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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 08:44 GMT
Margaret: A life of glamour and controversy
Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret, the younger sister of the Queen
Princess Margaret's life was one of the more controversial within the Royal Family, characterised by much unhappiness in her personal relationships.

The fact that one marriage was prevented by divorce, and in the second case was ended by divorce, was a sign of the change which came over the country during her lifetime.

She was born Margaret Rose on 21 August, 1930, at Glamis Castle in Scotland, the ancestral home of her mother's family. It was the first royal birth in Scotland since the seventeenth century.

Princess Margaret as a child
Too young for war service
Her father and mother were then Duke and Duchess of York. In 1936 the abdication of Edward VIII and the accession of her father suddenly thrust Margaret and her sister Elizabeth closer to the throne.

When World War II came, the royal family refused to be evacuated and spent those years together at Windsor Castle. They sheltered from the bombing in the dungeons where the crown jewels, wrapped only in newspaper, were stored for safekeeping.

Assuming duties

She mingled with the crowds outside Buckingham Palace on VE Day along with Elizabeth and other members of her family.

Margaret at social function
Margaret in a social whirl
Margaret then began to assume her share of official royal duties and was noted for her glamorous looks and dress sense.

At the centre of a social whirl, the young princess took a lively interest in the arts and fashion. Some called her circle of young, wealthy aristocrats the "Margaret Set".

By 1953, when she was 23, Margaret had fallen in love with one of the Royal household, Group Captain Peter Townsend. It could have been a perfect romantic match between a beautiful young princess and a heroic Battle of Britain pilot.

Townsend with Queen Mother and Margaret
Townsend: Part of the royal household
But Peter Townsend was a divorced man.

Despite the fact that it was his wife who had left him, any marriage to Margaret was judged unacceptable by the Church of England and the political establishment.

The Queen did not want to see her sister denied happiness and asked the Princess to wait. Townsend was sent away to be Air Attaché to the British Embassy in Belgium. For two years Princess Margaret waited.

Frantic speculation

When she turned 25, she became old enough to marry without the Sovereign's permission. When Townsend returned from Brussels, there was frantic speculation in the press that an engagement was about to be announced.

But marrying a divorcee would have meant renouncing the privileges that came with being a princess. Eventually, Margaret told the Archbishop of Canterbury that he could put away his books as she had made up her mind not to marry him.

The pair remained friends until Townsend's death in 1995.

Couple wed in Westminster Abbey
Margaret's wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones
The princess quickly resumed her social life and, in 1958, she was introduced to a well-connected Cambridge graduate who was making a name for himself as a photographer. Anthony Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret were married at Westminster Abbey in 1960.

Marriage strains

He became the Earl of Snowdon and they had two children, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones. But as the years went by, strains within the marriage began to show. Lord Snowdon tired of official engagements. "I'm not Royal", he once said, "I'm just married to one."

In March 1976 the couple officially separated. Divorce followed two years later. Many people were shocked since, at that time, domestic crises within the royal family were virtually unheard of publicly.

An unhappy period followed. She became ill with hepatitis, and later she had part of a lung removed. Despite this, she continued to smoke and was heavily criticised for this and for spending more time on her holiday island of Mustique than attending to royal duties.

Roddy Llewellyn crossing road
Roddy Llewellyn
Speculation and invention about her personal life focused on her association with Roddy Llewellyn, a young socialite 17 years her junior. The affair ended after a few years, though again, the couple remained friends.

In 1979, the year Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA, she caused a stir when the Mayor of Chicago alleged that she had described the Irish as "pigs".

Patron of the arts

In recent years, quietly but conscientiously, she supported the arts. She was president of the Royal Ballet. She was also keen on her work with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, of which she was also president.

Margaret on Mustique beach with friends
Margaret with friends in Mustique
In later years, until her health gave cause for concern, she was much less in the public eye than in the past and far less so than the younger royals. She continued to perform her royal duties: at the same time she felt it was not a crime to enjoy herself.

She spent more time on the island of Mustique among trusted friends. It was here, in 1998, that she suffered the first in a series of strokes.

Her health continued to be poor and she had a quiet 71st birthday in August.

The last time she appeared in public was during the Queen Mother's 101st birthday celebrations during the summer. She was pictured using a wheelchair and with her left arm in a sling.

She wore dark glasses, and her face showed signs of puffiness, thought to be the side-effects of medication.


She was always a loyal, lively and often unpredictable member of the royal family, though, in her later years, she felt more comfortable behind the protective veil of royal status and rank.

Her place was always to be second to her sister, The Queen, but her loyalty could never be doubted.

Princess Margaret never achieved the contentment of a long and happy marriage but found ample comfort in the love of her children.

Lord St John of Fawsley
"She was a person of great vitality"

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Princess Margaret 1930-2002
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