Princess Margaret: Experts discuss 'heartbreaking' divorce
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Margaret was the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and the only sibling of Elizabeth II. The story of her relationship with Lord Snowdon, then Antony Armstrong-Jones, has become well known through the hit Netflix series The Crown. He became the first “commoner” to marry the King’s daughter in over 400 years – and they wed in May 1960.
However, it wasn’t always the happiest of marriages, and cracks soon began to show.
First reports of extra-marital affairs emerged in 1966, and other claims later reached the newspapers.
Viewers of The Crown, which is a fictionalised series based on true events, see very clearly how the couple were ultimately driven to divorce in 1978, although public acknowledgement of the breakdown of the marriage came two years earlier.
The News of the World had published photographs the previous month of Margaret with Roddy Llewellyn, a man 17 years her junior, at her holiday home on the Caribbean island of Mustique.
Elton John has been a close friend of the Firm for decades, but his first meeting with Margaret and Lord Snowdon didn’t go quite to plan.
In his 2019 autobiography, ‘Me: Elton John’, the Rocket Man singer revealed he first met the couple after a gig at the Royal Festival Hall in the Seventies.
He noted Margaret “loved music and the company of musicians”, and invited Sir Elton and his band back to Kensington Palace for supper afterwards.
He duly accepted, but admitted it “turned out to be incredibly awkward”.
“Not because of Princess Margaret,” he wrote, “she was really sweet and friendly to everybody – but because of her husband, Lord Snowdon.”
Although generally known for her charm in social situations, Margaret left her mark on some celebrities, notably Twiggy.
Sir Elton wrote that the issues in their marriage were well-publicised.
He explained: “Everyone knew the marriage was in trouble — there were always rumours in the press about one or the other having an affair — but even so, nothing could have prepared us for his arrival.
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“He stormed in midway through the meal and literally snarled: ‘Where’s my f***ing dinner?’ at her. They had a huge row and she fled the room in tears.”
Elton and his band sat in silence, not knowing how to respond. The royal couple were notorious for their rows, regularly in public.
One particularly sad scene in the third season of The Crown shows Margaret climbing into bed on a train to find a note from her husband.
It said: “You look like a cheap pantomime dame.”
The Crown is, of course, fictional but based on true events. Margaret and Antony’s relationship turned so toxic that hateful notes would indeed be left.
Lady Glenconner, Margaret’s former lady-in-waiting, wrote in her memoir: “She told me, for instance, that she no longer opened her chest of drawers — she got her maid to do it instead — because Tony had developed a habit of leaving nasty little notes inside.
“One of them said: ‘You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you.’”
Sir Elton said of the row: “How bizarre can life in the Elton John Band get?
“We end up watching Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon screaming at each other.”
Their divorce, finalised in July 1978, was the first of a senior member of the Firm since Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh in 1901.
It was believed to pave the way for acceptance of divorce within the Royal Family, as Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Charles all divorced in the Nineties.
Sir Elton had a very close relationship with Princess Diana, and re-wrote ‘Candle In The Wind’ in tribute to her – which he sang at her funeral.
He remains close with Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and Prince William, and defended the Sussexes amid criticism for their use of private jets, insisting it allowed them to “maintain a high level of much needed protection”.
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