Anne Glenconner has recalled her 30 years in service to Princess Margaret in her new book

By Stephanie Petit and Simon Perry
March 04, 2020 10:00 AM
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Princess Margaret was known to have a good time, usually with a cigarette or cocktail in hand. But according to her lady-in-waiting, the royal gave up her bad habits without looking back.

Anne Glenconner has recalled her 30 years in service to Queen Elizabeth‘s younger sister in her new book, Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown — and given insight to Margaret’s “practical” ways. Speaking to PEOPLE, Lady Glenconner shared the royal’s casual reaction to her query about giving up alcohol and cigarettes.

“When she had to give up smoking and drinking more or less at the same time, I admired her and asked her, ‘Is it very hard?’ She said, ‘No, Anne, once I make up my mind to do something I do it,’ ” Lady Glenconner said. “She was practical like that.”

Credit: Reginald Davis/ Shuttestock
Princess Margaret
| Credit: Anwar Hussein/Getty

According to an excerpt from Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown, the then 25-year-old royal would start her day with breakfast in bed, followed by two hours in bed listening to the radio, reading the newspapers (“which she invariably left scattered over the floor”) and chain-smoking.

Lady Anne Glenconner and Princess Margaret

Margaret would then take a leisurely hour-long bath run for her by her lady’s maid. At noon, she would have her hair and make-up done, before heading downstairs for a vodka pick-me-up.

But not all of her habits went without consequence. A heavy smoker for many years, Princess Margaret underwent a lung operation in 1985, followed by several strokes until her death in 2002.

Princess Margaret
| Credit: Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the monarch’s sister in The Crown, sought the royal’s advice through a psychic — and said the topic of smoking came up.

“Then she said: ‘But you’re going to have to brush up and be more groomed and neater.’ Then she said: ‘Get the smoking right. I smoked in a very particular way. Remember that — this is a big note — the cigarette holder was as much a weapon for expression as it was for smoking,’ ” the actress said.

Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret
| Credit: Anwar Hussein/Getty

Lady Glenconner tells PEOPLE that despite their adventures around the world together, her favorite times with Margaret were “when we just together, enjoying our life. Without our husbands!”

“My favorite times with Princess Margaret were the time I spent alone with her,” she says. “We used to garden, she used to lay my fires because I wasn’t a Girl Guide. We used to go for walks and go to the beach. And when I lived with her for a year at Kensington Palace and whenever we weren’t doing anything, we would get together. I might creep in, and she would know when I was coming through the door and she would call out, ‘Anne? Is that you? Come and have a nightcap.’ And I knew we would be there for the next two hours at least.”

Lady Anne Glenconner
| Credit: Hal Shinnie

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Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown will be released in the U.S. on March 24.