Long before recent members of the British royal family like Princess Diana, her son Prince Harry or his wife Meghan Markle were making headlines for whatever it is they do in their private lives, a certain Princess Margaret was the punching bag for the British tabloids.
The beautiful younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II was known for her adventurous and wild lifestyle that many would argue was unacceptable from someone of such high standing and in the line of succession to the British throne. Among her numerous controversies that were the subject of intense speculation by the public was her romantic association with several men, notably that with Group Captain Peter Townsend, her father’s equerry who would later serve her sister in the same position after she became Queen.
Many might be familiar with Princess Margaret’s story if they have seen the blockbuster Netflix series, The Crown. Specifics of her life, like the exact circumstances surrounding her death, were however not discussed on the show.
Who was Princess Margaret?
Princess Margaret was born Margaret Rose Windsor on the 21st of August, 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland. She is the second daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, who would later become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth after King Edward VIII abdicated the throne. Her only sibling is Queen Elizabeth II.
Most of Margaret’s childhood was spent with her sister and parents. Unlike most other children, the young girl did not get to go to school but was instead educated at home by a governess as it was said that her mother only intended to raise her daughters to become “nicely behaved young ladies”.
When Princess Margaret turned 5, her grandfather, King George V, passed away and his son King Edward VIII acceded the throne. Edward was King for less than a year before he chose to abdicate in order to marry a two-time American divorcee that the Church of England would not accept as queen. As a result of this, Margaret’s father took his place and in the blink of an eye, the young girl became second in line to the throne. This development turned her life around, however, she was able to manage it well in the early days of her life.
Margot, as she was fondly called, was a Girl Guide and a Sea Ranger. As she grew older, she enjoyed socializing with other members of high society. Her beauty, glamour, and fashion sense was evident for everybody to see as she was often featured in the press at balls and parties. The princess was also able to take on several official engagements, some of which had her tour other countries like Italy and France. She further joined charitable organizations like Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps among many others as either president or patron.
Scandals Surrounding The Princess
The first scandal that Princess Margaret was involved in was her romantic relationship with Group Captain Peter Townsend who worked for her family and was 16 years older than her. The pair started an affair a long time ago while Townsend was married. By 1953, a year after her father had passed away and her sister had become Queen, he divorced his wife and proposed marriage to the princess.
Margaret accepted and informed the Queen of her desire to marry the divorcee as her consent was required due to the Royal Marriages Act 1772. As was the case with King Edward VIII, the Church of England again refused to allow a divorcee to marry into the royal family. The British Cabinet also refused to approve the marriage, leaving Margaret with the only option of renouncing her rights to the throne if she wanted to carry on.
Princess Margaret eventually released an official statement ending her relationship with Townsend. A few years later, she made headlines again for marrying a commoner, photographer Anthony Armstrong Jones in 1960. Her marriage to Jones was not without controversy as the princess was a heavy drinker and smoker who loved attending parties. She also enjoyed flirting with men publicly, something that the press was very keen to report on. There were also several reports that she had been involved in a number of extramarital affairs, some of which were proven while others were not, causing more problems in her home.
In 1976, a picture of the princess and a lover 17 years her junior was published on the front page of a tabloid newspaper. This prompted the couple to admit publicly that they had problems in their marriage. Two years later, their divorce was finalized. Margaret’s reputation suffered heavily as a result of this and she never quite recovered although she still carried on performing royal duties for many more years.
Members of Princess Margaret’s Family
Princess Margaret’s marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was made the Earl of Snowdon, was the first British royal wedding to be broadcast on national television. Together, the couple had two children; David who was born on the 3rd of November 1961, and Lady Sarah, who they had three years later on the 1st of May 1964.
Unlike her, Margaret’s children were not raised in the spotlight and have since lived a life far away from it. Her son David, the 2nd Earl of Snowdon, is in the furniture business. He is also the chairman of the famous British sales auction venture, Christie’s UK. He got married in 1993 to a lady named Serena Stanhope and the pair have a son named Charles and a daughter named Lady Margarita.
Lady Sarah, on the other hand, is an artist who has won awards for her paintings. She got married to actor Daniel Chatto in 1994 and together they have two children; Samuel and Arthur. Sarah has a close relationship with her aunt Queen Elizabeth II who reportedly enjoys being in her niece’s company.
The Truth Behind Princess Magaret’s Death
Princess Margaret’s long heavy use of alcohol and cigarettes proved to be detrimental to her health in her older years. It is reported that she began smoking as far back as from when she was 15 years of age, if not earlier. Her first notable illness was in 1978 when she was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and alcoholic hepatitis. By 1985, she had to undergo a procedure that had part of her left lung removed. This, however, did not deter her from still smoking and drinking. She did so for another six years before giving up the former but continuing with the latter.
In 1993, Margaret battled pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital. Her next ordeal was in 1998 when she suffered a mild stroke at her holiday home in Mustique. She suffered a series of strokes in the following years that left her with partial vision and paralysis on the left side. Her last public appearance was in 2001 at her mother’s and then aunt’s birthday celebrations in August and December of that year.
In February 2002, it was announced that Princess Margaret had died in the King Edward VII’s Hospital, London, after suffering yet another stroke that resulted in cardiac problems. She was aged 71. As she had requested, a private funeral was held while her remains were cremated and placed in her parent’s tomb.