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EDITIONS
Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 08:42 GMT
Margaret: Devotee of the Arts
Princess Margaret and Darcy Bussell
Princess Margaret and ballerina Darcy Bussell
In childhood, Princess Margaret enjoyed pony shows like the rest of her family. But very soon she was to realise that the hunting, shooting, fishing life of other royals was not for her.

She felt much more comfortable in evening dress, meeting and watching stars of stage and screen.

Her first love was the ballet. She once told Dame Ninette de Valois after a visit to Covent Garden: "I had shivers down my back watching. My hands are quite worn out from clapping."

She became a life-long friend of Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, who would often visit Kensington Palace dressed in his most outrageous garb.

Later in life, when both performers were quite ill, the three met for one last time for a gala performance of Romeo and Juliet, the ballet they made famous.

Deep love of ballet

As president of the Royal Ballet, Princess Margaret launched a fund to help Dame Margot who had been left penniless by her Panamanian husband.

Dame Margot Fonteyn
She helped Dame Margot Fonteyn
Not all her ballet friends were famous. As patron of the Northern Ballet theatre, she was happy to drop in on rehearsals.

Many of her friends agreed that her interest in the arts was heightened by a secret desire to take part herself.

She had helped direct an amateur production of a play called "The Frog". The cast were all aristocratic friends of hers, but hardly actors, and the run only lasted a week.

Glittering

Her own performance in The Archers in 1984, in which she played herself, was much more successful.

Over the years she attended scores of glittering premieres and mixed with the stars, many of whom became her friends.

Peter Sellers
Her close friend Peter Sellers
Peter Sellers and his wife at the time, Britt Ekland, were particular favourites and the relationship led to regular invitations to Kensington Palace and even Windsor Castle, as the Queen Mother was also a firm Sellers fan.

The actor was delighted with the friendship and did everything to impress the Princess. It was even rumoured that he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. The time they spent together certainly allowed her to polish up her gift for mimicry.

Behind the scenes, Princess Margaret was a voracious reader. Although she had not been very well educated as a child, she made up for it by becoming an avid reader and collector of books. She loved to discuss them with friends.

She was often able to combine her love of the theatre with her favourite charities; the Children's Royal Variety Performance, for instance, raising funds for the NSPCC every year.


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Princess Margaret 1930-2002
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