Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister, would have been 93 today

We remember Princess Margaret on her birthday – the most tempestuous yet alluring figure of her time and still one of the most intriguing royals today

  • Princess Margaret would have been 93 today
  • While her sister the Queen was dutiful, party-going Margaret courted scandal 
  • For all the latest Royal news, pictures and videos click here

There was a time when she was almost as famous as her sister.

Although known for her late nights and artistic temperament she strayed some distance from the dutiful standards set by Princess, then Queen, Elizabeth.

The sisters remained close nonetheless, spoke to each other ever day, and Margaret’s comparatively early death at 72 hit Elizabeth hard.

Here on what would have been Princess Margaret’s 93 birthday, we look at a woman whose good looks, intelligence and seemingly endless gift for controversy made her one of the most alluring figures of her time – and an intriguing one, still, today.  

Princess Margaret Rose was second in line to the throne after her sister, Princess Elizabeth 

Princess Margaret pictured in Mustique, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in 1973

Princess Margaret on the way to her 1960 wedding in Westminster Abbey. She is accompanied by Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, who walked her  down the aisle

Princess Margaret Rose was born at her mother’s ancestral home of Glamis Castle in Scotland on August 21, 1930.

The younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was the first member of the senior royal family in around 300 years to be born in Scotland.

Margaret was just five years old when she attended the Jubilee of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary in 1935. 

But less than two years later came her second State occasion, her parents’ Coronation in Westminster Abbey following her uncle King Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson.

The young royal’s life was forever changed and overnight she became the spare, second in line to her sister, Elizabeth, the late Queen.

 Margaret and Elizabeth were doted upon by their parents. Their father famously said: ‘Lilibet is my pride; Margaret is my joy.’

While the family still went by their York titles, they lived at 145 Piccadilly in London, occasionally spending time in Windsor’s Royal Lodge. The Princesses were educated at home.

Margaret, or Margot as she was referred to by her sister, was educated by a governess, Marion Crawford. Through her education, she learned to ride, enjoyed swimming and had an  interest in music from an early age, later becoming an accomplished pianist.

The young Princess Margret, daughter of King George VI and the Queen Mother aged five months old

Margaret and Elizabeth were much-loved by one another and doted upon by their parents. Pictured: Elizabeth on her 14th birthday with her sister Margaret who was nine years old

The Duchess of York, later Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother, with her younger daughter, Margaret in 1932

Margaret’s life was forever changed on the day of her parents coronation, and overnight she became the spare, second in line to her sister, Elizabeth

Princess Margaret pictured with a corgi while reading The Children Of The New Forest at Windsor Castle, Berkshire, in June 1940

Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, pictured alongside fellow performers, dressed as Royal Guards, during a royal pantomime production of ‘Old Mother Red Riding Boots’ at Windsor Castle in 1944. Princess Margaret shared a love of the arts with Queen Elizabeth, and when the girls were teenagers, they performed in a series of pantomimes between 1941 to 1944 to raise money for the Royal Household Wool Fund, which was used to make comforters for soldiers during the Second World War

Her interest for the arts continued into adulthood when she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Music from London University and became the first president of the Royal Ballet in 1957.

She had relationships with the Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Opera. 

In one of the saddest and most controversial episodes in her life, Margaret fell in love with Group Capt Peter Townsend, a war hero who had served as an equerry to her father.

She was still in her early twenties.

It was reported that Peter, recalling his first impressionss, had said: ‘She was a girl of unusual, intense beauty, confined as it was in her short, slender figure and centred about large purple-blue eyes, generous, sensitive lips, and a complexion as smooth as a peach

‘She could make you bend double with laughing and also touch you deeply in your heart’.

While Peter had been married to Miss Cecil Rosemary Pawle since 1941, with whom he had two sons, he eventually filed for a divorce in November 1952 . 

Margaret, known for her glamour and beauty, fell in love with Group Capt. Peter Townsend

Describing Margaret, Townsend reportedly said: ‘She could make you bend double with laughing and also touch you deeply in your heart’. Pictured: Attending the premiere of the film ‘Captain Horatio Hornblower’ at the Warner Theatre Leicester Square in 1951

The Princess released a statement in October 1955 announcing her decision not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend 

Less than a year later in April 1953, Peter proposed to Margaret, but his status as a divorced man left the couple in a precarious situation and they felt unable to wed.

In October 1955, a statement drafted in Princess Margaret’s name read: ‘I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.’

Faced with the choice between her heart and her country, Margret gained worldwide sympathy when she honoured her duty to the Monarchy.  

Later, Margaret began  seeing photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones after the pair met at a dinner party in 1958.

The announcement of their engagement in February 1960 caught many by surprise as she was to be the first king’s daughter to marry a commoner in 400 years.

Margaret and Anthony were married on May 6 of the very same year and, with her father now dead,  the bride was given away by her brother-in-law, Prince Philip.

Margaret pictured after the announcement of her engagement to Anthony Armstrong Jones

Princess Margaret married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who was later created Earl of Snowdon, in May 1960. Pictured: The newlyweds posing for a picture with their bridesmaids at Buckingham Palace

As a wedding present, Margaret was given a 10-acre parcel of land on the island of Mustique by Colin Tennant, Lord Glenconne. It would become a sanctuary for the Princess in her later life.

The couple embarked on a six-week honeymoon to islands including Trinidad and Antigua aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.

One year after becoming a member of the royal family, Armstrong-Jones was given the title of Earl of Snowdon, while Margaret became the Countess of Snowdon.

That year the pair also became parents to their first child, David Armstrong-Jones, who was born on November 1, 1961. 

Three years later, a girl, Lady Sarah, was born to the couple via cesarean at the couple’s home in Kensington Palace.

Sadly, by the 1970s, the pair had grown apart and their marriage was plagued by public love affairs. But none was more famous than Princess Margaret’s affair with Roddy Llewellyn, which reportedly began in 1973.

Margaret spent much of her time on the Caribbean island of Mustique, in the Grenadines, with the landscape gardener who was 17 years her junior.

The royal family gathering on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London for the Trooping the Colour ceremony in June 1989

Princess Margaret meeting with Roddy Llewellyn at the Chelsea Flower Show in May 1980

Margaret with her son David Linley on the island of Mustique in the Grenadines in 1989

Two years after the affair was exposed to the public by the media in 1976, she lost public sympathy and her marriage ended – marking the first divorce in the British royal family in 400 years.

The Earl of Snowdon remarried later that year, but Princess Margaret never did.

The Princess and Mr Llewellyn remained together for eight years. 

‘He said they found each other just at the right time,’ Helena Bonham Carter, who played Margaret for the third season of Netflix’s series The Crown, told the Sunday Times of a conversation she had with Llewellyn. 

‘They were both very lost, both felt somewhat outsiders, just not quite accepted by the family — or not quite good enough. Her confidence was really undermined by the breakdown of her marriage. He also gave her fun at a time when she hadn’t been having much.’

During her later years, Margaret suffered from poor health, including the removal of a part of her left lung in 1985, a stroke in 1988 whilst at her holiday home, and the scalding of her feet in a bathroom accident which left her with mobility issues. 

A private funeral service was held at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for family and friends on 15 February 2002 following Princess Margaret’s death 

Even though her poor health restricted the number of public engagements which Margaret was able to take on in her final years,  the Princess continued to the best of her abilities to support the work of her organisations and fellow royals.

The Princess’s final public appearance was at the 100th birthday celebrations of HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester in December 2001.

She passed away on February 9, 2002, having suffered from a stroke which led to cardiac problems during the night. By her bedside were her two children, Lord David Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto.

A private funeral service was held at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for family and friends on 15 February 2002, with a state memorial service taking place at Westminster Abbey in April 2002.

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