Although we often hear about Queen Elizabeth II, her sister Princess Margaret should not be forgotten. The late Countess of Snowdon passed away in 2002 but lived a rich and full life in her 71 years. Nicknamed the “royal rebel” Princess Margaret followed her heart, no matter what her family said, and had an eye for fashion.
Her wedding was the first royal wedding to be televised, and aligning with her independent, rebellious reputation, it’s rumored she may have bought her own glamorous tiara. Princess Margaret’s life was anything but ordinary, as seen in these photos.
The Second Daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York
Her parents believed they were having a boy, and so when Margaret was born, they didn’t have a girl’s name in mind. Queen Elizabeth wanted to name her second daughter Ann, saying, “I am very anxious to call her Ann Margaret, as I think Ann of York sounds pretty, and Elizabeth and Ann go so well together.” However, their father, then the Duke of York, didn’t like the name, and they agreed on Margaret Rose instead.
Margaret Rose was born on August 21, 1930, at Glamis Castle in Scotland. Her parents, being superstitious, delayed registering her birth for several days, not wanting her to be thirteenth on the parish register.
There Were Rumors About Margaret as a Baby
As part of the role as a member of the Royal Family, Margaret’s life was in the public eye from the day she was born, even when no one had seen her yet. It’s customary that the royal family present newborns to the press outside of the hospital or on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Margaret was born a “Royal Highness,” and her birth garnered a 41 gun salute from the Royal Horse Artillery in Hyde Park and the Tower of London.
Before her first public appearance, rumors swirled that baby Margaret was deaf and mute. However, at home, Margaret was energetic and talked non-stop, to which her father would jokingly tell his guests, “This is my deaf and dumb child.” It wasn’t until her first public appearance, at her uncle Prince George’s wedding three years later, that the public dropped the unfounded gossip.
She Lived At the Royal Lodge in Windsor
Princess Margaret grew up at 145 Piccadilly, in London. The home used to be the Prince Regent’s but had been weathered and ignored for years. The Yorks rebuilt it to become their family home.
Elizabeth II and Margaret’s lives were sheltered and they spent most of their time with their governess. They took horseback riding lessons, spent time with family, and had a private childhood.
She Was Homeschooled to be a Proper Young Lady
When she was young, Princess Margaret was not expected to perform any royal duties, and instead focus on becoming a fine young lady. Margaret and her sister Elizabeth II were taught at home by a Scottish governess named Marion Crawford, while Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother supervised.
Queen Elizabeth focused more on raising the girls to be proper and well-mannered, rather than be well-educated. Princess Margaret wanted to go to school like other children and resented her mother for not letting her go. Queen Elizabeth later confided in a friend that she regretted not sending the girls to school.
King Edward VIII’s Abdication Shocked Everyone
The older brother of Margaret’s father held the position of King and was expected to until death. However, only 326 days into his reign, King Edward VIII caused a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to a divorced woman. The constitution would not allow him to marry a divorced woman and keep his throne. So he decided to abdicate and marry Wallis Simpson.
After one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in Brith history, King Edward VIII stepped down in 1936 and Margaret’s father, King George VI took the throne.
Margaret’s Father Became King
In 1936, King Edward VIII announced that he was officially abdicating the throne to marry a twice-divorced American woman. It was assumed that Margaret’s father would become the new king.
Then-named Prince Albert, Margaret’s father was reluctant to take the throne. There was some talk of his younger brother Prince George taking the throne since he had a son. But it was soon settled that Prince Albert would become King George VI.
Princess Margaret Stole the Spotlight from her Sister
Although it was expected that most of the attention would be on Princess Elizabeth II, who would become queen after all, it was often Princess Margaret who would entertain guests. It concerned their governess, but Elizabeth II wasn’t bothered by her sister’s outgoing personality.
“Oh, it’s so much easier when Margaret’s there,” Elizabeth II said, “Everybody laughs at what Margaret says.” Their father, King George, described his daughters as Elizabeth being his ‘pride,’ and Margaret his ‘joy.’
She Was a Bohemian Princess
Although she lived the princess lifestyle, Margaret did things her own way. According to Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, by Craig Brown, as a teenager, she spent her mornings eating breakfast in bed while loudly listening to the radio, smoking cigarettes, and reading the newspaper.
Afterward, she’d take a bath, get her hair and make-up done, and have a vodka in her hand at 12:30 pm for a “pick-me-up.” She was a gifted pianist and singer, and loved a good party.
She Fell in Love With Group Captain Peter Townsend
Princess Margaret fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend. He was an officer in the Royal Air Force and worked as an equerry, an officer with honor who works close to the Royal Family. He was an equerry to both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. And that’s how he met Margaret.
She was only 14-years-old at the time they met, and Townsend was married at the time with two sons. Supposedly, their romance wouldn’t start until eight years later when Townsend was divorced and Princess Margaret was 22-years-old.
King George VI Dies, Elizabeth II Becomes Queen
In 1952, Margaret and Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, passed away after several years of declining health. This meant that 25-year-old Elizabeth II would be named Queen. Elizabeth II’s coronation took place on June 2, 1953.
The ceremony in Westminister Abbey was the first to be televised, and 27 million people watched in the UK alone. Princess Margaret was spotted removing lint from Peter Townend’s lapel at the ceremony, which sparked rumors that the two, even with a huge age gap, were involved.
Peter Townsend Proposes
A divorced man 16 years her senior, it was viewed as highly inappropriate for Peter Townsend to propose to Princess Margaret, who was 22-years-old at the time. His divorced status was undesirable and the public viewed him as an unstable man who was ill-suited to be Princess Margaret’s husband.
Nevertheless, he proposed, and Princess Margaret accepted. But due to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, she could only marry Townsend with her sister’s permission, who at the same time, was busy getting ready to take the throne as Queen.
Their Engagement Was Controversial
Because Townsend was divorced, and his former spouse still alive, the couple could not be wed in the Church of England. In a classic show of a little sister pestering her older sister on their big day, while Elizabeth II was preparing to take the throne, Margaret asked her sister Elizabeth II for permission to marry Townsend. She was getting ready to tour Commonwealth for her coronation and asked Margaret to wait at least two years if she wanted to marry him.
Not long after, the couple broke off the engagement. Townsend ended up marrying a Belgian woman around eight years later. The woman shares a striking resemblance to Princess Margaret.
She Had a Few Vices
Although it was frowned upon, Princess Margaret was a heavy smoker and drinker. She started smoking cigarettes when she was only 15-years-old, and her habit took a toll on her body. In 1985 she had part of her lung removed, and she quit smoking in 1991.
As a young woman, Margaret would join the Queen Mother for a four-course lunch where they would swig wine. The Queen Mother also loved gin, and reportedly said before a trip, ” “I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed.” Her sister Queen Elizabeth II is also known to drink at lunch.
Princess Margaret Meets Antony Armstrong-Jones
Princess Margaret would end up falling in love with filmmaker and fashion photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. Born and raised in London, Armstrong-Jones was seen as a “commoner” compared to Princess Margaret’s status. His work was highly acclaimed, and his portraits of celebrity icons were published in Vogue and Vanity Fair, including David Bowie, Elizabeth Taylor, and Princess Diana.
He had never been married, which made him a suitable partner for Princess Margaret. Even so, the couple and the Royal Family kept the romance a secret for two years, up until the announcement of their engagement.
The First Royal Wedding on TV
Anthony Armstrong-Jones proposed to Princess Margaret. They married on May 6, 1960, the first marriage for both of them. Princess Margaret was 29-years-old at the time. The wedding took place at Westminster Abbey. It was the first royal wedding broadcasted on television.
An estimated 300 million people watched Princess Margaret’s wedding on TV. When her sister Queen Elizabeth married in 1947, 13 years before, her wedding was broadcasted on the radio to 200 million listeners. Princess Diana was married in 1981, and an incredible 750 million people were glued to their TVs.
Her Wedding Dress Was Simple, the Tiara Took the Show
With both Princess Margaret and her husband interested in fashion, everyone expected her wedding dress to be glamorous. However, the dress ended up being simple with barely any embellishments. The dress designer was Norman Hartwell, who also designed Queen Elizabeth II’s gown. The dress included 30 meters of fabric, but the focus was on the tiara.
Although she had plenty of tiaras to select from the royal family’s collection, Princess Margaret wanted a different one. Crown jeweler Garrard made the piece in the 1870s, originally for Lady Poltimore. It’s designed with antique silver, topped with gold diamond jewels. Some say Princess Margaret purchased it herself. Others say it was purchased by her sister Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding gift.
They Were a Glamorous Couple
Princess Margaret and her husband, Lord Snowdon were seen as Britain’s most glamorous royal couple. The fashion photographer and outgoing Princess lit up the room at events and enjoyed being the center of attention.
However, as time went on, and they became a family with a son and a daughter, it seemed that the room wasn’t big enough for their two large personalities. “”They were both pretty strong-willed and accustomed to having their own way, so there were bound to be collisions,” said Anne de Courcy, who wrote a biography on Lord Snowdon.
Margaret Loved The Arts, and Was Rumored to Have Affairs with Stars
Some criticized Princess Margaret for not being as active as other members of the royal family. However, the Rebellious Rebel loved music and fashion and wanted to spend more time invested in her interests.
Although unproven, rumors spread that she was romantically involved with The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and actor Peter Sellers. Leslie Hutchinson, an entertainer, claimed he had a relationship with Margaret before she was married. Other affairs were said to have taken place during her marriage, which became troubled. Margaret and her husband divorced in 1978.
Princess Margaret’s Legacy: Don’t Be a Passenger in Your Own Life
After struggling with illness, including two strokes, Princess Margaret passed away in London in 2002, at the age of 71. The younger sister of the Queen leaves behind a legacy unconventional to the royal family. Thrust unexpectantly into the spotlight as a young girl, Princess Margaret’s personality played out for all to see.
She struggled with living a primed and poised life and let her lively personality shine through the rules placed on royals. As she’s said, “I have always had a dread of becoming a passenger in life.” Her sense of fashion, love of the arts, and being the life of the party is what she’s remembered for most.
The Princess Was In Love For Many Years
Although her marriage to Lord Snowdon ended in divorce, the couple had many happy years together. Based in Snowden, they enjoyed visiting tropical destinations together, where Princess Margaret would wear stylish summer dresses.
The couple honeymooned for six weeks in the Caribbean after marrying. Here they’re seen waving from the deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia. The yacht belonged to the Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years and sailed over one million miles. The public can now tour the Royal Yacht in Edinburgh.
The Secret Engagement
Princess Margaret and the royal family attempted to keep her romances under wraps, but many of her relationships were too high-profile to be hidden. However, there’s one proposal and engagement in Princess Margaret’s life that’s not often discussed.
In 1956, it’s rumored that she was briefly engaged to a family friend named Billy Wallace. She was 26-years-old at the time, and it was just one month after it was announced that Princess Margaret’s engagement to Townsend had been called off.
She Commanded Attention
Princess Margaret Rose grew up in royalty and enjoyed being pampered like the princess she was. She enjoyed her privileges and the attention she received as being a member of the royal family. Many attested that Princess Margaret preferred to arrive at events late, and wouldn’t let anyone leave until she was ready.
In the book Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, it’s reported she would tell people, “No one leaves my presence until I give them permission to do so.”
The Bond Between Sisters
Growing up, Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth II were always together. Spending their younger years sheltered in Windsor, they were homeschooled and were limited to each other for friendship. As they grew older, their connection stayed strong.
The sisters had direct telephone lines to each other, Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace, and Princess Margaret in Kensington Palace. They enjoyed laughing and gossiping, most likely with an afternoon drink in hand.
Her Kids Are Business Savvy and Artistic
Princess Margaret as a son, David Armstrong-Jones, and a daughter, Lady Sarah Chatto, both with her ex-husband Anthony Armstrong-Jones, Lord Snowdon. Her son is well-educated and worked in the restaurant business before becoming a furniture maker.
Her daughter Sarah is a professional painter and studied at several art schools. She then traveled to India with her father, to intern on the set of the film, A Passage to India. That’s where she met her husband, actor Daniel Chatto.
While a young mother, her marriage was riddled with affairs on both sides. Princess Margaret’s children, however, had a stable environment, mostly cared for by nannies. She shared her love of the arts with both of them when she was around, and both of her children attribute their interest in music, dancing, and art to their mother.
Princess Margaret told her sister, the Queen, “I may not have achieved very much – but I at least feel my life has not been wasted, because I have produced two happy and well-adjusted children.”
She Wanted Her Freedom
While her children turned out to become successful and happy adults, Princess Margaret struggled with her role as a mother. Having been raised by nannies herself, Margaret preferred to have Nanny Sumner take care of the children. However, Lord Snowdon believed Margaret should be at home with them, and didn’t approve of the traditional methods of Nanny Sumner.
Just seven weeks after David’s birth, Princess Margaret was spotted on holiday in Antigua. It’s reported that she didn’t believe in being tied down just because she was a mother, and thought that her children’s lives should fit into hers, not the other way around.
An Extramarital Affair Exposed
One of Princess Margaret’s extramarital affairs was with Scott jazz pianist and author Robin Douglas-Home. Margaret denied the affair, as both she and Douglas-Home were married at the time. In 1965, the pianist and his wife divorced, citing his affair with Margaret as the reason behind the split.
Princess Margaret insisted that their relationship was strictly a friendship, but letters exchanged between the two surfaced and proved otherwise. Distraught by the breakup, Douglas-Home also suffered from depression. Eighteen months after their affair ended in 1968, he committed suicide.
Princess Margaret Hit a Low Point
One time while they were hiding out in Mustique together, Llewelyn decided to end the vacation early and leave for Turkey. Princess Margaret felt abandoned and depressed and took an overdose of sleeping pills to escape her reality.
After the photos of her in Mustique hit tabloids, with her marriage heading for a divorce, Princess Margaret was overwhelmed and devastated. The people of England felt that she disgraced the royal family, and some even called her “a royal parasite.”
Her Drinking Habit Caught Up With Her
Princess Margaret’s divorce from Lord Snowdon was the first divorce of a senior member of the British royal family since Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh’s divorce in 1901. She didn’t take it lightly and turned to alcohol to drown her sorrows.
Just one month before her divorce was finalized, Princess Margaret was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and alcoholic hepatitis in May 1978. However, she continued her heavy drinking habit. One acquaintance of the Princess recalled to The Guardian, “I visited her at Kensington Palace for lunch… She had a tumbler of whisky in her hand when we arrived. It stayed there throughout lunch and was handsomely replenished. As far as I could see, she had stopped drinking wine altogether. She was slurring her words slightly by the time we left. It made one feel rather sorry for her.”
The Public Painted An Unflattering Image of Her
By the late 1970s, most of the comments surrounding Princess Margaret were not favorable. Whether it was ripping her apart for her romances, her partying habits, or not contributing enough to society, the press didn’t have a nice thing to say about Margaret Rose.
Princess Margaret was well aware of how society portrayed her. American writer Gore Vidal recalled that Margaret had once told him, “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.”
Mustique Was Her Escape
The Princess owned a villa on the island of Mustique, where she was caught with her boytoy. She often visited the tropical island and invited her family and friends. Millionaires like Colin Tennant would spend time at her villa. David Bowie and Mick Jagger were also known to frequent the island.
There were reports of wild parties taking place at the Princess’ house that included loud music and drugs. Someone who worked on the island told Vogue, “Macaroni Beach on the east of the island was her place. And everyone knew: What happened on Macaroni Beach stayed on Macaroni Beach.”
Queen Elizabeth II Didn’t Want Jagger to be Knighted
Queen Elizabeth II had met Mick Jagger before and disapproved of any involvement that he had with her sister Princess Margaret. When the Prime Minister submitted Jagger’s name to be knighted, the Queen refused. His name was submitted several times more, and still, Queen Elizabeth II declined.
Although other iconic musicians of England, such as Elton John and Paul McCartney were knighted, the Queen disliked what Jagger stood for. Finally, on December 12, 2003, Jagger was knighted, but not by the Queen. She enlisted Prince Charles instead.
The Party That Didn’t Make It To Press
The Queen had good reason to not like Jagger. In 1967, Princess Margaret and several of her cousins joined the members of the Rolling Stones and Allen Ginsberg at a party at John Paul Getty II’s house. The butler offered trays of hashish brownies. They didn’t know it yet, but the chef had accidentally doubled the amount of hashish that the recipe called for.
Princess Margaret and her cousins all ingested the brownies and subsequently had to be rushed to the hospital to have their stomachs pumped. One of the partygoers, John Michel, told Daily Mail, “People began freaking out. All these ladies and lords, curators of the British Museum, various MPs, were rushed away in their chauffeur-driven cars to have their stomachs pumped.”
Princess Margaret Had Hollywood Style
Princess Margaret’s bohemian lifestyle shook up the royal family in more ways than one. Spending time with artists, poets, and musicians, Margaret’s fashion style was unique to the traditional wardrobe of royals. She followed fashion trends closely and met with designers to create gowns that rivaled the red carpet in Hollywood.
One of her favorite designers was Christian Dior, who was new to the fashion world at the time. Princess Margaret attended his events and wore an outfit designed by Dior to her 21st birthday party.
A Style That Was Out of Reach to Everyone Else
As a Princess, Margaret’s style was all her own. Only royals could wear the elaborate collection of tiaras and jewels that she could, without having it be over-the-top. As fashion changed in the 1950s and ’60s, the Princess likened the shorter dresses and more risque cuts.
She paired her jewels with Dior dresses and furs, and always found tasteful accessories like purses, gloves, and hats that other women envied. Margaret paired glamour with youth and fashion trends, and everyone was interested in seeing what she would wear next.
She Spoke Her Mind and Stepped on Some Toes
When recalling stories of Princess Margaret, many of her friends and acquaintances mention that the late Princess always spoke her mind. She was quick-witted and seemingly couldn’t bite her tongue, which led to many brash comments that would not have been acceptable, had she been Queen, like her sister.
In one instance, a woman who was hosting a party asked the Princess if she’d like to see photos of the couple’s children. Margaret replied, “Why on earth would I want to see that?” and continued socializing and enjoying herself.
Princess Margaret’s Impact on the Royal Wedding 2018
A notable aspect of Megha and Harry’s 2018 wedding is that Markle had previously been married and divorced. However, Queen Elizabeth II approved of Prince Harry’s proposal and marriage and many wonder if it had to do with her regret in denying her sister to do the same.
It was 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II was getting ready for her coronation and Princess Margaret asked for her permission to marry Peter Townsend. The Queen famously told her to wait a few years, as it was not acceptable for her to marry a divorced man. While Princess Margaret may not have gotten to marry the man of her choosing, the Queen made sure that Prince Harry would.