Scandalous Facts About Antony Armstrong-Jones, The Earl Of Snowdon

There’s no doubt that Antony Armstrong-Jones led a charmed life—yet he also had a serious penchant for scandal. His success brought him into the stratosphere of the royal family, but he left a trail of broken hearts in his wake. The story of Antony Armstrong-Jones is one of both serious triumph and devastating tragedy.


1. He Was Born With A Silver Spoon

He may not have been born into the nobility, but no one could say that Antony Armstrong-Jones’ family was anything less than upper-class. His father was a barrister and his mother was a socialite. It seemed as though he was destined to live the charmed childhood like so many others whose parents held the same social status—but things didn’t exactly go as planned.

2. Things Changed Fast

Children learn about relationships from their parents—and just before he turned five years old, young Antony got a lesson that would go on to color his later romances. That was when his parents divorced. Antony and his older sister lived with their mother, who wasted no time finding her next husband. Within a matter of months, Antony had a new stepfather—but that was just one major shake-up of many.

3. They Shunted Him Aside

While his father’s career as a barrister was prestigious, his mother’s second marriage took them up to the next level. Her new husband was Lawrence Parsons, aka the 6th Earl of Rosse. Antony was now part of a noble family, and that meant a lot in 1930s England. However, his mother and stepfather certainly didn’t treat him like royalty.

His mother had two children with Parsons, and Tony felt that his mother treated him as inferior to his half-siblings. After all, he didn’t actually have noble blood like them—but his rocky childhood would soon get even worse.

4. He Was Sick And Alone

First, Antony’s family imploded in front of him—but the worst was yet to come. He contracted polio during a holiday in Wales and had to spend a total of six months in the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. Being cooped up in a hospital was bad enough, but during that entire time, the only family member who visited him was his sister.

Neither his newly-remarried mother or father made an appearance. Talk about adding insult to injury…

5. He Was Scarred

Antony’s parents didn’t exactly make a grand re-entrance into his life after he recovered. They shipped him off to a series of boarding schools. While at these schools, which included Eton, he took up photography, boxing, and rowing, though he still had to contend with a limp from his battle with polio.

While he might not have fit in with his stepfamily, he was going to the most elite schools in England—which led him to its most famous university as well.

6. He Was A College Dropout

Antony Armstrong-Jones next made his way to Cambridge University—but once again, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. (This would become a common theme in his life). He spent a total of 10 days studying natural history before switching his concentration to architecture. For a while, it seemed like he’d found his niche—until he failed his second year exams.

It seemed like a simple bump in the road, but it actually wound up changing the entire course of his life.

7. He Was Lost

Though other members of his family encouraged him, his normally cold parents grew even more disapproving when he suggested that he become a career photographer. He had no path and didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Things were made even worse when he experienced his first major heartbreak. He fell for a woman named Lady Barbara North, but she chose another, more successful man over him.

Three months later, he was relegated to taking their wedding photos. Ouch. He knew that the next time an opportunity like that came along, he wouldn’t let it pass him by.

8. He Was A Ruthless Climber

Armstrong-Jones initially took up photography as a hobby. But thanks to his upbringing, his noble step-family, and his years at England’s most prestigious schools, Antony Armstrong-Jones had friends in high places. And he thoroughly took advantage of those connections when it came to his career. Throughout the 50s, he made his name taking fashion photos and portraits of stage stars—and he also started to live it up.

9. He Had A Scandalous Reputation

Antony Armstrong-Jones knew how to mix business with pleasure. It was no secret that, after taking photos of gorgeous young women in his studio on Pimlico Road, he’d invite them to stay for the raucous parties he held there—but even more scandalous rumors soon began to spread about him. He had plenty of gay friends, and stories about his homosexual affairs followed him for years afterward.

But even though he was partying hard, he still kept his eye on the prize.

10. He Got His Big Break

After conquering the worlds of fashion, theater, and studio photography, Antony came up with his next move—he wanted to take royal portraits. He was in the right place at the right time, and Queen Elizabeth II tapped him to take a number of photos of her family. Though his relaxed style was controversial, the Queen was thrilled with his work.

At that moment, the rakish and handsome young photographer seemed like a welcome addition to their circle. But, as we’ll see, they’d later come to regret letting him get so close.

11. He Was Mysterious

As his success—and proximity to the royal family—intensified, Antony learned to keep his private life private. He was polite and charming, but tight-lipped about his romantic pursuits. The only relationship that he allowed the gossip writers to speculate on was his long on and off situation with showgirl Jacqui Chan—but by the late 50s, he was simply using her to cover up a much more scandalous romance.

12. He Got Into A Complicated Situation

He was almost a household name in Great Britain—but Antony Armstrong-Jones was hiding a serious secret. What had begun as a friendship with Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, was blossoming into something more. The situation was extremely fraught. Margaret was famously coming off a very public split from her one-time fiancé, Captain Peter Townsend.

In fact, that split was just one part of a greater crisis.

13. She Had Baggage

Princess Margaret’s life couldn’t have been, at that point, more different than Antony’s. While he’d struggled to get attention from his family and for his career, Margaret was exhausted by life in the public eye. After all, it had been one of the contributing factors that had led to the downfall of her last romance—and which had left her extremely heartbroken.

14. It Was Painfully Slow

While they’d appear together in groups in public, the Princess took great delight in disguising herself and sneaking away to see Antony, who’d ask her opinions on his ongoing work. Still, there were few opportunities for them to be completely alone together—which, as you can imagine, put a damper on things. But still, both Margaret and the royal family had learned a lesson after her last failed romance.

This time, they weren’t going to let the press ruin her relationship with Antony Armstrong-Jones. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans…

15. He Had To Give Everything Up For Her

Though the royal family was determined to navigate this relationship differently than Princess Margaret’s previous one, they still needed a major sacrifice from Antony. He’d need to give up his career if he was going to marry Margaret. He was game—and long before the press even knew there was a romance, he began to quietly extricate himself from his professional commitments.

London society may have already known who he was due to his success as a photographer—but the rest of the world was about to meet Antony Armstrong-Jones.

16. He Shocked The Press

No one saw it coming—not even the nosy royal press. In 1960, a press release announced the engagement of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones. Everyone involved was thrilled…with one glaring exception. Antony’s father reacted in a typically cold fashion, expressing his doubts that his son was “cut out” for the job, and comparing his temporary home in Buckingham Palace to being “confined to barracks”.

Unfortunately, as we’ll see, there was a shred of truth to it all.

17. He Had Scandalous Friends

Planning for the wedding began immediately—but not everything went off without a hitch. Antony picked an old friend named Jeremy Fry as his best man, but when the court did their background check on him, they made a disturbing discovery. The authorities had stopped him after he’d solicited another man in a public bathroom.

The Palace worked quickly to bury the scandal and came up with an excuse as to why Antony’s friend couldn’t make it—but it was just another bad omen for the union.

18. They Tied The Knot

With those obstacles out of the way, Antony Armstrong-Jones married Princess Margaret on May 6, 1960, in a lavish ceremony. It was a historic first: No royal wedding had ever appeared on TV before. 20 million people tuned in to watch their special day and they welcome 2,000 guests to the ceremony and reception. Then, of course, came the honeymoon.

19. They Finally Had Some Time Alone

Antony and Margaret were at least able to escape from the scrutiny they normally faced on their honeymoon, a six-week trip to the Caribbean. They missed a number of events, including the birth of his friend Jeremy Fry’s child—an event that would later come back to haunt Antony. But, for the moment, it looked like they were finally getting their happy ending.

However, when they returned home, they were in for a harsh surprise.

20. They Didn’t Approve Of Him

More traditional segments of the British press did not approve of the union between the Princes and a “commoner” like Antony. And they weren’t the only ones who reacted brutally. He dealt with snobbery from all angles, even at home, where some servants would treat him rudely since he wasn’t “equal” to the other royals. His butler, in particular, quickly became a problem.

21. He Betrayed Him

Antony settled at 10 Kensington Palace with Princess Margaret. They hired staff, but their butler only made it 25 days. Immediately, the press circled Antony’s former butler like vultures, hoping he’d give them the dirty details on the newlywed couple’s home life. He happily obliged, painting an ugly picture of his life with the duo.

The staff weren’t the only ones that Antony failed to impress.

22. He Didn’t Fit In

Unfortunately for Antony, there were also a number of minor clashes with the royal family—and he really rubbed one important figure the wrong way. Prince Philip had always been cool to Antony, but after the marriage, this became a pronounced distaste. Whereas Antony was artistic and sensitive, Philip was a rugged outdoorsman.

Between that, press scrutiny, and the fact that he’d given up his career, there was a lot of pressure on Antony. It would only be a matter of time before the cracks began to show.

23. He Had A Son

Within a few months, Princess Margaret was pregnant with the couple’s first child. In advance of the birth, Antony accepted the royal title of Earl of Snowdon. For maybe the first time in his life, his mother approved wholeheartedly. Princess Margaret gave birth to a son in November of 1961—but she and Antony didn’t exactly take to parenthood wholeheartedly.

24. He Was Trying To Find His Place

In the months following the birth of their first child, Antony and Margaret took off on another Caribbean trip. When they returned, he spent most of his time trying to find an appointment that would please both his in-laws and his artistic sensibilities. Both her family and her husband were ignoring her, and Margaret had few interests beyond drinking and smoking.

For years, Princess Margaret had been the press’s darling—but now, they turned on her, and they placed the blame for everything on Antony’s shoulders.

25. They Led Separate Lives

Well, okay—Princess Margaret may not have shared many of the same interests as Antony, but they did have one thing in common. Both were in the middle of “Swinging London” in the early 60s, and each took advantage of it. While Antony found his way into a circle that included many bigwigs at Vogue, Margaret made friends with celebrities like The Beatles and Peter Sellers. They were estranged from their families except for official events, and they no longer shared the same old group of friends.

The distance ended up being a recipe for disaster.

26. It All Began To Fall Apart

In 1964, Princess Margaret gave birth to their second child, a daughter they named Sarah. They were just four years into their marriage, and on the surface, they looked like the perfect family. Well, their fairy tale was about to turn into a complete horror story. By 1965, the distance and the pressure of life as a royal had finally gotten to Antony Armstrong-Jones.

He needed time away, so he planned a trip with a friend from the publishing world. But something about the trip was amiss.

27. He Had A Wandering Eye

The Palace claimed that Margaret couldn’t go on the trip with Antony because she needed to be there to sign things in the Queen’s absence. That was…not exactly the case. In reality, Antony had begun to spend a significant chunk of his time with a very-much married Vogue editor named Pamela Colin—and they weren’t working on his next photo spread.

Well, there was something about Margaret that Antony didn’t predict.

28. She Cheated On Him

Instead of slipping further into a depression, Princess Margaret decided two could play at her husband’s game—and got some brutal revenge. First, she had a fling with her daughter’s godfather, a man named Anthony Barton. She also began to spend more and more time with the actor Peter Sellers. While it soon became apparent that they were both way too famous to carry on anything other than a mild flirtation, Princess Margaret wasn’t quite done yet.

29. She Had Quite A Track Record

There were rumors about dalliances with famous figures like Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, and Leslie Hutchison. Few were proven. Some stand as part of the historical record, like the affair Princess Margaret had with Robin Douglas-Home, nephew of the former prime minister. Very quickly, the relationship got way too intense.

30. He Had A Jealous Streak

First, Antony walked in on Margaret and Robin chatting at Kensington Palace, the home he shared with Margaret. On top of that, Robin had chosen to divorce his wife. It seemed like things were getting way too serious, and Antony came up with a plan. He intercepted a letter that Robin had written Margaret and showed it to the Queen Mother. He then demanded that Margaret stop seeing Robin.

This way, he’d not only get rid of the pest, but shifted the blame for the failure of the marriage onto Margaret– potentially allowing a bit more freedom to carry on with his career—and his own affairs.

31. She Broke His Heart

Ultimately, Princess Margaret followed his orders and broke things off with Robin Douglas-Home. The affair between them may have been brief, but it had disturbing repercussions. 18 months after it ended, Douglas-Home took his own life. He was just 36 years old. Was this a wake-up call for either Antony or Margaret that their antics had gone too far? Oh, absolutely not.

32. He Was Petty Beyond Belief

This was just the beginning of many years of back-and-forth cheating between the two of them. And it got real ugly. Tony had some downright childish ways of showing his wife that she upset him. He left a list of things he hated about Margaret in a book for the princess to find. The things he wrote included: “You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you.”

Sometimes, he’d get even more direct, interrupting her at parties and snapping, “Shut up and let someone intelligent talk”. They made everyone around them uncomfortable—and while Antony seemed otherwise unbothered, Margaret was seriously miserable.

33. He Had The Upper Hand

Antony wasn’t the only one that Princess Margaret teed off. As their antics continued, the royal family’s reaction was seriously surprising. You would expect them to rally around Margaret. But actually, they took Tony’s side throughout the whole thing. He was just too likable for them to be angry! And the family wasn’t the only one to take sides.

34. They Turned On Her

The rest of the royal family was acutely aware of the problems between Margaret and Antony but hoped that the two could just lead separate lives quietly enough and spare them all the embarrassment and scandal of a divorce. The couple went along with it, but it weighed much heavier on Margaret than it did her husband. She acted out by drinking more and acting rudely in public.

As a result, anti-monarchists began to criticize her and the costs of her upkeep—but it would take a few more years of drama before the consequences finally caught up with her.

35. They Were On The Razor’s Edge

As the Swinging 60s came to a close, the constant cheating lost its luster and became just another drudge in the lives of Antony Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret. They were barely seeing each other. It used to seem like a reconciliation was possible. Now it felt less and less likely. Any old thing could topple it all at this point—or really, any young thing.

36. She Met A Younger Man

On their honeymoon, a friend had gifted Antony and Margaret a six-acre plot of land on the small island of Mustique in the Caribbean. While Antony had never gone back, Margaret had used it as a refuge during the rockiest parts of their marriage. And it was there that she took Roddy Llewellyn, the slacker son of a famous British equestrian. They were “friends” for a couple of years, and met when he was 25 to her 43.

It seemed like just another affair in a long string of indiscretions—but this would be the one that blew everything up.

37. They Exposed Her

Notorious press magnate Rupert Murdoch had sent a New Zealand journalist down to Mustique, who pretended to vacation with his wife. While there, the writer caught a photo of Margaret and Roddy together. The publication of those photos was the final nail in the coffin for not only Antony and Margaret, but also for the royal family’s view of their cold, distant marriage.

They knew that they finally had to admit that things weren’t right—but Antony was tired of waiting.

38. He Surprised Them

Antony, for his part, was spending more and more time as a documentarian, and working closely with a production assistant named Lucy Lindsay-Hogg. He had made inroads to get a legal separation, only for the royal family to procrastinate moving on the subject—but Antony had a trick up his sleeve. He announced the separation himself without the consent or knowledge of Margaret or the royal family.

But they had a surprise for him, too.

39. He Was Free

Now that they’d undertaken a legal separation, all the tension between Antony and Princess Margaret dissolved. Antony had never pushed for a divorce. He knew that it was unlikely that the Palace would ever grant it, and was content to stay legally separated for the rest of his life. But, to everyone’s surprise, they did eventually agree to let Antony and Margaret divorce. It became final in 1978—and Antony wasted no time moving on.

40. He Rebounded Quickly

Antony’s relationship with production assistant Lucy Lindsay-Hogg had crossed over from professional to romantic long before any of this. But it still came as a surprise to Margaret, his ex-wife, when Antony announced that he’d be marrying Lucy just five months after their divorce. They tied the knot in December of 1978—but it wasn’t exactly happily ever after.

41. He Was Still A Bad Boy

Though Antony had lost the bitterness that had characterized the last ten years of his marriage to Princess Margaret, he hadn’t kicked all of his old bad habits. Somewhere between his separation and divorce, he’d begun an affair with married journalist Ann Hills. She was shocked when she read that he’d tied the knot with Lucy—but not quite willing to give Antony up over it.

As we’ll see, this relationship would take her down a seriously dark path.

42. He Was Happy

While Antony may have been up to his old tricks, it was markedly different than before. Lucy had the patience for him that Margaret never did, and without the same intense press scrutiny or the pressures of being in the royal circle, Antony seemed content. Because his marriage was ostensibly going well, he kept his affair with Ann Hills a secret instead of using it to hurt his wife the way he had with Margaret.

Antony got to work using his name for good, advocating for the disabled—a cause close to his heart, as he still carried a limp from his bout with polio.

43. He Had A Dark Secret

Although Antony seemed to be living happily ever after with Lucy—they even had a child—he carried on his affair with Ann Hills. Sadly, it had devastating consequences. The affair went on for a whopping 20 years. Ann had always wanted more from Antony, but with each passing year, it became clear that she would never get it. She saw other people and even had live-in boyfriends, but she still longed for Antony.

44. She Was Bereft

After writing a column for The Guardian for many years, they let Ann Hills go in late 1996. Another boyfriend had just left her and she’d spent yet another Christmas without Antony. Deeply depressed, Ann Hills took her own life. She left a note, telling Antony that she’d always loved him, and asking for a family heirloom he’d given her to be returned to him.

When the authorities investigated, they collected her diaries—containing all the details of her two decades with Antony.

45. They Exposed Him

Before long, newspapers splashed the contents of those diaries across their pages. That was how Antony’s wife Lucy learned that he’d been cheating on her for the entire duration of their marriage. It was heartbreaking—and Antony’s reaction was brutal. He didn’t give her any explanation for it, and simply expected life to go on as usual.

But Ann Hills wasn’t the only secret that Antony had been hiding.

46. He Had Yet Another Lover

Two years after the press had blown up Antony’s long-term affair with Ann Hills, Antony’s wife Lucy uncovered another shocking bombshell. He’d fathered a child with a magazine editor named Melanie Cable-Alexander. She was nearly 30 years younger than him. Over the previous years, Lucy had caught on to the many ways in which Antony would bend the truth to suit him. This time, she confronted him, and he admitted to it.

She’d vowed to never leave him—but for Lucy, this was the final straw.

47. He Juggled Them Both

Antony was caught between Lucy and Melanie, vaguely trying to make things work with both, but he couldn’t give either what they wanted. Supporting an ex, a mistress, and a handful of children made the bills pile up much faster than he could handle—so he made a surprising decision. He encouraged Melanie to take a £250,000 payout for Hello! magazine to appear in their pages.

Lucy probably didn’t like that one so much…

48. He Never Slowed Down

Ultimately, he parted ways with Melanie, and Lucy filed for divorce. Once again, Antony’s libido drove him to move on quickly—and plentifully, as he had two or three girlfriends at any given time. This was despite the fact that the aftereffects of his polio was now causing painful muscular atrophy.

Once a player, always a player.

49. He Lived A Long And Legendary Life

In 2017, Antony Armstrong-Jones passed away peacefully at his home in Kensington. He was 86 years old. He rests in his family plot in Wales. In the end, he outlived his ex-wife Margaret by 15 years. His other ex-wife Lucy is still alive today. They remained friends after their divorce and she took care of him in his final years. And it was actually in those final years that many of Antony’s most scandalous secrets finally came out.

50. He Was (Maybe) Bi

Tony’s little indiscretions were not limited to women. People speculated that he was gay, and according to one biographer, he later admitted to being bi. A couple of male interior designers claimed that they had romances with him, but this remains unproven. What is certain though, is that in Tony and Margaret’s ever-escalating feud, they both just kept doing things to make the situation even worse…

51. He Went Too Far

Way back when Antony and Princess Margaret were caught in a stalemate of infidelity, there was been rumors that Margaret had hooked up with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Well, Antony may have gotten some petty revenge in that area—there are stories that he, in turn, had a fling with Mick’s glamorous wife Bianca Jagger.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Antony’s terrible track record began way earlier than many thought.

52. He Was Unfaithful From The Start

The public watched Antony Armstrong-Jones’ marriage to Princess Margaret fall apart in front of their eyes—but it actually started way earlier than anyone realized. While both Antony and his wife hit each other below the belt, Antony clearly instigated the whole thing. In 2004, DNA testing proved that he had an illegitimate daughter, who was born just weeks into his marriage with Margaret.

The identity of the girl’s mother was even more shocking…

53. He Slept With His Best Friend’s Wife

The 2004 DNA test revealed that a British woman named Polly Higson was Antony’s daughter and that she was born during his honeymoon with Margaret. What’s really scandalous though is that Polly’s mother was Camilla Fry, the wife of Antony’s best friend. He just couldn’t keep his hands off of anyone! One can only imagine what Princess Margaret would’ve said if she found out…

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

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