Anne Glenconner, the firstborn child of the 5th Earl of Leicester, was considered a royal disappointment because she was not born a boy. Because she was born a girl, she wouldn’t be able to inherit one of Britain’s largest estates. Yet being female certainly did not mean that Glenconner wouldn’t live a life that was at turns remarkable, hilarious, and truly devastating. In her memoir, Lady in Waiting, Glenconner looks back over her life, in which she befriended the future Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret at a very young age, and later became Margaret’s lady-in-waiting. Because of this rarified position, Glenconner is able to provide colorful, deftly written anecdotes about the British aristocracy during and after World War II, the early reign of Elizabeth II, and her private moments with Princess Margaret, who she said she “laughed with more than anyone else.” Where some writers might portray Margaret as a poorly behaved party girl, Glenconner shows readers her kinder, gentler side, building empathy for a woman who lost her father to death and her older sister to duty one right after the other.
But this is not just about Glenconner’s fly-on-the-wall recollections. It’s also a more personal tale about her struggles to find love, her marriage to an unfaithful, mercurial man who left her nothing after his death, and the tragedy of losing two sons — one to AIDS, the other to hepatitis C. Although she was well b0rn, and was Margaret’s right-hand woman, she was also a wife, mother, and woman trying to make sense of a world that was changing around her. Reading this incredibly well-written book, one senses the tales within are but the tip of the iceberg. What lies within these pages should be a Netflix series, or a bit of Masterpiece Theater. It’s a story well-told, full of charming description, and bottomless reserves of resilience. Glenconner writes: “I try not to dwell on the sad things in my past, instead concentrating on the present, trying to make the most of my life.” What a life it has been. Fans of The Crown will eat this up. I know I did. Much gratitude to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an early proof of this book in exchange for this honest review.