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

  • By turns insightful and uproarious, Craig Brown’s brilliant new book on Princess Margaret is a masterpieceMail on Sunday

    ‘I honked so loudly the man sitting next to me on the train dropped his sandwich … 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

    ‘[a] richly detailed portrait’ Sunday Times

    Praise for Craig Brown:

    ‘The amazing Craig Brown – the greatest satirist since Max Beerbohm’ Elaine Showalter

    ‘The wittiest writer in Britain today’ Stephen Fry

    ‘Every page is gold … genius’ Boris Johnson

    ‘Outstanding, endlessly inventive and irresistible’ Lynn Truss

    The most screamingly funny living writer’ Barry Humphries

    ‘We love Craig Brown’ Elton John

    Praise for ONE ON ONE:

    ‘Deliciously clever and amusing’ The Washington Post

    ‘One of the ten best books of the year’ Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

    ‘Hilarious’ The Wall Street Journal

    ‘A brilliant comic masterpiece by the greatest humorist in America or Britain today’ Simon Sebag Montefiore

    ‘Wistful and moving, as well as howlingly funny’ A.N. Wilson, The Spectator