A Summer Read Fit For A Royal

A Summer Read Fit For A Royal

By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

A good read, I think, is as good as a good movie — and one of the best parts about relaxing with a book is that the read can last longer than the film.

In these days of at-home solitude, I find that sitting outdoors with a good book is a wonderful way to spend a few hours. And my latest good-read suggestion is Lady Anne Glenconner’s new release, “Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown.”

The book is about Lady Anne’s life in service to the late Princess Margaret, and it is a page-turner, filled with humor and tragedy.

“Lady in Waiting” is also a photographic scrapbook. And it’s timely, considering the popularity of the television series “The Crown,” which has spotlighted the public and private lives of Great Britain’s royal family in the past few years.

I had met Princess Margaret on a couple of occasions, and while both were rather celebratory events, Lady Anne shows in detail the princess’ more private hours, painting a portrait of the loving, warm and less formal times of this royal. She includes details of the princess’ ill-fated love affair with Captain Peter Townsend.

She also gives insights into Princess Margaret’s roller-coaster marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones and its demise. Princess Margaret certainly had plenty of sadness in her relationship with the bohemian photographer, but to her credit, Lady Anne shows, she rose above the despair to find happiness and joy within her circle of friends.

The author also writes about the island of Mustique, which Lady Anne and her husband, Lord Colin Tennant, developed. Having visited Mustique some years ago when Princess Margaret’s home — designed by the late Oliver Messel — had been completed, I can say that the villas on the island recall a fantasy “My Fair Lady” setting with spectacular views. This spot is as charming and original as one can possibly imagine.

Mustique’s sandy beaches and rich flora were the magic that attracted folk such as Harding Lawrence of Braniff Airlines fame and his wife, advertising guru Mary Wells. Mick and Bianca Jagger and daughter Jade also joined the group of neighbors.

Without question, the talents of Lord Colin and Messel transformed Mustique into an intimate island holiday resort. I wish every island resort could feature such laid-back luxury and beauty.

Princess Margaret gave the house to her son, David Armstrong-Jones, and his wife, Serena. David later sold the property to a Canadian family, one of two sales the property has seen.

I'm not sure how many people know that Princess Margaret was an avid shell collector. In her residences in both Mustique and London, her tabletops and display shelves showcased shells from all over the world.

In Palm Beach, especially, so many of us appreciate the beauty of shells, whether they're collected on Florida's coasts or across the globe. Shells are not only jewels of the sea but also highly prized decorative accessories.

If you enjoy shelling, think about filling a glass apothecary jar with your collection. Or maybe you'll fill a glass ginger jar with shells and turn it into a bedside lamp. I know some designers use shells as detail decorations around doors and as crown moldings. And I love a shell-covered frame on a wall mirror.

When looking for a project to add beauty to any room, remember Princess Margaret's home remedy and decorate with shells. and when thinking of a good choice for summer reading, don't forget the page-turner "Lady in Waiting".


  • Jolyon Ward on

    Dear Carleton – The book sounds like a great read. You have now solved what I will be buying for my Mother for her Birthday present.
    Best wishes,


  • Wendy on

    Fascinating article ! I collect shells too but had no idea Princess Margaret did!! Love your decorating ideas with them!!!

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