JANET STREET-PORTER: Glorious Cher and indestructible Lady Glenconner don’t have much in common but they could both teach Harry and Meghan a thing or two about toughening up
Harry and Meghan are said to be taking a six week ‘break’ from Royal duties after their tour of Africa, with reports that Prince William is worried about his brother’s fragile mental state.
I am sure that being the focus of media attention must be draining, that life with a new baby is stressful, and that being constantly reminded of your mother (who died in terrible circumstances) by the presence of members of the press, all adds up to quite a load to cope with.
Harry seems to feel it helps to tell us how he’s feeling, but there’s a danger that being so open could backfire.
After all, many older people (who respect the monarchy and are big fans of Harry and Meghan) just got on with their lives through wars and deprivation, through loss and heartbreak.
Prince Harry (right) and Meghan Markle (left) have been the focus of media attention
They didn’t mope or weep or ask for extra holidays and special treatment. For many older women, no matter what life throws at you, you carry on and never show weakness.
Today’s younger generation – like Harry and Megan – are so different. These ‘sensitive souls’ seem to get easily upset, they need time every day for meditation and mindfulness.
They stress out over what’s for dinner in case the ingredients have harmed a plant or an animal or were brought to the store in a gas guzzling lorry.
Isn’t this getting out of hand? Most people care about protecting the environment, eradicating poverty, harming animals and empowering women, but is it possible to keep these issues in perspective while we get on with everyday living?
Harry’s recent confessions make me wonder – are younger people just too thin skinned?
Cher is pictured above performing at the O2 in London earlier this week
Luckily, there’s some oldies around like Cher to keep our spirits up. This week, the Queen of ageing disgracefully has been wowing fans at London’s O2 Arena – telling her audience of 20,000 ‘I’m 73 years old. What is your grandma doing tonight?’ Fighting talk!
Cher married Sonny Bono at 16, and never looked back. After three miscarriages, she gave birth to a baby girl who in 2008 underwent gender reassignment – Chastity became Chaz, now an actor.
After divorcing Sonny, she married musician Greg Allman, a serial substance abuser. Their child Elijah, has had a difficult relationship with his mother, who was furious when he eloped to get married.
But Cher doesn’t dwell on the past, her complex family life and her failed relationships – she’s an entertainer.
On tour, she has a dozen costume changes in 90 minutes, wears a huge blue wig, tiny corsets and fishnet tights and ruthlessly mocks herself.
Cher is living proof that ageing is a state of mind. She totally lacks self-pity, even though she’s been endlessly parodied. Cher is fearless and thoroughly modern.
Another modern pensioner has become a best selling author at the age of 87 – Lady Anne Glenconner. She’s spent her life in the company of royalty and her memoir, Lady in Waiting is a total hoot – I can’t put it down.
Lady in Waiting combines top name-dropping with a feast of indiscreet revelations.
Lady Anne Glenconner (pictured above) has become a best selling author at the age of 87
Far from being a po-faced guide to Upstairs rather than Downstairs in Britain’s poshest families, it’s the story of her marriage to a bonkers toff who threw embarrassing tantrums and stripped off to reveal his nasty paper underpants on planes.
Her childhood was spent in a grand house with dozens of rooms and a distant dad, who was furious she wasn’t a boy.
Anne became best pals with the most difficult member of the British royal family – Princess Margaret. Now, she’s being consulted by Helena Bonham Carter, playing PM in series 2 of the Crown. Anne thinks that Margaret mark one – as portrayed by Vanessa Kirby ‘wasn’t quite right’ – but is sure that Helena will have more luck.
Lady Glenconner seems totally without regrets, in spite of marriage to a man who took her to a brothel on the second night of their honeymoon, and who had affairs with both men and women.
She’s lost two of her five children, one to Hepatitis C (following heroin addiction) and another to HIV, and nearly lost a third (Christopher) in a serious crash- luckily he eventually recovered.
She is someone who doesn’t complain, a can-do positive person thrilled with whatever each day brings. There’s no self-obsession, no sense of entitlement, or snobbery, no ‘woke’ hand-wringing about the parlous state of the world.
She’s equally happy talking to a cleaner as duke – and on all those trips as Princess Margaret’s Lady in Waiting she must have indispensable.
Anne left school at 16 as her father (the Earl of Leicester) thought it wasn’t worth educating girls, and after a couple of courses at finishing school, went out on the road as a travelling saleswoman flogging her mother’s pottery, driving herself around the country and staying in cheap hotels.
Chosen as a Maid of Honour at Elizabeth’s Coronation, she slept on the floor of a relative’s flat the night before and nearly fainted during the service, reviving herself with a swig of booze from the Archbishop’s secret flask.
She bears no resentments, in spite of being tied to her bed every night by a governess, and being dumped by her first boyfriend, who went on to father Princess Diana.
Anne tells us that Princess Margaret had a difficult marriage to Anthony Armstrong Jones, who used to leave nasty notes among her underwear.
One said “You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you”.
Anne never complains about her own husband’s bizarre business ventures, including buying the island of Mustique without ever setting foot on it.
In the end, Colin Tennant went to live on St Lucia, where I met him. Colin owned a pet elephant which deposited a giant pile of poo next to the table where we were having dinner with Bryan Ferry and his wife Lucy.
To say Colin was eccentric would be a vast understatement – he was wearing silk pyjamas at the time.
I wonder what Cher and Anne Glenconner would make of Harry and Meghan’s troubled relationship with the world at large. I am sure their advice would be the same. Just grit your teeth and get on with it, darlings.
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