An insider's look at the world of palaces, princesses, and the pressure of public life.
Readers who've already binge-watched the third season of The Crown needn't fret. Glenconner's meticulously detailed memoir of her life in service to the crown will whet the appetite of anyone hungering for more tales of Britain's royals. Opening with her childhood on the fifth-largest estate in England, the author chronicles her personal and professional life as lady-in-waiting and confidante to her childhood friend Princess Margaret. In Glenconner’s capable hands, we learn about a motley cast of characters including her horse- and Harley Davidson–riding mother, a Scottish great-aunt who was a Christian Scientist, and the formidable Queen Mary, who intimidated her grandchildren but gave the author good life advice. A pleasing blend of detail and balance, the book provides sufficient glimpses into sumptuous palaces and shooting parties to inspire awe and keen insight into the people who inhabit them. Glenconner's candor about wealth and privilege enables readers to sympathize as she describes the emotional coldness of her parents and her father's undisguised disappointment at her not being born a boy. The fun of racing with the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret through her family's palatial estate and various royal residences could not make up for the fact that the author's worth—or lack thereof—was predicated on her sex and marriage. The poor-little-rich-girl story is hardly new, but what makes this account fresh and poignant is Glenconner’s use of affluent characters to demonstrate the extent to which class trumps power; even those at the top seem helpless to challenge tradition. By unflinchingly examining everything from her troubled marriage and her fraught relationship with her children to the solace she found in service, the author emerges as a flawed yet steely woman worthy of respect. In laying her life bare, she demonstrates the limitations of being a woman in the British class system, showing that privilege is no insulation from suffering or pain.
A must-have for loyal royal fans.