How Princess Margaret Was a Different Kind of 'Spare' Than Prince Harry

Lady Anne Glenconner, who was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret for three decades, has a new memoir out this week

Princess Margaret & Queen Elizabeth with Prince Harry & Prince William
Photo: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty, Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

Prince Harry isn't the first — and likely won't be the last — royal to face difficulties amid the frustrations at being the spare to the heir.

The Duke of Sussex — whose revealing memoir Spare, titled after the adage indicating that he was second to his older brother, Prince William, sent shockwaves through the royal family — has been criticized for raising personal family issues so publicly. Now, a close friend of the British royal family says earlier generations of royals kept quiet about their situation.

Lady Anne Glenconner, 90, was a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret, the younger sister of the late Queen Elizabeth II, for three decades.

"I knew Princess Margaret very, very well. And of course, she was a spare for quite a long time. But I mean, she was always completely loyal to the Queen," Lady Anne — whose second memoir, Whatever Next? Lessons from an Unexpected Life, comes out on Feb. 21 — tells PEOPLE.

"The only thing I ever heard her complain about was that she wish she'd been better educated," she adds. "The Queen had people from Oxford and Cambridge universities and Eton College to tutor her. Princess Margaret was left with the governess. But that was the only thing she ever said — that she wished she'd been better educated. But otherwise, I mean, there was no whinging, no complaining."

Lady Anne Glenconner
Lady Anne Glenconner. Lady Anne Glenconner

Lady Anne believes it's a lesson for the new generations of royals.

"When I was talking about the young, that's what they do now — they seem to complain and whinge," the aristocrat says. "My generation lived through the war and had a really awful childhood. My parents were away for three years. I didn't see them. My father was fighting in El Alamein in Egypt, and my uncle was killed. So when we came out of it, we just felt so lucky to be alive. There's so much to enjoy in this world. I think that my, you know."

"I hate banging on about my generation, but we are quite different," she adds.

Princess Elizabeth makes her first broadcast, accompanied by her younger sister Princess Margaret Rose October 12, 1940 in London. Buckingham Palace announced that Princess Margaret died peacefully in her sleep at 1:30AM EST at the King Edward VII Hospital February 9, 2002 in London

Prince Harry's father, King Charles III, is currently preparing for his coronation at Westminster Abbey on May 6. Lady Anne notes that the day of the crowning ceremony is also the fourth birthday of Harry's son with Meghan Markle, Archie Harrison.

While Lady Anne doesn't know if the King's younger son will come, she says, "I'm sure the King would like him to come."

12th September 1937: The royal family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after the coronation of King George VI (1895 - 1952)
Keystone/Getty Images

"This one is going to be smaller. It's going to be more inclusive, I think with many more religions represented. That is going to play a big part," she says.

The aristocrat, who was one of the six maids at Queen Elizabeth's 1953 coronation, recalls how Charles witnessed his mother's crowning ceremony as a 4-year-old prince.

"He was just above me — he was brought in for the crowning," she tells PEOPLE. "We were standing below him, and he was up there with Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. I could hear him talking, asking her what was what."

Lady Anne Glenconner - Whatever next? Lessons from an unexpected life book cover
Hachette Books

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Whatever Next? is Lady Anne's second book, following up the successful Lady in Waiting. She has also penned two novels.

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