Joanna Lumley recalls story with Queen and David Nott
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Passionate royalist and Ab Fab star Joanna Lumley has revealed that Princess Margaret was the “prototype Patsy”.
The elegant Dior dress wearing princess might have seemed an unlikely match for the chain-smoking, perpetually alcohol-swigging personality seen in the comedy, but Joanna, who met Margaret personally, had other impressions.
In fact, she had witnessed the seemingly rebellious royal smuggling in her own whisky bottle to the theatre, despite having been warned off the tipple altogether by protective advisers.
The pair had met at a reception back in 1986, after Joanna had finished delivering her performance at the Vaudeville Theatre as Elvira in Blithe Spirit.
You can’t have a reception with Princess Margaret and not offer any drink!
“At this moment in strange royal life, everybody said, ‘Princess Margaret is not allowed to drink at the moment,” recalled Joanna, while in conversation with TV host Gyles Brandreth on Tuesday.
“[We were told] ‘Do not have any drink in the theatre, and don’t offer her any drink’.”
However Joanna noted that the princess was “looking pretty bored” and decided to take matters into her own hands.
“You can’t have a reception with Princess Margaret and not offer any drink!” she challenged.
“This is insane!”
Together with Joanna and her lady-in-waiting, Margaret decided to abandon the reception altogether and sneak into a private box, which was when she took out a tiny bottle of whisky and started smoking.
“She left the party, opened her bag, got out a small bottle of whisky and a packet of cigarettes, lit up… and sat there smoking,” revealed Joanna.
“She was a kind of prototype Patsy. There was something so fabulous about her.
“So fabulous and so funny.”
Broadcaster and writer Gyles Brandreth then recalled his own personal experiences of Margaret, when he’d witnessed her being followed by a “fawning” man who’d acted as a “human ashtray”.
The pair had been talking during a special night to promote Joanna’s new book, A Queen For All Seasons.
The ticketed event had been held at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, in the heart of London’s entertainment district.
Gyles had previously written a best-selling biography about Prince Philip and so, together, they were well-placed to discuss all things royal.
No doubt few knew until this week that Joanna’s lively Ab Fab persona could have been inspired by royalty – but the previously untold story is one fans will relish.
Meanwhile, her latest book, subtitled “A Celebration of Our One and Only Queen Elizabeth II on Her Platinum Jubilee”, is sure to garner interest.
Following its publication last month, it has received rave reviews.
It is said to trace the Queen’s life from the early 1950s right up to the present day.
Waterstones says that Joanna’s presence as author of the title, published by Hodder and Stoughton, “brings a personal warmth and genuine affection to this touching portrait of Queen Elizabeth II”.
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