Princess Margaret & Tony Armstrong-Jones' Real Relationship Didn't End Well & 'The Crown' Will Dive Right Into That
One of the most fascinating parts of The Crown Season 1 was Princess Margaret's relationship with Group Captain Peter Townsend. Although Queen Elizabeth II, the Church of England, and Parliament put the kibosh on their hopes to marry, Princess Margaret went on to have another intriguing love story. The Crown Season 2 focuses on Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones' real relationship. Matthew Goode joined the cast for Season 2 as the princess' photographer lover. And a quick look at history shows that Armstrong-Jones, eventually known as Lord Snowdon, remained a fixture in the royal family for a couple of decades.
Biographer Anne de Courcy spoke to Antony "Tony" Armstrong-Jones for her 2008 book, Snowdon: The Biography. In an excerpt published in Vanity Fair, de Courcy recounted that Princess Margaret met Armstrong-Jones in 1958, three years after the queen's sister ended her engagement with Townsend. After she sat for the photographer, she brought him into her inner circle and the two began secretly dating one another. As shown in Season 1 of The Crown, Margaret did have an active social nightlife and Armstrong-Jones was the same way when it came to partying. "When they entered each other's force field of attraction, their mutual gravitational pull was irresistible, and soon they were sexually besotted. That their passionate love affair was completely secret added to its intensity," de Courcy wrote in her biography of Armstrong-Jones. And their passion for each other is on full display in the "Margaret" Season 2 trailer of The Crown.
In the trailer, Elizabeth tells her sister that Tony is "a complicated man with a complicated past." This warning is ominous and for good reason. Although Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret eventually marry, de Courcy wrote that Armstrong-Jones was reportedly seeing other women while he was dating Princess Margaret. And The Telegraph wrote that Snowdon: The Biography claims that Armstrong-Jones allegedly fathered an illegitimate child just months before his wedding to Princess Margaret.
Those reports aside, de Courcy noted that the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Phillip all got along with Armstrong-Jones. Once his engagement to Princess Margaret was made public, the press was fascinated by them and the pair married on May 6, 1960, at Westminster Abbey. Armstrong-Jones was the first commoner in 400 years to marry a king's daughter and the wedding ceremony was televised. You can still watch the 57-year-old footage of the wedding, thanks to British Pathé.
Armstrong-Jones was named the Earl of Snowdon in October 1961 and just a month later, Princess Margaret gave birth to their first child, David Albert Charles. They had their second child, Sarah Frances Elizabeth, in May 1964. But even after marriage and children, the glamorous couple still threw lavish parties with famous people like Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers in attendance. However, Town & Country wrote that their relationship started to deteriorate after the birth of Lady Sarah.
The UK's Evening Standard shared excerpts of the book Princess Margaret: A Life Unravelled by Tim Heald, which describes the alleged affairs that both Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon had in the late '60s and beyond. As Town & Country wrote, after years of alleged infidelity, the pair separated in 1976 and Kensington Palace released a statement in 1978 announcing their divorce. According to People, "it was the first divorce for a senior member of the royal family since 1901 (Princess Victoria of Edinburgh)." Princess Margaret never remarried and died in 2002, but Town & Country wrote that she remained friends with her ex-husband until her death. Armstrong-Jones just recently died in January 2017.
"The trouble was that both were stars, accustomed to being the focus of attention, and a certain competitiveness was almost inevitable," de Courcy wrote. And even though The Crown Season 2 will most likely stick to the beginning of their love affair, this tension between these two charismatic people will be palpable even then. So while Princess Margaret and Armstrong-Jones did seemingly truly love one another, their love was not destined to last. And it's cruelly ironic that Princess Margaret was forbidden from marrying divorcee Townsend when she ended up being allowed to get divorced herself.