Satirist Craig Brown says that for most royal biographers "there is no division between the interesting and the uninteresting." His deliciously gossipy and unconventional biography of HRH Princess Margaret (1930-2002) avoids the humdrum by creating a fascinating patchwork of stories culled from histories, memoirs and diaries of historians, servants, royal watchers and celebrities including Michael Palin, Alec Guinness, Nancy Mitford, Noël Coward, John Fowles and Christopher Isherwood.
As the daughter of a king and sister to a queen, Margaret was keenly aware of her supporting role in history and her own life, and she wasn't happy about it. Her waspish personality attracted people who were "mesmerised less by her image than by the cracks to be found in it." She liked to arrive late to parties, then delay dinner "to catch up with her punishing schedule of drinking and smoking." She would then stay late, which meant other guests were unable to leave because protocol dictated that no one depart before her. "She had no wish to draw others in, and refused to offer them the illusion, however fleeting, of parity," writes Brown. Her marital life wasn't any happier. Her husband, Lord Snowden, tossed lit matches at her across the dinner table and left her notes reading "You look like a Jewish manicurist" and "I hate you."
Brown's Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret could be subtitled "Royals Behaving Badly." It's chock-full of catty, funny, surprising and sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes. This supremely witty, riotously rude and tightly written biography will be irresistible to Anglophiles. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant