Susannah Constantine has a lot to thank the Royal Family for – and she isn’t afraid to admit it.
Before becoming a household name in 2001 alongside Trinny Woodall on the BBC One makeover series, What Not To Wear, the English media personality famously dated Princess Margaret’s son, Viscount Linley (now David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon).
The six-year-long romance provides much of the material for Susannah’s first memoir, Ready For Absolutely Nothing (opens in new tab), in which the fashion expert writes candidly about everything from her journey with alcoholism to her bond with the Queen’s younger sister.
Now 60, the mother-of-three never married into the Royal Family, but she continues to hold a special place in her heart for the memories of this chapter of her life. When her relationship with Linley ended in 1989, she was left to grieve both the loss of her boyfriend and his royal mother.
“The reason I felt safe was because of Princess Margaret,” she tells woman&home, after describing the break-up with her extended family as a “more difficult adjustment” than becoming single. “She was a very strong woman. She saw vulnerability in me which she was very protective of.”
Susannah, whose book title is inspired by her literal unreadiness for the real world, went on to hail Princess Margaret for cultivating a ‘strength’ in her after years of being ‘incarcerated’ by her extremely affluent background. Born into a Yorkshire family of Landed Gentry in 1962, the style guru bluntly admits she was “so unworldly” as a youth – so much so, that she didn’t step foot into a supermarket until the ripe old age of 23.
“We didn’t know about anything that was going on in the rest of the world,” she says. “We weren’t encouraged to have our own opinions, especially the girls. We’d pigeonholed ourselves into this little corner. It was empty, psychologically and emotionally.”
It was Princess Margaret, who, despite her own high-ranking status as British royalty, became the unlikely catalyst to free Susannah from her gilded cage.
“She was the person who encouraged me to have my own opinion, to encourage me to stand by it,” recalls. “She was so resourceful, so practical, and not embarrassed by anything. There was a great deal of comfort.”
In previous interviews, Susannah has blamed her breakup with Linley on the perils of being young and naive. In Ready For Absolutely Nothing, she finally shares the real reason for the split: he didn’t propose. Viscount Linley went on to marry Serena Stanhope, an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, in 1993, while Susannah wed Danish entrepreneur, Sten Bertelsen, two years later.
Never one to shy away from her privilege, Susannah is more than happy to credit the relationship with David Linley for skyrocketing her career. She famously met Trinny Woodall in 1994 at a party hosted by the Viscount in 1994 – an introduction that would mark the beginning of an exciting new business venture for the then-32-year-old. The pair teamed up to co-write Ready to Wear, a weekly fashion column for the Daily Telegraph, before making their television debuts in 2001 as co-hosts of the hit BBC One makeover show, What Not to Wear. Her time with the Royal Family was now a distant memory, but the experience had clearly opened up of corridor’s worth of doors for the now mega-successful media star.
Ready For Absolutely Nothing by Susannah Constantine, £16.99 | Waterstones (opens in new tab)
Packed with juicy anecdotes and poignant reflections,
Susannah Constantine's Ready For Absolutely Nothing gives readers a fascinating insight into the extraordinary life story of the What Not To Wear star.
When asked if she believes she would have been able to handle the pressure of marrying the Queen’s nephew, Susannah’s of two minds.
“With David, he’s not a senior royal, so I think it wouldn’t have made much difference,” she says, but acknowledges that joining the British monarchy as an in-law would have probably prevented her from pursuing “the simple life” she has always favored.
“The true me is the person I was when I was a child, someone who likes isolation and solitude and to be in the countryside, and not have to look glamorous every day. That wouldn’t have been afforded.”
Susannah also harbors no envy for the outfits of royal ladies like Princess Diana, admitting that while the late aristocrat was undeniably “a style icon”, she never influenced her own wardrobe.
“Obviously the Princess of Wales dressed fashionably, she had an amazing figure, and she could have carried anything,” she says. “But I don’t think, God, I wish I’d worn that.”
Susannah Constantine's book, Ready For Absolutely Nothing (opens in new tab) is out now.
Emma is a Lifestyle News Writer for woman&home. Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, she mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.
Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.
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