Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon

Princess Margaret
Countess of Snowdon (more)
Princess Margaret 1965b (cropped).jpg
Princess Margaret in 1965
Born(1930-08-21)21 August 1930
Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland
Died9 February 2002(2002-02-09) (aged 71)
King Edward VII's Hospital, London, England
Burial15 February 2002
Royal Vault, St George's Chapel[1]
9 April 2002[2]
King George VI Memorial Chapel, St George's Chapel
SpouseAntony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon (m. 1960; div. 1978)
Issue
Full name
Margaret Rose[3]
HouseWindsor
FatherGeorge VI
MotherElizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, CI, GCVO, GCStJ (Margaret Rose; 21 August 1930 – 9 February 2002) was the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II.

Margaret spent much of her childhood in the company of her parents and sister. Her life changed dramatically in 1936, when her paternal uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated to marry a divorcée, Wallis Simpson. Margaret's father became king, and her sister became heir presumptive, with Margaret second in line to the throne. During the Second World War, the two sisters stayed at Windsor Castle, despite suggestions to evacuate them to Canada. During the war years, Margaret was considered too young to perform any official duties and instead continued her education.

After the war, Margaret fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend. In 1952, Margaret's father died, her sister became queen, and Townsend divorced his first wife. Early the following year, he proposed to Margaret. Many in the government believed he would be an unsuitable husband for the Queen's 22-year-old sister, and the Church of England refused to countenance marriage to a divorced man.[4] Margaret eventually abandoned her plans with him and in 1960, she accepted the proposal of the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was created Earl of Snowdon by the Queen. The couple had two children: David and Sarah.

Margaret was often viewed as a controversial member of the British royal family. Her divorce in 1978 earned her negative publicity, and she was romantically associated with several men. Her health gradually deteriorated in the final two decades of her life. A heavy smoker for most of her adult life, Margaret had a lung operation in 1985, a bout of pneumonia in 1993, and at least three strokes between 1998 and 2001. She died at King Edward VII's Hospital on 9 February 2002.

Early life

Margaret (front) with her sister Elizabeth (right) and grandmother Mary (left), May 1939

Margaret was born on 21 August 1930 at Glamis Castle in Scotland,[5] her mother's ancestral home,[6] and was affectionately known as Margot within the royal family.[7] She was delivered by Sir Henry Simson, the royal obstetrician.[8] The Home Secretary, J. R. Clynes, was present to verify the birth. The registration of her birth was delayed for several days to avoid her being numbered 13 in the parish register.[9]

At the time of her birth, she was fourth in the line of succession to the British throne. Her father was the Duke of York (later King George VI), the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. Her mother was the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother), the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl and the Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. The Duchess of York originally wanted to name her second daughter Ann Margaret, as she explained to Queen Mary in a letter: "I am very anxious to call her Ann Margaret, as I think Ann of York sounds pretty, & Elizabeth and Ann go so well together."[10] King George V disliked the name Ann but approved of the alternative "Margaret Rose".[11]

Margaret was baptised in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 30 October 1930 by Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury.[14]

Margaret's early life was spent primarily at the Yorks' residences at 145 Piccadilly (their town house in London) and Royal Lodge in Windsor.[15] The Yorks were perceived by the public as an ideal family: father, mother and children,[16] but unfounded rumours that Margaret was deaf and mute were not completely dispelled until Margaret's first main public appearance at her uncle Prince George's wedding in 1934.[17]

She was educated alongside her sister, Princess Elizabeth, by their Scottish governess Marion Crawford. Margaret's education was mainly supervised by her mother, who in the words of Randolph Churchill "never aimed at bringing her daughters up to be more than nicely behaved young ladies".[18] When Queen Mary insisted upon the importance of education, the Duchess of York commented, "I don't know what she meant. After all I and my sisters only had governesses and we all married well—one of us very well".[19] Margaret was resentful about her limited education, especially in later years, and aimed criticism at her mother.[19] However, Margaret's mother told a friend that she "regretted" that her daughters did not go to school like other children,[20] and the employment of a governess rather than sending the girls to school may have been done only at the insistence of King George V.[21]

Elizabeth (left) and Margaret performing in a play, 1943

Margaret's grandfather, George V, died when she was five, and her uncle acceded as King Edward VIII. Less than a year later, on 11 December 1936, Edward abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, whom neither the Church of England nor the Dominion governments would accept as queen. The Church would not recognise the marriage of a divorced woman with a living ex-husband as valid. Edward's abdication left a reluctant Duke of York in his place as King George VI, and Margaret unexpectedly became second in line to the throne, with the title The Princess Margaret to indicate her status as a child of the sovereign.[22] The family moved into Buckingham Palace; Margaret's room overlooked The Mall.[23]

Margaret was a Brownie in the 1st Buckingham Palace Brownie Pack, formed in 1937. She was also a Girl Guide and later a Sea Ranger. She served as President of Girlguiding UK from 1965 until her death in 2002.[24][25]

At the outbreak of World War II, Margaret and her sister were at Birkhall, on the Balmoral Castle estate, where they stayed until Christmas 1939, enduring nights so cold that drinking water in carafes by their bedside froze.[26] They spent Christmas at Sandringham House before moving to Windsor Castle, just outside London, for much of the remainder of the war.[27] Viscount Hailsham wrote to Prime Minister Winston Churchill to advise the evacuation of the princesses to the greater safety of Canada,[28] to which their mother famously replied, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave."[29]

Unlike other members of the royal family, Margaret was not expected to undertake any public or official duties during the war. She developed her skills at singing and playing the piano.[30] Her contemporaries thought she was spoiled by her parents, especially her father,[31] who allowed her to take liberties not usually permissible, such as being allowed to stay up to dinner at the age of 13.[19]

Crawford despaired at the attention Margaret was getting, writing to friends: "Could you this year only ask Princess Elizabeth to your party? ... Princess Margaret does draw all the attention and Princess Elizabeth lets her do that." Elizabeth, however, did not mind this, and commented, "Oh, it's so much easier when Margaret's there—everybody laughs at what Margaret says".[19] King George described Elizabeth as his pride and Margaret as his joy.[32]

Other Languages
Nederlands: Margaret Windsor