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Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009
Princess Margaret remembered at Caernarfon's Plas Dinas

Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret and guests ar Plas Dinas
Princess Margaret was the first royal in years to marry a commoner

Princess Margaret was a regular visitor to a mansion at Bontnewydd, near Caernarfon, after marrying Antony Armstrong-Jones. Andy Banner-Price, current owner with his partner Julian, celebrates the Plas Dinas royal connections.

Plas Dinas came into the Armstrong-Jones family about 200 years ago. It was passed through the generations until it came to Ronald, the father of Antony Armstrong-Jones.

Antony married Princess Margaret in 1960 and became Lord Snowdon in 1961. He was the first commoner to marry into the royal family in centuries.

They were quite a modern couple for the time and weren't really into the whole official royal airs and graces environment, especially Antony. He liked coming back to his family home, so Princess Margaret came, too.

The man who delivered our hanging baskets did, however, tell us that he got told off for trespassing by some armed guards who were patrolling the grounds to protect her.

But it was kept very low key and informal when she wasn't here on official visits. They liked to do lots of their entertaining here.

At one time the house was split in three. A relative, Lady Bulkeley, lived in the front part of the house.

Plas Dinas
Plas Dinas is gradually being restored to its former glory

We had a guest stay with us recently who was nanny to Lady Bulkeley's grandchildren. She remembers the princess being here a lot during that time and she was very good with the children.

She wasn't like a princess when she was here, although she and Antony did have some heated arguments.

The former nanny remembers that Princess Margaret might be here waiting for him, and he'd turn up very late. Someone else told us that she got very angry once and threw a gin and tonic at the wall in what's now our lounge.

The Armstrong-Joneses didn't actually have the nicest part of the house. The Bulkeleys had the main staircase, and they had what used to be the servants' staircase. When the princess was here there was only one bath in the house.

The locals used to call her Maggie Bont, and having her here was a very big thing to happen to the area.

The investiture [of Prince Charles] hadn't yet taken place, so they felt that her being here, especially her official visits to the slate mines and the centre of Caernarfon, put the area on the map and gave them some good publicity.

PRINCESS MARGARET
Princess Margaret
Born 1930
Married Antony Armstrong-Jones 1960, two children
Divorced 1978
Died 2002

Another local came by and said his mother had afternoon tea with Princess Margaret here once. Halfway through, they threw open the windows and the Caernarfon brass band were outside, playing for them.

When Ronald died, Antony was already married to Princess Margaret and he felt that he was well provided for, so he passed Plas Dinas on to his younger son, Peregrine.

Peregrine is now a successful party organiser. He's done things like the Beckhams' wedding and Elton John's white tie and tiara parties, but he comes up quite regularly to his cottage down at the Foryd.

We've put back the original pieces in what was Lady Armstrong-Jones's room. Peregrine stayed with us once and we put him in that room.

He said he'd slept well, but it was bizarre to wake up in what was his grandmother's bedroom. He could picture her doing her make-up at the dressing table.

To him, it's still his family home and it feels more so now as we try and put things back to where they belong.

Plas Dinas has been a family home, nursing home and hotel, so lots of people must have worked here over the years.

We'd love to hear from anyone who might have old pictures of what the house used to look like. We find it really interesting to see how it's changed over the years.




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