Why Princess Margaret was banned from marrying her first love

Princess Margaret: Experts discuss 'heartbreaking' divorce

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Princess Margaret’s first love was Group Captain Peter Townsend. The pair met when Captain Townsend was working for Margaret’s father, King George VI, as an equerry – a type of royal assistant.

Margaret was just 17 at the time and Captain Townsend was a married man of 33.

At the age of 22, Margaret made it clear that she wanted to marry Captain Townsend – but there were strong objections to the match.

Winston Churchill’s government reportedly disapproved of the proposal, which put the Queen in a difficult position.

All senior royals are supposed to ask the monarch for their permission to marry until they reach the age of 25.

As head of the Church, the Queen could not give her consent to the marriage as the Church did not allow divorced people to remarry at the time.

The Queen suggested that if the couple waited until Margaret turned 25 then she could have a civil marriage with Captain Townsend.

But it seems Margaret was not prepared to wait that long or to renounce her royal privileges to be with her first love.

Noel Botham in his book, Margaret: The Last Real Princess, quotes Captain Townsend’s reasons as to why the couple never married.

He is reported to have said: “She could have married me only if she’d been prepared to give up everything – her position, her prestige, her privy purse.

“I simply hadn’t the weight, I knew it, to counterbalance all she would have lost.

But it seems Captain Townsend didn’t resent Margaret for her decision not to marry him.

He added: “Thinking of it calmly, all these years after, you couldn’t have expected her to become an ordinary housewife overnight, could you?

“And to be fair, I wouldn’t have wanted that for her. Let’s say I just knew that, if she gave up everything, it wouldn’t work out.”

On October 31, 1955, Margaret made a statement outlining her reasons for the separation.

She said: “I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.

“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 teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any others.”

Margaret eventually went on to marry Antony Armstrong-Jones when she was 30.

The pair had two children together, Lady Sarah Chatto and Viscount David Linley.

The couple had a turbulent relationship, with both Margaret and Antony both having affairs during their marriage.

By the early 1970s, the couple had drifted apart and the couple eventually divorced in July 1978.

Antony quickly remarried Lucy Lindsay-Hogg in December that year, but Margaret never married again.

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