Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon GCVO RDI
(born 7 March 1930
) is an English
photographer and Emmy Award
filmmaker who sits in the House of Lords
by a life peerage
granted him in 1999
. He was married to Princess Margaret
. Despite his divorce from Princess Margaret, he maintains a close relationship with the royal family and occasionally takes official photographs of the Queen.
The future Lord Snowdon was born of minor Welsh gentry and Jewish
banking heritage, the only son from the marriage of the barrister Ronald Armstrong-Jones
(1899–1966) and his first wife, the society beauty Anne Messel
(1902–1992, later Countess of Rosse
). His maternal great-grandfather was the Punch
cartoonist Linley Sambourne
(1844–1910), his great-great-uncle Alfred Messel
was a well-known Berlin
architect, and his mother's brother was Oliver Messel
, a noted British set and costume designer and architect. His parents separated when he was young, and his childhood was completely lacking any normal emotional warmth - as a schoolboy he contracted polio, and, for the entire six months that he was in Liverpool
Royal Infirmary, his only family visits were from his sister Susan.
After being educated at Eton
, where he studied architecture, Armstrong-Jones took up a career as a photographer in the fields of fashion, design and theatre. As his career as a portraitist began to flourish, he became known for his royal studies, among which were the official portraits of his future sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II
, and the Duke of Edinburgh
for their 1957 tour of Canada
In the early 1960s, he became the picture editor of the Sunday Times magazine, and by the 1970s had gained a reputation as one of Britain's most prominent and respected photographers. Though his subject matter includes everything from fashion models to documentary-style images of inner city life and the mentally ill, he is best known for his portraits of world notables (the National Portrait Gallery has more than 100 in its collection), many of them published in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The Daily Telegraph magazine. His subjects have included Barbara Cartland, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Blunt, J. R. R. Tolkien, and others.
In 2001, Snowdon was given a retrospective exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, Photographs by Snowdon: A Retrospective, which later travelled to the Yale Center for British Art. More than 180 of his photographs were displayed in an exhibition that honored what the museums called "a rounded career with sharp edges".
He also co-designed, in 1960–1963, with Frank Newby and Cedric Price, the aviary of the London Zoo.
On [May] 1960
Snowdon, still known as Antony Armstrong-Jones, became engaged to the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, and they married on 6 May 1960
at Westminster Abbey
. He was created Earl of Snowdon
and Viscount Linley
of Nymans in the County of Sussex on 6 October 1961
, due to concerns over the prospect of a British princess giving birth to a child without a title. The Snowdon title has centuries-old royal associations, since the name Snowdon was borne by the Welsh princes and the House of Gwynedd prior to 1282, though in this instance it was granted as a nod to Armstrong-Jones's Welsh ancestry. The subsidiary Linley title honored Lord Snowdon's great-grandfather Linley Sambourne as well as Nymans, the Messel family estate in West Sussex. David, Viscount Linley
, was born 3 November 1961
), and a second child, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones
, on 1 May 1964
). Recently it has emerged that Snowdon fathered a daughter shortly before marrying Princess Margaret.
The marriage began to collapse very early and publicly. Various causes may have lain behind the failure: on Margaret's side there was a penchant for late-night partying, on Snowdon's, an undisguised sexual promiscuity. ("If it moves, he'll have it," was the summing up of one close friend. "To most of the girls who worked in the Pimlico Road studio, there seemed little doubt that Tony was gay"; to which Snowdon himself responded, "I didn't fall in love with boys - but a few men have been in love with me."
The break-up lasted sixteen years, accompanied by drugs, alcohol, and bizarre behaviour by both parties. Snowdon did not read books and had no intellectual interests, but Margaret did; Snowdon therefore took to leaving lists between the pages for her to find, of "things I hate about you".According to biographers Sarah Bradford and Anne de Courcy, one note read: "You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you". When high society palled, Snowdon would escape to a hideaway cottage with his lovers, or on overseas photographic assignments; most people, including the Royal Family, took his side.
Princess Margaret was equally promiscuous. Insecure in the shadow of her sister the Queen, she would point out her husband's less-than-royal origins, once correcting publicly his use of the "non-U" word "material" (as in cloth) for what U-speakers offhandedly called "stuff".
The marriage ended in divorce in 1978, when Roddy Llewellyn briefly entered Princess Margaret's life and Snowdon played the outraged husband.
After his divorce from Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon married Lucy Lindsay-Hogg
, daughter of Donald Brook Davies
and former wife of film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg
, on 15 December 1978
. Their only child, Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones
, was born seven months later, on 17 July 1979
. They divorced in 2000
upon the revelation that the 68-year-old Lord Snowdon had fathered a son out of wedlock, Jasper William Oliver Cable-Alexander
(born 30 April 1998
), with Melanie Cable-Alexander
, an editor at Country Life
On 16 November 1999
Lord Snowdon was created Baron Armstrong-Jones, of Nymans in the County of West Sussex. This was a life peerage
given him so that he could keep his seat in the House of Lords
after the hereditary peers had been excluded
. An offer of a life peerage was made to all hereditary peers of the first creation (i.e.
, those for whom a peerage was originally created, as opposed to those who inherited a peerage from an ancestor) at that time.
Titles and honours