Book Review: Whatever Next? by Anne Glenconner

Arts Reviewer, Dr Diana Carroll, lives the high life with Lady Anne in her engaging second memoir.
Dr Diana Carroll

From the splendour of royal palaces to the celebrity haven of Mustique, Lady Anne Glenconner has lived a remarkable life. But the fairytale hasn’t always been so magical. As she reveals in this engrossing book, she has endured awful pain along with the glamour and privilege.

This new memoir covers some of the same ground as her first memoir, Lady in Waiting whilst exploring key chapters of her life in greater detail. Indeed, one of the most ‘unexpected’ aspects of her life was becoming a best-selling author in her eighties with the publication of that memoir and her autobiographical novels A Haunting at Holkham and Murder on Mustique. She also became something of a media celebrity with the popular Netflix series The Crown where her character was played by actress Nancy Carroll. Lady Anne describes Carroll as ‘lovely’ even though she disputes strongly the show’s storylines.

This engaging memoir is neatly divided into eight sections: author, daughter, wife, hostess, mother, Lady in Waiting, adventurer, and friend, with an introduction and epilogue, neatly entitled ‘And finally…’. Each section is full of glorious anecdotes and life’s lessons learned. She is a strong believer in the value of a positive attitude and good posture – something instilled in her by years of sitting at the dinner table with a broomstick down her back!

Lady Anne is wonderful writer, her voice leaping off the page with clarity and enthusiasm. She is unfailingly charming and optimistic, despite some of the trauma and sadness in her life. Two of her three sons died young in tragic circumstances and the third was in a coma for four months after a motorcycle accident with his rehabilitation taking many years of unrelenting care and hard work. Her husband Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner, was violent and abusive throughout their 54 years of marriage. She says he was “often a wonderful companion, a beloved father, and I have many happy memories of him. He was also an incredibly selfish, damaged, and occasionally dangerous man.” His final act of cruelty to the family was wrought post mortem. After he died from cancer in 2010, they were shocked to discover he had left his entire estate to his valet Kent Adonai. The family had to bid at a Sotheby’s public auction to buy back some of their treasured mementos.

Born in 1932 to one of England’s most aristocratic old families, Lady Anne was a maid-of-honour at the Queen’s coronation in 1953 and later became Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret. This is an unpaid position, apart from a modest clothing allowance, but it does come with incredible international travel and open-all-doors access. Lady Anne’s mother had held the same position with the Queen for many years. Despite a close friendship spanning more than thirty years, and having known each other as children, Lady Anne always said “Ma’am” when she spoke to Princess Margaret. “I would have been very uncomfortable calling her anything else,” she says.

Lady Anne makes a witty and insightful commentator on the enormous changes in society during her lifetime. “A fundamental truth of my class and time was that women must put up and shut up,” she observes. Thank goodness some things have changed!

Hachette Australia, Paperback RRP $24.99

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