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The wild life of Princess Margaret

Katie Vernon
Getty Images
Getty Images

Almost 20 years after her death, she remains one of the most beautiful and celebrated princesses of modern times. Margaret Rose was everything the contemporary British princesses were not. Fondly referred to as “Margot” by the royal family, she virtually partied with socialites and celebrities alike.

Born at Glamis Castle in Scotland, Princess Margaret Rose was the second daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (who later became the Queen Mother).

According to the official website of the British monarchy, Margaret was the first royal family member in 300 years to be born in Scotland. She was born on August 21, 1930, and was the fourth in line to the British throne.

Princess Margaret in 1965. Photo by Nijs, Jac. de Anefo – Dutch National Archives CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Princess Margaret in 1965. Photo by Nijs, Jac. de Anefo – Dutch National Archives CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

She was baptized at the private wing of the Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, on October 31, 1930.

Princess Margaret spent her early childhood mostly at the Royal Lodge in Windsor and at their townhouse in London. Alongside her sister Princess Elizabeth, Margaret received her education from Marion Crawford, their Scottish governess.

Their mother never saw the need for bringing her daughters up beyond being nicely behaved young ladies and personally supervised their education.

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

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

George V, Margaret’s grandfather, died when she was aged five. Her uncle ascended the throne as King Edward VII but later abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson, a two-time divorced American who was not accepted as queen by either the government or the Church of England. Margaret progressed in the line of succession and becoming second in line to the throne after her older sister Princess Elizabeth.

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

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

Regarded as the first celebrity royal, Princess Margaret was always in the spotlight and was often talked about by ordinary people and nobility alike.

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She was a noted supporter of the arts, was president of the Royal Ballet and surrounded herself with the leading artists of the day. The princess mirrored and inspired vital changes in British attitudes regarding the Crown, marriage, celebrities, and sex.

A ticket for the wedding procession of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon

A ticket for the wedding procession of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon

When she married Antony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960, it was the first televised British royal wedding, watched by 300 million viewers from all over the world.

Among the 2,000 guests invited for her wedding, Queen Ingrid of Denmark and the King and Queen of Sweden were the only foreign royalty who attended the wedding.

Princesses on the footplate during the 1947 Royal Visit to South Africa. Everybody loves a steam whistle.

Princesses on the footplate during the 1947 Royal Visit to South Africa. Everybody loves a steam whistle.

Her marriage expanded her social circle beyond the court and nobility to include media celebrities and bohemians. According to the BBC, she broke the British class barriers and socialized with dignitaries all over the world. She was well known for her styles and fashion sense.

A 2002 BBC documentary, “A Break in Royal Tradition,” reported that Margaret became the first senior member of the royal family to get a divorce since Princess Victoria of Edinburgh in 1901 when she officially parted company with her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones on July 11, 1978. The couple had two children, David, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah (Chatto).

Princess Margaret meets Cliff Richard at the 59 Club, 1962

Princess Margaret meets Cliff Richard at the 59 Club, 1962

In his book Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, Craig Brown wrote that Princess Margaret smoked from the age of 15, which damaged her body so badly that she underwent operations to remove a cancerous skin lesion from her body in 1980, and one of her lungs in 1985.

The last decade of Margaret’s life was mired with health problems. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography reported that the princess had pneumonia in 1993, and suffered a stroke a year later in 1994.

National leaders and royalty in London, 1977. Left to right: Pierre Trudeau, (Prince Charles far background), Princess Margaret, Takeo Fukuda, James Callaghan, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Jimmy Carter, Giulio Andreotti, Helmut Schmidt. Part of the 1977 G7 meeting.

National leaders and royalty in London, 1977. Left to right: Pierre Trudeau, (Prince Charles far background), Princess Margaret, Takeo Fukuda, James Callaghan, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Jimmy Carter, Giulio Andreotti, Helmut Schmidt. Part of the 1977 G7 meeting.

Princess Margaret made her final public appearance at the 101st birthday of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

On February 9, 2002, Margaret suffered the most fatal and final of her strokes. She passed away at the age of 71 in King Edward VII’s Hospital in London, seven weeks before the Queen Mother.

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002). Photo by David S. Paton CC BY-SA 3.0

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930-2002). Photo by David S. Paton CC BY-SA 3.0

The funeral took place at Windsor, with a memorial service held in the Abbey on April 19th. The Daily Telegraph reported that she was cremated at the Slough Crematorium with her ashes placed at her parents’ tomb in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Read another story from us: Royal Mischief: How William and Harry Pranked their Grandmother the Queen

According to biographer Christopher Warwick, Margaret’s fortune was estimated to be around £20 million, most of which was inherited from her father. The London Gazette also reported that her grandmother Queen Mary left her antiques and art pieces, while she got £20,000 from Dame Margaret Greville in 1943.