Margot Fonteyn's former home, Covent Garden, London


Margot dominated British ballet for more than 40 years and she performed at the Covent Garden's Royal Opera House so often that she lived in a flat nearby. Here I am stood outside the communal doorway.


Though the Royal Opera House is only round the corner she usually ordered a taxi to avoid the large crowds swelling around the stage door. Aged 33 she got married and gave up the flat to her brother's ex-wife (who lived there until the 1990s.) She left when she married Roberto ‘Tito’ Emilio de Arias, the son of the former president of Panama. Shortly after the marriage he was shot in a coup attempt against the Panamanian government and Margot devoted the rest of her life to looking after him.


Margot’s entire career was spent with the Royal Ballet and competition for the prima ballerina top spot was brutal. She started dancing at 14, thankfully never grew passed 5 feet 4 inches and her body and limbs had perfect proportions for ballet. Above grace, excellent technique, an attentiveness to music she had the intangible stardust factor few hope for but aren’t blessed with.


I thought she might have been buried in Westminster Abbey but she died a long way away from London though. She'd moved to Panama with her husband having used up all her savings to care for him. Shortly after his death she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She couldn't afford to move back to Britain and died in Panama hospital in mild poverty aged 71. She was cremated and joined her husband in a garden cemetery overlooking the Panama canal.


There's a blue plaque outside the door to the apartments. It's on a busy street near Covent Garden market. Margot continued to use this flat after moving out. She wanted to leave her husband but found leaving someone in a wheelchair difficult (she worked until she was 60 to pay his medical bills.) After selling the flat she continued to use it for many years. She had an affair with an aviator for over a decade and used to place to meet him.


I'd walked to the flat from the Royal Opera House and it took four minutes. I guess a taxi ride would take 30 seconds. I'm sure the vexation a taxi driver felt making a 30 second journey evaporated when they saw their fare was a bit of a superstar. I did a salute and left.






Darcy Bussell revealing the blue plaque...