Queen Elizabeth II gets all of the attention in the royal family but that means her younger sister Margaret has been left behind all her life. Even though she’s always had to take a backseat, Margaret always brought drama, scandal, and carefree nature to the royal family. Princess Margaret, the late Countess of Snowdon, passed away in 2002. She was 71 years old at the time and left behind a legacy as a “royal rebel.”
Margaret acted like a true princess when she needed to, but always kept her independence and sassy attitude. Princess Margaret’s life has been brought even more attention with her portrayal on the hit TV series The Crown. Keep reading to find out what the show got right, and what was exaggerated. You’d be surprised how much was actually true!
Elizabeth II Was Always Going To Be Queen
After their father became king, Margaret was officially a princess. She was only six years old at the time. Margaret and Elizabeth II moved to Buckingham Palace with their parents. Margaret said, “I have as much privacy as a goldfish in a bowl.”
Elizabeth II was older than Margaret, so Margaret always knew that Elizabeth II would become the new British monarch after their father when the time came. Margaret would only become queen if Elizabeth abdicated the throne like King Edward VIII.
She Lived By Her Own Rules
Margaret was supposed to behave like a proper royal lady, but she always liked to do things her own way. According to Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, by Craig Brown, when Margaret was a teenager, she would spend her mornings eating breakfast in bed while listening to loud music, smoking cigarettes, and reading the newspaper.
She drank vodka at 12:30 pm, played piano, sang, and enjoyed living in luxury. When she was younger, she didn’t have a care in the world.
A Man Fit For A Princess
Princess Margaret fell in love with an officer in the Royal Air Force by the name of Group Captain Peter Townsend. He was an equerry to both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.
When Margaret met Peter, she was just 14 years old. At the time, Townsend was married with two sons. Eight years later, Townsend was divorced and Margaret was 22, so it was more acceptable for her to date him (even though he was still 16 years older than her).
Elizabeth II Became Queen
King George VI passed away in 1952. At the time, Elizabeth II was just 25 years old, but she was next in line for the throne, so she was named queen. Her coronation took place on June 2, 1953.
That coronation ceremony was the first one ever to be televised. Twenty-seven million people watched in the UK alone. At one point, cameras caught Princess Margaret brushing lint off of Peter Townsend’s lapel. That’s when the public first figured that there was some kind of romance going on between them.
Peter Townsend Proposed To Princess Margaret
People were shocked that Margaret was involved with a man 16 years her senior. Also, Townsend was divorced, which made the romance even more scandalous. When Margaret was 22, he proposed and Margaret accepted, however, according to the marriages act of 1772, Margaret could only marry Townsend with the reigning monarch’s permission.
In Margaret’s case, the reigning monarch was her sister, Elizabeth II, who was getting ready to take the throne. Things were very busy and hectic for Elizabeth II at that moment in time.
Elizabeth II’s Diplomatic Solution
There were a lot of complications that arose when Margaret accepted Townsend’s proposal. They couldn’t be married in the Church of England because Townsend was previously divorced. Margaret asked her sister for permission to marry Townsend, bu Elizabeth was very busy getting ready to tour the Commonwealth at the time. Elizabeth told Margaret that she would allow her to marry Townsend if they were still together in two years time.
Shortly after Elizabeth II made that decision, Margaret and Peter broke off their engagement. Townsend ended up marrying a woman from Belgium eight years later.
She Had Her Own Sense Of Style
Queen Elizabeth II always dressed like a prim and proper lady, but Princess Margaret was more experimental with her style. Most royals don’t wear bright colors or loud patterns, but Margaret liked to push boundaries when it came to fashion.
She developed a signature style that the public affectionately named “The Margaret Look.” It included flashy sunglasses, glamorous accessories, pops of yellow, and bohemian style coats. Margaret knew how to dress for a royal ball, but she was also the queen of streetwear.
Margaret Attracted More Attention Than Her Sister
Even though it was Elizabeth who was going to be queen, people were always more attracted to Margaret’s outgoing personality. Elizabeth II was much more reserved than her sister.
“Oh, it’s so much easier when Margaret’s there,” Elizabeth II said, “Everybody laughs at what Margaret says.” Margaret was always the life of the party. If people were going to spend time looking at her, she was going to give them something exciting to look at.
She Had A Few Bad Habits
Margaret drank and smoked a lot, and all of that smoking and drinking really took a toll on her body. She started smoking cigarettes why she was just 15 years old. We know now that smoking can lead to serious health conditions. In 1985, Margaret had part of her lung removed. She finally quit smoking six years later in 1991.
The Queen Mother was also known to be a drinker, and she and Margaret would often sip brandy together at lunch when Margaret was younger.
Princess Margaret Meets Antony Armstrong-Jones
Princess Margaret met filmmaker and fashion photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones at a dinner party in 1958. Armstrong-Jones was seen as a commoner compared to Princess Margaret, but these two quickly fell in love and decided to get married in 1960.
Antony Armstrong-Jones had never been married before, which meant that even though he wasn’t a man of the highest social status, he was still better than Margaret’s previous fiancé. Still the royal family kept Antony a secret while he and Margaret were dating. They only announced their relationship after they got engaged.
The First Televised Royal Wedding
On May 6, 1960, Anthony Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret tied the knot on live television. It was the first time that a royal wedding was ever broadcasted on TV. Princess Margaret was 29 years old at the time.
Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding, which took place 13 years earlier, was broadcasted on the radio. It’s estimated that 300 million people watched Princess Margaret get married. Years later, when Princess Diana married Prince Charles, it’s estimated that 750 million people tuned in to watch.
Princess Margaret’s Wedding Attire
Both Princess Margaret and her husband were interested in fashion, so everyone was excited to see what she would choose to wear on her big day. Margaret chose a simple dress that barely had any embellishments on it. Her dress was designed by Normal Hartwell. Even though the dress was simple, her tiara was anything but.
Crown jeweler Garrard made the piece in the 1870s, originally for Lady Poltimore. It’s designed with antique silver, topped with gold diamond jewels.
These Two Were The Talk Of The Town
Princess Margaret’s husband became known as Lord Snowdon. The pair quickly became Britain’s most glamorous couple. Margaret always knew how to work a room, and her husband also had some pretty great social skills. Not to mention, these two were always very well dressed.
Anne de Courcy, who wrote a biography on Lord Snowdon, said, “They were both pretty strong-willed and accustomed to having their own way, so there were bound to be collisions.”
Was Margaret Having Affairs With Hollywood Stars?
Members of the royal family were expected to be involved in charities and public events, but Margaret always marched to the beat of her own drum. She loved fashion, movies, and music, and she wanted to mingle with artists and storytellers.
She definitely mingled with them, but did she do more than mingle? It’s rumored that Margaret had affairs with The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and actor Peter Sellers. We’ll never know if those rumors are true or not, but we do know that Margaret and her husband divorced in 1978.
Princess Margaret Became A Mother
Princess Margaret had two children with her ex-husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones. She had a son, David Armstrong-Jones, and a daughter, Lady Sarah Chatto. David is well-educated and he now builds furniture for a living.
Sarah is a professional painter who studied at several art schools. Both of Margaret’skids take after their parents in that they are artistic and strong-willed. Sarah met her future husband while working as an intern on the set of the film A Passage to India.
Margaret Was Proud Of Her Children
Both Princess Margaret and her ex-husband had affairs while they were married, but their children grew up in a mostly stable environment. They were cared for by nannies but they were still very close to their parents. Margaret shared her love of art and culture with her children.
Princess Margaret told her sister, Queen Elizabeth II, “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.”
A Life Full Of Love
Even though Margaret’s marriage ended in divorce, she and Lord Snowdon had many happy years together. They understood each other’s need for adventure, and they never took life too seriously.
They would often go on vacations together. Here they can be seen waving from the deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia. This Yacht belongs to the royal family, and Princess Margaret took full advantage of it. Even though her life was cut short, she made the most out of the time that she did have.
The Affair That Finally Broke Her Marriage
Princess Margaret’s friend Lady Glenconnor introduced her to a gardener named Roddy Llewelyn. Roddy was 17 years younger than Margaret. Margaret took a liking to Roddy and started flirting with him. Lady Glenconnor caught on to what was happening rather quickly. She recalls thinking, “They were more or less holding hands and I thought ‘Heavens, what have we done?’”
In February 1976, the paparazzi captured photos of Princess Margaret and Roddy Llewelyn swimming together on holiday. Once those photos were made public, Lord Snowdon’s family was forced to issue a statement that Margaret and Lord Snowdon were no longer together.
An Extramarital Affair Exposed
We already know about a few of Margaret’s rumored affairs, but did you know that she also had short-lived romances with Scottish jazz pianist and author Robin Douglas-Home? In 1965 Douglas-Home and his wife got divorced, citing his affair with Margaret as the reason for their irreconcilable differences.
Princess Margaret never admitted to sleeping with Douglas-Home. The pianist was very distraught after his divorce, and 18 months after his affair with Margaret ended in 1968, he committed suicide.
A Low Point For Princess Margaret
Roddy Llewlyn wasn’t into all of the media attention. He decided to leave their Mustique vacation early and head to Turkey by himself. This made Princess Margaret feel very alone. She tried to overdose on sleeping pills to escape her loneliness.
She was also very upset that news of her divorce had become public. She was overwhelmed and upset about the way she was being portrayed in the tabloids. Some publications were even calling her “a royal parasite.”
Her Drinking Wasn’t Doing Her Any Favors
People weren’t used to divorces happening in the highest ranks of the royal family. The last divorce of this magnitude happened with Princess Victoria got divorced in 1901. Princess Margaret felt very depressed and started self-medicating with alcohol.
One acquaintance of the Princess recalled to The Guardian, “I visited her at Kensington Palace for lunch… She had a tumbler of whiskey 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 Didn’t Appreciate Her
The public wasn’t too thrilled with Princess Margaret’s behavior (or at least, the way it was being portrayed in the media).
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.” The media was pitting Elizabeth II and Margaret against each other.
An Escape From All Of The Negative Publicity
Princess Margaret owned a villa on the island of Mustique. That’s where she and Roddy were caught swimming together. Margaret would often invite her famous friends up to her villa, and those famous friends included the likes of David Bowie and Mick Jagger.
Some very wild parties took place at her beach house. 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.”
A Third Engagement?
We already know that Princess Margaret was engaged twice, once to Peter Townsend and once to Lord Snowdon, but in reality, she was actually engaged three times. In 1956, before she met her future husband, she was briefly engaged to a family friend named Billy Wallace.
this engagement happened just one month after it was announced that Princess Margaret was no longer engaged to Peter Townsend. Princess Margaret was 26 years old at the time.
She Knew How To Capture Everybody’s Attention
Princess Margaret Rose enjoyed being treated like a princess. She loved all of the luxuries that went along with being a member of the royal family. Sometimes, Princess Margaret very much acted like a princess, in that she showed up to events late and she wouldn’t let anyone leave until she wanted the event to be over.
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.”
Always A Free Spirit
Margaret proved to be an excellent mother, but she was worried that she wouldn’t know how to parent because she was raised by nannies. She preferred when the nannies looked after the children, even though Lord Snowdon thought that she should be a more hands-on mother.
Margaret didn’t want to be tied down just because she was a mother. A couple of months after her son was born, she went on holiday in Antigua. She wanted her kids to fit into her lifestyle.
Queen Elizabeth II and Mick Jagger Didn’t Get Along
Queen Elizabeth II was very opposed to Mick Jagger being knighted. She knew about what he had been up to with her sister, and she did not approve. When the Prime Minister suggested Jagger as a potential honorary knight, Queen Elizabeth II refused to knight him.
The Queen was perfectly fine with knighting musicians such as Elton John and Paul McCartney. Finally, on December 12, 2003, Jagger was knighted, but the Queen had Prince Charles perform the ceremony.
The Party Of The Century Ended In Disaster
The Queen didn’t dislike Jagger just for the sake of it. She had a good reason to distrust him. 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. Some “special” brownies were served at that party that accidentally contained way too much “specialness.”
All of the partygoers who ate the brownies, including Princess Margaret and her cousins, had to be rushed to the hospital to have their stomachs pumped. John Michel, who was at the party, 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.”
She Was A Fashion Icon
Most royals were very traditional dresses, but Princess Margaret had her finger on the button when it came to what was hot and what was not in the fashion world. She spent time with artists and designers and followed fashion trends very closely.
Her all-time favorite designer was Christian Dior. He was a relatively new designer when Margaret was young. She had him design the dress she wore to her 21st birthday party. Needless to say, the dress was a showstopper.
Margaret Had Expensive Taste
As a Princess, Margaret had access to all of the finest, furs, fabrics, and jewels. As fashion trends dipped towards more risqué styles, Margaret incorporated those styles into her very expensive royal wardrobe.
She favored newer designers (especially newer French designers). She paired her jewels with Dior dresses and furs, and always found tasteful accessories like purses, gloves, and hats that other women envied. This woman wasn’t very concerned about being relatable to the masses.
Always Outspoken And Never Shy
People who knew Princess Margaret very well claim that this woman was never afraid to speak her mind. She was a fast talker who made everybody laugh, and she often spoke without thinking. She was the antithesis to her prim and proper sister. The world would be a very different place if Princess Margaret was the queen instead of Elizabeth II.
Margaret wasn’t concerned with social norms or being polite. Once at a party, when a woman asked her if she wanted to see photos of her children, she responded, “Why on earth would I want to see that?”
Her Presence Is Still Felt Today
Prince Harry had to get special permission from his grandmother to marry Meghan Markle because Markle had been previously divorced. Elizabeth II granted Harry that permission, perhaps because she regretted not allowing her sister to marry Peter Townsend back in the day.
Princess Margaret suffered the consequences of that decision, and the Queen didn’t want her grandson to miss out on marrying the love of his life. Queen Elizabeth II likely learned how to be progressive and flexible from her sister.
The Bond Margaret Had With Her Sister
When they were growing up Princess Margaret and Queen Elizabeth II were homeschooled and isolated from the public, so really, they only had each other. They were very close when they were younger, and their connection remained as they grew up.
When they were fully grown and both married, these two sisters would talk to each other on the phone all the time. They were always laughing together and sharing gossip. Elizabeth II and Margaret remained close until Margaret’s death.
A Royal Start To Life
Princess Margaret Rose was born on August 21st, 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland. Her closest friends and relatives always called her “Margot.” Before she was born, her parents thought they might be having a boy, so they didn’t have a definite girl’s name in mind for her.
Queen Elizabeth, AKA the Queen Mother, wanted to name her second daughter “Anne,” but King George VI didn’t like that name very much. They both agreed on the name “Margaret.”
Rumors About Baby Margaret
For some reason, after Margaret was born people began to speculate about her condition. A rumor started spreading that the young princess was born deaf and mute. That wasn’t at all true. Margaret was a perfectly healthy child who liked to speak all the time.
the rumors became something of a joke in the royal family. It wasn’t until Margaret made her first public appearance at her uncle’s wedding that the public realized that the rumors were unfounded.
Comfortable Living Arrangements
Before Margaret was born, the Yorks rebuilt the Prince Regent’s home at 145 Piccadilly, in London. That home became their family home, and it was where both Margaret and Elizabeth grew up.
Elizabeth II and Margaret were raised by their governess and they spent most of their time sheltered from the outside world. The spent time with family, learned how to ride horses, and lived glamorous, but isolated lives.
Princess Margaret Was Homeschooled
As a child, Margaret was taught how to be a proper royal lady. She and her sister Elizabeth were homeschooled by a Scottish governess named Marion Crawford.
Queen Elizabeth cared very much that her daughters knew how to behave in social situations and that they were well disciplined. She was less concerned about their overall education. Margaret wanted to go to school like all of the other British children, but her mother wouldn’t let her go.
King Edward VIII Abdicated The Throne
King Edward VIII was king when Margaret was young, but not even a year into his reign, he decided that he wanted to marry a divorced woman, which was unconstitutional at the time. He realized that there was no way that he could marry this woman and keep the throne, so he abdicated the throne and married Wallis Simpson.
Next in line for the throne was Elizabeth II and Margaret’s father, King George VI. He took over and became king after Edward VIII.
The Daughter Of A King
Wallis Simpson wasn’t just divorced once, she was divorced twice (and American). In 1946, King Edward VIII officially stepped down as the British monarch.
At first, Margaret’s father, who was then called Prince Albert, didn’t really want to take over the throne. There was some talk of his younger brother becoming king, but then Albert decided to step up and become King George VI. Albert’s full name was Albert Frederick Arthur George.
Princess Margaret’s Lasting Legacy
Princess Margaret struggled with her health as she got older. She survived multiple strokes and major lung surgery. Eventually, a number of stokes caused her brain to shut down completely and she died in London in 2002 at the age of 71.
Margaret lived life by her own rules. She left us with her legacy— her insistence on always living life to the fullest, and appreciating what you have when you have it. It was Princess Margaret herself who said, “I have always had a dread of becoming a passenger in life.”