Little siblings are often expected to wallow in the shadow of their big brothers and sisters. Such can especially be expected to be the case if said older siblings is the Queen of England. Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, is the surprising exception to this rule. It’s hard to imagine the eldest generation of the British royal family as anything but prim and restrained. Those who remember Princess Margaret’s early years, however, will have an opinion on her wild affairs and scandal-filled youth. It’s not easy being the Queen’s little sis, especially when said princess is the first royal to be divorced in a century.
From her infamous case of mutual adultery to the carnival of health issues that plagued her later years, there was never a dull moment to be had in this royal spare’s life. Polish a tiara to these 42 scandalous facts about Princess Margaret, the Countess of Snowdon.
42. Too Good to Come 13th
Born on August 21, 1930, Margaret’s christening was delayed on purpose by several days. The family wouldn’t let the new baby to be registered as the Number 13 on the parish records. You can never be too royal for superstition.
41. Even Royals Have Pet Names
Princess Margaret went by many titles in her adventurous life, but she would be known to her loved ones as “Margot.”
40. The Game of Names
Margaret was originally to be named “Ann Margaret,” but her grandfather George V vetoed that idea. In his royal opinion, he simply disliked the feel of the name “Ann,” although Margaret’s mother was very “anxious” to get it in somehow. Kings come first, I guess.
39. Too Cute for Class
For the first part of their lives, Margaret and her sister Elizabeth were not remarkably well-educated by royal standards. Although their grandmother Queen Mary sought to have them better learned, their mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, then-Duchess of York, didn’t think they needed that much education to do well in life. The duchess reasoned, “I and my sisters only had governesses and we all married well—one of us very well”—Elizabeth married a Prince, after all.
According to the son of Winston Churchill, the girls’ education was basic compared to some of their royal relatives and their mother “never aimed at bringing her daughters up to be more than nicely behaved young ladies.” To be fair, who needs books when you’re that rich?
38. Queen of the PTA She Was Not
Margaret would reportedly resent her mother for not providing her kids with a robust education. To her credit, the Queen Mother did express later regret that she didn’t send her girls to school and instead trusted their early education to their governess.
37. Climbing the Ladder of Succession
At the time of her birth, Margaret was fourth in line to the throne; her uncle, father, and sister were just above her. However, she rose very quickly after the death of her grandfather George V. Just 11 months after his ascension, her uncle Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry the divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Within a period of a year, Margaret went from being a king’s granddaughter, to a king’s niece, to a king’s daughter, and therefore second in line to the British crown.
36. Who Needs Crown Jewels When You Have Merit Badges?
In 1937, Margaret joined the Brownies at Buckingham Palace. She even served as a Girl Guide and Sea Ranger. Fulfilling her “scout’s honor” for the rest of her life, she served as President of Girlguiding UK from 1965 until 2002, when she passed away.
35. World’s Most Dangerous Staycation
As World War II broke out in Europe, there was pressure for the royal family to relocate to Canada for their safety. Of course, this didn’t happen. Instead, the royal family famously braved the danger with everyone else in England. In response to pressure, Margaret’s mother famous retorted, “The children won’t go without me. I won’t leave without the King. And the King will never leave.”
34. Spare the Curfew, Spoil the Child?
As a child, Margaret gained a public image as a bit of a spoiled brat. This reputation was partly because she got to sit back from royal duties. She wasn’t expected to take up official public duties during the war or during other ceremonies.
Most scandalously, Margaret was allowed to stay up past dinner when she was only 13 years old—an indulgence for which her father King George VI got criticism. What constituted a “spoiled” child was very different in the 1940s.
33. Important Distinctions
King George famously declared that while his heir Elizabeth was his “pride,” his younger daughter Margaret was his “joy.”
32 Drama Queen-in-Waiting
The princesses’ governess, Marion Crawford, often lamented as Margaret’s showboat behavior and spoiling by the royal family. Crawford even once wrote 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.” When your nanny asks for you to be snubbed, you know you’re a drama queen—or is that drama princess?
31. Foreign Exchange Baby
Margaret was born in Scotland, which makes her the first royal family member in 300 years to be born in the country.
30. A Princess Never Settles for Seconds
The year 1952 was a mixed bag for Princess Margaret. For starters, her father died. She was now the queen’s 22-year-old sister. However, this was also the year that Margaret met her first great love, Captain Peter Townsend. 16 years older than Margaret, Townsend had divorced his first wife earlier that year and he and Margaret made plans to marry. Unfortunately, that whole “divorced suitor” thing didn’t sit well with the Church of England, of which Margaret’s sister was now the Supreme Head…
29. A Royal Waiting Period
Queen Elizabeth II didn’t immediately veto Margaret’s romance with Peter Townsend. Instead, the Queen asked her sister to wait a year, so her Majesty could deal with their grandmother Queen Mary’s funeral, plus her own coronation and upcoming six-month world tour. A scandalous match between a royal and a divorcee—for the second time in recent memory—would be just too much on Elizabeth’s plate.
28. A Matter of Heart and State
From the looks of things, it was the government—not Margaret’s sister—who got in the way of her would-be marriage to Peter Townsend. The media and the British Cabinet refused to countenance the marriage between a princess and a divorced commoner, lamenting how such a match would “fly in the face of Royal and Christian tradition.” Prime Minister Winston Churchill himself told the Queen that the leaders of the Dominion would all vote “No” on the marriage unless Margaret gave up her rights to inherit the crown. Ouch.
27. It’s Him or Us
Although the government made their anti-Townsend stance clear, the common people showed their support of Margaret’s personal choice, based on the result of a popular poll. The Church said otherwise, telling the Princess herself that they would refuse to give her communion if she dared to marry the divorced Townsend.
26. The Final Word on the Subject Wasn’t Hers
On Halloween 1955, Princess Margaret officially renounced her intention to marry Peter Townsend in an official statement. She said, “I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.” Considering the amount of pressure that she was under, we have to raise a royal eyebrow at how “alone” she was in this decision.
25. She Has Our Vote
Peter Townsend was not Margaret’s only suitor. As a princess, she was romantically linked to big names in politics like Conservative politician Billy Wallace and even the future Prime Minister of Canada, John Turner.
24. Everyone Is Watching
Margaret’s marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones was first televised British royal wedding. It debuted to 300 million viewers worldwide. With those numbers, I guess they just had to do it again.
23. No Hard Feels, But Lots of Sand
As a wedding present, Margaret’s rumored ex-suitor Colin Tennant gifted the couple with a plot of land on his Caribbean island. For the record, I also accept tokens from my exes in the form of tropical land grants.
22. Europe Isn’t a Fan of Photographers
Fellow royals of Europe were reluctant to accept Princess Margaret’s marriage to a common photographer. Among the 2,000 guests are her wedding, there was only one foreign royal attendee: Queen Ingrid of Denmark.
21. Too Entitled Not to Be
Margaret and Armstrong-Jones were initially reluctant to accept a royal title. However, it was eventually deemed “improper” for their future children, who would be the children of a princess, to be born without a title. As a result, Armstrong-Jones was created into the Earl of Snowdon in 1961.
20. Taking It Easy
Princess Margaret’s charity portfolio was mainly focused on welfare, arts, and ballet. Due to this “charmed” image of benevolence, she was accused of not being as active in humanitarian work as other royal family members.
19. More Is Not Always Merrier
Rumors of adultery on Margaret’s part would follow the princess through the rest of her marriage to Armstrong-Jones… and some of them were true. For instance, in 1966, Margaret definitely had an affair with the godfather of her daughter Sarah: a Bordeaux wine producer named Anthony Barton. Just one year later, she also had an affair with Robin Douglas-Home, who was the nephew of former Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home. At least her adultery was as well-connected as she was…
18. Putting It To Her (Papers)
Margaret would assert that her relationship with Robin Douglas-Home was strictly non-romantic. Unfortunately, her love letters to him were later sold to the public. They revealed intimate truths quite contrary to the platonic PR save.
17. More Than Friends?
In 1973, Margaret began a scandalous relationship of ambiguous nature with Roddy Llewellyn—an attractive young man who was 17 years her junior. The two became very close to the point of co-dependent; when Llewellyn fled on a surprise vacation for one to Turkey, Margaret became so distressed that she overdosed on sleeping pills. As she recovered, Margaret’s ladies-in-waiting kept her husband from his wife’s presence. It didn’t look good for her marriage, or for the public’s perception of the Queen’s little sister.
16. Welcome to Splitsville; Population: Two
Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones were officially divorced on July 11, 1978. The princess became the first senior royal family member to get a divorce since Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh in 1901. Not all #TBTs are worth celebrating.
15. Not the End of the Affair
Just five months after his divorce from Margaret, Antony Armstrong-Jones got remarried to Lucy Lindsay-Hogg. However, it was hardly happily ever after for Margaret’s ex-husband. In this marriage, it was Armstrong-Jones who had the multiple affairs; he kept a mistress for 20 years until she died by suicide in 1996. Armstrong-Jones and Lindsay-Hogg divorced in 2000 after it was revealed the former had fathered a son out of wedlock in 1998. Maybe he did have a lot in common with Margaret?
14. Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire (and Cancer)
Margaret had been a smoker since the age of 15 at the latest. By the 1980s, it caught up to the princess. She had to get a cancerous skin lesion removed in 1980 and a part of one of her lungs had to be removed in 1985.
13. They All Fall Down
The last decade of Margaret’s life was a parade of escalating health problems. In 1993, the princess caught pneumonia; five years later, she suffered a stroke; just one year after that, Margaret suffered lesions to her feet from a bathroom accident, which affected her ability to walk to the point where she required a mobility device or wheelchair for most public occasions.
12. Not Going to Make It
The final public appearance of the super-controversial princess was for the 101st birthday of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Margaret would not live that much longer; she would predecease The Queen Mother by just seven weeks.
11. Not Stoked for This
On 9 February 2002, Margaret suffered the most fatal and final of her strokes. She passed away at the age of 71 in King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.
10. Another One Bites the Dust
Margaret is one of the few members in the British royal family’s history to be cremated. That’s a little bit cooler than being one of the few in recent memory to get divorced, but it depends on your taste.
9. Balancing Act
Another one of Margaret’s more scandalous alleged lovers includes the rumored gangster, John Bindon. He claimed they embarked on an affair after Bindon had awed the princess with a lewd but admittedly impressive party trick—balancing five half-pint glasses upon a part of his that will go unnamed here.
8. Let That Eye Wander and You’ll Lose It
Princess Margaret was not the only adultery keg in the fuse of her marriage to Armstrong-Jones. Just three weeks into their marriage, Margaret’s husband welcomed the birth of his daughter by another woman, although it was kept secret until 2004.
It’s openly accepted he also had affairs with both younger women and men in his professional life. As it was said of the new Lord Snowdon, “If it moves, he’ll have it.”
7. Daddy Big Bucks
By the end of her life, Margaret’s fortune was valued at about £20 million. The lion’s share of it was still inherited from her father, King George VI. Clearly, she made it count.
6. Anything to Protect a Lady. Anything.
According to some conspiracies, the infamous 1971 Baker Street robbery of Lloyds Bank was actually a cover-up to retrieve some “compromising” photos of Margaret from a safety deposit box. In some versions, the whole ploy was hatched up by MI5 themselves to protect the princess’s honor.
5. I Hear What You’re Saying and I Have to Disagree
For the first four years of her life, Margaret and her family dealt with rumors that she was born deaf and mute. The family led a relatively private existence at this time, so people filled in the gaps how they could. Nevertheless, the rumors endured until little Margaret made her first public appearance at the 1934 wedding of her uncle, Prince George.
4. Jumping on the Bandwagon (and Wedding Carriage)
It’s said that Margaret accepted her marriage proposal from photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones just one day after discovering her ex-lover Peter Townsend was himself set to marry another woman. This woman was a young Belgian who bore a striking resemblance to the princess…
3. Bummer Ending
Just 18 months after the end of his affair with Princess Margaret, her alleged lover Robin Douglas-Home took his own life in 1968.
2. All All-Star Line-Up
The rumored but not fully-confirmed lovers of Margaret include some of Hollywood’s most elite entertainers. The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, actor Peter Sellers, professional cricketer Keith Miller, and even screen legend Warren Beatty are just some of the big names who have been alleged to have been attached to Princess Margaret.
1. A Midlife Crisis Can Be Costly
In 1976, Margaret and her young “friend” Roddy Llewellyn made a scandalous splash when the News of the World tabloid published images of them together in swimsuits. These compromising photos coincided unfortunately with the public declaration that her marriage with Antony Armstrong-Jones had disintegrated.
The media called Margaret a “floosie” and “royal parasite” for her perceived predatory behavior with a younger “boytoy.” It was even debated whether Margaret had crossed the lines of propriety so boldly that she should be taken off the civil list, and therefore cut off from the royal purse strings.
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