is OK, particularly polyester. You just need to sew through more times if using
needle, double up the thread, and tie a knot in the end.
first stitch on the surface of the cloth.
through the button, come back through, and then push right to the other side of
the two layers of cloth.
fingers under the button to measure how much excess you need to leave on the
top, to create the shank. Perhaps around half to three quarters of an inch. It
will get smaller as you sew.
Go up and
down through the button and right through the cloth - four times with thicker
thread as used by Ben. Perhaps six or eight times with something thinner.
time you come up onto the front of the jacket, don’t go through the button, but
wrap the thread round and round, to create a shank. As much as needed to make
the button stand on its own.
by passing the needle through the shank - but don’t pull the thread all the way
through. Leave a loop, which you hook round the needle on the other side,
before then pulling the thread tight. This creates a knot.
Adonai, who grew up in poverty in a shanty town, is now the proud owner of a
vast estate on the island of St Lucia worth millions of pounds.
family has walked away with none of his Caribbean fortune, Colin Tennant’s will
having been changed seven months before he died last year in favour of his
trusted manservant. Even in death at the age of 83 — just as in life — Lord
Glenconner, infamous party host and close friend of Princess Margaret, was causing
Anne had thought the estate was being left to Cody Tennant, their 17-year-old
after the memorial service at the family’s baronial home, Glen House, in the
Scottish Borders, Lady Glenconner, 78, told The Sunday Telegraph: “We are not
angry; we are surprised. There’s no rift. We feel Colin [Lord Glenconner] was
very ill, that he changed his will, but was not well enough. He had cancer very
badly and I don’t think he remembered making the will. The will wasn’t Kent’s
Cody, had accepted, having taken legal advice, that the new will was not open
to challenge in St Lucia. “Cody was to get something. I would get something,
and the others too,” she said, “There’s no rift but a will like this does make
it quite awkward.”
the will trusted Mr Adonai “to carry out my [Lord Glenconner’s] wishes towards
the family” although it does not appear to be clear what those wishes were.
“Kent is illiterate. He cannot read or write. He doesn’t seem aware of the
wishes of the family,” said Lady Glenconner.
4,000 miles away in St Lucia, Mr Adonai was paying his own tribute, sat in a
wooden chair overlooking his master’s whitewashed grave and the shimmering sea
beyond. “He taught me so much about the world, about history and culture. Every
day, I miss him terribly,” said Mr Adonai. “I was with him every day. We would
talk for hours, I drove him everywhere. He was a wonderful man.”
declined to discuss the will and his plans for the estate, a stunning sweep of
rainforest on the south-west coast of St Lucia wedged between the towering
volcanic twin peaks of the Pitons. “Mr Tennant asked me to do certain things
and I will carry out his wishes. I will do what I think fit,” he said, speaking
in a mixture of English and the local French-influenced patois. “I find all the
pressure very difficult.”
As he does
most days, Mr Adonai, 47, then went fishing for blue marlin and tuna, his
escape from the loss of the man who transformed his life and died in his arms
in August after a massive heart attack.
three decades, he had worked for Lord Glenconner in roles varying from
elephant-keeper to estate manager and had been promised he would be looked
after following his master’s death. An unassuming, quietly spoken figure who
has never given an interview before this weekend, Mr Adonai insisted there were
no bad feelings between him and the family.
invited to the ceremony in Scotland but I couldn’t go because it just would be
too emotional,” he said, his voice breaking as he recalled the man he knew
simply as “Mr Tennant”.
common-law wife Mona did make the journey to Scotland, indicating that
relations have indeed perhaps not frayed irrevocably despite suggestions of
pending legal action. “Lady Anne and their children have also always been very
good to me,” he insisted.
relations at the memorial included Lord Glenconner’s grandson Euan, 26, who has
inherited the family seat, as well as surviving sons Christopher Tennant and
Joshua Bowler, 54, who only discovered Lord Glenconner was his father two years
September, Bonham’s will auction some of the peer’s eclectic collection of
Indian, Chinese and Balinese furniture and other artefacts — a sale that will
help to pay for the estate’s upkeep. The auction will fetch between £750,000
and £1 million.
eccentric a figure as Lord Glenconner, it is perhaps not surprising that Mr
Adonai met him in 1982 in circumstances that sound almost too outlandish to be
As an 18
year-old, he used to help his father load the banana boats that crossed the
Caribbean to Britain. One day, word went round the dock that one of the boats
had returned with a highly unusual cargo of exotic animals, including an
got to Soufrière, the elephant didn’t want to come out of its box. I helped to
encourage her out. I think that’s why Mr Tennant said he wanted me to look
after her. To this day, many people here still know me as 'marrie l’elefant’
[the elephant husband in patois], not Kent.”
he progressed to estate manager, driver and factotum for the aristocrat, whose
family fortune was the product of an ancestor inventing industrial bleach.
witnessed the peer’s infamous temper, but said the rages always passed quickly.
“He was like a cane field on fire,” he said. “He would flare up but then it
would be finished two minutes later.”
says there has been no local envy. “Everyone knows that Mr Tennant was a very
generous man who cared greatly for the local community. He was loved here.”
has no plans to leave the spartan single-storey concrete house that he shares
with Mona and their extended family, including two adult children. There he
keeps hundreds of photographs of his life with the Tennant family — including
trips on safari in Africa and to Hindu temples in Bali. Lord Glenconner is
almost invariably dressed in his trademark straw hat and loose white muslin
up in the corner is a blown-up reproduction of the front page of Hello!
magazine from March 1994 featuring Princess Margaret attending the opening
party of Lord Glenconner’s Bang restaurant in St Lucia. By then, Lord
Glenconner had long made a name for himself as a host of infamous parties. He
had risen to prominence on the back of his purchase of Mustique, the
mosquito-ridden wasteland he bought for £45,000 in 1958 and which he
transformed into a playground for the rich and famous.
In a row
over the price of electricity, the “monarch of Mustique” sold up in the late
70s and moved to St Lucia, 45 miles away, in 1981. His fortunes were to take a
tumble. His eldest son Charlie, a heroin addict, was disinherited in favour of
his second son Henry. Charlie died of hepatitis in 1996 while Henry, who was
homosexual, died of Aids in 1990. Their third and youngest son Christopher was
disabled following a motorcycle accident in 1987.
recalls some memorable parties, most recently for his boss’s 80th birthday at
his Indian “palace”. But in his later years, the aristocrat, educated at Eton
and Oxford, lived a tamer life.
described the day Lord Glenconner died. Mr Adonai was with him as usual when
the aristocrat was struck by a debilitating heart attack.
“I tried to
pump his chest and bring him back to life as I held him, but it was no good,”
he said tears in his eyes. He drove his master to hospital but the peer was
already dead, and in tragedy Kent Adonai’s fortunes were transformed.
Scots peer leaves tropical estate to his
HE created a Caribbean Shangri-La for the
rich and famous that became known for its wild midnight bathing parties and
attracted stars such as Mick Jagger and David Bowie, as well as the Queen's
sister, Princess Margaret.
flamboyant Scottish peer Lord Glenconner, who died aged 83 nearly a year ago,
has proven to be as controversial in death as in life after it emerged he left
his entire multimillion-pound Mustique estate to his manservant Kent Adonai.
48-year-old West Indian, who served the peer for decades, was favoured over
Lord Glenconner’s whole family who had been cut out the peer’s will seven
months before he died.
came ahead of a thanksgiving service for Lord Glenconner, one of the country’s
most colourful aristocrats today near his Scottish estate.
celebration of the life of Lord Glenconner at Traquair Church, Peeblesshire,
will be attended by scores of his family and friends.
almost a year ago in St Lucia after a battle against cancer.
Glenconner’s wife of 54 years, Lady Anne Coke, has spoken of her disappointment
at learning that Mr Adonai has inherited Lord Glenconner’s entire estate in the
West Indies including his beachside house between the Pitons in St Lucia, all
its contents and a valley overlooking the Caribbean.
quoted as saying: “Unfortunately, he changed his will seven months before he
died and not one member of his family was named in his new will – not me, his
wife for more than half a century, or any of his children or grandchildren.”
was said to have been with the peer when he died, and he was best man at the
wedding of Lord Glenconner’s only surviving son, Christopher.
manservant led tributes at Lord Glenconner’s funeral, at which Bryan Adams
sang, when he said: “There are no words that can sum up how much he meant to
me, my family and the village. I am now lost. I cannot describe how big the gap
is that has been left in my life. He was not only a father to me but to
5000-acre estate and baronial castle at The Glen, near Innerleithen,
Peeblesshire, have been inherited by the peer’s 27-year-old grandson Euan who
works in marketing in Edinburgh. The title of Lord Glenconner has been passed
to his 17-year-old grandson Cody.
It had been
expected that Cody would receive the West Indies estate.
thanksgiving service will take place at 2.30pm and will be conducted by the
Reverend Janice Faris.
It is less
than a mile away from the family seat at The Glen which was built in 1852.
Lord Glenconner’s daughter-in-law Tessa Tennant – the widow of his son Henry
and mother of Euan who has inherited The Glen – said: “It is a thanksgiving
service and is mainly for the people who were unable to go to the West Indies
for the funeral. It is an opportunity to remember him and give thanks for his
life at the same time. The service is not private but it is a family occasion
focussing on his life.”
confirmed The Glen was not affected by the will contents in St Lucia.
guests will be Lord Glenconner’s recently discovered illegitimate son, Joshua
Bowler. Glenconner had five other children, though his two eldest sons died
before he did.
who was also invited, will not be there. Instead, he will be represented by his
former common-law wife.
Manservant who was left £30m by Lord Glenconner
WILL share it with peer's grandson
Kent Adonai's had been facing a legal battle with
20-year-old Cody Tennant, who became the fourth Baron Glenconner when his
CHURCHER and COLIN MAXIMIN
00:51, 2 March 2014 | UPDATED: 03:25, 2 March 2014
the world’s richestmanservant when left
a £30 million fortune by his playboy boss whocut his heir out of his will.
Kent Adonai – who was Lord Glenconner’s valet and carer for 30 years – has
struck a secret deal to share the windfall with the peer’s grandson.
51-year-old had been facing a legal battle with 20-year-old Cody Tennant, who
became the fourth Baron Glenconner when the former owner of Princess Margaret’s
favourite island retreat died in 2010.
expected to inherit the family estate – only to discover his grandfather
rewrote his will seven months before his death aged 83.
Scottish university student was backed in his battle by his family, including
Glenconner’s widow, Lady Anne, who was also shocked to learn she had not been
left a penny.
who cannot read or write, hired a top legal team onSt Lucia, Glenconner’s home after leaving
Mustique, where he once hosted Royalty.
inheritance included the peer’s Indian-style mansion, jewellery, art and
antiques, and 192 acres of shorefront development land.
appearing before a judge last week at the East Caribbean Supreme Court, Mr
Adonai’s representatives agreed he will share the property with the new baron.
insider told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The lawyers who represent Kent and Cody
respectively each handed a sealed brown envelope to the judge. The deal was in
understanding is that Cody is getting a share in the land that potentially will
make him a multi-millionaire.’
lawyer Peter Foster – also speaker of the St Lucia Parliament – said: ‘Yes,
there was a dispute over the will and now it has been settled amicably.’
to put a value on the property relinquished by Mr Adonai, but added: ‘The way
it has been settled is to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.’
the grounds of the challenge have not been revealed, one legal expert said it
may have involved a clause in which Glenconner directed the servant to
‘apportion’ the fortune ‘to himself and heirs in whatsoever manner he wishes as
I have discussed with him’.
argue that Glenconner expected Kent to look after his heirs, including Cody and
Lady Anne,’ the expert added. ‘It also might have been argued he was elderly
and not in his right mind.’
has also pointed out that her husband was battling cancer when he died.
has always maintained that, along with inheriting land worth millions, he was
also saddled with Glenconner’s debts which, he claims, left him impoverished.
He says this was the reason he sold the peer’s belongings two years ago.
the time of his death, Glenconner was sitting on one of the Caribbean’s most
desirable pieces of land and had plans for a resort development that was to
include seven villas priced up to £7 million each.
are vying for land in the area,’ a Caribbean property specialist said. ‘Cody
and Kent each stand to earn millions.’
lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
common, I have something of a mania for aristo-lit: a passion for stories about
big houses and the wanton eccentrics who inhabit them that began in childhood
with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, continued into my teenage
years with all things Mitford, and now finds ongoing sustenance mostly in
diaries (Chips Channon, I salute you, and all who sailed in you). Nevertheless,
I have to admit to being somewhat unprepared for Lady in Waiting, in which Anne
Glenconner muses on her stiff upper lip and how it saw her through a marriage
lasting 54 years to a man whose idea of a honeymoon treat was to take her – a
girl who had been a virgin only hours before – to a fleapit of a hotel to watch
two strangers having sex (“That’s very kind, but no thank you,” she said when
invited to join in). Is her memoir a horror show or a delightful entertainment?
A manual for how to live, or how not to live? In truth, I’m not sure even she
would know the answer to these questions.
child of the fifth Earl of Leicester, Glenconner was maid of honour at the
Queen’s coronation and lady-in-waiting to her childhood friend Princess
Margaret. She grew up at Holkham Hall in Norfolk – a house so huge that if the
footmen put raw eggs in a bain-marie as they walked from kitchen to nursery,
they’d be boiled on arrival – and, aged 23, married Colin Tennant, later Lord
Glenconner, the owner of a Scottish castle called Glen and of the Caribbean
island of Mustique. Tennant was, she tells us repeatedly, great fun and so
generous. But it can’t have been too much fun when he deliberately trapped her
in the fold-up bed in their cabin on a train, or when he took her to a cock
fight (one of the cocks attached itself to her head, causing it to bleed; far
from being sympathetic, he was furious that she’d ruined the betting).
It’s impossible not to admire her fortitude as
she deals with her fear and her grief
What of his
generosity? Well, there were certainly lots of parties, attended by Bianca
Jagger et al. My favourite story, however, involves the visit to Glen of his
aesthete kinsman, Stephen Tennant. Uncle Stephen being not at all keen on the
purple of the heather, Colin kindly sprinkled the moors with blue paper
flowers. “Oh, darling!” said Uncle Stephen. “That’s much better, isn’t it?”
knows that she’s privileged, and if the staff, the houses and the holidays come
with a price in the form of a man who lies in the foetal position when he
cannot get his own way, and who wears paper knickers (in order to be able to
eat them for a party trick), so be it. She can cope. She has a Gypsy caravan
into which she can escape when it gets too much – and later, she takes refuge
in her duties for Princess Margaret, that great lover of prawn cocktail and Antiques
Roadshow. (HRH, incidentally, is another of those she insists was great fun, in
spite of all evidence to the contrary.) Additionally, she has her stoicism –
which is where it all gets interesting. Much as I loved reading about the way,
say, that she and her mother, the countess, would gather jackdaw eggs using a
ladle attached to a walking stick (apparently, they’re as delicious as plover’s
eggs, though since I’ve tasted neither, I can’t possibly comment), after a
while there’s no ignoring the painful and widening disjunction between the
outward whirl of her life and the repeated tragedies that befall her family.
son, Charlie, a heroin addict, dies of hepatitis C. Her second son, Henry, dies
of an Aids-related illness at just 29 (as a photo caption helpfully reminds us,
her husband informed her that Henry was ill just moments before the couple
donned fancy dress for the Peacock Ball they were throwing to celebrate his
birthday). Her third son, Christopher, following an accident during his gap
year, ends up in a coma for four months; it takes him years to learn to walk
again. These are unimaginably terrible events, and it’s impossible not to
admire her fortitude as she deals with her fear and her grief; as she patiently
sits by Christopher’s bedside, refusing to believe he will never wake up. But
as she admits, her two older boys were also the victims of a system, cold and
inflexible, that insists on nannies, boarding schools and a certain emotional
distance on the part of their parents (“There I was, immersed in royal life,
while my eldest son was running wild,” as she understatedly puts it).
As a girl,
Glenconner spent years away from her mother and father, having been evacuated
during the war; they left her with a nanny who tied her by the wrists to her
bed every night before she went to sleep. But though she remembers vividly the
pain this caused her, somehow she cannot avoid visiting on her own children a
similar fate. When they cry as she drops them at boarding school, she weeps too
– and yet still she drives away. In the end, her book isn’t only a record,
funny and sometimes dazzling, of a way of life now almost disappeared. It’s an
unwitting examination of English repression: both of how it gets you through
and of how it can slay you.
• Lady in
Waiting by Anne Glenconner is published by Hodder & Stoughton (£20).
Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner review – a
bestselling glimpse of the royals
Book of the
The candid life story of Princess Margaret’s aide,
which has proved a publishing hit, provides insights into the aristocratic
system and the real life behind The Crown
goes down better with a section of the British public than a posh old lady who
isn’t afraid to talk dirty. It’s the contrast between the drawling vowels,
blossomy complexion, sculpted cheekbones and sexual frankness that turns us
into what Nanny would probably call “giggling ninnies”. Anne Glenconner, who at
the age of 87 has published a bestselling memoir, was a big hit this autumn on
The Graham Norton Show, Loose Women and all manner of breakfast television
sofas. One of her plummiest anecdotes concerns her mother, Lady Coke, trying to
explain sexual intercourse in terms of canine coupling. “Do you remember
Daddy’s labrador getting on top of Biscuit? Well, that’s what happens when you
get married and have sex, except you will probably be lying down in a bed.” Cue
peals of shocked laughter from the studio audience.
there’s nothing especially odd or even socially elevated about Lady Coke’s
advice to her eldest girl on the eve of her 1956 marriage. Anne belonged to the
generation of girls who were too young to have served in the WAAF and, instead
of jitterbugging with young men, spent their chaste teenage years knitting socks
for them. You didn’t need to have been brought up on the 27,000 acre Holkham
Hall estate, nor been crowned “Deb of the Year” by Tatler, to have arrived at
your courtship years without knowing much about men beyond a vague rule of
thumb that some were “safe in taxis” while others most definitely were not.
Tennant, the man Anne was marrying, really wasn’t safe anywhere, which
doubtless explains his appeal. The evening after her disastrous wedding night
to the mercurial banker, the blushing bride found herself whisked through Paris
for a “surprise”. This turned out not to be dinner at the Ritz, but rather a
seedy brothel where she was forced to watch a couple have sex, as if performing
a public service. When they asked if Anne would like to join in, she replied
politely: “That’s very kind of you, but no thank you.” Cue more studio
The blushing bride found herself whisked
through Paris for a 'surprise' – not dinner at the Ritz but sex at a brothel
have got the hang of it pretty quickly because the first of the five Tennant
children was conceived on the honeymoon. What has made this book such a hit,
however, is not the rolling out of anecdotes about saucy toffs, but rather the
access it provides to the workings of the royal family in the second half of
the 20th century. In 1971 Anne was appointed lady-in-waiting to her childhood
friend Princess Margaret. The two little girls who had delighted in jumping out
from behind the curtains at the footmen in wartime Holkham Hall now spent their
adult days together, opening hospitals, looking interested in prisoners’
artwork, and trying not to yawn when seated next to a particularly boring
bishop. They would also share off-duty times on Mustique, the midgy Caribbean
island which Tennant had bought for a song in 1958 and turned into a playground
for millionaires. Cue some larky tales about Bianca Jagger and David Bowie with
sand between their toes.
has a stake in season three of The Crown, where she is played by Nancy Carroll
as the counsellor and confidante of Helena Bonham Carter’s Margaret. In an
oddly dreamlike merging of memoir and dramatic narratives, Anne recently found
herself sitting side by side with Bonham Carter on Graham Norton’s sofa
promoting their parallel projects. Naturally the two women knew each other
already, Bonham Carter being cousin to Tennant, AKA Lord Glenconner.
the upper class sound like a cosy tight-knit clan, but one of the chief
revelations of Lady in Waiting is just how cruel and wasteful the aristocratic
system has historically been to women. Because of the cast-iron rule of male
primogeniture, Lady Anne and Princess Margaret were obliged to spend their
entire lives as left-overs “waiting” for someone to decide what to do with
them. When Anne Coke was born in 1932 as the first child of a man who would
become the fifth Earl of Leicester she was a “big disappointment”, who “broke
the line” by being a girl, the first of three sisters. As a result of her
wrongness the magnificent Holkham Hall and the earldom passed on her father’s
death to her male second cousin. Margaret too was hexed by her gender: if the
clever, headstrong girl had been born a boy she would have leapfrogged our
present Queen to succeed their father in 1952. Instead of useful, purposeful
public lives, the mischievous best friends found themselves entirely surplus to
of being in the way was compounded when both women were disqualified from
marrying the men they loved. Before her marriage to Tennant, Glenconner was
blissfully engaged to “Johnnie” Althorp, who would later go on to father Diana,
Princess of Wales. But as a result of Johnnie’s father Earl Spencer muttering
about Anne having some distant mentally “defective” cousins (who also happened
to be first cousins to Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth), the dashing
cavalry officer slunk away without telling his fiancee that the match was off because
of her “mad blood”. Princess Margaret, meanwhile, was famously not permitted to
marry Group Captain Peter Townsend on the grounds that his earlier divorce was
incompatible with her sister’s position as head of the Church of England.
Instead, both women accepted men on the rebound whom their families considered
distinctly below the salt. Margaret married “Tony Snapshot”, as Glenconner’s
father wittily called Antony Armstrong-Jones. Meanwhile, Glenconner insisted
that his own daughter’s fiance, Tennant, whose family fortune was far too
recently based on bleach, line up with the beaters rather than the guns when
attending a shoot at Holkham Hall.
both young men were cross about having such non-U names (“Colin” and “Tony”
sound as if they belong at a Rotary Club social rather than Buckingham Palace).
Whatever their reasons, they used their “artistic” temperaments as a cover
story for some truly appalling behaviour. Armstrong-Jones took to leaving notes
for Margaret along the lines of: “You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate
you”, while Tennant thinks nothing of embarrassing his wife at parties by
tearing off his paper underpants and eating them. Both men have mistresses,
both men present their wives with a “love child”. Tennant’s final act of
cruelty came in 2010 when he left a scrappy handwritten will bequeathing his
fortune – still huge despite the financial depredations that had come with
Mustique – to a local employee. What makes it all so much worse is that
Glenconner says that she still isn’t sure whether he did it simply as a stunt
to ensure that his reputation as an eccentric aristocrat would survive
Glenconner never mentions any kind of mental health diagnosis for her husband,
Tennant is clearly troubled; he spends hours in a foetal position begging her
to talk him down from his own anguished self. Her real focus, at least in this
book, is on her best friend Margaret, who she believes has been horribly
traduced in recent years as a narcissistic monster of rudeness and self-regard.
While never resorting to a cover-up, Glenconner provides a nuanced character
portrait of a woman whose life sounds truly wretched. Above all, she emphasises
that Margaret was marvellously supportive during the years in which Glenconner
was forced to endure the death of her first two sons and the permanent disablement
of her third following a motorcycle accident. In particular she wants us to
know that, long before Princess Diana became famous for fighting the stigma of
Aids, Margaret was visiting dying patients at the London Lighthouse hospice;
they included Glenconner’s second son, Henry. HRH didn’t do hugs, but she was
funny and her jokes made the young men laugh.
it’s clear that Glenconner was marvellous to her unhappy friend. Her account of
Margaret’s final year, bundled up in bed and wanting nothing more but to hold
hands or watch Antiques Roadshow with her, is beautifully, which is to say
tactfully, done. Indeed, discretion and honour emerge as the hallmarks of
Glenconner’s career as a royal servant, culminating in this book which manages
to be both candid and kind. Above all, she demonstrates a remarkable readiness
to own up to her own mistakes. In particular she worries that the classic
absentee mothering style of the aristocracy, involving nannies and boarding
schools, may have been at the root of her eldest son developing the drug
addiction that eventually killed him. If only, one can’t help thinking, members
of the present royal family would follow their admirable servant’s example of
honest self-reckoning and personal responsibility.
• Lady in
Waiting is published by Hodder & Stoughton (RRP £20)
'I’m no snowflake': Anne Glenconner on Margaret,
marriage and Meghan Markle
The former lady-in-waiting’s memoir is a surprise
bestseller. She discusses family tragedy and why Princess Margaret was more fun
than people think
Fri 20 Mar
2020 08.58 GMTLast modified on Fri 20 Mar 2020 15.48 GMT
came out five months ago, a debut work by an 87-year-old has become a
publishing phenomenon. Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of
the Crown by Anne Glenconner has sold more than 200,000 copies in the UK and
retains a tenacious hold on the bestseller lists. Written by the former
lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, its broad appeal might seem surprising,
not least because Margaret was hardly the most popular royal. But Lady
Glenconner’s book has two things going for it: the first is that it is not what
it seems; it is definitely not “a lavender sort of scented memoir”, as
Glenconner put it when she appeared on The Graham Norton Show last November. And
its other great strength is Glenconner herself.
really tired after your journey? Did you find a taxi when you got off the
train?” she asks when I arrive at her home on the Norfolk coast. She has the
accent of the Queen – “really” becomes “rill-eh”, “off” is “orff” – and is
dressed like her too, in a blouse, cardigan, pleated knee length skirt, tights
and loafers. It is easy to picture her striding around the world, making small
talk with Imelda Marcos, which is what she used to do with Princess Margaret. I
lean in to kiss her, but then ask if she’s refraining because of the
coronavirus. Glenconner looks at me as if I’ve left my marbles on the train:
“I’ve been through the second world war and lived with someone with Aids at the
beginning [of the Aids crisis]. I’m not scared of a little virus, you know,”
she says. She turns on her heel and marches down her long hallway, and I have
to scoot to keep up with her.
was born Anne Coke (pronounced Cook), the daughter of an earl. “So I married
down somewhat,” she says with a satisfied smile, as her husband, Colin Tennant,
was merely the Baron Glenconner. In her book, Glenconner describes her current
home as “a cottage” but these things are relative: compared to the nearby
Holkham Hall where she grew up, and Glen, the enormous estate in Scotland
belonging to her late husband’s family, I guess it is a cottage. To me, it
looks like a sizable house, with a warren of rooms filled with family portraits
and vintage toys that are now kept for her grandchildren and
great-grandchildren. She takes me to the pretty sitting room, where we sit on
either side of the fire. “When Princess Margaret would visit the two of us
would sit just like this,” she says. “One time she came with her kettle and
said: ‘I’m going to be independent, Anne, all you need to do is give me some
milk.’ I was a bit doubtful and I was right because suddenly one morning it was
‘Anne! Anne!’ ‘Yes, ma’am, what is it?’ ‘I think the kettle’s broken!’ Of
course, she hadn’t turned it on. But she did want to help …” Prince Charles,
another “proper friend”, stops by often: “And people are really fond of him
now, you know. All that talking to plants and his green things, it’s all come
true. People don’t laugh at it.”
I tell her
that even the most republican of my friends love the book.
I’ve never written anything in my life at all, and I thought: ‘Well, people
like me might buy it.’ But it’s gone way beyond that. I certainly didn’t think
the Guardian would be interested in my book. I know you’re a very leftwing
newspaper and somebody like me is not quite your cup of tea, so that’s
encouraging.” On a table nearby, a Daily Telegraph is tucked discreetly under a
composed the book in this room, dictating her life story into a recorder.
“Somebody said: ‘Do you get writer’s block?’ I said: ‘No, writer’s diarrhoea!’
I just talked and talked,” she says. Glenconner’s distinctive voice has a
no-nonsense briskness to it, undercut with a wry but warm sense of humour. She
manages to laugh at things others might find less amusing: the patriarchal
aristocratic system that meant she couldn’t inherit her family home (“I tried
awfully hard to be a boy, even weighing 11lb at birth, but I was a girl and there
was nothing to be done about it”); her husband taking her to a “perfectly
disgusting” live sex show during their honeymoon; even her son Henry’s funeral
when he died from Aids – “I couldn’t help a tiny smile because, as is Buddhist
custom, his coffin was covered with pineapples and other tropical fruit, so it
looked like a giant fruit salad as it came into the crematorium.”
fun for anyone if you’re sitting around being a misery. I’m no snowflake,
probably a battle-axe. I was brought up by my mother to get on with things,”
she says. Her family crest is an ostrich swallowing a horseshoe, signifying the
family’s ability to digest anything.
family has a long relationship with the royal family: her paternal grandmother
was Edward VIII’s mistress and her father was equerry to George VI. Glenconner
was Princess Margaret’s devoted lady-in-waiting for more than 30 years, and
this is what spurred her into writing her book, as she was horrified by a
recent biography about the princess, which she describes as “that horrible
book, we won’t mention the name of the somebody who wrote it. I don’t know why
people want to rot her like that.” When I ask if she means Craig Brown’s book,
Ma’am Darling, she gives a pained, terse nod.
to rectify the common perception of the princess as spoilt and spiteful,
Glenconner writes about Margaret’s various kindnesses to her. They were, she
says, real friends, even if one called the other “Ma’am” and the other didn’t.
“I would have felt quite uncomfortable calling her anything else. But she was
so funny, that’s what people don’t get,” she says. After the princess died, the
Queen thanked Glenconner for providing her sister with many of the happiest
moments in her life.
warned beforehand not to ask about Meghan Markle so I ask instead if, having
spent so much time with Margaret, she has extra empathy for the other spares,
Princes Andrew and Harry. But Glenconner knows what I’m up to: “You’re edging
closer to asking me about Meghan Markle,” she tuts. “I’m going to put another
log on the fire before I answer that!”
mistake, she says, was to not understand that all the royals, even the spares,
work hard: “I think she thought she could drive around in a golden coach. But
it’s actually quite boring. Princess Margaret did so much charity work, and
without any photographers, unlike the Princess of Wales.” (Glenconner is a
staunch royalist, but her sympathies are with the more traditional branches of
the family; even Princes William and Harry, she says, “go on about their mother
the whole time. I think it’s a bit much.”)
Glenconner’s book has focused on the royals, but it’s the descriptions of her
own life that gripped me. First, her marriage to Colin, who had frequent mental
breakdowns and was a bully; when Glenconner asked him why he screamed at people
so often, he replied: “I like making them squirm.” He insisted on telling her
about his holidays with his many girlfriends (“I said, ‘Can we talk about
something else?’”), but Glenconner got her own back, and makes one fleeting
reference in her book to having a “dear friend”. This is the one subject she
won’t be drawn on: “I’ll tell you absolutely nothing at all, except that he
made my life possible. We had lunch once a week and the occasional weekend for
nearly 40 years, and that’s all I’ll say.”
everything, Glenconner painstakingly emphasises her husband’s good qualities in
the book, such as his sense of fun and imagination – partly, she says, for the
sake of their children, but also because it was true. He turned Mustique from
unpromising scrubland into a celebrity pleasure island, where Mick Jagger would
lead singalongs in a beach bar. Colin’s parties were legendary for their
loucheness, such as the Golden Ball, which was photographed by Robert
Mapplethorpe, when Bianca Jagger was carried in by a troupe of boys painted
entirely in gold and wearing only “a coconut strategically placed below”. The
celebrities revelled in the privacy from the media: on one holiday, Glenconner
delicately pointed out to Princess Margaret that her bathing suit was
transparent. “‘Oh Anne,’ she said, somewhat exasperated. ‘I don’t care. If
[people] want to look, they can look.’ And that was that.” Colin died in 2010
but, Glenconner says, he would be “absolutely delighted” that Mustique is still
causing scandals, with questions over who paid for Boris Johnson’s recent
had five children: Charlie, Henry, Christopher and twins May and Amy.
Glenconner loved being a mother, but, despite not having been entirely happy
with aspects of her childhood – absent parents, nannies, boarding school – she
repeated it with her own children, leaving them behind as she helped her
husband in Mustique. “It’s just what you did, what all our friends did, the
shooting parties all winter we went off to – we didn’t think. I didn’t even
want them to go to boarding school …” she trails off.
youngest children had the same nanny throughout their childhood, but the two
eldest, Charlie and Henry, had many different ones, their father sacking their
favourites on a whim. By the age of eight Charlie had severe OCD. As a
teenager, he got into drugs. Henry married and had a son, but in the late 80s
he came out as gay and within 18 months he had Aids, at a time when the
diagnosis turned you into a pariah. “I would take Henry to A&E, and it was
full when we arrived and within half an hour everybody had left and I was alone
with him. He was so ill that we would sit on the floor, with his head in my
lap. That was quite hard to write about.”
her youngest son, Christopher, suffered a catastrophic head injury while on a
gap year in Belize. He was in a coma and a doctor told Glenconner that she
should forget about him. Instead, she nursed him and when he woke up four
months later she took him home and cared for him for the next five years. He
was left with life-changing injuries, but he has married twice and has two
died and Christopher recovered, Charlie also seemed to be recovering from his
addictions. But it was too late: he died from hepatitis, and Glenconner buried
her second child. “Often people don’t talk to me about the children, maybe
because they’re interested in the other things. But I like talking about them,
and perhaps the book has given me a way to do so,” she says.
success has thrilled her: “Aren’t I lucky?” She is planning a trip to New York,
where Tina Brown will throw a party for the US launch. She is also working on
her first novel, Murder in Mustique: “I’m the new Miss Marple!” she says
talks me through the family photos that surround us: Charlie as a handsome
teenager, Henry’s son and his children, one of the twins getting married. A
photo of Glenconner holding Charlie and Henry as babies is so bittersweet I can
hardly look at it. “Oh I know,” she says when she sees me wince. As I’m about
to leave, she touches my elbow gently. “I’m glad you asked me about the
children, it was kind of you,” she says. “Because the book really is
about them, you know.”
modern age of smartphones and wearable tech, it’s easy to forget just how
indispensable the humble mechanical wristwatch once was. Yet even a brief foray
into the world of military watches is enough to provide a vivid reminder.
Rugged, reliable and entirely fit-for-purpose, these simple timekeepers have
played a critical role in the successful execution of military operations that
dramatically shaped the course of modern history. Particularly during World War
II, the period which we will be focusing on for the purpose of this article.
Arguably the best-known such watches from this era are those of the British
Military. More specifically, the Dirty Dozen.
you’re already familiar with the Dirty Dozen, or have at least heard the name.
That’s probably because the “Dozen” is amongst the most sought-after series by
military watch collectors. If you’re not familiar with the name though, allow
me to provide a brief introduction. The use of wrist-worn watches in military
conflict really began in World War I. Pocket watches – the popular choice of
men of the day – proved too cumbersome and time-consuming to use in the
trenches. Not to mention the distraction of fumbling around with the dust
cover, etc. could inadvertently expose your position to enemy snipers.
– albeit rudimental – solution soldiers came up with was to strap their pocket
watches to their wrists for easier access. This soon evolved into the “trench
watch”, which basically used a small pocket watch case with wire lugs soldered
on either end so a strap could be attached. The designs were not standardised,
and the soldiers typically had to purchase these watches themselves. Meaning
they were not issued by the government.
of these watches continued to evolve throughout the war based on the feedback
from the constant “field testing” they were subjected to. For example, white
dials with black numerals were soon inverted as it became clear that white text
against a black background was more legible. Likewise, luminous paint –
containing radioactive radium – was introduced to enable reading in low-light
Dirty Dozen military WWII watch
military watch evolved drastically with WWII – as an example, this Vertex
War II, the wristwatch was well and truly established as an essential part of a
gentleman’s daily attire. Assuming he could afford one, of course. Pocket
watches still persisted – even within the military – but their popularity
continued to wane. As you might expect, the wristwatch played an even more
significant role in the Second World War than it did in the First. Yet there
wasn’t a great deal of standardisation in the design of these watches until the
to the history books, in 1943 Commander Alan Brooks (later to become Field
Marshal) recognised the value of having a general-use timepiece for the armed
forces. Until then almost all service watches were personal civilian items.
Given that this “general-use” timepiece was destined for a very active war
zone, the MoD set specific criteria for how it should look and function. These
with Arabic numerals, subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock and railroad-style
hour and minute hands plus luminous hour markers
with 15 jewels, 11.75 to 13 ligne in diameter
to the standards of the era
movements that had to be regulated to chronometer criteria in a variety of
capable of diminishing the impact of shocks
crown of good size
Dirty Dozen military WWII watchVertex Dirty Dozen military WWII watch
military code for these watches was W.W.W. (Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof). They
were also required to be engraved in three places with the Broad Arrow or Pheon
(which denotes property of the British Crown.) On their casebacks was the
descriptive code W.W.W. Two serial numbers could be found as well, one being
the civil serial number of the manufacturer and the second a military one which
started with a capital letter.
As part of
its brief, the British MoD clearly stipulated that these watches were
explicitly meant for ‘General Service.’ This did not mean that each soldier
would be eligible for one; it was and certainly remains over-the-top to provide
a watch regulated to chronometer standards for every soldier. With the term
‘General Service,’ the British meant that these watches would be issued to
special units and tasks respectively such as artillery members, staff members,
engineers and personnel of the Communications Corps.
military WWII watch
time, British watch factories already had their hands full with the
manufacturing of munitions and weapons. So, requisition officers were sent to
Switzerland to find companies that could fulfil the order. In the end, twelve
companies would be selected: Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre,
Lemania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex. (Although Vertex was
technically a British watch company, it had Swiss Manufacturing plants.)
145,000 W.W.W’s were delivered to the British military by all 12 manufacturers.
The table below from Konrad Knirim’s book British Military Timepieces provides
an overview of how many watches were contributed by each maker:
As you can
see, some – such as Grana and Eterna – produced relatively low volumes. This
makes it particularly challenging for collectors trying to find nice examples
of each to complete their “Dozen”. A task that is made infinitely more
difficult by the fact that these watches were serviced, let’s say without the
greatest of care, by the R.E.M.E (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers)
who often chopped and changed parts between the various models. On the other
hand, spending a lifetime searching and collating a complete set must be a very
rewarding experience indeed.
The 1911 novel The Secret Garden by Frances
Hodgson Burnett is a rite of passage for many children, an engrossing and
magical story that captures the imagination. It’s served as fodder for
countless screen adaptations in its century-plus of existence, but its latest
iteration directed by Marc Munden and adapted by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and
the Cursed Child) saps the story of its magic.
It follows orphaned Mary Lennox (a petulant
Dixie Egerickx), a child who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven
(Colin Firth) in England when her parents die during a cholera epidemic in
India. Craven is a pitiful figure, a man haunted by grief after the death of
his wife, who has forced his son Colin (Edan Hayhurst) into living the life of
an invalid out of a misguided sense of overprotectiveness.
This adaptation takes great liberties with the
storytelling, converting Craven’s wife’s accidental death into a malingering
illness and making the titular garden a literally magical place where plants
bloom and wither in the blink of an eye. The gardens are lush and inviting,
more mystical wonderland than the manicured English garden. But they rely too
heavily on CGI instead of actual natural wonder to convey their secrets.
The Secret Garden is a tale about grief: a
catalog of how it twists and wounds us, and how with the right tending and
care, we can bloom back to vibrant life. The only person in the film keyed into
that here is Firth as Craven, who lends his always reliable air of sensitivity
interpreted as arrogance to the role. With little dialogue and only a handful
of scenes, he offers audiences the deep wells of Craven’s grief with only his
eyes and a muttered word through a clenched jaw.
adaptation leans heavily on clichés the story doesn’t need. The garden is not
figuratively magic, it’s literally so, with the power to heal dogs and Colin.
This robs the storytelling of its power, by chalking Mary and Colin’s growth up
to some unseen spectral force guided by spirits. The novel’s power lies in Mary
and Colin’s affection for each other, how they bloom under their mutual care
(and the interest of kindly servants). The film doubles down on these choices
by adding an unnecessarily fiery climax into the film, seeking to inject some
dramatic action where none is required. Ironically, the result is to turn a
genuinely moving tale into one that is profoundly dull.
Like the garden at its heart, The Secret
Garden has always found its beauty in its quietude, a small story of hearts
broken and healed through nature, attentive care, and true connection. But this
adaptation doesn’t understand that, instead drowning the film in showy set
pieces and magical realism rather than understanding the inherent magic in all
things. They should’ve never underestimated the peace that can be found in
simplicity and quiet. C
'The Secret Garden' yields a less appealing
version of the children's classic
Secret Garden" is one of the more enduring titles in children's
literature, having been adapted for the screen multiple times, including a
splendid 1993 version. That's the backdrop to the latest movie based on Frances
Hodgson Burnett's novel, which makes puzzling choices in harvesting the
material, mostly providing an incentive to go back and watch the last one again.
The new film boasts an impressive pedigree --
it's billed as coming from the makers of the Harry Potter series, mostly
notably producer David Heyman -- and a cast that includes Colin Firth and Julie
Walters. The story, however, develops slowly, shifts the 1911 book into a
post-World War II timeframe without much reason and makes a significant change
in the final act that the project could have surely done without.
core, there's still the uplifting tale of an orphaned young girl, Mary Lennox
(Dixie Egerickx), and the healing power she brings to the insulated estate to
which she is sent. After a fleeting introduction, Mary is forced to go live
with her distant, sullen uncle by marriage (Firth), still bearing emotionally
scars over the death of his wife, her mother's sister.
around the giant manor, Mary encounters Colin (Edan Hayhurst), her uncle's son,
who is bedridden, fragile, spoiled, and as surly as she is. Gradually, she
coaxes him to venture out into the grounds with her to explore the untended,
neglected garden she has discovered, joined by another boy, Dickon (Amir
Wilson), who has a way with animals and admirable patience with his two more
Marc Munden, this latest "Garden" is, inevitably, still lovely to
look at with all those vibrant colors, perhaps especially in its celebration of
nature at a time when people have been cooped up. But it's not as magical as it
should be, which might stem in from feeling more Disney-fied in its trappings,
including a stray dog and darting birds. There are also flashbacks to Mary's
parents, which actually serves to make them -- and her experience -- less
interesting, and the film more conspicuously manipulative.
movie companies don't really need much excuse to remake a beloved classic every
generation or so, and the latest iteration isn't bad for parents looking to
introduce "The Secret Garden" to their kids.
tradeoff of that includes the inevitable comparisons to what's been done
before, and by that standard, this "Secret Garden" can remain
overlooked, while hoping for more from the next incarnation, if history is any
guide, probably destined for some time during the 2040s.
great stories for children, The Secret Garden contains powerful truths just
beneath the surface. There is always a level at which the story is telling
children about more than just events; it is telling them about the nature of
life. That was the feeling I had when I read Frances Hodgson Burnett's book
many years ago, and it is a feeling that comes back powerfully while watching
Agnieszka Holland's new film.
"children's films" are only for children. Some can be watched by the
whole family. Others are so good they seem hardly intended for children at all,
and "The Secret Garden" falls in that category. It is a work of
beauty, poetry and deep mystery, and watching it is like entering for a time into
a closed world where one's destiny may be discovered.
tells the story, familiar to generations, of a young girl orphaned in India in
the early years of this century, and sent home to England to live on the vast
estate of an uncle. Misselthwaite Manor is a gloomy and forbidding pile in
Yorkshire - a construction of stone, wood, metal, secrets and ancient wounds.
The heroine, whose name is Mary Lennox (Kate Maberly), arrives from her long
sea journey to be met with a sniff and a stern look from Mrs. Medlock (Maggie
Smith), who manages the place in the absence of the uncle, Lord Archibald
Craven (John Lynch). Mary quickly gathers that this uncle is almost always
absent, traveling in far places in an attempt to forget the heartbreaking death
of his young bride some years earlier.
little for Mary to do in the mansion but explore, and soon she finds secret
passageways and even the bedroom of her late aunt - and in the bedroom, a key
to a secret garden. She makes friends with a boy named Dickon (Andrew Knott),
whose sister is a maid at Misselthwaite, and together they play in the garden,
and he whispers the manor's great secret: The aunt died in childbirth, but her
son, now 9 or 10 years old, still lives in the manor, confined to his bed,
unable to walk.
exploring, and finds the little boy, named Colin (Heydon Prowse). He has lived
a life of great sadness, confined to his room, able to see only the sky from
the windows visible from his bed. Mary determines he must see his mother's
secret garden, and she and Dickon wheel him there in an invalid's chair,
stealing him out of the house under the very nose of Mrs. Medlock.
All of this
could be told in a simple and insipid story, I am sure, with cute kids sneaking
around the corridors. But Holland is alert to the buried meanings of her story,
and she has encouraged her actors to act their age - to be smart, resourceful
They are so
good at their jobs that we stop being aware they are children, and enter into
full identification with their quest.
More of the
story I must not tell, except to mention in passing the gaunt dignity of Uncle
Archibald, played by Lynch with the kind of weary, sensual sadness that Jeremy
Irons used to have a corner on.
By the end
of the film I was surprised by how much I was moved; how much I had come to
care about the lonely little boy, the orphaned girl, and the garden that a dead
woman had prepared for them.
Holland's first American film, backed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by his
longtime associates Fred Fuchs, Fred Roos and Tom Luddy. Holland's earlier work
includes "Europa, Europa," a story of a Jewish boy who is able to
save his life by passing for a Nazi youth brigade member, and "Olivier,
Olivier," another case of mysterious identity, about a long-lost son who
may or may not have been found again.
"Europa, Europa" such an incredible story that I rejected it; what
lesson can be learned from the freak survival of one potential victim, while
millions died? "Olivier, Olivier" I found a more successful film,
although I was mystified by the function of an unexplained supernatural element
in the story.
"The Secret Garden" Holland has again made a film about a missing
child, but this time her theme and her telling of it are in complete harmony.
It is a beautiful, intelligent film - a fable, a lesson, and an entrancing
entertainment. And Roger Deakins' photography elevates the secret garden into a
place of such harmony and beauty that we almost believe it can restore the lives
of those who look on it.
of 1993 will be remembered as the time when every child in the world wanted to
see "Jurassic Park." The lucky ones will see this one, too.