Fourth Estate, $25
Princess Margaret insisted on even her closest friends calling her ‘Ma’am’, but behind her back, people had some much more colourful descriptions: “a poor midgety brute”, “the world’s most difficult guest” and “a hedgehog covered in primroses” – although some have since opined that that’s unfair to hedgehogs.
Until she died in 2002, everyone in certain circles had met the Queen’s younger sister at least once – even those who did their best to avoid her.
In this highly original and guffawinducing biography, satirist Craig Brown has compiled a treasure trove of essays, lists, catalogues, diaries, palace announcements, newspaper cuttings and interviews to draw a rather revealing portrait of a natural-born Princess Ghastly.
Hailed as a sex symbol in 1950, the diminutive royal, who wore her rudeness like a jewel-encrusted crown, drove some men mad with desire. Poet John Betjeman found her “very, very, very frightening but beautiful and succulent like Belgian buns”. Pablo Picasso had erotic dreams about her and seriously wanted to put a ring on it.
He didn’t, of course. She was adept at putting chaps in their place.
At social gatherings, she always insisted that everyone follow the royal protocol of not continuing to eat after she’d stopped and not leaving until she did, which was sometimes not till 4am. Her ‘friends’ all went home and bitched in their diaries, but those in her inner circle always came back for another helping of superciliousness.
If you like your biographies naughty, don’t miss this one.
‘If you can’t change your fate,
change your attitude’
– Amy Tan