MARGARET THE MANEATER

Life on her is­land hide­away was ‘like a cross be­tween Bal­moral and an Ibiza hen party’. And as our glo­ri­ously waspish critic tells, it was here that Princess Margaret made waves with the toy­boy she’d de­voured at first sight

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Femail - BY Craig Brown © Craig Brown, 2017

By turns in­sight­ful and up­roar­i­ous, Craig Brown’s bril­liant new book on Princess Margaret is a mas­ter­piece. Last week he re­called the sheer, jaw­drop­ping rude­ness of the Queens’ sis­ter, known as the din­ner party guest from hell. To­day, in a sec­ond and fi­nal ex­tract, we meet the ex­tra­or­di­nary world of louche hang­ers on and lovers who would even­tu­ally sur­round her amid the sun and sand of a pri­vate Caribbean is­land...

THE young Princess Margaret, in­fin­itely more louche and care­free than her sis­ter, was the queen of Lon­don so­ci­ety through­out the 1950s and early 1960s. Her friends and ad­mir­ers were drawn from the aris­toc­racy and show­busi­ness, and the jazzy area in be­tween.

But by the 1970s, her in­creas­ingly rack­ety mar­riage to Lord Snow­don was at­tract­ing com­ment. For those of a ner­vous dis­po­si­tion, her Caribbean hide­away on the is­land of Mus­tique ap­peared to be a li­cen­tious out­post of the Per­mis­sive So­ci­ety.

When Roddy Llewellyn – 18 years her ju­nior – strayed into her life, Repub­li­cans sim­u­lated out­rage, and a tut-tu­tathon en­sued.

In the House of Com­mons, Labour Left-winger Dennis Cana­van said: ‘Here she is, go­ing away with her boyfriend to a par­adise is­land while we are be­ing asked to tighten our belts.’ Vet­eran anti-Roy­al­ist Wil­lie Hamil­ton was equally in­censed: ‘If she thumbs her nose at tax­pay­ers by fly­ing off to Mus­tique to see this pop-singer chap, she shouldn’t ex­pect the work­ers of this coun­try to pay for it.’ MARGARET moved into her Mus­tique house Les Jolies Eaux – a be­lated wed­ding gift from her old friend Colin Ten­nant – in 1973 and fur­nished it mainly with free gifts hoovered up dur­ing her an­nual vis­its to the Ideal Home Ex­hi­bi­tion.

The Princess’s timetable was un­vary­ing. Ris­ing at 11am, she would take a cup of cof­fee with her lady-in-wait­ing. On one oc­ca­sion the lady-in-wait­ing in ques­tion, her cousin Jean Wills, tried to slip out for a quick walk be­fore their cof­fee ap­point­ment, only to be caught red-handed and, ac­cord­ing to Ten­nant, ‘soundly be­rated’.

Margaret would then make her way to the is­land’s ho­tel, the Cot­ton House, for a cig­a­rette and a pickme-up, thence to the beach, where she would swim a very slow breast­stroke, her head held high, as though the sea it­self might try to take ad­van­tage, while a mem­ber of her court swam along­side her, em­ploy­ing side-stroke so the Princess could see his or her face.

To min­imise the ir­ri­ta­tion of sand stick­ing to the Princess’s feet as she got out of the sea, Colin Ten­nant would make sure that a basin of fresh wa­ter was to hand.

How risqué was the Princess’s life on Mus­tique? Buxom in her flo­ral swim­suit, tipsy in the for­eign sun, her ad­her­ence to pro­to­col re­mained doggedly in­tact.

By all ac­counts, it was a cu­ri­ous com­bi­na­tion of the jaunty and the cer­e­mo­nial, the tone pitched some­where be­tween a lunch party at Bal­moral and a hen party on Ibiza.

Any­one who over­stepped the mark could ex­pect a swift tongue­lash­ing. Those who ar­rived too late or left too early could ex­pect to be taken down a peg or two.

On one oc­ca­sion, Raquel Welch ar­rived for lunch halfway through pud­ding. The Princess took a good long slug on her cig­a­rette, ex­haled slowly, and then stared point­edly at her wrist­watch. The sun shone brightly on Mus­tique, but there was al­ways the risk of frost from its Royal in­hab­i­tant. PRINCESS MARGARET’S bi­og­ra­phers are un­sure what to think about John Bin­don, ac­tor and real-life vil­lain, with whom some claimed she had an af­fair. He had been to borstal as a teenager, but was pre­sented with the Queen’s Award for Brav­ery at 25 for div­ing into the Thames in a failed at­tempt to res­cue a drown­ing man. How­ever, Bin­don later boasted he had pushed the man off Put­ney Bridge, and had dived in only when the po­lice came.

Bin­don be­came a bit-part ac­tor af­ter chanc­ing upon Ken Loach in a pub and ap­peared in the films Per­for­mance and Quadrophe­nia and var­i­ous TV crime shows – his knack for play­ing thugs boosted by the fact that he was one. In 1978 he was charged with killing gang­ster Johnny Darke in a fight out­side a pub, but he con­vinced the jury he was de­fend­ing a third man. In 1982, he ad­mit­ted at­tack­ing a man who bumped into him on his birth­day.

Two years later he was given a two-month sus­pended sen­tence for hold­ing a carv­ing knife to the face of a de­tec­tive, yet Bin­don is prob­a­bly most fa­mous for a party trick, which is said to have in­volved bal­anc­ing beer glasses on his ap­pendage – al­though no­body can quite agree how this was achieved.

None of this pre­vented him from mix­ing with the Mus­tique crowd. There is even a photograph to prove it: the Princess sit­ting at a pic­nic ta­ble in a low-cut strap­less swim­suit next to Bin­don, clad in an orange T-shirt bear­ing the le­gend ‘En­joy Co­caine’.

How far did they go? Bin­don liked to make a show of re­fus­ing to talk about it, per­haps to give the im­pres­sion there was some­thing to talk about. There was even a sug­ges­tion Bin­don stripped off on the beach.

How­ever, there is a school of thought that re­gards this story as a smoke­screen. ‘That was all to dis­guise the fact that John had been see­ing Margaret in Lon­don,’ an anony­mous friend of Bin­don told his bi­og­ra­pher Wens­ley Clark­son. HER re­la­tion­ship with Roddy Llewellyn was, by all ac­counts, the hap­pi­est of her life. ‘Some­times I think he is the only man to have ever treated her prop­erly,’ ob­served Colin Ten­nant decades later. As a young man, Roddy had worked as a mo­bile DJ be­fore be­com­ing an as­sis­tant at the Col­lege of Arms.

His flat­mate at the time, the in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor Nicky Haslam, claims Roddy nursed an am­bi­tion

She be­rated her aide – just for tak­ing a walk

to meet Princess Margaret (who was still mar­ried to pho­tog­ra­pher An­thony Snow­den). Haslam men­tioned this to Vi­o­let Wyn­d­ham, who in turn men­tioned it to her cousin Colin Ten­nant and his wife Anne, who hap­pened to be hav­ing Margaret to stay at The Glen, his estate near Pee­bles in the Bor­ders.

On Septem­ber 5, 1973, Roddy ar­rived, as in­structed, at the Cafe Royal in Ed­in­burgh at 1pm sharp. Colin Ten­nant was al­ready there, sit­ting next to Margaret, who was sip­ping a gin and tonic. ‘It was ob­vi­ous some­thing hap­pened as soon as Margaret saw Roddy,’ said Ten­nant. ‘She de­voured him through lun­cheon. It was a great re­lief.’

Af­ter lunch, Margaret took Roddy shop­ping for swim­ming trunks and then trav­elled to The Glen in the back of Ten­nant’s minibus. For both, it ap­pears to have been love at first sight. Anne Ten­nant’s im­me­di­ate thought was: ‘Heav­ens, what have I done?’ The next day, Roddy told Anne that Margaret had the most beau­ti­ful eyes. ‘Don’t tell me, tell her!’ she replied. Roddy did – and it did the trick. Years later, Colin Ten­nant con­fessed to hid­ing on the main land­ing at The Glen that night. ‘By that evening, the tower was rock­ing,’ re­calls a friend. When, in March 1974, Roddy stayed on Mus­tique, he told his brother Dai it was ‘al­most like a hon­ey­moon’. But back in Lon­don, Roddy found the af­fair dif­fi­cult to cope with. ‘She had vamped him, and he couldn’t quite man­age it,’ says a friend. He briefly fled to Is­tan­bul, telling a pas­sen­ger on the plane he was hav­ing an af­fair with a mar­ried woman, that it had all got too much for him, that the sex had be­come a problem. Princess Margaret, in a sim­i­lar state of dis­e­qui­lib­rium, took a hand­ful of sleep­ing pills, not quite dan­ger­ous, but suf­fi­ciently pow­er­ful to force her to can­cel of­fi­cial en­gage­ments in Wolver­hamp­ton. A Kens­ing­ton Palace spokesman ex­plained that Her Royal High­ness was suf­fer­ing from ‘a se­vere cold’. De­spite her con­tin­ued af­fair with Roddy, Margaret was grow­ing in­creas­ingly dis­tressed by her hus­band’s af­fair with Lucy Lindsay-Hogg. How do we know? The Princess told Mail di­arist Nigel Demp­ster, the prin­ci­pal ex­porter of Kens­ing­ton spice to the world. In the early sum­mer of 1975, Roddy was in­vited to put up £1,000 to join an un­usu­ally bluechip com­mune at Sur­ren­dell Farm near Malmes­bury in Wilt­shire. The farm later had its elec­tric­ity cut off, but while that sum­mer lasted, the dream of a hippy par­adise re­mained in­tact. The upand-com­ing ac­tress He­len Mir­ren was a some-time guest. Margaret even helped with the farm’s gar­den; she had al­ways been a dab hand with the se­ca­teurs, snip­ping away with gay aban­don at the un­der­growth.

Her of­fice at Kens­ing­ton Palace cus­tom­ar­ily dis­missed ru­mours of their af­fair as tit­tle­tat­tle, partly thanks to Colin Ten­nant, who turned away any­one look­ing re­motely jour­nal­is­tic from Mus­tique. But in Fe­bru­ary 1976, a New Zealand reporter man­aged to photograph the cou­ple on the beach. From then on, Margaret and Roddy were sit­ting ducks – and pho­to­graphs were at a pre­mium. At one time or an­other, var­i­ous mem­bers of the Ten­nant fam­ily had strug­gled, not al­ways suc­cess­fully, with the temp­ta­tion of putting them to good use.

One such photo had been taken when Mus­tique was in­fected by the in­cau­tious 1970s craze for streak­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Ten­nant’s friend and bi­og­ra­pher Ni­cholas Court­ney, Ten­nant had turned to the Princess at a pic­nic on the beach and said: ‘Would you mind aw­fully, Ma’am, if I were to re­move my swim­ming trunks?’

‘So long as I don’t have to look at IT,’ replied the Princess. Ten­nant per­suaded Roddy Llewellyn and Court­ney to fol­low suit. Ten­nant bor­rowed Llewellyn’s cam­era and took a snap of the Princess with the stark­naked Llewellyn and Court­ney on ei­ther side of her, the skirts of her swim­ming cos­tume ob­scur­ing their pri­vate parts. In turn, the Princess took pho­to­graphs of the three naked men per­form­ing com­i­cal poses to­gether.

The pic­tures found their way into the news­pa­pers – which gave Margaret’s hus­band a golden op­por­tu­nity to por­tray him­self as the wronged party. He de­clared he felt hu­mil­i­ated, that his po­si­tion was ‘quite in­tol­er­a­ble’, and that a sep­a­ra­tion was the only so­lu­tion.

‘Lord Snow­don,’ Margaret was to tell Demp­ster years later, ‘was dev­il­ish cun­ning.’

Snow­don sum­moned the Princess’s pri­vate sec­re­tary, Lord Napier, and said: ‘I’ll be out by the end of the week.’

This left Napier with the tricky task of telling Margaret, who was still on Mus­tique. Aware that the phone line was leaky, he couched what he said in a kind of code.

‘Ma’am, I have been talk­ing to ROBERT. He has given in his no­tice. He will be leav­ing by the end of the week.’ The Princess did not catch his drift. ‘Have you taken leave of your senses? What ARE you talk­ing about?’ Napier re­peated, slowly, and the Princess sud­denly un­der­stood. ‘Oh, I SEE! Thank you, Nigel. I think that’s the best news you’ve ever given me.’

‘Would you mind, Ma’am, if I re­moved my trunks?’

RISQUE: Margaret in 1976 with a dancer at Colin Ten­nant’s 50th birth­day party on Mus­tique. Roddy Llewellyn on the is­land in the same year, above

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