people would hear about them and want to be invited to these ‘Caribbean Spectaculars’. 

But out of all the parties, his 50th birthday Golden Ball, in 1976, was the one that secured Mustique the label of being the hedonistic paradise for the rich and famous.

It did look spectacular. Everything was gold — the trees had been painted, the grass sprayed, and even the beach was covered with gold glitter. 

Colin got some of the local lads oiled up, and they wore nothing except a gold-painted coconut strategically placed down below.

That night made Mustique famous for ever, mainly down to the golden boys dancing around Princess Margaret.

And commercially it worked: directly after the party, Mick Jagger bought a villa called L’Ansecoy. 

(He also invited Margaret and me to a Rolling Stones concert in London. It was so loud that we kept our fingers in our ears the whole time.)

The parties continued over the years, the most splendid being Colin’s 60th birthday party, in 1986, which he spent two years planning.

Jerry Hall, who by then had replaced Bianca Jagger, sashayed in wearing an almost identical dress to mine, remarking: ‘You have the same colour as me.’

I wanted to say to Jerry: ‘No, you have the same colour as me’ — but I didn’t.

Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting recalls the moment she found out her husband Lord Glenconner had left his £22m St Lucia estate to his servant

 By Lady Anne Glenconner, Princess Margaret’s Lady-in-waiting for the Daily Mail

Some of the happiest times that Princess Margaret and I shared were on Mustique, and we went there every February for 30 years.

But by the time the Eighties came to an end, things had changed. Colin had sold more and more shares and had less and less say in how Mustique was run.

In 1987 he moved to St Lucia, where he invested in an undeveloped 480-acre estate. He wanted to create somewhere else as spectacular as Mustique.

Lord Glenconner left his entire estate, including Mustique, to his manservant Kent (left), whom he had become more and more reliant on

Lord Glenconner left his entire estate, including Mustique, to his manservant Kent (left), whom he had become more and more reliant on

Lord Glenconner left his entire estate, including Mustique, to his manservant Kent (left), whom he had become more and more reliant on

Shortly after moving to St Lucia, Colin — who had inherited the title 3rd Baron Glenconner following the death of his father in 1983 — saw an advertisement for an elephant for sale at Dublin Zoo and spontaneously bought it, organising its shipment to St Lucia.

He named her Boopa and her arrival, on a ship importing bricks, was a big event because she was the first elephant to come to the Caribbean.

Everybody flocked to the beach, and many of the young men on the island wanted to be her keeper, bustling and waving to try to get Colin’s attention.

Among them, he saw a boy with very big ears and picked him on the spot. The boy’s name was Kent.

Over the years, Colin became more and more reliant on Kent for pretty much everything, especially as by then I was around much less than I had been.

In 1987, our then 19-year-old son Christopher had a terrible motorcycle accident, which left him so brain damaged that he was like a small child.

My whole life became bound up in trying to save his. I was convinced that if I gave him all of my attention, he just might be all right.

In time he did make a remarkable recovery. He also got married, but when Colin moved to St Lucia permanently, I remained in England so as not to be too far away from him.

When, some years later, the marriage failed, Christopher came to stay in my farmhouse in Norfolk (and subsequently met and married a local woman, Johanna, with whom he is blissfully happy).

Kent devoted his life to Colin, who in return was generous, giving him two hotels and paying him well.

Although Colin had improved since the early days of our marriage, he was still highly strung. 

On one particular occasion, he became hysterical under the most embarrassing circumstances.

He had taken me and Kent to Italy and organised an evening in Verona to see Nabucco, one of my favourite operas.

Kent, who was mad about football, went off to watch a match on TV instead.

The evening was going well until halfway through the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves in the third act, when, to my horror, Colin started to wail and scream.

‘Colin, what is the matter?’ I asked.

‘I wish Kent was here,’ he wailed.

Lord Glenconner sits on an elephant his twin daughters Amy and Mary on the island of St Lucia, in the West Indies, in 1994

Lord Glenconner sits on an elephant his twin daughters Amy and Mary on the island of St Lucia, in the West Indies, in 1994

Lord Glenconner sits on an elephant his twin daughters Amy and Mary on the island of St Lucia, in the West Indies, in 1994 

‘Honestly, I don’t think Kent would enjoy it, but I am here.’ But still Colin continued to wail: ‘No, no, I want Kent!’

By this time, more and more of the audience were turning their heads in our direction. 

Seeing the rug over Colin’s knees, I threw it over his head, hoping it would shut him up.

With his wails now muffled, the audience turned their attention back to the stage. 

Shrinking into my seat, I hoped the saga was over — but the worst embarrassment was yet to come.

When the chorus finally ended, the conductor turned to the audience and announced: ‘Under the circumstances, I think we will have to have that again.’

I was utterly mortified.

By 2010, Colin had prostate cancer but he was adamant that no one should find out. 

He had always had the idea that people didn’t want to do business with someone who looked ill or old.

That summer, I went out to St Lucia to look after him and stayed for several weeks. 

As he recovered slowly, he was relaxed and loving. With commitments in Norfolk, I went home with the intention of coming back a week or so later. 

On August 27, 2010, three days after I’d left, he had a massive heart attack and died. I was completely shocked.

As I flew back to St Lucia to organise the funeral, I found it hard to imagine a world without him. 

Colin was a uniquely difficult and brilliant man in equal measure. But somehow, despite his endless affairs and histrionics, there was an overriding loyalty, a friendship that bound us together, no matter what.

On St Lucia it is customary for a will to be read quickly, so that night I waited for the lawyer. 

Everything that belonged to Colin, whether sentimental or valuable, he had left solely to Kent. Above: Lord Glenconner in 2009

Everything that belonged to Colin, whether sentimental or valuable, he had left solely to Kent. Above: Lord Glenconner in 2009

Everything that belonged to Colin, whether sentimental or valuable, he had left solely to Kent. Above: Lord Glenconner in 2009

I was apprehensive and a little worried about it, as Colin’s lawyer had told me: ‘I believe Lord Glenconner made a new will seven months ago with a lawyer from Soufrière.’

My heart sank when the new lawyer turned up. He barely kept eye contact and was very fidgety as I stood with my daughter-in-law, Sheilagh, whose son Cody was the heir presumptive.

He got out a single piece of paper and read aloud: ‘I hereby leave everything to Kent Adonai, and I trust he will carry out my wishes towards the family.’

I thought my heart was going to stop.

Afterwards I found Kent, and as calmly as I could, I said, ‘Well, Kent, I hope you will carry out Lord Glenconner’s wishes to us all.’

He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I don’t know what Lord Glenconner meant.’ I knew then that we truly stood to lose everything.

Lord Glenconner, who died in 2010, stands outside the restaurant he owned on the island of St Lucia

Lord Glenconner, who died in 2010, stands outside the restaurant he owned on the island of St Lucia

Lord Glenconner, who died in 2010, stands outside the restaurant he owned on the island of St Lucia

Later, I stood on the balcony of the house that no longer belonged to us. Fifty-four years. 

Five children. A marriage filled with Colin throwing as many tantrums as he threw parties.

And now, after all I’d been through, this. It was such a terrible humiliation. And to do it to our children …

I despaired. Going against everything my mother had always taught me, I let emotion take over and I screamed and screamed into the pitch-black night.

Everything that belonged to Colin, whether sentimental or valuable, he had left solely to Kent. 

The only thing the family had left was Glen, the Scottish estate, left in trust to my grandson Euan. He is the son of our second son, Henry, who died from Aids in 1990.

But the heir to the barony and the Caribbean assets is Cody, the son of our eldest son Charlie, a reformed heroin addict who died from hepatitis C in 1996.

Cody and his mother disputed the will. In the end it took seven years to resolve. While Kent kept a huge amount of land and money, about half of Colin’s estate was handed to Cody.

I still find it impossible to tell whether Colin intended to leave us all with nothing. It is entirely possible that he did it on purpose, as some sort of horrible stunt which would secure his reputation as a memorable eccentric.

It is also possible he didn’t understand what he was doing in the last few months of his life. I will never know for sure.

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