Sensationalistic snippets from the life of a royal princess.
In this biographical montage of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002), Daily Mail columnist Brown (Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings, 2012, etc.) reflects on the true nature of her regal life and loves. The author’s “appetite for royal kitsch” surely fueled the culling of the book’s material, which ranges from both adulating and scathing biographies to the letters and diaries of, among others, Peter Sellers and Gore Vidal. Brown lays bare the facets of Margaret’s notoriously sharp-tongued personality, often abrasive behavior, affinity for well-heeled bohemia, and rumored sexual affairs. The author spares little in his scrutiny as the references hopscotch from the ubiquitous mentions of Margaret’s name in notable texts and palace announcements to the post-mortem sale pricing of her jewelry collection. In a moment of parody, one of Brown’s specialties, he hilariously imagines Margaret’s marriage to Pablo Picasso. Many particularly scandalous chapters feature essays, opinions, and interview snippets categorizing Margaret as either an aloof snob who “turned pickiness into an art form” or a smug brat whose self-superiority and “snappiness was instinctive and unstoppable, like a nervous twitch.” Collectively, the narrative creates a brutally honest yet dramatically unflattering portrait of Margaret’s regal sybaritic lifestyle, her legacy of boorish behavior, and the competitiveness and outspokenness that doomed her friendships and her stormy marriage to Lord Snowdon. While savory overall, the onslaught of dishy details bends beneath its own weight in the book’s final third. Fusing facts with fancifulness, Brown’s barbed, devilishly entertaining narrative exposes Margaret for the majesty she embodied and, to some, consistently tarnished, but the author barely contributes to explanations as to why she felt so “hurt by life” and behaved accordingly. Biographer Hugo Vickers opined that the difficult Queen Mother–Princess daughter relationship was the glaring culprit.
An endlessly provocative and deliciously scandalous book for royal watchers.