The Eastender Who Stole Prince Charles’ Heart
1970s movie babe Susan George, who dated Royals and sports stars, steps into Albert Square as Terry’s love interest.
She’s dated Prince Charles, Jimmy Connors and George Best and starred in more than 30 films before putting her acting career on hold. Now at the age of 50, Susan George is back in the limelight once more, as Margaret, Terry’s glamorous new girlfriend in EastEnders.
Margaret’s arrival in Albert Square has turned heads, but it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems with the sophisticated newcomer. It’s a plum role for Susan, who has spent the last few years away from the cameras breeding horses and dogs and running a film production company with her actor husband, Simon MacCorkindale.
“Animals in general and horses in particular have been the great love of my life,” she says. “At one time, my ultimate wish would have been to run a working farm, but it’s a very, very hard occupation and I don’t think it would be possible to be a farmer and an actor-producer.
“I was probably born at the wrong time because I’m very old-fashioned in my heart, in my views, in my passion for the gentler, more rustic life of a bygone age. I used to spend my days in Ralph Lauren in Bond Street, but now I spend my days in the local farm shops.”
Despite all that she has achieved, Susan is still best remembered the woman who dated the Prince of Wales. They met in 1978 when she was at the height of her fame following the controversial Sam Peckinpah movie, Straw Dogs. Prince Charles invited her to his 30th birthday party and they enjoyed a brief romance, which turned into a lasting friendship that endures to this day. Susan and Simon are regular visitors to Charles’s Highgrove home and she fondly describes the Prince as, “a wonderful friend – loyal trusting, thoughtful, generous and warm”. While writing her autobiography last year, she studiously avoided cashing in on the relationship, saying, “It’s just not something I could ever do”.
Perhaps it’s that link, together with her movie credits, that have ensured she’s still a recognisable face, even though she has rarely acted in the last few years.
“I consider myself a normal person, but I have this huge notoriety,” she says. “It’s extraordinary that I can’t put on a baseball cap, Wellingtons, a bomber jacket and dark glasses and walk out without somebody pointing.”
Susan has had plenty of time to get used to life in the spotlight, having started her career at the age of four in a Horlicks advert. She was the Patsy Kensit of the 1970s – as famous for being famous as she was for her onscreen roles -and recently appeared in Empire magazine’s list of the 100 sexiest actresses of all time.
“I probably could have achieved even greater heights,” she reflects. “I knew I had the capability to do that, but that wasn’t my choice. I could have gone to live in America. That’s where my career was, but I felt I had no choice but to stay here.”
“I watched them give up the hotel and it was a very disillusioning time,” she says. “I was the only person with my head above water. I had the most money in our family and I wanted to support us.”
Following doomed relationships with American singer Jack Jones (“He broke my heart.”) and Wimbledon tennis champion Jimmy Connors, Susan finally found happiness with Simon, following his divorce from first wife, actress Fiona Fullerton.
They bought a 17th-century farm with 12 acres of ground in Northamptonshire six years ago.
There, they breed Arab horses and run their production company, Amy International, named after Susan’s character in Straw Dogs.
They met when Susan cried on Simon’s shoulder over a broken romance. “Within six weeks, we’d become best friends,” she recalls. “Then we realised it was more than that.”
They wed 17 years ago in Fiji, before coming home for a church blessing in Berkshire. They have never had children and Susan insists she has no regrets. “It was just a matter of timing,” she says. “In a profession like mine, when you’re in your twenties and your career is at its height, children just don’t enter your head, or they didn’t then.”
Whatever lies in store for her in Albert Square, one thing is certain – she will carry on with her other business ventures, including Susan George Naturally, a homeopathic range developed especially for horses. A workaholic, Susan is very proud of what she has achieved, although she admits it’s come at a price.
“I don’t have a lot of time for a social life,” she says. “When Simon is away filming, I rarely go with him. I have to stay here to look after the horses.”
But it’s obviously a choice that clearly suits her down to the ground.