Colin Tennant was the mercurial British aristocrat who, with a little help from Princess Margaret, made the island of Mustique a byword for high-society escapism. His character earned him comparisons to Prospero — and a reputation for controversy.
Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner, 1973 (Photo by Slim Aarons/Getty Images)

Towards the end of 1976, Colin Tennant threw himself an elaborate 50th birthday celebration on Mustique, the Caribbean island he had bought on a whim nearly two decades before. The week-long carousing culminated in a party billed as a latter-day Field of the Cloth of Gold; Macaroni Beach, the island’s finest bay, was decked out like Croesus’s palace. The trees and grass had been sprayed gold, while guests processed through triumphal arches made of plaited gold palm fronds. Princess Margaret, Tennant’s great friend and fellow Mustique resident, sported a gold kaftan and matching turban; Bianca Jagger was resplendent in a gold Scarlett O’Hara-style hooped dress with matching parasol, while Mick, in slashed shirt, cut-off jeans and straw hat, resembled a gilded Davy Crockett. The host presided in a tight satin suit laced with golden paisley whorls and starbursts. But they were all upstaged by the local boys, whose oiled bodies were draped in gold tinsel cloaks accessorised with codpieces made of gold-sprayed coconut shells. The latter may have particularly caught the eye of the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, there to shoot the party on commission for Interview magazine. “Colin’s made himself a kingdom over here,” he wrote to his lover and patron, Sam Wagstaff. “Everyone changes their clothes at least three times a day. It’s the perfect place to wear your jewels. The whole thing is completely mad.”


Stuart Husband


June 2021


Also read