The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (Margaret Rose; 21 August 1930 – 9 February 2002) was the younger daughter of George VI of the United Kingdom and Queen Elizabeth, and the younger sister of the current monarch of each of the Commonwealth Realms, Elizabeth II. She held the title Countess of Snowdon by marriage.
Princess Margaret was always a controversial member of the British Royal Family. As a young woman, she was a figure of glamour in post-war Britain and the Commonwealth. However, her private life was plagued by romantic disappointments, including her politically thwarted love for a divorced older man in her youth; a subsequent, often unhappy marriage to a commoner; an acrimonious divorce beset with accusations of adultery; and, in her later years, a public affair with a much younger man.
Margaret was born Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret Rose of York on 21 August 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland, her mother's ancestral home. She was born fourth in the line of succession to the British throne, and the first royal baby so close to the succession to be born in Scotland since Charles I in 1600. She was given only one middle name, which is rare among royalty. Her father was Prince Albert, The Duke of York (later George VI), the second son of George V and Queen Mary. Her mother was Elizabeth, Duchess of York (formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. As a grandchild of the Sovereign in the male line, Margaret Rose was styled Her Royal Highness from birth. She was baptised in the Private Chapel of Buckingham Palace on 30 October 1930 by Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and her godparents were her uncle the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), her father's cousin Princess Ingrid of Sweden, her great-aunt Princess Victoria, her maternal aunt Lady Rose Leveson-Gower, and her maternal uncle The Hon David Bowes-Lyon.
Princess Margaret Rose of York was educated alongside her sister, Princess Elizabeth, by their governess, Marion Crawford. In 1936, her uncle Edward VIII abdicated the throne, and her father ascended as George VI. Margaret was then styled HRH The Princess Margaret. She attended her parents' Coronation in 1937. Margaret was, from that point, second in the line of succession until the birth of her nephew, Prince Charles, in 1948.
Although Margaret could have married Townsend with Parliamentary approval once she turned 25, she was informed that doing so would force her to give up her title, her Civil List allowance, and her place in the line of succession. It was also suggested, entirely incorrectly, that she would be forced to leave the country . Under great pressure, not least because her role as a royal princess was virtually the only identity she had, and taking advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior politicians, she decided not to marry Townsend. She made a public announcement, reportedly partly crafted by Townsend himself, in which she stated that her decision had been made out of loyalty to the Crown and out of consciousness of the Church's teaching on the "indissolubility of Christian marriage".
In reality, however, papers released in 2004 indicate that, had she married Townsend, she could not have been legally deprived of her title or her Civil List allowance. Had she decided to marry Townsend, the only conditions were that she would be removed from the line of succession and that any wedding would have to be civil rather than religious. Margaret and her sister had been misled by courtiers and politicians who were either still deeply fearful of potential marital scandal 20 years after the abdication of Edward VIII or simply determined to maintain the status quo, regardless of the personal and emotional effects.
The ceremony could be considered the first "modern" Royal wedding thanks to the wider availability of television in the UK. In 1961, the Princess's husband was created Earl of Snowdon, whereupon she became formally styled HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. The couple had two children: David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones
The marriage widened Princess Margaret's social circle beyond the Court and aristocracy to include show business and Bohemia, and was seen at the time as reflecting the breakdown of class barriers.
As colonies of the British Commonwealth sought nationhood, Princess Margaret went on to repeatedly represent the British Crown at their independence ceremonies.
The Princess's 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'). Formerly Commandant-in-Chief of the Ambulance and Nursing Cadets of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, she later became 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 sports and wildlife conservation organisations, such as the British Olympic Association, the Royal Yachting Association and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Reportedly, her first extramarital affair took place in 1966, with her daughter's godfather, Bordeaux wine producer Anthony Barton, and a year later she had a one-month liaison with Robin Douglas-Home, a nephew of a former British Prime Minister. Douglas-Home committed suicide 18 months after the split with Margaret. Unproven allegations have also claimed she had been romantically involved with musician Mick Jagger, actor Peter Sellers, and the Australian cricketer, Keith Miller. Tough-guy actor John Bindon is supposed to have been so close to her that he was warned-off by MI5 - the only time he was seriously scared-off by a physical threat. According to Margaret: The Secret Princess, an ITV programme broadcast in Britain in February 2003, Princess Margaret also reportedly had a two-year affair with Sharman Douglas, the daughter of an American ambassador to the Court of St. James's.
In the late 1970s, revelations of an affair with Roddy Llewellyn, an aspiring young garden designer, led to her divorce from Lord Snowdon, on 11 July 1978, although the marriage was generally regarded as over long before the affair became public. This was the first divorce of a senior Royal since Princess Victoria of Edinburgh in 1901.
As her friend Gore Vidal once wrote, "She was far too intelligent for her station in life". Vidal, in his memoirs Point to Point Navigation, recalled a conversation with Princess Margaret, in which she discussed her public notoriety, saying, "It was inevitable: when there are two sisters and one is the Queen, who must be the source of honour and all that is good, while the other must be the focus of the most creative malice, the evil sister".
Princess Margaret was eleventh in the line of succession to the British Throne at the time of her death.
Princess Margaret's nephew, Charles, Prince of Wales, talked about her after her death:
"My aunt was one of those remarkable people who, apart from being incredibly vital and attractive, and of course when she was young so many people remember her for that vitality and attractiveness and indeed her incredible beauty, but she also, and I think many people do not realise this, but she had such incredible talent."
Princess Margaret was portrayed by Lucy Cohu in the Channel 4 TV drama The Queen's Sister (2005), by Trulie MacLeod in the TV drama The Women of Windsor (1992), and by Hannah Wiltshire in the TV drama Bertie and Elizabeth
In April 2007, an exhibition entitled Princess Line - The Fashion Legacy of Princess Margaret opened at Kensington Palace, showcasing contemporary fashion from British designers such as Burberry and Vivienne Westwood inspired by Princess Margaret's 'legacy' of style. Vivienne Westwood's clothing in her Harris Tweed collection of 1987 was inspired by the clothes worn by the Queen and Princess Margaret as children, while Christopher Bailey's Spring 2006 collection for Burberry was inspired by 'archive images of HRH Princess Margaret'. Alongside the contemporary fashion pieces, the exhibition displayed a number of Princess Margaret's original accessories, all inside her former wardrobe room at Kensington Palace. Other contemporary designers showcased included Hardy Amies, Topshop, Marks & Spencer and Central Saint Martins graduate Gemma Ainsworth, while Margaret's accessories include turbans, classic hats worn to Ascot and a replica of the Poltimore Tiara worn for her wedding to Lord Snowdon in 1960.
In the notorious puppet parody of British public life in the 1980s, Spitting Image, Princess Margaret was portrayed as a drunk and a typical "stupid aristocrat", proposing to call her great-nephew Prince Harry "Johnnie Walker" after the whisky.
She is mentioned several times in the 2006 film The Queen.
The 2008 movie The Bank Job is based on an actual 1971 bank robbery where many details remain shrouded in mystery. The film surmises that British intelligence set up the robbery to gain possession of a safety deposit box containing potentially scandalous sex photos of Princess Margaret.