Anne Glenconner exposes more appalling abuse at the hands of Lord Glenconner who ‘spiked’ her drink


Sex before marriage was unthinkable for a girl from my background, and divorce a shameful admission of failure. As the daughter of the Earl of Leicester, I totally accepted these beliefs.

Like many other 1950s debutantes, I was expected to quickly make what my friends and family would regard as a good match.

I was looking forward to having a conventional marriage that looked very much like that of my parents. Instead, I married Colin Tennant, heir to Lord Glenconner.

We’d met at a debutante dance a year or so after I was maid of honour at the Queen’s Coronation, and I soon fell in love. He was so different from my father’s dull shooting fraternity – very good-looking, charming, a marvellous dancer and, best of all, he talked about more than shooting and fishing.

He was part of Princess Margaret’s set and knew all sorts of glamorous people, writers and artists. When we married in April 1956, I’d known him for less than a year and was totally ignorant about sex. If I’d hoped Colin would help me learn about sex with gentleness and kindness, I was wrong.

I think he arranged for my drink to be spiked and, from what I know now, I suspect it was LSD. I had the most terrifying experience, with visions and hallucinations, but we ended up making passionate love despite my feeling so scared. Pictured: Lady and Lord Glenconner with Bianca Jagger (right) at a gold themed 50th Birthday Party of Hon Colin Tennant on Mustique, West Indies, in November 1976

On our wedding night in Paris, Colin had a tantrum that left him exhausted, so that was a non-starter, and the consummation, when it happened, was awkward, painful and not particularly enjoyable or romantic. Apparently this was my fault. Pictured: Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner, and his wife Anne, on the island of Mustique, which he owned privately, in March 1973

When we married in April 1956, I’d known him for less than a year and was totally ignorant about sex. If I’d hoped Colin would help me learn about sex with gentleness and kindness, I was wrong. Pictured: Princess Margaret and Lord Glenconner on the Island of Martinique for Weekend magazine

When we married in April 1956, I’d known him for less than a year and was totally ignorant about sex. If I’d hoped Colin would help me learn about sex with gentleness and kindness, I was wrong. Pictured: Princess Margaret and Lord Glenconner on the Island of Martinique for Weekend magazine 

On our wedding night in Paris, Colin had a tantrum that left him exhausted, so that was a non-starter, and the consummation, when it happened, was awkward, painful and not particularly enjoyable or romantic. Apparently this was my fault. Pictured: Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner, and his wife Anne, on the island of Mustique, which he owned privately, in March 1973

On our wedding night in Paris, Colin had a tantrum that left him exhausted, so that was a non-starter, and the consummation, when it happened, was awkward, painful and not particularly enjoyable or romantic. Apparently this was my fault. Pictured: Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner, and his wife Anne, on the island of Mustique, which he owned privately, in March 1973 

On our wedding night in Paris, Colin had a tantrum that left him exhausted, so that was a non-starter, and the consummation, when it happened, was awkward, painful and not particularly enjoyable or romantic. Apparently this was my fault.

When he took me to a brothel a night or two later to watch a private sex show, I felt he was saying: ‘You’re hopeless at it, but you’ll get some good tips from watching this.’ It was so humiliating.

He’d had numerous affairs before we met but that didn’t mean he regarded it as his role to teach me how to explore this side of life with gentleness or generosity. As long as Colin and I were sleeping together, our sex life was marked by criticism and disappointment. He used to get very cross with me, which of course made things worse and I used to dread going to bed with him. I tried to be enthusiastic but it never worked between us. For a very long time, I felt I must be to blame.

The one time he seemed pleased with me was years later in the Grenadines. I think he arranged for my drink to be spiked and, from what I know now, I suspect it was LSD. I had the most terrifying experience, with visions and hallucinations, but we ended up making passionate love despite my feeling so scared. It was extremely energetic and uninhibited.

The next day, Colin said: ‘That was amazing and that’s the way I want you to behave all the time.’

‘Well, I felt awful and I still do,’ I replied.

He didn’t lace my drink again but how strange and somehow typical of Colin that, rather than being tender, he decided he could just drug me into doing what he liked.

Sex was by no means our only problem. As I recounted in yesterday’s extract from my new book, Colin often had violent rages – one of them so severe that I thought he’d end up killing me.

Not only was his temper on a hair trigger, I was astonished to find myself blamed for everything that went wrong, or everything he felt had gone wrong. I had to learn very quickly how to deal with his sudden demands, defuse difficult situations and move swiftly to repair any damage his behaviour had caused. The trigger for an almighty meltdown could come from the most unpredictable place. He’d lose his temper in an instant and give you very little time to put right whatever he’d objected to. I learned to stay calm, be vigilant and weather the storms.

From the earliest days of our marriage, everything went one way: from me to Colin. His own feelings took precedence in any and every situation.

How exhausting and lonely it could be. I felt as though parts of me were dying with no one to nurture or cherish me when I needed it. It was like having another child, but a particularly large, disruptive one.

He shocked, offended and terrified other people most of the time and I had to sort out the results. Too often I existed just as a buffer between him and everyone else.

Nowadays I always feel nervous around marriages where I sense one party in control. My antennae for that are highly developed and I can often feel when the power is disproportionately weighted to one side. I don’t think it’s ever healthy. Another side of Colin [who died in 2010] that would test me was his constant restlessness.

Party people: The Glenconners on Mustique in 1973 and Princess Margaret with the couple on the island in 1986

Party people: The Glenconners on Mustique in 1973 and Princess Margaret with the couple on the island in 1986

Soon after I gave birth to Charlie, the first of our five children, he announced he’d just bought a mews house in London’s Knightsbridge. I was startled as I hadn’t even seen it. Nothing ever satisfied Colin for long. Even when we seemed to be settled in one place, I might be told that the house had been sold from under us and there was a week or at most a fortnight to pack the entire contents and leave.

Colin’s restlessness meant a lot of travelling. One of the hazards of accompanying him was that I always had to carry his luggage as he claimed he wasn’t strong enough. I was like a packhorse, labouring behind him laden with cases.

It was often frightfully embarrassing in airports as there’d be a huge queue of people waiting to check in and Colin would simply march to the front, while I followed, strung with luggage. ‘Come on, Anne,’ he’d order loudly. ‘Put my cases on that conveyor.’

The strange thing was that, apart from a few grumbles, people didn’t complain – perhaps because they were so amazed at his effrontery. Not that Colin would have taken any notice if they had. He was so frightfully impatient and his needs were always the priority. Everything had to happen now, now, now! He was always rushing and shouting, ‘Keep up! Keep up!’ That led to some great expeditions, but was obviously a terrible strain.

The husbands of my generation, who usually held all the financial cards, were often flagrantly unfaithful. Colin was, from the earliest days of our marriage.

The wedding of Lady Anne Coke and Mr Colin Tennant at St Withburga's Church in Holkham, Norfolk

The wedding of Lady Anne Coke and Mr Colin Tennant at St Withburga’s Church in Holkham, Norfolk

Lady Anne Glenconner (pictured) served as Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting for three decades

Lady Anne Glenconner (centre) at the book launch of Lord of the Isle - the Extravagant Life and Times of Colin Tennant in Mayfair, London alongside Lady Annunziata Asquith and Countess Davinia Alexander

Lady Anne Glenconner (centre) at the book launch of Lord of the Isle – the Extravagant Life and Times of Colin Tennant in Mayfair, London alongside Lady Annunziata Asquith and Countess Davinia Alexander

For the most part, wives simply put up with it and didn’t make a fuss but many made arrangements of their own. I am so glad I had that opportunity.

Ten years into my marriage, I took a lover, which did me an enormous amount of good. I had been taught to think of divorce as impossible but I was in great need of some kindness and cherishing, and enjoying some of that affection changed my life.

Our relationship lasted 34 years until my friend died. I was very lucky. It was perfect, though it was only lunch once a week and the occasional magical weekend when we were able to escape together. It was only with my friend that I realised how amazing sex could be and what I had been missing. While I was so grateful to experience that, I couldn’t help feeling sad that it had been so difficult with Colin.

It’s hard not to feel cross now. I’d finally discovered it takes two to have great sex, so it was always going to be difficult with someone who only considered his own wants. I no longer had to blame myself for those difficulties.

My friend’s wife was very generous to me. She knew about our arrangement and, in fact, had one of her own. There was no question of any of us leaving our marriages, though. It simply wasn’t done and I don’t think we ever considered it.

There was one long-term mistress who was particularly painful for me. He didn’t tell me about her but I saw them together at a party and knew at once just by the way they were standing together. Pictured: Lady Anne Coke and Colin Tennant pictured as they announce their engagement, December 16 1955

There was one long-term mistress who was particularly painful for me. He didn’t tell me about her but I saw them together at a party and knew at once just by the way they were standing together. Pictured: Lady Anne Coke and Colin Tennant pictured as they announce their engagement, December 16 1955

When my friend was dying, his wife rang me and said he would like to say goodbye to me, so I was able to go to see him. I was always grateful to her for that and that she sent me a memento of him after he died. Colin, however, wasn’t pleased. He was terribly jealous. One of the things that annoyed him was that my friend wasn’t particularly good-looking and Colin couldn’t understand it: he was so good-looking and perfect, how on earth could I want to be with anyone else?

The fact I might enjoy the company, in and out of bed, of someone who was consistently kind to me did not seem to occur to him.

There wasn’t much Colin could do about my friendship, considering he was unfaithful all the time and didn’t bother hiding it.

There was one long-term mistress who was particularly painful for me. He didn’t tell me about her but I saw them together at a party and knew at once just by the way they were standing together.

I said nothing but eventually Colin told me himself. This mistress tried very hard to make him marry her but he never left me.

As long as I could tolerate his extramarital affairs without tears and tantrums, and remain discreet, he would stay with me. And, of course, he could hardly complain when the boot was on the other foot, so he put up with it.

In the late 1960s, Colin – who liked to be ahead of the curve – went ‘to see my shrink’, as he put it, feeling very fashionable, no doubt. But therapy seemed to make little difference to his mental wellbeing.

One day, he told me he lay in silence for the entire session. ‘Don’t you say anything?’ I asked disbelievingly. This therapist was not cheap and highly recommended. ‘Not a word,’ Colin said, as though this was a major personal triumph. I think he was pleased with himself for managing to come up with a new take on talking therapy: lying there in furious silence.

Meanwhile, my stress levels were rising and our family doctor referred me to my own therapist. For about a year, I ended up talking a great deal about Colin, and it helped enormously. I realised, crucially, that he couldn’t be helped. There was nothing I could solve for him.

Whatever had happened to Colin to make him the way he was had happened in his childhood and I could never change him. I have no idea why he behaved as he did, though I can make some guesses.

After Colin’s brother was born, his mother Pamela took to her bed and refused to leave her room. He used to hear his father screaming at her through the closed door. They parted when Colin was nine.

His father, who’d never been affectionate with him, had little contact with him after that. When Colin became a father, he was confused when our sons Charlie and Henry tried to hug or kiss him.

Therapy helped me have a little more sympathy for him – and absolve myself of responsibility for him. Very importantly, it gave me the strength to believe in my worth as my own person.

I began to see clearly how tired I was. Colin was so very exhausting to live with: there was no room for me as a person because I was always so busy looking after him and anticipating his needs as well as protecting the children.

Pictured: Princess Margaret, Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner and Anne Tennant, Lady Glenconner wait on the jetty for Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip's arrival to Mustique on Britannia in 1977

Pictured: Princess Margaret, Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner and Anne Tennant, Lady Glenconner wait on the jetty for Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip’s arrival to Mustique on Britannia in 1977

Therapy also helped me see that I needed to stop trying to be the ‘good wife’ at such a great cost to my own mental wellbeing. However many of Colin’s storms and tantrums I prevented or smoothed over, there would always be something that drove him into a frenzy. Pictured: Lord Glenconner in Mustique with life-long friend Princess Margaret

Therapy also helped me see that I needed to stop trying to be the ‘good wife’ at such a great cost to my own mental wellbeing. However many of Colin’s storms and tantrums I prevented or smoothed over, there would always be something that drove him into a frenzy. Pictured: Lord Glenconner in Mustique with life-long friend Princess Margaret

Therapy also helped me see that I needed to stop trying to be the ‘good wife’ at such a great cost to my own mental wellbeing. However many of Colin’s storms and tantrums I prevented or smoothed over, there would always be something that drove him into a frenzy.

Crucially, I also learned to treasure the many moments of joy and laughter we shared with family and friends and appreciate the times Colin was at his best, charming and enthusing the people around us.

Making peace with the situation became easier once we spent more time apart. He’d bought the island of Mustique in 1958, spent a fortune developing it and was eventually living there more than not.

Though we still spent a lot of time together, we no longer shared a permanent home. Even so, I looked after him as much as I could. I was still his wife and that meant being at his side in public at his extravagant parties in the West Indies.

Had I not been living independently in England, I would probably have had to leave Colin entirely. As it was, I was able to stay married. I got on with it, and paradoxically grew more confident.

It was my choice, which I accept would not be everyone’s – but I don’t regret it.

Colin Tennant and Princess Margaret, at a gold themed 50th Birthday Party of Colin Tennant on Mustique, West Indies, November 22 1976

Colin Tennant and Princess Margaret, at a gold themed 50th Birthday Party of Colin Tennant on Mustique, West Indies, November 22 1976

The one thing that began to change about Colin as he aged was his appearance. Ahead of the curve as always, he embraced cosmetic surgery.

He had his eyelids lifted and his bags done in his 40s, and after that he got a taste for it and started having facelifts. When I asked him why, he said that his job was selling land and houses to people on Mustique and they weren’t going to buy anything from a decrepit old man.

I privately thought that they were very unlikely to trust someone who looked weird and surgically altered. Although his facelifts didn’t look too bad, he did get that smooth, waxy sheen to his skin and his lifted eyes looked slightly odd.

Later in life, he also had dentures that were a little large for him, so if you weren’t used to him, you could find him somewhat startling: smooth skin, lifted eyes and enormous white teeth.

Generally, he seemed to heal quite well from his operations but not always.

He was staying with me in London after one facelift, so that I could look after him while he recovered. I’d gone out for lunch and when I got back he wasn’t there.

I went into the bathroom and, to my horror, it was drenched in blood. I nearly fainted on the spot. Off I rushed to the hospital to look for him and there he was, furious. I got an absolute earful.

‘Typical!’ he shouted. ‘You weren’t there when I needed you!’

‘But, Colin,’ I said, jolly relieved to see him alive, and no longer upset by his flashes of temper, ‘what on earth happened?’ It turned out his stitches had exploded, or that was what he claimed, but I suspect he’d tried to take out one or two himself. I couldn’t blame him: he looked like Frankenstein’s monster, as if he’d been patched up with thick black thread in a bad blanket stitch.

Colin’s nasty experience of exploding stitches didn’t put him off. He continued to have cosmetic operations, including several more facelifts and tweaks.

‘You should get a facelift, Anne,’ he told me sometimes. ‘Why don’t you get your neck done?’

‘After your experience, I hardly want an exploding neck!’ I replied.

I’m very glad I stuck to my guns and still look relatively normal.

Colin’s temper never improved.

One day I was going to Royal Ascot with my dear friend Tim. He, his partner and I were in my flat in London, just getting ready to leave when Colin arrived unexpectedly. He was wearing something Tim admired. But when my friend went to feel the material of his lapel between his fingers – a perfectly innocuous gesture between such old friends – Colin simply whacked him as hard as he could and threw an absolute fit.

My neighbours knocked on the door to see what on earth was going on. Tim’s shock was obvious, but his innate good manners meant he didn’t respond angrily.

Now I wonder if part of that violent reaction might have been because Tim is openly gay.

People have often asked me if Colin was gay or bisexual. They were particularly suspicious after his will was read and it was found he’d left everything to Kent, his valet in the West Indies. The innuendo was continual and inescapable.

The truth is, I still don’t know.

Colin always had male friends whom he mentored and encouraged, but he never gave me any indication that he was sleeping with them. On the other hand, I was painfully aware of the multiple affairs he had with women.

Perhaps Colin was bisexual but, in his strange way, couldn’t bear the idea I might know, and his horror at Tim making even a slight intimate gesture was what had set him off. I remember when I came home that evening, Colin did apologise, saying he hoped he hadn’t spoiled my day. I told him he hadn’t, because I simply didn’t let him upset me in the way he once had.

The christening of baby Charles Edward Pevensey, the son of Colin Tennant and Lady Anne in 1957

The christening of baby Charles Edward Pevensey, the son of Colin Tennant and Lady Anne in 1957

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

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

In 1987, Colin moved to St Lucia, where he invested in an undeveloped 480-acre estate. He wanted to create somewhere as spectacular as Mustique, but this time his venture failed. He ended up living alone, tended to by Kent.

By 2010, it was clear he was dying of prostate cancer. I spent some time looking after him in the West Indies as he wouldn’t come back to England for treatment.

Seeing him so thin and ill was desperately upsetting. One evening, after a session at the clinic we went back to where we were staying. We had separate bedrooms with a communicating door and that night I was crying quietly to myself, thinking Colin couldn’t hear me.

He came in and climbed into the bed next to me, hugging me tightly. He hadn’t done anything like that for years, and almost with surprise said: ‘Oh you’re quite slim, aren’t you, and your skin is so smooth.’

It had been so long since he’d touched me, he’d forgotten what I was like. Then he said: ‘It wasn’t all bad, was it, Anne?’

‘No, Colin,’ I said. ‘Of course not.’

I left soon after that to return to England for a week or two, but would never see him again. I was devastated by his death.

I still don’t know why he took the awful decision to leave everything to his valet but I experienced it as one last flourish of his sadistic side, the side that revelled in the distress of others and which at times had made any sort of marriage to him seem an impossible burden.

I could not and would not be broken by him from beyond the grave, any more than I would allow it when he was alive. I made a conscious decision not to dwell on that final act of cruelty.

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

  • Whatever Next?, by Anne Glenconner, is published by Hodder & Stoughton on November 17 at £22. ©Anne Glenconner, 2022 To pre-order a copy for £19.80, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937 before November 13. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.



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