Princess Margaret
Countess of Snowdon
At Expo 67 in Montreal in 1967
At Expo 67 in Montreal in 1967
Spouse The Earl of Snowdon (19601978)
Viscount Linley
Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones
Full name
Margaret Rose Armstrong-Jones
HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
HRH The Princess Margaret
HRH Princess Margaret of York
Royal House House of Windsor
Father George VI
Mother Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Born 21 August 1930
Glamis Castle, Scotland
Baptised 30 October 1930
Buckingham Palace, London
Died 9 February 2002

The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, CI, GCVO (Margaret Rose Armstrong-Jones; née Windsor; 21 August 19309 February 2002) was the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and sister of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. She held the title Countess of Snowdon by marriage.

Princess Margaret was always a controversial member of the British Royal Family. As a young woman, she was a figure of glamour in post-war Britain and the Commonwealth. However, her private life was plagued by romantic disappointments, including her politically-thwarted love for a divorced older man in her youth, a subsequent, often unhappy marriage to a commoner, an acrimonious divorce beset with accusations of adultery, and, in her later years, a public affair with a much younger man.

Early lifeEdit

File:Queen Mary with Princess Elizabeth and Margaret.jpg

She was born HRH Princess Margaret Rose of York on 21 August 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland, her mother's ancestral home. Her father was Prince Albert, The Duke of York, the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. Her mother was The Duchess of York (formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon), a daughter of the 14th Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. As a grandchild of the Sovereign in the male line, Margaret Rose was styled Her Royal Highness from birth. She was baptised in the Private Chapel of Buckingham Palace on 30 October 1930 by Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and her godparents were her uncle the Prince of Wales, her father's cousin Princess Ingrid of Sweden, her great-aunt Princess Victoria, her aunt Lady Rose Leveson-Gower, and her uncle The Hon. David Bowes-Lyon.

Princess Margaret Rose of York was educated alongside her sister, Princess Elizabeth, by their governess, Marion Crawford. In 1936, her uncle King Edward VIII abdicated the throne, and her father became King George VI. Margaret was then styled HRH The Princess Margaret. She attended her parents' coronation in 1937.

During the Second World War, Margaret stayed at Windsor Castle, just outside London. In 1952, her father died, and her older sister became Queen Elizabeth II. Template:House of Windsor

Romance with Peter TownsendEdit

Two years after her sister's coronation, Margaret became embroiled in a public scandal over her wish to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend, a Royal Air Force pilot and Battle of Britain hero who had been a trusted member of the royal household as an equerry to her father and sister. Sixteen years the princess's senior, Townsend was also a divorcé, which, in the eyes of the government and the Church of England, made him an unsuitable husband for a royal princess, despite the fact that he had been the innocent party in his divorce from Rosemary Pawle, who had committed adultery.

Although Margaret could have married Townsend without her sister's or parliamentary permission once she turned 25, she was informed that doing so would force her to give up her title, her Civil List allowance, and her place in the line of succession. It was also suggested, entirely incorrectly, that she would be forced to leave the country. Under great pressure, not least because her role as a royal princess was virtually the only identity she had, and taking advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior politicians, she decided not to marry Townsend. She made a public announcement, reportedly partly crafted by Townsend himself, in which she stated that her decision had been made out of loyalty to the Crown and out of consciousness of the Church's teaching on the "indissolubility of Christian marriage."

In reality, however, papers released in 2004 indicate that, had she married Townsend, she could not have been legally deprived of her title or her Civil List allowance. The only conditions should she decide to marry Townsend were that she would be removed from the line of succession and that any wedding would have to be civil rather than religious.[1] Margaret and her sister had been misled by courtiers and politicians who were either still deeply fearful of potential marital scandal 20 years after the abdication of Edward VIII or simply determined to maintain the status quo, regardless of the personal and emotional effects.


After some more romantic interests, including future Canadian Prime Minister John Turner, on 6 May 1960, Margaret married the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, son of Ronald Armstrong-Jones and his first wife, Anne Messel, later Countess of Rosse, at Westminster Abbey. She reportedly accepted his proposal a day after learning from Peter Townsend that he intended to marry a young Belgian woman.

The ceremony could be considered the first "modern" royal wedding thanks to the wider availability of television in the UK. 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:

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon also have four grandchildren:

  • The Honourable Charles Armstrong-Jones (Viscount Linley's only son)
  • The Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones (Viscount Linley's only daughter)
  • Master Samuel Chatto (Lady Sarah Chatto's older son)
  • Master Arthur Chatto (Lady Sarah Chatto's younger son)

The marriage widened Princess Margaret's social circle beyond the Court and aristocracy to include show business and bohemia, and was seen at the time as reflecting the breakdown of class barriers.[1]

Royal dutiesEdit

Princess Margaret began her royal duties at a very early age. She attended the silver jubilee of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, aged 5 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 first solo tour was to the British colonies in the Caribbean in 1955. So great was her popularity at the time, the tour created a sensation throughout the West Indies, and calypsos were dedicated to her.[2]

As colonies of the British Commonwealth sought nationhood, Princess Margaret went on to repeatedly represent the British Crown at their independence ceremonies.

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. Formerly Commandant-in-Chief of the Ambulance and Nursing Cadets of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, she later became Grand President of the St John Ambulance Brigade and Colonel-in-Chief of Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps.

Private lifeEdit

Princess Margaret's private life was for many years the subject of intense speculation by media and royal-watchers. She owned a house on the Caribbean island of Mustique, a private resort that was her favourite holiday destination and where many of its houses were designed by her husband's uncle, the stage designer Oliver Messel. Revelations of wild parties and drug taking were made in a documentary broadcast after the Princess’s death.

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 a former British Prime Minister. Douglas-Home's suicide 18 months after the split with Margaret scandalised Britain.[2] She was also rumoured to have been romantically involved with musician Mick Jagger and actor Peter Sellers, although the true extent of her relationships with these two men has never been clear. According to "Margaret: The Secret Princess", an ITV program broadcast in Britain in February 2003, Princess Margaret also reportedly had a two-year affair with Sharman Douglas, the daughter of an American ambassador to the Court of St. James's.

In the 1970s, revelations of an affair with Roddy Llewellyn, an aspiring young garden designer, led to her divorce from Lord Snowdon, although the marriage was generally regarded as over long before the affair was made public. This was the first divorce of a senior royal since Princess Victoria of Edinburgh in 1901.

As her friend Gore Vidal once wrote, "She was far too intelligent for her station in life." Vidal, in his memoirs "Point to Point Navigation", recalled a conversation with Princess 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 honor and all that is good, while the other must be the focus of the most creative malice, the evil sister."[3]

Later lifeEdit

Having been a heavy smoker for most of her adult life, the Princess's later life was marred by illness and disability. She experienced a mild stroke in 1998 at her holiday home in Mustique. Later in the same year, the Princess severely scalded her feet in a bathroom accident, which affected her mobility to the extent she required support when walking and was sometimes restricted to a wheelchair. In 2000 and 2001, further strokes were diagnosed. Margaret’s last public appearance was at the 100th birthday celebrations of her aunt, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester in December 2001.

Margaret died in hospital on 9 February 2002 at the age of 71, after suffering a massive stroke. Her funeral was held on the 50th anniversary of her father's funeral and occurred during the jubilee year of the Queen. The ceremony was a private family event—it also was the last time the Queen Mother was seen in public before her death—though a full state memorial service was held for her several weeks later.


  1. Haden-Guest, Anthony:"The New Class", The Queen (magazine), 1965
  2. Payne, David John: My Life With Princess Margaret (1962) p17
  3. Gore Vidal, "Point to Point Navigation", New York: Doubleday, 2007, p. 212.

Titles and honoursEdit

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  • Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret of York (from birth to 1936)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret (1936 to 1947)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, CI (1947 to 1953)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, CI, GCVO (1953 to 1960)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Mrs Antony Armstrong-Jones, CI, GCVO (1960 to 1961)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, CI, GCVO (1961 until her death)


Honorary military appointmentsEdit

Colonel in Chief

Deputy Colonel-in-Chief

Royal Air Force

  • Honorary Air Commodore
  • Royal Air Force Coningsby

See alsoEdit

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External linksEdit

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