Vanessa Kirby portrayed the late princess in the first two seasons, while Helena Bonham Carter portrays her in the third and upcoming fourth seasons

By Simon Perry
March 05, 2020 10:00 AM
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As Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting for more than three decades, Lady Anne Glenconner knows the royal family better than almost anyone — and she has opinions on The Crown.

Reflecting on actresses Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham Carter, both of whom have played Princess Margaret on the hit Netflix series, Glenconner tells PEOPLE of which portrayal she prefers, “Oh, that’s easy. I didn’t like the first one at all. She was too tall.

“To see this actress towering over Claire Foy [who played Margaret’s older sister, Queen Elizabeth] was ridiculous. And her voice was not right. Helena has the voice spot-on.”

In fact, Bonham spoke with Glenconner, 87, who was Margaret’s closest confidant, for several hours as she researched the role. They chatted about “how she smoked, how she walked,” Glenconner says.

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Princess Margaret and Lady Anne Glenconner

Now, Glenconner is telling all in a memoir that opens a window into the royal world like no other. Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown has been a sensation in the U.K., and is out in the U.S. on March 24 — and this week’s issue of PEOPLE features an exclusive excerpt.

The book charts Glenconner’s life from her aristocratic childhood through serving as one of the Queen’s attendants at her 1953 Coronation through her rocky marriage to the unfaithful Colin Tennant (who later became Lord Glenconner) and the tragedy of losing two of their five children. The journey also includes sparkling tales of her exotic escapes to the Caribbean island of Mustique, where Margaret owned a home, and an eyewitness account of Margaret’s tempestuous marriage to photographer Armstrong-Jones.

After enjoying the first several seasons of Netflix’s The Crown, Glenconner says the third season, in which Helena Bonham Carter plays Queen Elizabeth’s cigarette-puffing sister, is “ridiculous.” Glenconner herself appears as a character in the show’s third season. “It is odd. Naturally, you think it is not like you,” she says. “It has gone complete off-piste now. At the beginning it was really good and people enjoyed it, but it is ridiculous.”

Lady Anne Glenconner
| Credit: Hal Shinnie