My Celebrity Life

The Crown Season 4: Who was the real Derek ‘Dazzle’ Jennings? The true story of Princess Margaret’s confidante

My Celebrity Life –

Tom Burke plays the short but pivotal role of Derek ‘Dazzle’ Jennings in The Crown season 4 (Provider: Netflix)

The fascinating story of Father Derek ‘Dazzle’ Jennings, Princess Margaret’s friend, is well worth knowing – and is told in part during The Crown season 4.

In episode seven, a curious side story takes the focus of the series. In it, Princess Margaret leans on and becomes infatuated with a catholic priest-in-training named Derek ‘Dazzle’ Jennings (played by Tom Burke).

The two grow close before finding out a terrible secret hidden by the Royal Family – a number of hidden family members with mental health issues that had been declared dead to protect the crown.

But how true is this story? Was Dazzle a real man? Did he have a friendship, possibly even more with the princess?

It’s a fascinating story, and one worth knowing about. We’ve pulled together the important parts of the information right here.

Who was Derek ‘Dazzle’ Jennings?

Jennings was a senior civil servant in the British Government’s Department of the Environment who, to the surprise of his friends, decided to become a priest at age 38.

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Derek Jennings and Princess Margaret did maintain a friendship in real life (Provider: Netflix)

This is the moment we meet him in the show. In real life, this was right before he travelled to Rome to become a Catholic priest.

Once he’d graduated, he served in Camden and Chiswick before finally becoming the chaplain for Roman Catholic students at King’s College London.

He’d go on to keep quite a famous group of friends from Sir Alec Guinness to, of course, Princess Margaret.

Jennings sadly would die early. At the age of 48, just a decade after deciding to become a priest, he would succumb to lymphatic leukaemia.

So did Margaret really consider becoming Catholic?

It would have been sensational at the time. Her sister is the head of the Church of England, so a conversion would have been quite the move.

It’s potentially true too! According to biographer Noel Botham in ‘Margaret: The Last Real Princess’ Dazzle was very much part of Margaret’s consideration.

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Princess Margaret is played by Helena Bonham Carter in season 4 of the Crown (Credits: Des Willie/Netflix)

This came to a head, Botham writes, when Princess Margaret met Cardinal George Basil Hume at Jenning’s home. Dazzle would later tell a fellow priest that Margaret had described the meeting as “one of the most rewarding, fascinating and satisfying nights of her life.”

However, Margaret would never make the switch. Botham wrote that Margaret eventually decided to stay loyal to her sister, the Queen, and the Church of England.

Did Princess Margaret and Father Dazzle have a relationship?

According to Botham, Princess Margaret was certainly interested in him.

In his biography, he writes that she was “besotted by him” and “she positively simpered at him.” It appears that Margaret would try to move mountains to be close to him.

While Jennings rebuffed her apparent advances, the two maintained a student and teach-type dynamic around Catholicism.

Whether we can take Botham’s account as gospel, is another debate.

Was Dazzle Jennings Gay?

According to his friend, Reverend Richard Coles, he was. Coles, known from his stint on Strictly Come Dancing and as a BBC Radio 4 presenter, spoke about his friend in his book, Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went From Pop to Pulpit.

In the book, Coles writes: ‘He was of course gay, although – incredibly – he thought this was a secret known only to a few. He found intimate relationships impossible or very difficult, so the celibate status he was obliged to adopt by the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church suited him.’

He added: ‘Dazzle, too, in his tense, celibate state, seemed to me to have paid a high price for his priesthood and I had moments of dread when I saw myself in his shoes.’

Did Princess Margaret and Dazzle really never see each other again?

In the show, the pair’s onscreen story is contained entirely in one episode. In it, Margaret suggests that the two should stop meeting towards the end after she decides to stay loyal to the Queen.

However, that seems to be like the show taking some creative licence. On the contrary, Coles wrote that when Jennings was dying, Princess Margaret was one of the many eccentric guests he said goodbye too on his deathbed.

Sir Alec Guinness was another.

You can watch the fourth season of the Crown right now on Netflix.


Credit: Original article published here.

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