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Lady in Waiting

My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown

By Anne Glenconner
15-minute read
Audio available
Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

In Lady in Waiting (2019), Lady Anne Glenconner draws back the curtain on royal life in Britain. Glenconner was lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret for over 30 years. As companion and confidante to the princess, she gleaned a unique perspective on Margaret’s glamorous, scandalous, and secretive life.

  • Royal-watchers keen to go behind closed doors at Kensington Palace
  • Fans of Netflix’s The Crown who want to get the real scoop on Margaret
  • Anyone with an appetite for upper-class English gossip

Lady Anne Glenconner was born in 1932, the eldest daughter of the fifth Earl of Leicester. She was a Maid of Honour at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. She served as lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret from 1971 until the princess’s death in 2002. 

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Lady in Waiting

My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown

By Anne Glenconner
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner
Synopsis

In Lady in Waiting (2019), Lady Anne Glenconner draws back the curtain on royal life in Britain. Glenconner was lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret for over 30 years. As companion and confidante to the princess, she gleaned a unique perspective on Margaret’s glamorous, scandalous, and secretive life.

Key idea 1 of 9

Courtiers hold prestigious positions and are generally selected from an exclusive group of noble British families.

Can you remember a moment your life changed forever? Lady Anne Glenconner can.

In November 1952, at nineteen, the British debutante Lady Anne Glenconner set sail from London to New York. Stateside, she moved in exclusive social circles, rubbing shoulders with movie execs and film stars like Bette Davis and Bob Hope. But early one morning in February 1953, she received a telegram that would change the course of her life. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the ceremony in which she was formally crowned, would be held in a few months. Elizabeth had named Anne as one of her maids of honor, which meant she would act as one of Elizabeth’s attendants during the ceremony.

The key message here is: Courtiers hold prestigious positions and are generally selected from an exclusive group of noble British families.

Conventionally, members of the British royal family employ a personal staff of courtiers. These courtiers include equerries, senior attendants drawn from the armed forces; grooms of the robes, who are responsible for handling ceremonial royal clothing; and ladies-in-waiting, who are female attendants to female royals. While these might sound like roles for servants, they actually confer prestige. The royals usually bestow them upon trusted friends from noble families, and the titles are often passed down from one generation to the next.

So, while Anne was pleasantly surprised by this assignment, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. After all, her father had been equerry to King George. Soon thereafter, she returned to England to fulfill her royal duty.

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was held on June 2, 1953, at Westminster Abbey, before an audience of eight thousand people. It was the first coronation to be fully televised, and millions more watched at home.

During the coronation, Anne helped Elizabeth with her enormous train, which was over twenty-one feet long and embroidered with the emblems of all the countries in the British commonwealth. Anne also kept vials of smelling salts tucked into her gloves, just in case Elizabeth felt faint.

Though Anne remembers the post-coronation celebrations at Buckingham Palace as a cheerful affair, there was one exception. Princess Margaret, the Queen’s younger sister, appeared gloomy. Later, Margaret would tell Anne that she had felt depressed that day. After all, her father had just died. Now, she felt she was losing her sister, too. And it was true. Soon Elizabeth was consumed with the duties and responsibilities of being queen.

Margaret was left to adjust to life in the shadow of her sister, the Queen.

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