The Crown distorts truth on Margaret's marriage says expert
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Queen Elizabeth II followed “ministerial advice” when she requested that her sister Princess Margaret wait a year before marrying Captain Peter Townsend, before requesting that the couple hold off a while longer. According to a royal author, this discussion was inaccurately portrayed by The Crown, which showed the Queen insisting immediately that they wait two years.
Christopher Warwick, author of Princess Margaret – A Life of Contrasts told The Royal Beat: “Thanks largely to The Crown, you get the idea that the Queen asked her to wait for two years [before marrying]. That’s not true.
“When Margaret went to the Queen, the Queen said: ‘In the circumstances, I have to ask you to wait for a year.’
“Now, I think the idea was that it might have all settled down and gone away within that year. It didn’t.
“Margaret went back and said: ‘We’ve waited the year; can we now get married?’ And the Queen said: ‘I have to ask you to wait another year.’
“I think that was on ministerial advice.”
Princess Margaret first met the former RAF pilot when she was 14 years old, when her father King George VI interviewed him for the position of equerry.
Their relationship, however, did not begin until eight years later, when the Princess was 22 and heartbroken over the death of her father.
It is believed that as a close companion to King George VI, she sought comfort in his former equerry and their friendship gradually turned romantic.
With Townsend being 16 years her senior and a divorcee, their relationship immediately raised eyebrows amongst Palace courtiers.
Their romance was exposed to the public during the Queen’s coronation in 1953, when Princess Margaret was captured intimately leaning into the Captain and removing a piece of fluff from his jacket.
As Margaret was under the age of 25, the Queen had to give her consent to the marriage, which proved difficult due to her position as Head and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
At the time, the Church of England did not recognise the remarriage of divorced persons if their former spouse was still alive.
Government ministers, including Winston Churchill, also strongly opposed the match. Led by Prime Minister Anthony Eden, they decided that if the Princess were to insist on marrying Townsend, she would be stripped of her royal privileges and her income.
After their relationship appeared in the press, the British Government posted Townsend to a position in Brussels at the British Embassy.
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On October 31, 1955, Princess Margaret issued the statement: “I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage.
“But, mindful of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others.”
She went on to marry society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960, after accepting his proposal the day after learning of Captain Townsend’s engagement to a young Belgian woman.
The couple had two children, David, Earl Snowdon, and Lady Sarah Chatto.
However, their marriage was plagued by infidelities and they later divorced in 1978. Princess Margaret remained a senior working member of the Royal Family until her death in 2002.
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