Ma’am Darling

Craig Brown

She made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando clam up. She cold-shouldered Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor.

Andy Warhol photographed her. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine. Gore Vidal revered her. John Fowles hoped to keep her as his sex-slave. Dudley Moore propositioned her. Francis Bacon heckled her. Peter Sellers was in love with her.

For Pablo Picasso, she was the object of sexual fantasy. “If they knew what I had done in my dreams with your royal ladies” he confided to a friend, “they would take me to the Tower of London and chop off my head!”

Princess Margaret aroused passion and indignation in equal measures. To her friends, she was witty and regal. To her enemies, she was rude and demanding.

In her 1950’s heyday, she was seen as one of the most glamorous and desirable women in the world. By the time of her death, she had come to personify disappointment. One friend said he had never known an unhappier woman.

The tale of Princess Margaret is pantomime as tragedy, and tragedy as pantomime. It is Cinderella in reverse: hope dashed, happiness mislaid, life mishandled.

Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues and essays, Ma’am Darling is a kaleidoscopic experiment in biography, and a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.

Reviews of Ma’am Darling

  • ‘Brown has been our best parodist and satirist for decades now … Ma’am Darling is, as you would expect, very funny; also, full of quirky facts and genial footnotes. Brown has managed to ingest huge numbers of royal books and documents without losing either his judgment or his sanity. He adores the spectacle of human vanity’ Julian Barnes, Guardian

    Ma’am Darling is fascinating. In its tiara-ed grip, I was unbound, released; total absorption left me as wanton and unselfconscious as Lord Snowdon, HRH’s preening, spiteful husband – after too many martinis … Brown has done something amazing with Ma’am Darling: in my wilder moments, I wonder if he hasn’t reinvented the biographical formObserver

    ‘Like everyone else, I have been relishing Craig Brown’s Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, a biography teeming with the joyous, the ghastly and the clinically fascinating’ Hannah Bett, The Times

    ‘Heaven’ India Knight, Sunday Times

    Craig Brown has brilliantly drawn together the component parts of a complex womanThe Oldie

    ‘a playful, impish approach…Brown gives us lots of wonderful incidental detail…The deftly amused writing constantly tugs the corners of your mouth upwardsEvening Standard

    ‘Throughout this entertaining book the anecdotes come thick and fast and the detail is sometimes jaw-dropping’ The Times

    Hugely entertaining … brilliantly written, with a wonderful sardonic edge but also a thoughtful, at times even moving tone’ Spectator

    ‘If you want a book that will have you punching your pillow in helpless laughter, this is it. Moreover, he has invented an entirely new genre, of which it is a masterpiece … The list of the Princess’s ‘rumoured’ lovers – up to and wickedly including Dusty Springfield – sparked my decision to buy this book as a Christmas present for everybody I know, and for those I don’t.’ Country Life