Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel: How Her Early Heartbreak and Headstrong Ways Moved the Monarchy Forward

Princess Margaret

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From the age of 6, Princess Margaret was destined to stay within the shadow of her older sister.

It was then that their father, Albert, turned King George VI when his older brother,Edward VIII, gave up the throne after lower than a 12 months as king to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. They turned the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and the scandal resulted in 10-year-old Princess Elizabeth changing into the longer term Queen of England.

The shake-up additionally vaulted Margaret from fourth to second in line, although she presumably by no means thought a lot of it as a result of any kids of Elizabeth’s would mechanically precede her. However although she herself would by no means put on the crown, generations upon generations of royal protocol nonetheless prevented her life from ever being totally her personal.

Which is not to say that she did not get pleasure from herself.

“In a single sense, she had such a voice, however she additionally wasn’t capable of actually personal what she wished in her life,” Vanessa Kirby, who performs Margaret on the splendid Netflix drama The Crown, advised Bustle lately. “I felt so sorry for her, and it is made me extra passionate to stay my life in the best way that I want to.”

Margaret and Elizabeth had been very shut as kids rising up, the tense ambiance of World Struggle II offering the backdrop for his or her adolescence.

“These had been two totally regular and wholesome little ladies, and we had our difficulties,” Marion Crawford, who spent 17 years with the household as governess, later wrote in an unauthorized memoir. “Neither was above taking a whack at her adversary, if roused, and Lilibet was fast together with her left hook. Margaret was extra of a close-in fighter, recognized to chew on events.”

Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret

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And regardless of some bumps alongside the best way, they would stay shut till Margaret’s dying in 2002. Elizabeth’s youthful sibling was one of many few true confidantes the queen had in her life because the tasks and stress piled up instantly following her ascension to the throne in 1952.

Margaret was a bridesmaid when Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, they usually maintained a direct cellphone line between Buckingham Palace and Margaret’s residence at Kensington Palace for day by day chats.

Although their lives had been removed from regular and Margaret kept away from referring to her sister in public as something apart from “the queen,” in non-public the youthful sister nonetheless known as her large sis by her childhood nickname of “Lilibet”—and she or he was nonetheless “Margot” to the queen.

However custom was custom, and the queen would at all times be a rung above Princess Margaret, compelled to function the household’s ethical authority and sure by the rule of legislation and royal custom. And a myriad of assessments got here early.

Not lengthy earlier than Elizabeth married Philip in November 1947, Margaret fell in love with the very married RAF Captain Peter Townsend, who as an attendant of her father’s labored in the palace and had accompanied the household on a journey to South Africa earlier that 12 months.

“We rode collectively each morning in that fantastic nation, in marvelous climate,” the princess advised a pal concerning the tour, in keeping with 2009’s Snowdon: A Biography. “That is after I actually fell in love with him.”

Princess Margaret, Peter Townsend


Townsend, who was 15 years older than Margaret, additionally had two sons. When George VI died in 1952, he moved from Buckingham Palace with Margaret and the Queen Mom to Clarence Home; shortly after, he and his spouse divorced.

The adorned officer, whose mild temperament was stated to have complemented Margaret’s extra fiery nature, proposed to the princess in 1953—but it surely was when she casually brushed a speck of lint from his coat, as any girlfriend would, in the course of her sister’s coronation in June 1953 that the media had been shocked into consideration, by no means to let up on the taboo couple.

These whose approval would theoretically be crucial for them to marry had been against the match from the beginning.

Queen Elizabeth II was stated to really feel deeply for her sister’s predicament, however having barely warmed the throne she wasn’t but able to rewrite historical past and unexpectedly make it completely acceptable for a member of the royal household to marry a divorcé.

Per the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, the reigning sovereign’s permission was required, and the queen did examine all her choices. Complicating the method, the Church of England mockingly forbade divorce—although King Henry VIII needed to depart the Catholic church and begin the Church of England himself in 1532 to divorce his first spouse so he may marry Anne Boleyn, fortunate her. The British authorities was additionally that prudish about it. Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 reasonably than danger a constitutional disaster.

About to embark on a six-month tour of the Commonwealth, the queen requested her sister to attend a 12 months, after which they might revisit. Within the meantime, she first had Townsend transferred again to her employees at Buckingham Palace, after which the prime minister organized a submit for him in Belgium.

Margaret and Townsend would not see one another once more till Oct. 12, 1955—when it turned obvious that their hoped-for marriage wouldn’t be taking place, regardless of a wave of public opinion of their favor.

“I would really like it to be recognized that I’ve determined to not marry Group Captain Peter Townsend,” Margaret stated in a press release that they drafted collectively and was issued by the Palace on Oct. 31. “I’ve been conscious that, topic to renouncing my rights of succession, it may need been attainable for me to contract a civil marriage. However aware of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and aware of my obligation to the Commonwealth, I’ve resolved to place these issues earlier than others. I’ve reached this resolution totally alone, and in doing so I’ve been strengthened by the unfailing help and devotion of Group Captain Townsend. I’m deeply grateful for the priority of all those that have continually prayed for my happiness.”

It was revealed about 13 years in the past through paperwork unearthed from the Nationwide Archives that the queen and Prime Minister Anthony Eden had joined forces to attract up a plan for Margaret and Townsend’s proposed marriage, which might have allowed her to maintain her royal title and allowance, and proceed on as a face of the royal household, however surrender her or any of her kids’s place within the line of succession.

“Her Majesty wouldn’t want to stand in the best way of her sister’s happiness,” Eden, who was divorced himself, wrote in a letter to his fellow Commonwealth prime ministers.

Alas, the combat for his or her future had drained them each. “When it was carried out, we checked out one another,” Townsend recalled to a pal in a letter. “There was a beautiful tenderness in her eyes which mirrored, I suppose, the look in mine. We had reached the top of the street, our emotions for each other had been unchanged, however they’d incurred for us a burden so nice that we determined collectively to put it down.”

So regardless of being nonetheless in love, they went their separate methods. Their love letters have been preserved within the archive at Windsor Fortress, to stay sealed till what would’ve been Margaret’s 100th birthday, in 2030.

Therefore Princess Margaret’s unhappy story line in The Crown‘s first season, with Ben Miles as Townsend.

After their breakup, Townsend met and married a Belgian tobacco heiress named Marie-Luce Jamagne, who at 20 was 24 years youthful than him and was stated to look quite a bit like Margaret.

The actual deal, in the meantime, continued on because the toast of London society. Although nonetheless tethered to the monarchy, she led a contemporary (for now, even) celeb way of life—sleeping late, doting on her canine, lunching with mum, going to the theater, eating and residing it up till all hours. Sleep, rinse, repeat.

Tales of Margaret’s cigarette and whiskey-fueled nights out stored the monarchy and the tabloids on their toes. Her rowdy circle included quite a few males—all of whom she was romantically linked to, although solely a few of them had been precise suitors. She was briefly engaged to Billy Wallace, the grandson of architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, however supposedly as a result of, at 26, she felt it was greatest to at the least accept somebody she preferred. Margaret broke it off when he admitted to dishonest on her throughout a vacation within the Bahamas.

“The factor with Townsend was a girlish nonsense that bought out of hand. It was by no means the massive factor on her half that individuals declare,” Wallace later stated, per Britain’s Telegraph. “I had my probability and blew it with my large mouth, or she would have turn into Mrs. Wallace and I might have been capable of deal with her.”

Whereas Wallace was probably exaggerating, it turned out Margaret was on the fence about Townsend by the point the 2 years of imposed delay had been about up, although it may have simply been the emotional fatigue—and royal propriety—speaking. In a letter to PM Eden dated Aug. 15, 1955, she wrote, “I’m not going to see him throughout this time however in October I shall be returning to London, and he’ll then be taking his annual depart—I do definitely hope to see him whereas he’s there…However it’s only by seeing him on this means that I really feel I can correctly determine whether or not I can marry him or not.”

Margaret’s pal and biographer Christopher Warwick advised the Telegraph in 2009 that the princess had beforehand advised him she had no concept of any plan within the works to permit her to marry. 

“What is definite because of this letter is that she knew the Authorities was paving the best way for the wedding if she wished it and it proves that she was a lot extra concerned within the course of than she ever let on,” he stated.

Princess Margaret, Anthony Armstrong-Jones

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Margaret stored it very hush-hush when she launched into a romance with society photographer and portraitist Antony Armstrong-Jones, who circulated among the many inventive, progressive sort of firm she favored. (Enter Matthew Goode because the photographer when The Crown‘s second season begins streaming Friday.)

They had been at Balmoral Fortress when she came upon that Townsend was engaged. Suspecting that Antony had been planning to suggest, she really requested him to carry off only a bit—which he did, ready till the subsequent day. In a feat that may be nearly unattainable right this moment, their engagement announcement on Feb. 26, 1960, got here as an incredible shock to the world’s media, as nobody actually knew they had been a pair within the first place.

Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret had been married at Westminster Abbey on Could 6, 1960, within the first royal wedding ceremony to be televised. About 300 million individuals tuned in, although quite a few royal household heads from different nations RSVP’d no in objection to what they considered because the princess’ inappropriate match.

Norman Hartnell, who additionally made Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding ceremony gown, designed Margaret’s robe. She had eight bridesmaids, together with her then 9-year-old niece, Princess Anne.

They took a six-week cruise across the the Caribbean for his or her honeymoon. The bride’s pal Colin Tennant gifted the newlyweds with a trip property on his personal non-public island of Mustique (which stays a favourite trip spot for Kate Middleton and Prince William). 

Princess Margaret and the newly christened Lord Snowdon moved into Kensington Palace upon their return to England, the place they had been recognized for internet hosting artists, actors and different glamorous varieties at stylish soirees of their condo. Margaret was a patron of quite a few organizations and charities, as is the royal means, and she or he took nice delight in her work for the humanities (she was, amongst different issues, president of the Royal Ballet), hospitals, the army, kids and different causes near her coronary heart.

She and Armstrong-Jones went on to have two kids collectively, David, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Girl Sarah, each of whom the queen is claimed to have nice affection for.

Maybe nonetheless subconsciously (or consciously) lamenting the wedding that did not occur, it was only a few years later, nonetheless, that one may think about Margaret changing into a little bit of a headache for her sister.

In keeping with varied biographical accounts of Margaret, her husband, the royal household and a number of the gents talked about right here, the princess turned more and more stressed.

In 1966, two years after Sarah was born, the princess reportedly had a quick affair together with her daughter’s godfather, winemaker Anthony Barton. Intimate letters that got here to mild later would seemingly affirm that, subsequent, she had a dalliance with Robin Douglas-Residence, nephew of former British PM Alec Douglas-Residence. Her rumored celeb conquests over time included Peter Sellars, David Niven, Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty.

Tennant launched then 43-year-old Margaret to Roddy Llewellen, a gardening count on 17 years her junior, in 1973, and—main an more and more separate life from her husband—they might enter into an eight-year-long relationship.

Below the guise of them being pricey mates, they might vacation collectively at Margaret’s getaway in Mustique. Distraught by Llewellen taking off for Turkey on a trip with out her at one level, she swallowed a handful of sleeping capsules, later saying, “I used to be so exhausted due to all the pieces, all I wished to do was sleep.”

In 1976, pictures of Llewellen and Princess Margaret landed on the entrance web page of Information of the World, and she or he and Lord Snowdon had been roughly compelled to acknowledge the rupture of their marriage.

And it was then that Margaret, who might not have even thought it attainable, insisted upon getting a divorce. Her want was granted on July 11, 1978, making her the primary royal to divorce since Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh in 1901. Snowdon, who supposedly hadn’t precisely been sitting round ready for Margaret to return residence nights, promptly remarried Lucy Lindsay-Hogg later that 12 months.

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, Royal Scandals

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The picture of Margaret, the primary “paparazzi princess” earlier than Princess Diana—and later Kate Middleton, and now Meghan Markle—got here alongside, did endure within the public eye. Regardless of how a lot individuals relish a very good scandal, they’re nonetheless fast to guage. Twenty years prior, the collapse of Margaret’s relationship with Townsend had been thought of extra of a black mark in opposition to the remainder of the royal household, accused of getting in the best way of the princess’ probability at happiness. She by no means blamed her household, nonetheless, and would insist that the choice to not marry him was in the end hers alone.

However although the royal household bent just a little, they didn’t break, and Margaret, to not point out her sister, the queen, powered by way of what on the time was the largest scandal of the fashionable royal period.

The emergence of Princess Diana, who married Prince Charles in 1981 when she was solely 20, modified all the pieces, after all. The press and the general public discovered a brand new individual to obsess over, her stunning dying in 1997 not diminishing that fascination within the slightest. If something, it solely elevated. 

But thanks at the least partially to the travails of Princess Margaret, when Charles not solely divorced but additionally wished to remarry the divorced love of his life, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Queen Elizabeth II gave her consent—and Charles stays in line to succeed her, as does his son Prince William after him. Maybe, although you’d by no means comprehend it to take a look at her ever-stoic countenance, the queen felt by the 1990s that sure outdated guidelines simply did not make sense any extra.

And although the hoi polloi nonetheless raised their brows, perhaps extra out of behavior than out of any actual concern, Prince Harry will fortunately turn into Meghan Markle’s second husband subsequent 12 months.

Lord Snowdon—who turned out to have fathered a daughter earlier than he married Margaret, after which went on to have two extra kids after their divorce—handed away this previous January at 86. His biographer Anne de Courcy advised the Telegraph, “Tony as soon as stated to me, ‘I do like change,’ and that was a robust motif in all his frolics. They led him into one emotional automobile crash after one other.”

Margaret and Townsend by no means totally misplaced contact over time, however they didn’t see one another once more till they’d an opportunity assembly in 1992. The next 12 months they each attended a lunch at Kensington Palace, the place an observer stated they sat collectively on a settee and “chatted just like the outdated mates they had been.” When he died in 1995 on the age of 80, the palace stated that the princess was “unhappy” to listen to the information.

Princess Margaret died in 2002 on the age of 71 after struggling a stroke. At her funeral, for the primary time maybe ever, Queen Elizabeth II appeared something lower than stoic in public.

The Crown season 2 premieres Friday on Netflix.

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