Princess Snowdon
Princess Snowdon
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI. 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.
Biography
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon's personal information overview.
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Timeline
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    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 2002
    Age 71
    Her funeral was held on 15 February 2002, the 50th anniversary of her father's funeral.
    More Details Hide Details In line with her 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 (who died seven weeks after Margaret), 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.
    Princess Margaret died in the King Edward VII Hospital, London, on 9 February 2002 at the age of 71 after suffering another stroke.
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  • 2001
    Age 70
    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.
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    In January and March 2001, further strokes were diagnosed, which left her with partial vision and paralysis on the left side.
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  • 1998
    Age 67
    She experienced a mild stroke in 1998 at her holiday home in Mustique.
    More Details Hide Details Early the following year the Princess suffered severe scalds to her feet in a bathroom accident, which affected her mobility to the extent that she required support when walking and sometimes used a wheelchair.
  • 1993
    Age 62
    In January 1993 she was admitted to hospital for pneumonia.
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  • 1991
    Age 60
    In 1991 she quit smoking, though she continued to drink heavily.
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  • FIFTIES
  • 1985
    Age 54
    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.
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  • 1981
    Age 50
    In January 1981, Margaret was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
    In 1981, Llewellyn married Tatiana Soskin, whom he had known for ten years.
    More Details Hide Details Margaret remained close friends with them both.
  • FORTIES
  • 1978
    Age 47
    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 1978 Snowdon married Lucy Lindsay-Hogg. In August 1979, Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and members of his family were killed by a bomb planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
    More Details Hide Details That October, while on a fund-raising tour of the United States on behalf of the Royal Opera House, Margaret was 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, Anderson's rival Irv Kupcinet published a claim 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.
    The couple had two children; they later divorced in 1978.
    More Details Hide Details Margaret was often viewed as a controversial member of the royal family. Her divorce earned her negative publicity, and she was romantically associated with several men. Her health gradually deteriorated in the final two decades of her life. A heavy smoker for most of 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.
  • 1976
    Age 45
    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.
    More Details Hide Details 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. Some politicians suggested removing Margaret from the Civil list. Labour MPs denounced her as "a royal parasite" and a "floosie".
  • 1975
    Age 44
    In 1975, the Princess was listed among women with whom actor Warren Beatty had had romantic relationships.
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  • 1974
    Age 43
    In 1974, she invited him as a guest to the holiday home she had built on Mustique.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1973
    Age 42
    In September 1973, Colin Tennant (later Baron Glenconner) introduced Margaret to Roddy Llewellyn.
    More Details Hide Details Llewellyn was seventeen years her junior.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1966
    Age 35
    Reportedly, Margaret had her first extramarital affair in 1966, with Anthony Barton, a Bordeaux wine producer and her daughter's godfather.
    More Details Hide Details 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, who suffered from depression, 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. According to Charlotte Breese, biographer of entertainer Leslie Hutchinson, he 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 had had an affair with the princess, twenty years his junior.
  • 1965
    Age 34
    She served as President of Girlguiding UK from 1965 until her death in 2002.
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  • 1964
    Age 33
    During an official visit to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1964, she was allegedly bugged by the KGB.
    More Details Hide Details Her 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).
  • 1962
    Age 31
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Her visit to Tuvalu was cut short by 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.
  • 1961
    Age 30
    The couple had two children (both born by Caesarean section at Margaret's request): David, Viscount Linley, born 3 November 1961, and Lady Sarah, born 1 May 1964.
    More Details Hide Details The marriage widened Margaret's social circle beyond the Court and aristocracy to include show business celebrities and bohemians. At the time, it was thought to reflect the breaking down of British class barriers. The Snowdons experimented with the styles and fashions of the 1960s. Margaret went on multiple tours of various places; in her first major tour 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.
    In 1961, her husband was created Earl of Snowdon.
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  • TWENTIES
  • 1960
    Age 29
    The Poltimore tiara, which she wore for her wedding in 1960, sold for £926,400.
    More Details Hide Details The sale of her effects totalled £13,658,000. 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 Oliver Messel, a stage designer, was her favourite holiday destination. Allegations of wild parties and drug taking were made in a documentary broadcast after the Princess's death. Biographer Warwick suggests 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.
    Margaret's announcement of her engagement, on 26 February 1960, took the press by surprise; she had taken care to conceal the romance from reporters.
    More Details Hide Details The ceremony was the first royal wedding to be broadcast on television, and attracted viewing figures of 300 million worldwide. Despite the public enthusiasm, most foreign royal families of Europe disapproved of a king's daughter marrying a photographer. Queen Ingrid of Denmark was the only member of a foreign royal dynasty to attend the wedding. Margaret's wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell, and worn with the Poltimore tiara. Margaret had eight young bridesmaids, led by her niece, Princess Anne. The other bridesmaids were her goddaughter, Marilyn Wills, daughter of her cousin Jean Elphinstone and Major John Lycett Wills; Annabel Rhodes, daughter of her cousin Margaret Elphinstone and Denys Rhodes; Lady Virginia Fitzroy, daughter of Hugh Fitzroy, Earl of Euston; Sarah Lowther, daughter of Sir John Lowther; Catherine Vesey, daughter of Viscount de Vesci; and Lady Rose Nevill, daughter of the Marquess of Abergavenny. The Duke of Edinburgh escorted the bride and the best man was Dr Roger Gilliatt.
    Margaret married the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey on 6 May 1960.
    More Details Hide Details 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 Princess Margaret.
  • 1953
    Age 22
    By 1953, Townsend was divorced from his first wife; he proposed marriage to Margaret.
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  • 1952
    Age 21
    After the war, Margaret fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend. In 1952, Margaret's father died, her sister became Queen, and Townsend divorced his first wife.
    More Details Hide Details Early the following year, he proposed to Margaret. Many in the government felt that he would be an unsuitable husband for the Queen's 22-year-old sister, and the Church of England refused to countenance a marriage to a divorced man. Margaret eventually abandoned her plans with him. In 1960, she accepted the proposal of the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was created Earl of Snowdon by the Queen.
  • 1951
    Age 20
    Her twenty-first birthday party was held at Balmoral in August 1951.
    More Details Hide Details 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 five months later, in February 1952, 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.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1950
    Age 19
    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".
    More Details Hide Details The royal family were appalled at what they considered 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, and they included a tour of Italy, Switzerland and France, and she joined a growing number of charitable organisations as President or Patron.
  • 1947
    Age 16
    On 1 February 1947, Margaret, Elizabeth and their parents embarked on a state tour of Southern Africa.
    More Details Hide Details 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. In the next three years Elizabeth had two children, Charles and Anne, whose births shifted Margaret further down the line of succession.
  • 1946
    Age 15
    On 15 April 1946, Margaret was confirmed into the Church of England.
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  • 1945
    Age 14
    Following the end of the war in 1945, Margaret appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace with her family and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
    More Details Hide Details Afterwards, both Elizabeth and Margaret joined the crowds outside the palace incognito chanting, "we want the King, we want the Queen!".
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1939
    Age 8
    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.
    More Details Hide Details They spent Christmas at Sandringham House, before moving to Windsor Castle just outside London for much of the remainder of the war. Viscount Hailsham wrote 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.
  • 1937
    Age 6
    Margaret was a Brownie in the 1st Buckingham Palace Brownie Pack, formed in 1937.
    More Details Hide Details She was also a Girl Guide and later a Sea Ranger.
  • 1936
    Age 5
    As in 1936, the Church of England refused to countenance the remarriage of the divorced.
    More Details Hide Details Queen Mary had recently died, and Elizabeth was about to be crowned. After her coronation, she planned to tour the Commonwealth 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 that she would be unable to take communion if she married a divorced man. Finally, Margaret issued a statement:
    Her grandfather, 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.
    More Details Hide Details 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 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 twice divorced American Wallis Simpson.
    More Details Hide Details Margaret's father became King, and her older sister became heir presumptive, with Margaret second in line to the throne. During World War II, the two sisters stayed at Windsor Castle, despite suggestions to evacuate them to Canada. During the war years, Margaret was considered too young to perform any official duties, and instead continued her education.
  • 1934
    Age 3
    The Yorks were perceived by the public as an ideal family: father, mother and children, but unfounded rumours that Margaret was deaf and mute were not completely dispelled until Margaret's first main public appearance at her uncle Prince George's wedding in 1934.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1930
    Born
    She was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 30 October 1930 by Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    More Details Hide Details Margaret's early life was spent primarily at the Yorks' residences at 145 Piccadilly (their town house in London) and Royal Lodge in Windsor.
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