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CHRISTOPHER STEVENS: A trip down memory lane with ‘Princess Guttersnipe’ 

Princess Margaret: The Queen Of Mustique

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Stormborn

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After photographs of Princess Margaret with her toyboy lover on the island of Mustique were splashed across newspapers in 1976, the Queen summoned Prime Minister James Callaghan

After photographs of Princess Margaret with her toyboy lover on the island of Mustique were splashed across newspapers in 1976, the Queen summoned Prime Minister James Callaghan

After photographs of Princess Margaret with her toyboy lover on the island of Mustique were splashed across newspapers in 1976, the Queen summoned Prime Minister James Callaghan.

‘What are we going to do,’ she asked, ‘about my sister’s guttersnipe life?’

‘Guttersnipe’ is a Victorian word, meaning a beggar-child who collects rubbish from the muck at the roadside.

Princess Margaret: The Queen Of Mustique (C5) invited us to enjoy a wallow in all that muck generated by her affair with baronet’s son Roddy Llewellyn, 17 years Madge’s junior. 

It purported to be a measured account of how far the monarch’s only sibling, who was once second in line to the throne, had to go to escape the public glare as her marriage disintegrated in the 1970s.

The Princess’s closest friend and lady-in-waiting, Lady Glenconner, lent gravitas to the programme. Her husband Colin bought the island for £45,000 in 1958. 

The Princess started using it as a bolthole ten years later: ‘At that time,’ Lady G remarked insouciantly, ‘our main home had burned down and we were living in a sort of prefab.’

Really, though, this was just a scurrilous trawl through the most lurid and decadent episode in the Royal Family’s post-war history.

At one party on the Caribbean island, for instance, Mick Jagger’s model wife Bianca was brought in on a golden litter like a sultan’s favourite concubine. 

She was carried, Lady G remembered, ‘by some local boys who were completely naked except for a golden coconut positioned in the right place’.

On another sultry afternoon, the Princess was introduced to hardman actor John Bindon, whose speciality was dropping his trunks and picking up a pint pot without using his hands.

The Princess¿s closest friend and lady-in-waiting, Lady Glenconner, lent gravitas to the programme. Her husband Colin bought the island for £45,000 in 1958. They are pictured above on the island (Lady Glenconner left, Princess Margaret centre and Lord Glenconner right)

The Princess’s closest friend and lady-in-waiting, Lady Glenconner, lent gravitas to the programme. Her husband Colin bought the island for £45,000 in 1958. They are pictured above on the island (Lady Glenconner left, Princess Margaret centre and Lord Glenconner right)

Several of the contributors were at pains to dismiss rumours that the Princess was so impressed by his prowess that she slept with him. Certainly not, they said. She had standards.

And though skinny-dipping and sex on the beach were generally encouraged, all that sort of carry-on was halted when the Queen and Prince Philip visited.

Despite contributions from half a dozen commentators, via their laptops at home, that was about as deep as the analysis went. It’s difficult to remember a more shallow bit of flim-flam masquerading as royal history.

As my attention wandered, I found myself noticing the shelves behind the talking heads. Ingrid Seward has an entire bookcase of her own works — including six copies of her Fergie biography, five of Harry, six of Prince Philip Revealed, five of the Finnish edition of Elizabeth Ja Philip, and 18 of her 1995 book on Edward. That one is clearly hard to shift.

With the TV schedules clogged by fluff like this, it’s inexplicable that the visually dramatic wildlife documentary Stormborn (BBC2) has been hidden away at Saturday teatimes.

This three-part series — filmed on the Scottish coast, as well as in Iceland and Norway — has stunning photography. Shots of the Northern Lights, animals silhouetted against the sunset and explosions of icy spray on a waterfall were all ravishing.

The crew captured new behaviour too, including a male grey seal rampaging across a beach packed with females and pups in the Monach Isles, in the Outer Hebrides. The bull seized a baby seal in its jaws and, gripping it by the tail, flung it from side to side before leaving it for dead.

We saw this brutal scene twice, once through the close-up lens and then in behind-the-scenes footage, as the cameraman filmed it. He looked as shocked as I felt.

Getaway bike of the weekend: With its three gears and solid steel frame, that 1940s Hercules Imperial tandem and sidecar on the Antiques Roadshow (BBC1) was a labour-intensive way to take the kids to the seaside. Bet it was fun going downhill though. 


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