Dear Editor, I was interested in the Margot Fonteyn biopic on BBC 4 recently, which partly looked at the period Margot spent at Stoke Mandeville Hospital (SMH) in the mid-1960’s looking after her paralysed husband, the one-time Panamanian Ambassador to the Court of St James, Roberto [Tito] Arias.
During 2002, just before leaving for the Midlands, I put on a large exhibition at Aylesbury Library and Stoke Mandeville Hospital dining room about the time Dame Margot Fonteyn was at SMH visiting her Panamanian husband.
It was mainly spent at the spinal injuries unit. Roberto had been hurt/paralysed during an assassination attempt on his life in Panama City, apparently whilst out electioneering as a candidate in the Presidential elections.
Dame Margot was a very popular addition to life at the hospital.
She often would go and help wash up in the dining room kitchens at SMH and had a room at the hospital. She regularly involved herself in events at the hospital and around Aylesbury, as well as putting on a charity event at the theatre to raise money for the hospital.
Dame Margot was a real people person, according to everybody I interviewed and even learned to drive in Aylesbury. Many came to see her and Tito, including Jackie Onassis.
I have my old notes from that exhibition which I gave the hospital archives and the library archives; I thought I’d lost them but they have reappeared.