Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, CI GCVO GCStJ (Margaret Rose; 21 August 1930 – 9 February 2002), was the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
Margaret spent much of her childhood years in the company of her older sister and parents. Her life changed dramatically in 1936, when her paternal uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry the divorced American Wallis Simpson. Margaret's father became King in Edward's place, and her older sister became heiress presumptive with Margaret second in line to the throne. During World War II, the two sisters stayed at Windsor Castle, despite government pressure to evacuate to Canada. During the war years, Margaret was not expected to perform any public or official duties, and instead continued her education.
After the war, Margaret fell in love with a recently divorced commoner 16 years her elder, Group Captain Peter Townsend, her father's equerry. Her father died in 1952, and her sister became queen. Margaret told her sister in early 1953 that she wished to marry Townsend. Many in the government felt that Townsend would be an unsuitable husband for the Queen's 22-year-old sister, and the Church of England refused to countenance the marriage to a divorced man. Her sister's coronation was pending, and Elizabeth asked Margaret to wait a year. Margaret eventually abandoned her plans, and, in 1960, accepted the proposal of the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was created Earl of Snowdon by Elizabeth II. The marriage, despite anauspicious start, soon became unhappy. The couple divorced in 1978, and Margaret never remarried.
Margaret was often viewed as a controversial member of the royal family. Her divorce earned her negative publicity, and she was romantically linked with several men. Her health gradually deteriorated in the final two decades of her life; a heavy smoker all her adult life, she had a lung operation in 1985, a bout of pneumonia in 1993, and at least three strokes between 1998 and 2001. She died at King Edward VII Hospital, London, on 9 February 2002. After a private funeral, her body was cremated. Two months later, after the death of her mother, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Margaret's ashes were interred beside the bodies of her parents in the George VI Memorial Chapel at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Margaret was born Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret Rose of York on 21 August 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland, her mother's ancestral home. The registration of her birth was delayed for several days to avoid her being numbered 13 in the parish register. At the time of her birth, she was fourth in the line of succession to the British throne. Her father was Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI), the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. As a grandchild of the Sovereign in the male line, Margaret Rose was styled Her Royal Highness from birth. Her mother was Elizabeth, Duchess of York, the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl and the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. The Duchess of York originally wanted the names Ann Margaret, as she explained to Queen Mary in a letter: "I am very anxious to call her Ann Margaret, as I think Ann of York sounds pretty, & Elizabeth and Ann go so well together." King George V disliked the name Ann, but approved of the alternative "Margaret Rose". She was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 30 October 1930 by Cosmo Lang, theArchbishop of Canterbury. Her godparents were: the Prince of Wales (her paternal uncle, for whom his brother the Prince George stood proxy); Princess Ingrid of Sweden (her paternal cousin, for whom another cousin Lady Patricia Ramsay stood proxy); the Princess Victoria (her paternal great-aunt); the Lady Rose Leveson-Gower (her maternal aunt); and the Hon David Bowes-Lyon(her maternal uncle).
Margaret's early life was spent primarily at the Yorks' residences at 145 Piccadilly (their town house in London) or Royal Lodge in Windsor. The Yorks were perceived by the public as an ideal family: father, mother and children, but unfounded rumours that Margaret was deaf and dumb were not completely dispelled until Margaret's first main public appearance at her uncle Prince George's wedding in 1934. She was educated alongside her sister, Princess Elizabeth, by their Scottish governess Marion Crawford. Her education was mainly supervised by her mother, who in the words of Randolph Churchill "never aimed at bringing her daughters up to be more than nicely behaved young ladies". When Queen Mary insisted upon the importance of education, the Duchess of York commented, "I don't know what she meant. After all I and my sisters only had governesses and we all married well—one of us very well". Margaret was resentful about her limited education, especially in later years, aiming criticism at her mother. However, Margaret's mother told a friend that she "regretted" that her own daughters did not go to school like other children, and the employment of a governess rather than sending the girls to school may have been done only at the insistence of King George V.
George V died when Margaret was five, and her uncle succeeded as King Edward VIII. Less than a year later, on 11 December 1936, Edward abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, whom neither the Church of England nor the Dominion governments would accept as Queen. The Church would not recognise the marriage of a divorced woman with a living ex-husband as valid. Edward's abdication left a reluctant Duke of York in his place as King George VI, and Margaret unexpectedly became second in line to the throne with the style The Princess Margaret to indicate her status as a child of the sovereign. The family moved into Buckingham Palace; Margaret's room overlooked The Mall.
Margaret was a Brownie in the 1st Buckingham Palace Brownie Pack, formed in 1937. She was also a Girl Guide and later a Sea Ranger. She served as President of Girlguiding UK from 1965 until her death in 2002.
At the outbreak of World War II, Margaret and her sister were at Birkhall, on the Balmoral Castle estate, where they stayed until Christmas 1939 enduring nights so cold that drinking water in carafes by their bedside froze. They spent Christmas at Sandringham House, before moving to Windsor Castle just outside London for much of the remainder of the war. Lord Hailshamwrote to Prime Minister Winston Churchill to advise the evacuation of the princesses to the greater safety of Canada, to which their mother famously replied "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave." Unlike other members of the royal family, Margaret was not expected to undertake any public or official duties during the war. She developed her skills at singing and playing the piano. Her contemporaries thought she was spoilt by her parents, especially her father, who allowed her to take liberties not usually permissible, such as being allowed to stay up to dinner at the age of 13. Marion Crawford despaired at the attention Margaret was getting, writing to friends "Could you this year only ask Princess Elizabeth to your party? ... Princess Margaret does draw all the attention and Princess Elizabeth lets her do that." Elizabeth, however, did not mind this, commenting, "oh, it's so much easier when Margaret's there—everybody laughs at what Margaret says". King George described Elizabeth as his pride and Margaret as his joy.
Following the end of the war in 1945, Margaret appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with her family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Afterwards, both Elizabeth and Margaret joined the crowds outside the palace incognito chanting, "we want the King, we want the Queen!". On 1 February 1947, Margaret, Elizabeth and her parents embarked on a state tour of Southern Africa. The three-month long visit was Margaret's first visit abroad, and she later claimed that she remembered "every minute of it". Margaret was chaperoned by Peter Townsend, the King's equerry. Later that year, Margaret was a bridesmaid at Elizabeth's wedding. Elizabeth had two children, Charles and Anne, in the next three years, which moved Margaret further down the line of succession.
In 1950, the former royal governess, Marion Crawford, published a biography of Elizabeth and Margaret's childhood years titled The Little Princesses in which she described Margaret's "light-hearted fun and frolics" and her "amusing and outrageous ... antics". The royal family were appalled at what they saw as Crawford's invasion of their privacy and breach of trust, as a result of which Crawford was ostracised from royal circles.
As a beautiful young woman, with an 18-inch waist and "vivid blue eyes", Margaret enjoyed socialising with high society and the young, aristocratic set, including Sharman Douglas, the daughter of the American ambassador, Lewis Williams Douglas. She was often featured in the press at balls, parties, and night-clubs. The number of her official engagements increased, which included a tour of Italy, Switzerland and France, and she joined a growing number of charitable organisations as President or Patron.
Her twenty-first birthday party was held at Balmoral in August 1951. The following month her father underwent surgery for lung cancer, and Margaret was appointed one of the Counsellors of State who undertook the King's official duties while he was incapacitated. Her father died six months later, and her sister became queen.
Margaret was grief-stricken by her father's death, and was prescribed sedatives to help her sleep. She wrote, "He was such a wonderful person, the very heart and centre of our happy family." She was consoled by her deeply held Christian beliefs. With her widowed mother, Margaret moved out of Buckingham Palace and into Clarence House, while her sister and her family moved out of Clarence House and into Buckingham Palace. Peter Townsend was appointed Comptroller of her mother's household.
By 1953, Townsend was divorced from his first wife; he proposed marriage to Margaret. He was 16 years her senior, and had two children from his previous marriage. Margaret accepted, and informed the Queen of her desire to marry Townsend. The Queen's consent was required by the Royal Marriages Act 1772. As in 1936, the Church of England refused to countenance the remarriage of the divorced. Queen Mary had recently died, and Elizabeth was about to becrowned. After her coronation, she planned to tour the Empire for six months. The Queen told Margaret, "Under the circumstances, it isn't unreasonable for me to ask you to wait a year." The Queen was counselled by her private secretary to post Townsend abroad, but she refused, instead transferring him from the Queen Mother's household to her own. The British Cabinet refused to approve the marriage, and newspapers reported that the marriage was "unthinkable" and "would fly in the face of Royal and Christian tradition". Churchill informed the Queen that the Dominion prime ministers were unanimously against the marriage, and that Parliament would not approve a marriage that would be unrecognised by the Church of England unless Margaret renounced her rights to the throne.Churchill arranged for Townsend to be posted to Brussels. Polls run by popular newspapers appeared to show that the public supported Margaret's personal choice, regardless of Church teaching or the government's opinion. For two years, press speculation continued. Margaret was told by clerics, incorrectly, that she would be unable to take communion if she married a divorced man. Finally, Margaret issued a statement:
I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But mindful of the Church's teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others. I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.
Other rumoured suitors included the Hon. Dominic Elliot, Billy Wallace, Colin Tennant, and John Turner. Margaret married the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey on 6 May 1960. She reportedly accepted his proposal a day after learning from Peter Townsend that he intended to marry a young Belgian woman, Marie-Luce Jamagne, who was half his age and bore a striking resemblance to Margaret. The announcement of the engagement, on 26 February 1960, took the press by surprise. Margaret had taken care to conceal the romance from reporters. The ceremony was the first royal wedding to be broadcast on television, and attracted viewing figures of 300 million worldwide. Margaret's corsage was designed by Norman Hartnell, and the honeymoon was spent aboard the royal yacht Britannia on a six-week Caribbean cruise. As a wedding present, Colin Tennant (later the 3rd Baron Glenconner) gave her a plot of land on his private Caribbean island, Mustique. The newly-weds moved into rooms in Kensington Palace. In 1961, the Princess's husband was created Earl of Snowdon, whereupon she became formally styled HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. They had two children, both born by Caesarean section at Margaret's request: David, Viscount Linley, in 1961 and Lady Sarah in 1964.
The marriage widened Princess Margaret's social circle beyond the Court and aristocracy to include show business celebrities and bohemians, and was seen at the time as reflecting the breakdown of class barriers.The Snowdons experimented with the styles and fashions of the 1960s.Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon with the United States presidentLyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Birdat the White House on 17 November 1965
Princess Margaret began her royal duties at an early age. She attended the silver jubilee of her grandparents, George V and Queen Mary, at age five in 1935. She later attended her parents' coronation in 1937. Her first major royal tour occurred when she joined her parents and sister for a tour of South Africa in 1947. Her tour aboard Britannia to the British colonies in the Caribbean in 1955 created a sensation throughout the West Indies, and calypsos were dedicated to her. As colonies of the British Commonwealth of Nations sought nationhood, Princess Margaret represented the Crown at independence ceremonies in Jamaica in 1962 and Tuvalu and Dominica in 1978. Her visit to Tuvalu was cut short after an illness, which may have been viral pneumonia,and she was flown to Australia to recuperate. Other Overseas tours included the United States in 1963, Japan in 1969 and 1979, the United States and Canada in 1974,Australia in 1975, the Philippines in 1980, Swaziland in 1981,and China in 1987. During an official visit to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1964, she was allegedly bugged by the KGB.
The Princess's main interests were welfare charities, music and ballet. She was President of the National Society and of the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Invalid Children's Aid Nationwide (also called 'I CAN'). She was Grand President of the St John Ambulance Brigade and Colonel-in-Chief of Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. She was also the president or patron of numerous organisations, such as the West Indies Olympic Association, the Girl Guides, Northern Ballet Theatre, and the London Lighthouse (an AIDS charity that has since merged with the Terrence Higgins Trust).
Reportedly, her first extramarital affair took place in 1966, with her daughter's godfather, Bordeaux wine producer Anthony Barton, and a year later she had a one-month liaison with Robin Douglas-Home, a nephew of British politician Alec Douglas-Home. Margaret claimed that her relationship with Douglas-Home was platonic, but her letters to him (which were later sold) were intimate. Douglas-Home, a depressive, committed suicide 18 months after the split with Margaret. Claims that she was romantically involved with musician Mick Jagger, actor Peter Sellers, and Australian cricketer Keith Miller are unproven. The entertainer Leslie Hutchinson, who was 30 years older than Margaret, is believed by Charlotte Breese, his biographer, to have had a "brief liaison" with Margaret in 1955. A 2009 biography of actor David Niven had assertions, based on information from his widow and a good friend of Niven's, that he too had had an affair with the princess. Another association was supposedly with John Bindon, a cockney actor who had spent time in prison. His story, sold to the Daily Mirror, boasted of a close relationship with Margaret and, while it was debatable, the publicity that followed further damaged her reputation.
By the early 1970s, the Snowdons had drifted apart. In September 1973, Colin Tennant (later Baron Glenconner) introduced Margaret to Roddy Llewellyn. Llewellyn was seventeen years her junior. In 1974, he was a guest at the holiday home she had built on Mustique. It was the first of several visits. Margaret described their relationship as "a loving friendship". Once, when Llewellyn left on an impulsive trip to Turkey, Margaret became emotionally distraught and took an overdose of sleeping tablets. "I was so exhausted because of everything", she later said, "that all I wanted to do was sleep." As she recovered, her ladies-in-waiting kept Lord Snowdon away from her, afraid that seeing him would distress her further.
In February 1976, a picture of Margaret and Llewellyn in swimsuits on Mustique was published on the front page of the News of the World tabloid. The press portrayed Margaret and Llewellyn as a predatory older woman and her toyboy lover. The following month, the Snowdons publicly acknowledged that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. There were calls to remove her from the Civil list. Labour MPs denounced her as "a royal parasite" and a "floosie". On 11 July 1978, the Snowdons' divorce was finalised. It was the first divorce of a senior royal since Princess Victoria of Edinburgh in 1901. In December Snowdon married Lucy Lindsay-Hogg.
While on a fund-raising tour of the United States in October 1979 on behalf of the Royal Opera House, Margaret became embroiled in a controversy following the assassination of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Mountbatten and members of his family were killed by a bomb planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Seated at a dinner reception in Chicago with columnist Abra Anderson and mayor Jane Byrne, Margaret told them that the royal family had been moved by the many letters of condolence from Ireland. The following day, a single press report, written by Anderson's rival Irv Kupcinet, claimed that Margaret had referred to the Irish as "pigs". Margaret, Anderson and Byrne all issued immediate denials, but the damage was already done. The rest of the tour drew demonstrations, and Margaret's security was doubled in the face of physical threats.
In 1981, Llewellyn married Tatiana Soskin, whom he had known for ten years. Margaret remained close friends with them both. In January 1981, Margaret was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs.
The Princess's later life was marred by illness and disability. She had smoked cigarettes since at least the age of 15 and had continued to smoke heavily for many years. On 5 January 1985, she had part of her left lung removed; the operation drew parallels with that of her father over 30 years earlier. In 1991, she quit smoking, but continued to drink heavily. In January 1993 she was admitted to hospital for pneumonia. She experienced a mild stroke in 1998 at her holiday home in Mustique. Early in the following year, the Princess suffered severe scalds to her feet in a bathroom accident, which affected her mobility to the extent she required support when walking and sometimes used a wheelchair. In January and March 2001, further strokes were diagnosed, which had left her with partial vision and paralysis on the left side. Margaret's last public appearances were at the 101st birthday celebrations of her mother in August 2001, and the 100th birthday celebration of her aunt, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, that December.
We thank thee Lord who by thy spirit doth our faith restore When we with worldly things commune & prayerless close our door We lose our precious gift divine to worship and adore Then thou our Saviour, fill our hearts to love thee evermorePrincess Margaret's epitaph, written by herself is carved on a memorial stone in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Princess Margaret died in the King Edward VII Hospital, London, on 9 February 2002 at the age of 71, after suffering another stroke. Her funeral was held on 15 February 2002—the 50th anniversary of her father's funeral. In line with the Princess's wishes, the ceremony was a private service for family and friends. Unlike most other members of the royal family, Princess Margaret was cremated, at Slough Crematorium. Her ashes were placed in the tomb of her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, in the King George VI Memorial Chapel in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, two months later. A state memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey on 19 April 2002.
Observers often characterised her as a spoiled snob capable of cutting remarks or hauteur. She even apparently looked down on her own grandmother, Mary of Teck, because Mary was born a princess with only the "Serene Highness" style, whereas Margaret was a royal princess with the "Royal Highness" style at birth. Their letters, however, provide no indication of friction between them. However, she could also be charming and informal. People who came into contact with her could be perplexed by her capricious swings between frivolity and formality. Marion Crawford explained, "Impulsive and bright remarks she made became headlines and, taken out of their context, began to produce in the public eye an oddly distorted personality that bore little resemblance to the Margaret we knew." Margaret's acquaintance Gore Vidal wrote, "She was far too intelligent for her station in life." He recalled a conversation with Margaret, in which she discussed her public notoriety, saying, "It was inevitable: when there are two sisters and one is the Queen, who must be the source of honour and all that is good, while the other must be the focus of the most creative malice, the evil sister."
In June 2006, much of her estate was auctioned by Christie's to meet inheritance tax, though some of the items were sold in aid of charities such as the Stroke Association. A world record price of £1.24 million was set by a Fabergé clock, and the Poltimore tiara, worn for her wedding in 1960, sold for £926,400. The sale of her effects totalled £13,658,000 ($22,556,187USD). In April 2007, an exhibition titled Princess Line – The Fashion Legacy of Princess Margaret opened at Kensington Palace, showcasing contemporary fashion from British designers such as Vivienne Westwood inspired by Princess Margaret's legacy of style. Christopher Bailey's Spring 2006 collection for Burberry was inspired by Margaret's look from the 1960s.
Princess Margaret's private life was for many years the subject of intense speculation by media and royal-watchers. Her house on Mustique, designed by her husband's uncle the stage designer Oliver Messel, was her favourite holiday destination. Allegations of wild parties and drug taking were made in a documentary broadcast after the Princess's death. Her supposed Mustique indiscretions form an important part of the background of the quasi-historical 2008 film The Bank Job. Princess Margaret was portrayed by Lucy Cohu in the Channel 4 TV drama The Queen's Sister (2005), by Trulie MacLeod in the TV drama The Women of Windsor (1992), and by Hannah Wiltshire in the TV drama Bertie and Elizabeth; she is portrayed silently in the second series première of Ashes to Ashes (2009, set in 1982) and subsequently complains off-camera about one of the principal characters.
It is argued that Margaret's most enduring legacy is an accidental one. Perhaps unwittingly, Margaret paved the way for public acceptance of royal divorce. Her life, if not her actions, made the decisions and choices of her sister's children, three of whom divorced, easier than they otherwise would have been.
- 21 August 1930 – 11 December 1936: Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret of York
- 11 December 1936 – 3 October 1961: Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret
- 3 October 1961 – 9 February 2002: Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
At the time of her death, Princess Margaret's full style was: Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret Rose, Countess of Snowdon, Viscountess Linley, Companion of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Dame Grand Cross of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
- CI: Companion of the Crown of India, 12 June 1947
- GCVO: Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, 1953
- GCStJ: Dame Grand Cross of St John of Jerusalem, 1956
- Royal Victorian Chain, 1990
- Royal Family Order of King George V
- Royal Family Order of King George VI
- Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II
- Netherlands: Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion, 1948
- Zanzibar: Order of the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar, First Class, 1956
- Belgium: Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown, 1960
- Uganda: Order of the Lion, Crown and Shield of Toro Kingdom, 1965
- Japan: Grand Cordon (or First Class) of the Order of the Precious Crown, 1971
-  Australia
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps
-  Bermuda
-  Canada
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the Princess Louise Fusiliers
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment
-  United Kingdom
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the Light Dragoons
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment)
-  Colonel-in-Chief of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps
-  Deputy Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Anglian Regiment
-  Honorary Air Commodore, Royal Air Force Coningsby
|David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley||3 November 1961||8 October 1993||Serena Stanhope||Charles Armstrong-Jones|
|Lady Sarah Chatto||1 May 1964||14 July 1994||Daniel Chatto||Samuel Chatto