How reassuring it seemed when Colin Tennant put his arm round his wife, Anne, at a family gathering in the ancestral castle of Glen, just before he died last year.
Had the irascible old rogue, clearly suffering from the cancer that was to claim him a couple of months later, suddenly discovered a tenderness for his long-suffering spouse of 55 long years?
After all, it was not common for him to indulge in displays of affection. Sadly, it appears the rapprochement was a sham.
King of the island: Lord Glenconner at his Mustique home in 1985
In a last wilful act, committed just before he left his adopted home of St Lucia to return to Scotland for that brief visit, we now know the beady old reprobate had cut his family out of his will — and left everything to his manservant, Kent Adonai.
To add insult to injury, it appears he had even described Kent as his ‘son’.
As the Glenconners — Tennant had inherited the title Lord Glenconner — assembled this weekend for a memorial service for the eccentric peer at their local church in Peeblesshire, Lady Anne could hardly believe what had happened.
‘We are not angry, we are surprised,’ she said in her well-mannered way, revealing that the family has already tried to contest the will, but has so far found it impossible under St Lucian law.
‘My husband has given him about £3 million worth of land and stuff. Mr Adonai has already cleared the contents of his master’s house. They are expected to fetch him between £750,000 and £1 million when they go under the hammer at Bonham’s.
‘But it was our family home, and some of the things belong to me. This has been distressing, as Cody — the 17-year-old new Lord Glenconner — thought he was going to get everything of Colin’s in the West Indies.’
Lady Anne blames her husband’s final act on the illness that, in her view, had clearly clouded his mind. But that’s not quite the whole story.
The unusual marriage between Glenconner and Anne has been a source of fascination for years. He was once Princess Margaret’s suitor, while she, the daughter of the Earl of Leicester, was the Princess’s lady-in-waiting.
For at least half their five decades together they kept separate residences — hers in Norfolk, his in the Caribbean — and yet the marriage endured.
It survived a catalogue of dreadful disasters: one of their sons, Christopher, was left brain-damaged after a motorcycling accident; their second boy, Henry, died of Aids; and then Charlie, the heir to the title, succumbed to hepatitis. The couple didn’t even appear fazed when, out of the blue, an illegitimate son, Joshua Bowler, turned up recently — he had been fathered after Glenconner’s dalliance with an artist’s model just before he married Anne in 1956.
Far from rejecting him, the family even threw Joshua a welcome party exactly a year ago.
That was the last time I saw the eccentric old peer, because he invited me to the party, too, seating me next to him at lunch while most of his family were at the other end of the 40-strong dining table.
I had known him for years because my late husband, Doug Hayward, was a friend of Princess Margaret.
At that lunch, Glenconner boasted he was wearing a necklace of human bones, set by society jeweller Bulgari. Most of the time he talked about Princess Margaret with whom he still seemed obsessed, but we also discussed his will. He told me he had not included Joshua.
What he did not tell me was that he had excluded everyone else in the family as well, having visited St Lucian lawyers to leave all his Caribbean possessions to his manservant only months earlier. Brazenly, he had even brought Kent with him to Scotland for the party.
That weekend, Kent looked after him with extraordinary affection, as he always did, preparing separate meals for his toothless old charge and ensuring he had a nap in the afternoon.
The black sheep of both their families, Colin and Margaret seemed the perfect match — but it never happened.
Later, Colin and his family lounged on tartan rugs outside the boathouse on his favourite loch in the grounds of Glen, but only the enterprising Kent took a dip in the freezing waters. And all the while on Colin’s face was his familiar look of mischief and malice.
Over the years, most people came to realise they could never trust Colin. Heir to a £100 million chemical fortune — his Glaswegian grandfather invented industrial bleach — his mission from the start was to spend it all.
He could be charming, courtesy of a topnotch eduation: Eton, Oxford and the Guards.
He was adventurous, he had good ideas, he threw outrageous fancy dress parties, but despite all the advantages he had in life, he had the enduring air of a disappointed man nurturing some nameless sorrow.
Some people date the disappointment to when he failed to marry the Queen’s sister in the Fifties. An elegant escort and brilliant dancer, Colin was part of her fast-living London set.
He also took her up to Glen, just an hour’s drive south of Balmoral. There he gave her the best suite, humoured her taste for amateur theatricals, plied her with whisky and allowed her to behave as she wanted with whomever she wanted.
The black sheep of both their families, Colin and Margaret seemed the perfect match — but it never happened.
Over the years, many theories have been put forward as to why, including the idea that Colin had contracted mumps as an adult and was thus unable to father the children Margaret would have wanted.
But any suspicions about his virility in those early days was roundly disproved last year when Joshua turned up and a DNA test proved Colin had impregnated Joshua’s mother, Henrietta Moraes, in 1955. Clearly, everything was in working order when he proposed to Anne that same year.
And yet in our last conversation at that lunch, he seemed to be hinting that there had been some liaisons on the wrong side of the blanket within his family. But then he was so mischievous you could never tell fact from fiction with Colin.
He facilitated her friendships with a surprisingly louche set and there were rumours of oiled bodies romping by torchlight at naked beach parties.
What Colin and Anne certainly had in common was Princess Margaret. They looked after her, boosting Caribbean tourism when Colin gave her a plot of land on Mustique as a wedding present and she built a holiday home there, helping to turn a mosquito-infested swamp into a jetset paradise.
And so Colin and Margaret went on partying together, despite the reservations of at least one of their spouses, Lord Snowdon, who hated Colin. He called him ‘That s***’.
When the Princess’s marriage broke up, Colin was in his element once more. He facilitated her friendships with a surprisingly louche set and there were rumours of oiled bodies romping by torchlight at naked beach parties.
Colin, who styled himself king of the island and often besported himself in a gilded crown, also nurtured Margaret’s relationship with her young admirer Roddy Llewellyn. It was all so decadent that Colin, who had by then run through most of his inheritance, was finally thrown off the island by better business minds.
He responded by moving to St Lucia, 45 miles away, buying a plot in an idyllic unspoilt area and, trading on his royal connections, opened an upmarket hotel filled with furniture made my Princess Margaret’s son, Lord Linley.
It was there in 1982 that he met Kent, the local lad who has inherited all his Caribbean concerns. As an 18-year-old, Kent used to help his father load the banana boats that crossed the Caribbean to Britain.
Malicious? Lord Glenconner shunned his family, including wife Lady Anne Tennant, and gave his entire estate to his manservant
One day, he was faced with an unusual cargo — Glenconner’s elephant, Bupa, that he’d had shipped from India for aristocratic fun.
‘The elephant did not want to come out of her box,’ said Kent this week. ‘I helped to encourage her out. I think that’s why he wanted me to look after. To this day, many people here still know me as marie l’elefant (elephant husband).’
Sadly, the elephant venture went badly wrong — like so many of Colin’s mad enterprises. Poor Bupa scoffed some bad bread and died.
When I visited him there, he spent most of his time waiting for the Princess to come and stay in a similarly humble hut that he had prepared for her next door. But she never came.
Things also went wrong with Margaret. Colin did manage to lure her to his new kingdom. Unfortunately, while there, she scalded herself in the bathroom and never went back.
Soon, his grand hotel had been sold on and Colin, pleading poverty, was living in a tumbledown house. When I visited him there, he spent most of his time waiting for the Princess to come and stay in a similarly humble hut that he had prepared for her next door. But she never came.
By then, the vain Glenconner was hiding his baldness under his usual white wide-brimmed hat. One day, when we were sitting on the terrace of his restaurant, he suddenly whipped off his dark glasses and said: ‘Do you like my eyelift — I’ve just had it done in New York.’
However poor he said he was, he always found enough money to attend to his own priorities.
Kent attended him throughout. Though married to a local woman with whom he had four children, he was given a comfortable house of his own, next to Glenconner.
Whenever his employer had business to attend to in the local town, Kent was at the wheel of his 4×4.
Cut out: Lady Anne Tennant received nothing in the estate from her husband
But he was much more than a manservant. You could spot the two of them together enjoying rum punches on neighbouring bar stools all over the island. As Kent said this weekend, he educated himself by sitting at his employer’s feet and listening to his tales.
By then, Glenconner and Lady Anne were apart most of the time. Anne hated the Caribbean heat and he hated the British cold.
‘When I discovered it cost more to heat Glen than to live in St Lucia, that’s when I moved,’ he told me.
But Glen was also too much like hard work. Colin had sold off many of the books in the library and the valuable pictures.
He emptied the main rooms of furniture and the only option for the family was to rent it out for weddings and shooting.
He seemed to lose interest in it completely when his heir, Charlie, died in 1996.
He had no choice but to leave the title to Charlie’s son, Cody, but he didn’t leave him the house. The draughty castle went to Euan, son of his doomed second boy, Henry. Colin, it seems, never did quite what was expected.
There remained the St Lucian plot. Having sold his interest in the hotel, Glenconner managed to scrape together the money to build a huge house, in which he ended his days last August, aged 83.
He once valued it at more than £3 million, but visitors this week found it in a badly run-down state. Still, as long as tourism is buoyant, the house and its unspoiled beach are invaluable.
It was the ever attentive Kent, rather than his family, who was with him in the mansion when he died.
After visiting London for cancer treatment, Glenconner was well enough to return to St Lucia and even to go swimming. Afterwards, he collapsed in Kent’s arms.
His loyal manservant was so upset he could hardly get the words out between sobs to describe what the loss meant to him. He organised a burial in the local church and an impressive monument.
The family hurried over from England — including the newly discovered son Joshua. And they all had expectations.
And then the bombshell struck. They had been left nothing. Even in death, Glenconner was cocking a snook at convention.
Kent’s daughter, Keisha, said this week that Glenconnner made the right decision.
‘My father deserves it more than his family. He was always there for him, more than his wife, who was hardly ever here and when she was, she was down at the beach or in the hotel.’
That’s not how Lady Anne sees it. ‘Colin and I had talked about how Cody would get the house and eight acres, and myself and the children would also get something,’ she says.
‘I hope Kent will remember Colin’s wishes.’ We have not heard the end of this aristocratic saga.
Lady Anne had agreed with her late husband that the Caribbean estate would be left to his 17-year-old grandson Cody, now the fourth Baron Glenconner
By Glenys Roberts/London Daily News