Her first memoir, Lady in Waiting, was a publishing sensation.Now back with a second instalment, Whatever Next?, Lady Glenconner shares more stories about her friend Princess Margaret, life at Holkham and attending two coronations

Her revelations of life with the royals, the bizarre behaviour of her titled and entitled husband and the tragedies which befell their three sons were a sensation.

Now Lady Glenconner, of Holkham, has written a sequel to Lady In Waiting and it is just as packed with jaw-dropping anecdotes.

Indeed, some are even more shocking as, buoyed by the huge success of her first memoir, Anne Glenconner includes more details of the horrors half hidden behind the stiff-upper-lip façade of her marriage.

Last time she glossed over the full extent of the abuse she suffered. This time she does not shy away from what she endured – from being shoved and spat at to a violent attack.

Her work with domestic abuse charities stems from her experiences, but her latest book is no misery memoir. Whatever Next? also glitters with the joy of a life of enormous wealth and exceptional privilege.

Great British Life: Lady Glenconner with her 90th birthday cake. Picture: Courtesy of Lady GlenconnerLady Glenconner with her 90th birthday cake. Picture: Courtesy of Lady Glenconner

And, at 91 this month, Lady Glenconner says she has never been happier.

Anne Coke, eldest child of the earl of Leicester, was a disappointment from the moment she was born. ‘There’s a famous photograph of me being held by my father on the steps of Holkham Hall, my grandfather one side, my great grandfather the other, and they are all looking so disappointed.’

Only a boy would be able to inherit and Anne grew up knowing Holkham would never be hers. Two more girls followed and the vast estate, hall, land and titles went to a cousin.

Today Lady Glenconner can see the estate walls from her farmhouse home in Burnham Thorpe. She visits often and is sure that one day the male-line inheritance will change, just as it has for the royal family.

Her life has been closely linked to the royals from childhood. The young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret regularly visited from Sandringham. ‘The queen was older and was always saying, ‘Oh Margaret and Anne, what are you doing? You’re very naughty!’’ said Anne. ‘She was your typical older sister. She always had an eye out for Princess Margaret.

A generation later the young Prince Charles would visit Holkham – where Anne’s mother taught him to drive, aged just nine or 10, on the private parkland roads.

Great British Life: Holkham beach. Photo: Getty ImagesHolkham beach. Photo: Getty Images

‘He came from the age of about five or six up to about his early teens. The queen had not been to boarding school so had never had any childhood diseases. So when Prince Charles had mumps or measles or something he used to come up to Holkham Hall with his nanny or governess. He loved going on the beach and used to dig holes, hoping someone would fall into them.’

‘I found a letter the other day that Prince Charles had written to her saying, ‘Dearest Elizabeth thank you so much for letting me drive your van and jag.’’

In May Lady Glenconner was thrilled to be a guest at the coronation.

‘I was so pleased and honoured to be asked,’ she said. ‘At the last coronation in 1953 I was part of it and very, very nervous. This time I could relax and enjoy it.’

As a 20-year-old she was one of Queen Elizabeth’s maids of honour and remembers almost fainting from the tight dress and lack of food – and being given a sip of brandy by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the service.

This time she wore a hat made for her by her Holkham neighbour the Countess of Leicester.

Great British Life: The young Anne Coke with her mother, Countess of Leicester, and baby sister CareyThe young Anne Coke with her mother, Countess of Leicester, and baby sister Carey

Just a week later she met up with the king in Norfolk. ‘He wanted me to compare the two coronations!’ said Anne. ‘I’ve known the king all his life and during the coronation felt really quite tearful. After all this time, here he was, with the queen he loved. ‘When he and Camilla are up here at Sandringham I go over.’

‘I don’t see the Prince and Princess of Wales so often because they are so much younger than me. I occasionally see her shopping in Burnham Market.’

Just three years after the coronation Anne married Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconner, and was catapulted from her sheltered childhood (leaving aside the episode of the monstrous governess who punished her by tying her up every night) into the life of her monstrously pampered and petulant husband. If her first memoir suggested his charismatic and adventurous nature balanced out the narcissistic violence, this second book pulls fewer punches.

They went on to have five children but in a few terrible years in the 1980s and 90s their eldest son Charles died of hepatitis after battling heroin addiction, their second son Henry died of Aids, and their youngest son Christopher was left in a coma after a motorbike accident.

Anne was instrumental in his battle back to health and he and his wife now live close by, in one of the Holkham lodges. She is also close to her twin daughters and asked all three before writing about their father.

‘I wouldn’t have done it without that. It was very therapeutic. It turned out Colin, their father, had done things to them and they hadn’t liked to tell me, so we had a wonderful conversation, airing things we hadn’t talked about.’

Although they led increasingly separate lives, she remained married to Colin until his death in 2010 – when he left everything to an employee.

It comes across as a final act of cruelty to a wife he terrorised and belittled, but Anne looks back on some of her marriage – the adventures, the travel, the house parties, with fondness.

She also enjoyed adventures around the world, and back in Norfolk, as lady in waiting to Princess Margaret.

Great British Life: Lady Glenconner with Princess Margaret on Mustique in 1969. Picture: Courtesy of Lady GlenconnerLady Glenconner with Princess Margaret on Mustique in 1969. Picture: Courtesy of Lady Glenconner

‘I remember her laughing a great deal. She used to come and stay with me in Burnham Thorpe all the time and she would put on marigold gloves and say would you like your car cleaned. She would help me with the gardening. She was a real friend.’

Her closeness to the royals means she features in the Netflix drama The Crown. At first she was intrigued. ‘It started with the coronation of the queen and I thought, ‘This is very good.’ However, her fascination soon turned to horror.

‘Helena Bonham Carter came to tea because she was playing Princess Margaret. She wanted to know how Princess Margaret walked, how she smoked, and I said you would never see Princess Margaret run. I think the reason is that she was brought up to be looked at. She was taught to always walk very evenly and slowly so that everyone could see her. If she’d walked quickly people wouldn’t get the chance to see her.’

When the series aired Anne hated the portrayal of the princess and believes The Crown was unfair to the king and Prince Philip too. ‘I really minded the unkindness of it,’ she said.

Now her own books look likely to become a television series. ‘It’s exciting, but slightly worrying. Who is going to play one? It’s all under wraps!’ she said.

‘All my life I’ve really been invisible, because I was just a girl. I was born feeling a disappointment. Then I married and in lots of ways it was great being married to Colin but in a lot of ways it was perfectly appalling. I was in the shadows there, as I was, obviously, with Princess Margaret because that’s what a lady in waiting is.

‘I couldn’t have written my book until they had both died.’

When she did, Lady in Waiting was a huge success.

Great British Life: Lady Glenconner. Photo: Harry Cory WrightLady Glenconner. Photo: Harry Cory Wright

‘To have a world-wide best seller when you are 87 is amazing!’ said Lady Glenconner.

She went on to write two novels, one set at Holkham (in which she exorcised the trauma that abusive childhood governess by having her murdered.) ‘They are all about real people. I called them novels but they are not really!’ she said.

She structured her latest book, Whatever Next? Lessons from an Unexpected Life, around her roles as daughter, wife, mother, friend and now author.

‘I’ve never had such a marvellous time. It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t had such a difficult life before. Losing my darling sons; Christopher having his accident. I think if you go through things like that you are so grateful when you come out and you can get on with your life. It’s an extraordinary feeling.’

She still adores travel and adventures and drives to speak at literary festivals as far afield as Scotland – although she is trying to tame her driving style.

‘I have been caught speeding I’m afraid. I’m quite a nifty driver. I love driving. Princess Margaret didn’t drive so I used to drive her around in Norfolk.

‘I took my driving test in King’s Lynn in 1949 and it was market day and the only thing I did wrong was I stalled in a herd of cows!’

Lady Glenconner loved sailing too – beginning when she was five, at Burnham Overy Staithe, and only stopping at 80, after capsizing there and almost drowning. ‘My boat flipped over and the mast got stuck in the sand. I had a life jacket on so I couldn’t dive down to get out. Someone watching from the boat house thought it was the end of me until they saw me come bobbing up.

‘The reason I liked sailing so much, especially when the boys were dying and Christopher was in a coma and I used to come up here for a break, was you go out sailing and just forget all your troubles because you have to concentrate. It saved my sanity I think.

‘I still love walking at Burnham Overy, where Nelson used to walk.

‘I live in the village where Nelson was born and I help with the church where Nelson’s father was rector.

‘I’m so happy here. Cokes always come back to Norfolk. I’ve been all over the world but Norfolk is the place I want to be. I love Norfolk.’

Anne Glenconner’s latest book Whatever Next? Lessons from An Unexpected Life is now out in paperback, published by Hodder and Stoughton.

Great British Life: Whatever Next? by Anne Glenconner. Picture: Hodder and StoughtonWhatever Next? by Anne Glenconner. Picture: Hodder and Stoughton