Just how down-to-earth was Princess Margaret?

Why Michael Caine had to go up a tree because of the Queen's sister

Princess Margaret, according to papers released today, had very ‘simple' tastes, and didn't like a fuss being made about her. ‘Simple' here seems to be a relative term - five courses at dinner, for instance, were ‘quite sufficient'. But the detail that really caught my eye was Margaret's taste in literature: she would only accept gifts of books from authors who were ‘of reputable character'. Not sure whether Michael Caine falls into that category, but the Princess might have been interested in a story from the actor's 1992 autobiography. Because it's about her - and reveals that perhaps she did like a fuss being made about her after all ...

Just how down-to-earth was Princess Margaret?

The young Caine served part of his National Service at the barracks of the Queen's Royal Regiment near Guildford. One day he and his colleagues were told that Princess Margaret would be making a visit, and a huge pile of coal at the barracks was likely to offend her royal gaze. Therefore, came the order, the coal was to be painted white. The order was duly carried out.

What's more, as it was autumn, every leaf that had fallen from the trees had to swept up. Caine thought this was reasonable enough: you couldn't have the place looking a mess. But on the morning of the visit itself, he had to climb every tree and shake the branches, so that no loose leaf would fall while the Princess was there. ‘I often wonder,' he wrote, ‘if Princess Margaret thinks that coal is white and the winter comes earlier in Surrey than it does in London.'


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London Bus

A London double decker bus can lean further from the vertical without falling over than a human can. What a great way of learning about centres of gravity. The reason a Routemaster can lean so far is that there's a great long strip of pig-iron welded to its base, keeping you top-deckers safe as you go round corners. If you want reassuring photographic evidence, click here