Telephone: +44 (0) 207 935 8131
Durrants Hotel, George Street London, W1H 5BJ




April’s Guest Author Evening will take an alternative approach by focusing on two writers alongside one another with husband-and-wife, Craig Brown and Frances Welch in conversation around their respective books, ‘Ma’am Darling’ and ‘The Imperial Tea Party’.

Princess Margaret made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando clam up. She cold-shouldered Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Andy Warhol photographed her. Jack Nicholson offered her cocaine. Gore Vidal revered her. John Fowles hoped to keep her as his sex-slave. Dudley Moore propositioned her. Francis Bacon heckled her. Peter Sellers was in love with her.

In her 1950’s heyday, the Queen’s sister was seen as one of the most glamorous and desirable women in the world. She aroused passion and indignation in equal measures. To her friends, she was witty and regal. To her enemies, she was rude and demanding. By the time of her death, she had come to personify disappointment.

Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues and essays, ‘Ma’am Darling’ is a kaleidoscopic experiment in biography. Craig Brown scooped both ‘The South Bank Sky Arts Literature Award 2018’ and ‘The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography 2018’ for his witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.

Prolific journalist Craig Brown is the author of 18 books. He has been writing his parodic diary in Private Eye since 1989. He is the only person ever to have won three different Press Awards – for best humorist, columnist and critic – in the same year. He has been a columnist for, among others, The Guardian, The Times, The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph. He currently writes for The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday.

The British and Russian royal families met three times before the Romanovs’ end in 1918. Funny, touching and ultimately a tragic tale, ‘The Imperial Tea Party – Family, Politics and Betrayal:the Ill-Fated British and Russian Royal Alliance’ draws back the curtain on the pivotal encounters between these two great dynasties; encounters that had far reaching consequences for 20th century Europe and beyond.

Russia and Britain were never natural bedfellows, however with the 1894 marriage of Queen Victoria’s favourite granddaughter Alicky to the Tsarevich Nicholas came an uneasy Anglo-Russian entente that would last until the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Told with a quick wit and light touch, Frances Welch’s recount of the three extraordinary meetings that took place during those years, although well-intentioned and generally hailed as successes, were beset by misunderstandings and misfortunes. For example, the Romanovs suffered the draughty rooms and wet hunting expeditions at Balmoral, Queen Victoria complained about the food on her visit to the Russian Empire at the port of Revel and everyone succumbed to seasickness on arrival at Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight.

The two families could not know, as they waved each other fond goodbyes from their yachts at Cowes in 1909, that they would never meet again. Having refused asylum in Britain for his Romanov cousins when the Bolsheviks were advancing in 1917, King George V was horrified by the assassination of the Tsar and his family. Whether events might have turned out differently if he had accepted their plea for refuge has been the subject of speculation ever since.

Frances Welch is the author of Rasputin (2014), The Russian Court at Sea (2011), Romanov Fantasy (2008) and Sydney Gibbes: Tutor to the Children of the Last Tsar (2004), all published by Short Books. She has written for the Sunday Telegraph, Granta, The Spectator and the Financial Times.

After the talk, there will be a book signings-and-sales session for ‘Ma’am Darling’ and ‘The Imperial Tea Party’ (not included in ticket price).

Start: 6.15pm
Drinks and book signing session: 7.15pm – 8pm
Price: £15 per person to include a glass of fizz and canapés (following the talk)

Tickets to attend must be reserved in advance by contacting the hotel’s sales office on 020 7935 8131 (Ext. 705) or e-mailing

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