Lady Anne Glenconner looks back on her remarkable life at 91

Lady Anne Glenconner looks back on her remarkable life at 91

Lady Anne Glenconner celebrates her 91st birthday on July 16 and, like many people, she may find herself reflecting on years gone by.

And having enjoyed an unusually eventful life he certainly has plenty to look back on.

Lady Anne was one of six maids of honor at Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation.

His royal connections don’t end there – as well as enjoying a childhood friendship with the late Queen, he also looked after the King’s sister, Princess Margaret.

Lady Anne (pictured, right) Princess Margaret (pictured, centre) and Lord Colin Tennant (pictured, left) wait at Mustique’s jetty to welcome Queen Elizabeth II in 1977

As well as being a childhood friend of Queen Elizabeth, Lady Anne was maid of honor at her coronation (pictured L-R: Lady Moira Campbell), Lady Anne Glenconner), Lady Rosemary Muir, Lady Mary Russell), Baroness Willoughby d’Eresby, Lady Raine, Queen Elizabeth II

And she also married a high profile man in 1956, tying the knot with Colin Tennant, later 3rd Baron Glenconner.

Unfortunately, it won’t be a happy union, as Lady Anne revealed in her 2022 autobiography Whatever?

She revealed that her husband Colin, whom she met at a debutante’s ball at the Ritz in the summer of 1955, was physically and emotionally abusive.

Lady Anne described her role as his wife as ‘doing what he wanted, picking up his mess and looking cheerful while I did it. Many things were made very clear’.

She said that they ‘soon fell in love’ after they met, describing him as ‘very handsome, charming, an amazing dancer’ and added that ‘best of all, he talked more than shooting and fishing’.

And part of Princess Margaret’s set, Colin, who died in 2010, knew many glamorous people, including writers and artists.

According to Anne, when the pair tied the knot less than a year after they met, she was ‘completely ignorant of sex’.

However, her hope that her more experienced husband would help her learn with ‘gentleness and kindness’ was not to be borne out.

And problems appeared early: Colin had a tantrum on their wedding night, Anne said, leaving her exhausted.

When they consummated the marriage, it was ‘awkward, painful and not particularly enjoyable or romantic’, which he blamed on her.

Things would get worse when he took his bride to a brothel a few days later for a private sex show.

The experience felt humiliating to Anne, who felt as if her husband was telling her that she was ‘desperate’, and that she should watch the show to get tips.

Their sex lives will never improve and will be characterized by ‘criticism and frustration’.

According to Anne: ‘He was very cross with me, which of course made things worse, and I was afraid to go to bed with him. I tried to be enthusiastic but it didn’t work between us. For a long time, I felt that I must be responsible.’

Although Anne quickly fell for Colin, problems quickly appeared in their marriage (Image: Lady Anne and Colin on their wedding day)

Lady Anne Coke and Colin Tennant pictured announcing their engagement, 16 December 1955

Lady Anne, then 23, in her wedding dress when she married Colin Tennant in 1956

Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner and his wife Anne, on Mustique Island in March 1973

Colin took an extreme step to enjoy sex with his wife, arranging to spike her drink one night with what he suspected was LSD.

Having visions and hallucinations was a terrifying experience, but the couple ‘made passionate love’, which was energetic and uninhibited.

When Colin told Ann he wanted it this way [her] To behave all the time’, he simply replied that he felt terrible at the time – and still does.

As well as struggling with their sex life, Colin was also violent throughout the marriage, with Anne saying his violent anger and outbursts were ‘just his character’.

However, she described being married to him as ‘scary and very, very difficult at times’, thanks to his hair-trigger temper.

The violence follows a trajectory, starting with yelling and moving to spitting, shaking, and throwing things.

He beat her once, she revealed, during a violent outburst Anne feared would kill her.

However, he says that alongside these dark episodes there were turbulent moments during the union.

According to Anne: ‘Even, as time goes on, there will be moments of vivid happiness. Dance was one of them; We loved jive and rock and roll and let rip in different clubs.

‘To me, those were truly magical times when I could forget myself and all the tension between us.

‘I’ve also learned to value the many moments of joy and laughter we share with our family and friends, and to appreciate the charming times we have when Colin is at his best.’

One of the worst times came after he famously bought Mustique in 1958, which he described as ‘a great leap into the unknown’.

And while he had some good times in the West Indies, according to Anne, it didn’t go down well with Colin, who after spending most of his fortune on the island ‘considered himself the king of Mustika and behaved accordingly’.

He built a new village, installed electricity and created many well-paying jobs, improving the lives of the islanders.

But condescendingly implying that he felt entitled to physically attack people, Anne says that the islanders accepted Colin’s behavior ‘as easily…as did the whites’, who accepted Colin’s behavior because he was generous in other ways.

Then one November night in the late 70s, while they were celebrating their twin daughters’ birthdays, Ann was the focus of his wrath.

After talking to clients at a bar at Colin’s request, Ann excuses herself to go back to the twins.

She was soon approached by her enraged husband, who physically assaulted her before returning to their home. He was shaking with anger for the entire 10-minute ride.

According to Anne: ‘On the way home, I got out of the car and before I knew what was happening, he hit me across the head from behind with his shark bone walking stick. It knocked me straight to the ground. And then he turned on me.

‘I lay there, trying to protect my head and beg him to stop.

‘He didn’t: he was in a frenzy, out of his mind. I was completely terrified, convinced that he might kill me.

‘I don’t know how long it lasted, but eventually he exhausted himself. I lay there until I heard him driving, then went into the main house and locked myself in the bedroom.’

Party man: Princess Margaret (pictured, centre) with Musty Glenconner in 1986

Colin Tennant and Princess Margaret at Colin Tennant’s gold-themed 50th birthday party at Musty in 1976

He was terrified that he would return ‘eventually’ [her] Off’, but later learned that he had returned to the bar where he told a mutual friend that he had ‘beaten Anne’.

The next day, Anne knew something was seriously wrong, and was suffering from terrible earaches.

It would appear that his eardrum had ruptured, leaving him deaf in his ears ever since.

That beating was, according to Anne, the first time Colin knew he had gone too far. He apologized, promising not to do it again in the only show of remorse he’d ever seen from her.

Colin moved to St. Lucia in 1987, after investing in an undeveloped 480-acre estate that he wanted to develop in a spectacular location like Mustique.

However, the venture failed and he found himself living alone.

When he became seriously ill with prostate cancer in 2010, Anne spent some time in the West Indies as she refused to return to England for treatment.

She described seeing him so weak that he was ‘desperately annoying’ and one night, after returning to her bedroom (they had separate rooms) she cried silently to herself.

Colin heard her crying and came in and hugged her. He said: ‘It wasn’t all bad, Annie?’

‘No, Colin,’ I said. ‘Of course not.’

Lady Anne Glenconner (pictured) served as Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret for three decades

He soon returned to England, and would never see her again – her death devastated him.

As he decides to leave everything to his Bhola, which he says he ‘experienced…as a last development of his sadistic side, the side that was exposed to the suffering of others and that sometimes married him in any way. It seems impossible to understand’.

‘I couldn’t and wouldn’t be broken by him from beyond the grave, I would have allowed him to do it when he was alive,’ says Anne.

‘I made a conscious decision not to dwell on the ultimate act of cruelty.

‘Our marriage lasted 54 years. I can look back now and feel proud that I managed to find a way to stay married to Colin – even agreeing with him that it wasn’t all bad.’


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