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1976: Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon to split
Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon are to separate after 16 years of marriage, it has been announced by Buckingham Palace.

After weeks of speculation a 39-word statement was issued by the Palace today.

It said: "HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and the Earl of Snowdon have mutually agreed to live apart.

"The Princess will carry out her public duties and functions unaccompanied by Lord Snowdon. There are no plans for divorce proceedings."

'Desperately sad'

Earl Snowdon, who is currently in Australia to open a photographic exhibition of his work, said he was "desperately sad".

It is understood he knew nothing of the announcement prior to its release.

He appealed for understanding for his two children, 14-year-old Viscount David Linley and 11-year-old Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones.

Princess Margaret's spokesperson, John Griffin, said: "A separation has been a possibility for some time and once the final decision had been reached it was obviously best to implement it straight away.

"A separation was the best course to take in all the circumstances bearing in mind in particular the interests of the two children."

Princess Margaret, who becomes the first member of the Royal family to divorce since Henry VIII, married Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones on 5 May 1960.

Just five years earlier she had called off plans to marry divorcee Group Captain Peter Townsend with whom she had been linked for several years.

Her acquaintance with 29-year-old Roddy Llewellyn, son of Olympic gold medallist horseman, Lt-Col Harry Llewellyn, has fuelled rumours about her marriage.

Last month the couple spent time on the Caribbean island of Mustique, where the Princess has taken several extended holidays without her husband since their marriage.

The Queen is said to be very sad but has had no influence in the decision.

It is understood the 45-year-old Princess, who is fifth in line to throne, will continue to take 35,000 a year from the Civil List and will continue with her public duties.

Lord Snowdon, 46, will be required to find alternative accommodation. He has never received funds from the Civil List.

In a statement the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Donald Coggan, who is in the West Indies said: "One hopes that every understanding will be shown to the Royal Family at this time of distress."

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Princess Margaret with her husband and children in happier times, 1973
Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret with their children in 1973

In Context
The Princess was granted a decree nisi on 24 May 1978 at the Law Courts in London.

Six weeks later the decree became absolute, marking the official end to the marriage.

Lord Snowdon married film production assistant Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, 14 years his junior, in December 1978.

That marriage ended in divorce in 2000.

Princess Margaret never remarried although her relationship with Roddy Llewellyn continued for several years. He eventually went on to marry a younger woman.

Throughout her life, Margaret was dogged by ill health. She continued to smoke although she had to have part of her lung removed. In later years she had a number of strokes and died in February 2002.

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