The gown? Iconic.
The tiara? Stunning. (And now owned by a MYSTERY BUYER. I hope it’s someone who will eventually wear it out in public, and that it’s someone like Mariah Carey — fabulous and funny and more than capable of living a tiara lifestyle.) You may also know it from this famous snap of Margaret in the bath.
The marriage? Eh, you can’t win ‘em all.
As those of us who watched The Crown — or have read a lot about the British royals — are aware, this one didn’t work out so well. First, Princess Margaret was forbidden from marrying the Divorced Peter Townsend, the Comptroller of her mother’s household, with whom she was in love (a denial that did NOT go over well in terms of public sentiment; even my mother, who does not care about the royals much, once sniffed to me that it was AWFUL that Margaret wasn’t allowed her choice of spouse). It’s fair to note that they told QE2 that Mags could marry a divorced man if she gave up her place in the line of succession and it seems like a lot of people involved felt like this would be a totally reasonable compromise; Margaret wouldn’t go for it, though, which seems wild to me — she was never going to take the throne anyway and it’s not like her sister was going to force her to go out and get a job. There is a school of thought that believes the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time put the literal fear of God in her about married a divorced man, which seems like an intense thing for him to do. Anyhoodle, they then sent Townsend off the Belgium, and the day after Margaret heard he was marrying some Belgian chippy — although I’m sure she was lovely, Dr. Wik Ipedia tells me that she “was half his age and bore a striking resemblance to Princess Margaret” — she decided to marry Antony Armstrong-Jones.
And then they were basically terrible to each other on multiple levels! About six years in, things really started breaking down. Let me turn to Professor Wikipe Dia for a quick and dirty run-down:
Margaret had her first extramarital affair in 1966, with her daughter’s godfather Anthony Barton, a Bordeaux wine producer. A year later she had a one-month liaison with Robin Douglas-Home, a nephew of former British Prime Minister 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, who suffered from depression, died by 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. According to biographer Charlotte Breese, entertainer Leslie Hutchinson had a “brief liaison” with Margaret in 1955. A 2009 biography of actor David Niven included assertions, based on information from Niven’s widow and a good friend of Niven’s, that he had had an affair with the princess, who was 20 years his junior. In 1975, the Princess was listed among women with whom actor Warren Beatty had had romantic relationships.
On one hand: GOOD FOR YOU! On the other, maybe y’all should have just let her marry the first guy!
By the early 1970s, the Snowdons had drifted apart. In September 1973, Colin Tennant introduced Margaret to Roddy Llewellyn. Llewellyn was 17 years her junior. In 1974, she invited him as a guest to 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 a tabloid, the News of the World. The press portrayed Margaret as a predatory older woman and Llewellyn as her toyboy lover. On 19 March 1976, the Snowdons publicly acknowledged that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. Some politicians suggested removing Margaret from the civil list. Labour MPs denounced her as “a royal parasite” and a “floosie.”
In all these flashbacks, we’ve seen A LOT of occasions where male politicians decide its a good use of their time to bitch about women’s romantical misadventures, all which seem like none of their business! Don’t ever tell me that men don’t gossip. My god.
In May 1978, she was taken ill, and diagnosed as suffering from gastroenteritis and alcoholic hepatitis. On 11 July 1978, the Snowdons’ divorce was finalised. It was the first divorce of a senior member of the British royal family since Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh’s in 1901. On 15 December 1978, Snowdon married Lucy Lindsay-Hogg.
And Margaret spent the rest of her life more or less smoking on Mustique and being mean to people. (Snowdon and Ms Lindsay-Hogg had a good long run until “the couple separated in 2000 after the revelation that Snowdon, then aged 67, had fathered a son, Jasper William Oliver Cable-Alexander (born 30 April 1998), with Melanie Cable-Alexander, an editor at Country Life magazine.” Lucy L-H is currently living her best life running a publication called Luncheon. Melanie C-A is married now to a man who, the Daily Mail tells me, almost died when he tripped on his overly flared trousers. And Lord Snowdon is of course actually dead. But he didn’t go without revealing that he had ALREADY fathered ANOTHER child BEFORE he married Margaret! PUT IT AWAY, TONY ARMSTRONG-JONES!
As a post-script: The aforementioned Princess Victoria Melita truly lived a life and I recommend spending some time with her Wiki. It has everything: Divorce (because her spouse kept sleeping with stable boys)! Insufficient chins! Sexy Russian dukes! Rasputin! MULTIPLE wars! A tiny cameo from the Nazis! The Brits being (honestly shamefully) indifferent to various relatives who were in SERIOUS TROUBLE in other countries! Nervous breakdowns! And more!
Other fun facts:
a. I’m fairly sure this Royal Wedding Rewind has more double-barrelled names than any previous ones.
b. This was the first British royal wedding to be televised!
c. The gown was the work of Norman Hartnell, who also did the Queen’s gown. (And designed loads of looks for both women in general.)
d. Per the BBC, the menu for the reception was “Filet de boeuf Princesse, haricot vert, souffle surprise Montmorency,” two of which are not actually a thing! (It’s like, “Barry, what are we gonna call the entree” “It’s just BEEF FILETS, Gary!” “That sounds DULL. It’s a royal wedding!” “I dunno, mate! Make something up!”)
Finally: Some of these photos are amazing. Definitely click through the slideshow — I’ve got loads of logistics and neat press-clippings for you to see, as well as princes in kilts and someone secretly gnawing a sandwich.