Naked photos, X-rated party games and a rumoured rock star lover: what did the original royal party girl really get up to on her Caribbean hideaway?
Words by Michelle Davies
When Princess Margaret first visited Mustique there was no electricity or even running water on the Caribbean island. Like everyone else, the Queen’s sister had to shower using a bucket with holes in, hung from a tree and shielded by a piece of sailcloth – and she absolutely loved it. ‘It was all an adventure to her,’ said her former lady-in-waiting Lady Anne Glenconner, whose husband Colin Tennant, the late Lord Glenconner, had bought the island in 1958. ‘[It was] something she’d never had in her life.’
In fact, such escapism did Mustique offer Margaret that she made it her second home for nearly 30 years – and turned it into her personal party venue where she could behave outrageously away from prying eyes… well, most of the time.
Home sweet home
After seeing Margaret fall in love with Mustique during her first visit, Lord Glenconner gifted her a plot of land as a wedding present and offered to build her a house. It was finally completed in February 1972 and Margaret christened it Les Jolies Eaux, meaning ‘beautiful waters’, in honour of its stunning sea-view. The whitewashed house was a haven from her disintegrating marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones, who hated the place and reportedly called it Margaret’s ‘Mustake’. It was the first, and only, house she ever owned and considered home.
Her personal love island
Of course, much of Mustique’s appeal was its seclusion. Unlike in London where she was under constant scrutiny, there the princess could indulge her whims. She loved to party, there were only 15 householders on the island and each took turns to host a drinks bash every evening. Indeed, it was on Mustique that she carried out her most infamous affair with Roddy Llewellyn, a baronet’s son-turned-landscape gardener who when they met in 1973 was 26 to her 43. ‘I was just following my heart,’ Llewellyn later remarked of their eight-year liaison, which was exposed when paparazzi took photos of them swimming in the sea together (him in skimpy Union Jack trunks) and led to her divorce from Armstrong-Jones.
A right royal scandal
But by all accounts Roddy wasn’t the first younger man who’d enjoyed a holiday romance on Mustique with the princess. In the late Sixties she had been introduced to John Bindon, a Cockney bit-part actor who’d appeared in the film Quadrophenia and sometime gangster who apparently inspired Vinnie Jones’s character in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. In his late twenties, he was as far from her royal circle as one could imagine but according to his former girlfriend, model Vicki Hodge, Margaret fell for his barrow-boy charms nonetheless and invited him to spend three weeks on Mustique with her – during which time he reportedly performed his party trick of lifting beer glasses with his sizeable manhood. ‘The princess loved his Cockney accent, his rhyming slang and dirty jokes,’ Vicki said in a newspaper interview.
It was also later alleged that photographs of the couple in a compromising position on the beach were at the centre of the infamous 1971 Baker Street robbery, during which £5 million in today’s money was stolen from a Lloyds Bank vault used by the rich and famous. According to reports, the raid was in fact carried out by MI5 agents on a mission to recover the incriminating photos, which had been stored in the vault for future blackmail purposes by another gangster, Michael X, who hailed from the Caribbean (the 2008 Jason Statham film The Bank Job was based on this story). It certainly might explain why the government of the day issued a D-Notice banning newspapers reporting on the robbery – all documents relating to it have been placed under embargo at The National Archives until 2071.
Like a rolling stone
If the scandal was true, it didn’t deter Margaret from further flirtations, including one with Mick Jagger. They met at a party in London in 1962 and later she encouraged him to buy a home near hers on Mustique, which he still owns. ‘There was a flirtation going on there, definitely,’ said Lady Elsa Bowker, the wife of an ambassador who witnessed Margaret and Jagger’s first meeting. ‘As everybody knows, she was attracted to younger men.’ For the record, Jagger has always remained tight-lipped over reports they were ever lovers but they stayed friends right up until Margaret’s death in 2002.
The Les Jolies Eaux was sold in 1999 after Margaret gifted it to her son, David. By then she was no longer able to travel: she suffered a mild stroke in 1998, then a year later she suffered severe burns to her legs getting into a bath of scalding water and needed the use of a wheelchair. Yet the Royal connection to the island remains strong – William and Kate holidayed on the island with their three children for two weeks in the summer of 2019.