Inside the real Mustique island, the glamorous private getaway Princess Margaret keeps returning to on 'The Crown'

Gili Malinsky,Sophie-Claire Hoeller
·10 min read
The Crown
Helena Bonham Carter plays Princess Margaret in "The Crown." Des Willie/Netflix
  • Mustique is a real, private Caribbean island on which the rich and famous have vacationed for decades.

  • Princess Margaret established its royal renown when she built a home there in the '60s.

  • Other royals like Prince William and Kate Middleton and celebrities including Mick Jagger and David Bowie also frequented the quiet Caribbean spot.

  • Since its founding, the island has adhered to a strict no-paparazzi policy, which is part of the reason why celebrities flock there.

  • The island recently came back into the spotlight on seasons three and four of "The Crown."

  • It's worth noting that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer advises against nonessential travel, it does warn that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

In 1976, the Caribbean island of Mustique was thrust into the global spotlight when Princess Margaret jetted there with her then-lover, the 17-years-her-junior Roddy Llewellyn, causing a tabloid frenzy.

In 2020, the island is back in the limelight thanks to Netflix's "The Crown."

In both season 3 and the recently released season 4, Princess Margaret escapes to Mustique when she needs a break.

In real life, she began vacationing on the island in the '60s, having been gifted a 10-acre plot of land there by Mustique's then-owner, Colin Tennant (now Lord Glenconner), on which she built a vacation home. 

Her frequent trips ushered in a slew of interested celebrities, including rock stars like Mick Jagger and David Bowie, who each eventually built their own extravagant villas there.

Prince William and Kate Middleton have also been going to the quiet Caribbean spot for years, according to Vogue.

From its time as a desolate spot among hundreds of small islands in the region to becoming a famous A-lister hub, here's the true story behind the island of Mustique.

The island of Mustique is part of a set of islands making up the nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, located in the Caribbean.

Mustique island location
The island of Mustique is part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Google Maps

Mustique is located 100 miles west of Barbados and is one of 600 islands called the Grenadines. Some of these islands make up Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and some make up the country of Grenada.

Beginning in the 18th century, the region's islands were colonized by the British.

Island of Mustique from afar
An aerial view of the island of Mustique. Jean-Marc LECERF/Contributor/Getty images

In the 20th century, the islands began lobbying for independence, according to Britannica. The island of Saint Vincent gained independence from the British on October 27, 1979, and officially became Saint Vincent and the Grenadines shortly thereafter. 

 

 

Before the islands' official independence, British aristocrat Colin Tennant bought Mustique for £45,000 (around $1,254,000 today).

Colin Tennant who owns the private Mustique island
Colin Tennant on Mustique in March 1973. Slim Aarons/Getty Images

Tennant (now called Lord Glenconner) bought Mustique from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in 1958, according to Architectural Digest. He'd planned on building a cotton plantation, but soon realized the venture would not be a lucrative one

In 1960, Tennant gave longtime-friend Princess Margaret a 10-acre plot of land on the island, which is when her frequent trips to Mustique began.

Princess Margaret with Colin Tennant in Mustique island
Princess Margaret with Colin Tennant on Mustique island in February 1989. Slim Aarons/Stringer/Getty images

It was Princess Margaret who really made a name for Mustique, according to its website. With so much attention around her time on the island, Tennant realized it could be turned into a private getaway for the rich and famous.

 

 

 

Princess Margaret built a luxurious five-bedroom villa on the island called Les Jolies Eaux, meaning beautiful waters.

Les Jolies Eaux villa Mustique Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret's Les Jolies Eaux villa on Mustique. Brent Winebrenner/Getty images

Les Jolies Eaux has two pools, a dining pavilion, and a staff of five, according to its website, including a chef, a butler, and a maid.

Visitors can rent the property for $27,000 to $64,500 a week, depending on the time of year they'd like to stay and how many bedrooms (five or six) they'll be using. 

A tabloid frenzy caused by one of Princess Margaret's trips there with her then-lover Roddy Llewellyn in 1976 is what really put Mustique on the map.

Princess Margaret at Mustique in 1976
Princess Margaret and Roddy Llewellyn on Mustique in 1976. Anwar Hussein/Contributor/Getty images

The world was scandalized when she brought her then-lover Roddy Llewellyn to the island in 1976. Llewellyn was 17 years her junior, and they started seeing each other while she was still married to Lord Snowdon, also known as Antony Armstrong-Jones.

Marie Claire reports that the intimate photos snapped on the island lead to Lord Snowdon separating from, and then divorcing Margaret.

 

Queen Elizabeth eventually made her way to Mustique, too.

Queen Elizabeth Princess Margaret Mustique
Queen Elizabeth II arrives in Mustique and is welcomed by Princess Margaret in 1977. Anwar Hussein/Getty images

Queen Elizabeth first visited the island in 1977. Most recently, Prince William and Kate Middleton reportedly celebrated Prince George's 6th birthday there, according to The Observer.

However, the Duchess of Cambridge used to vacation on the island even before she became part of the royal family, according to Vanity Fair.

Taking a cue from his arrangement with Margaret, Tennant sold plots of land on the island to wealthy buyers who could build and design their own homes there.

Antilles house in Mustique
The Antilles house in Mustique. Jean-Marc LECERF/Contributor/Getty images

Land sold quickly to rock stars and socialites, establishing the island as a private spot for the rich and famous. Prince William and Kate Middleton are said to have recently stayed at the Antilles villa on the island, according to the Observer, pictured above. 

 

With new landowners free to design their homes according to their specific tastes, the 100-or-so villas on the island each have their own unique style.

gingerbread houses Mustique
Gingerbread houses in Mustique. Dave G. Houser/Getty images

British architect Oliver Messel designed a number of the homes on the island, his signature gingerbread style visible throughout, according to Forbes

Of those villas on Mustique, dozens are available for rent, like the Hibiscus villa, a five-bedroom, Tuscan-style home with panoramic views of nearby beaches.

Hibiscus Villa in Mustique
The Hibiscus villa in Mustique. Dan Forer/Getty images

The luxury villa has a staff of five, including a chef, a butler, two housekeepers, and a gardener, as well as a 49-foot pool, two smaller pools, a gazebo with a bar, and a Kawasaki mule and Jeep for traveling around the island, according to its website.

It's available for rent for $18,000 to $56,250 a week, depending on the time of year and number of bedrooms renters want to use.

 

The Coccoloba is another rentable villa on the island, featuring four bedrooms, a private screening room, two pools, and an in-house staff of six.

Cocoloba villa Mustique
The Coccoloba villa in Mustique. Brent Winebrenner/Getty images

Visitors can rent out the Coccoloba from $22,000 to $57,750 a week, depending on the time of year.

The Opium villa has safari-style decor and Bali-inspired architecture, according to its website, as well as a koi pond.

Opium villa Mustique
The Opium villa in Mustique. Brent Winebrenner/Getty images

The seven-bedroom villa sits on a mountain in the middle of the island, according to Architectural Digest, has a roof tower deck, a yoga studio, and a staff of seven, including a butler, a chef, two housekeepers, two gardeners, and a property manager.

Travelers can rent out the Opium villa for $20,000 to $84,750 a week, according to its website.

Since its founding, the island has adhered to a strict no-paparazzi policy, which is part of the reason why celebrities flock there.

Picnic on Mustique
A picnic on Mustique. Bob Steiner/Getty images

Drones are also not allowed on the island, according to the Travel Channel, and guests visiting from other islands for the day are relegated to staying in specific spots. 

One celebrity famous for his exploits on Mustique is rock star Mick Jagger.

Mick Jagger at Mustique in 1987
Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall on a beach in Mustique on February 18, 1987. Georges De Keerle/Getty images

Jagger's Japanese-style villa, called Stargroves, features six bedrooms, a games room, a pool gazebo, and a separate children's cottage, according to its website. Architect Arne Hasselqvist designed the home for Jagger in 1983, according to Forbes.

Jagger also owns another three-bedroom, three-bathroom property, Pelican Beach, next door.

 

 

David Bowie also owned a Balinese-style villa in Mustique called Mandalay.

Mandalay villa in Mustique with David Bowie
David Bowie's Mandalay villa in Mustique. Mandalay Owner

The villa was designed for Bowie in the '80s, according to its website, which describes a stay at the estate as "the ultimate in hedonistic escapism." 

The seven-bedroom villa includes a bamboo lounge, a games room with a stage, a music rehearsal room, a film library with more than 2000 movies, several ponds, a waterfall, and a staff of eight.

A stay at the estate ranges from $52,000 to $108,750 a week, depending on the time of year.

 

Restaurants are few and far between - but some, like Basil's bar, are institutions.

Basil's bar Mustique
Basil's bar in Mustique. Jean-Marc LECERF/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

There are not a lot of eateries on the island, but those that do exist are beloved. Basil's bar for instance is run by bartender Basil Charles, who's served the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and model Kate Moss.

According to Vogue, Tennant rescued Charles from a bike accident in 1970 and promised him a job on the island after Charles' recovery. With famous faces from the late Princess Margaret to Hugh Grant making their way through the bar doors, like the rest of the island, Basil's has a strict no-camera policy. Perhaps this is one reason people feel so comfortable there.

"It's great that people enjoy Basil's so much that they dance on the tables," Charles told Vogue about New Year's Eve at the bar, "even I have danced on the tables!"

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In 1976, Tennant sold the Mustique Company, which he'd founded to build the island, to Mustique's homeowners, who became shareholders. The company now runs the island.

Mustique island in the Caribbean
Mustique island in the Caribbean. Dmitri V Tonkopi/Shutterstock

Among the popular activities on Mustique are sailing, horseback riding, and lounging on its various beaches.

At this time, visitors to Mustique must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken within five days of departure, which they must send to the Mustique Company in order to gain permission to vacation there, according to the island's website. They must spend at least five nights in Mustique as well.

However, depending on what airport guests fly into (St. Lucia, Barbados, or St. Vincent) there may be additional requirements.

Guests will have to take another test upon arrival in Mustique, and self-isolate until they receive their results.

Once cleared, however, the island has no mask-wearing policies, though it does enforce social distancing.

It's worth noting that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer advises against nonessential travel, it does warn that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."

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