Ma’am Dar­ling

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Craig Brown

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

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