On 20 February 1958, Princess Margaret first met her future husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones. They had been both invited to a dinner party by Lady Elizabeth Cavendish. By then, Antony was established as one of the most versatile photographers of his generation. In 1956, he had taken the 21st birthday photographs of The Duke of Kent and the following year; he photographed the Duke’s sister, Princess Alexandra. It apparently wasn’t love at first sight. Princess Margaret commented, “It took my friends all their time to persuade me he wasn’t queer.”1 He ended up taking photographs of her, and the two got to know each other better. By December, they were privately engaged. Formal permission was requested the following month.
Princess Margaret’s sister, The Queen, was by then eight months pregnant with her third child and the announcement was postponed until the child was born. If The Queen had any doubts, she kept them to herself. A week after the birth of Prince Andrew, Princess Margaret’s engagement was announced. They married on 6 May 1960 at Westminster Abbey, and it was the first royal wedding to be televised. Her wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell. It was worn over stiffened tule underskirts from white silk organza. It had a high v-neck, a fitted bodice and wrist-length sleeves. She also wore the sparkling Poltimore tiara and a full-length veil. Antony was created Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley, of Nymans in the County of Sussex, on 6 October 1961.
Just one month later, Princess Margaret gave birth to her first child, David, who became known as Viscount Linley. Antony continued to work as a photographer during this time, and he sometimes joined her on engagements. They continued to mingle in society and became its golden couple. On 1 May 1964, Margaret gave birth to a daughter named Sarah. However, their marriage was soon in a downward spiral, and both were having affairs. They remained married for 16 years and separated in 1976, followed by a divorce in 1978. Lonely and unhappy, Margaret drank too much and smoked even more. Antony remarried to Lucy Mary Lindsay-Hog in 1978, and they had one daughter together. Meanwhile, Margaret was in a relationship with Roddy Llewellyn, who was 17 years her junior but they separated when he wanted to marry someone else.
In June 1985, Margaret had part of her left lung removed. It was an eery reminder of her father’s final illness. In 1993, she was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia, and she was finally able to give up smoking. That October, her son married Serena Stanhope and the next year her daughter married Daniel Chatto. Margaret’s first grandchild Samuel Chatto was born in 1996. In early 1998, Margaret suffered a stroke and was in the hospital for two weeks. She had escaped physical disability and was making good progress. She returned to public life once more. Just one year, she accidentally scalded her feet in the shower and was unable to walk. Her feet took a long time to heal. In 2000, Margaret’s mother hit the magical age of 100 and Margaret was there to celebrate.
Four months later, Margaret turned 70 years old, but there were renewed concerns for her health. On 4 January 2001, she suffered a second stroke. The year would be full of physical difficulties; the stroke had left more marks than Margaret cared to admit. She spent much time in her rooms and was rarely seen in public. On 9 February 2002 at 6.30 in the morning, with her son and daughter by her side, Margaret passed away in her sleep. Yet, the announcement of her death shocked the public. 50 years to the day of her father’s funeral, Margaret’s funeral took place in St George’s Chapel. The Reverend Canon Barry Thompson spoke at her funeral that she should be remembered for her, “loyalty and sense of duty; her faithfulness towards her family and her friends; her energy and enthusiasm; her quick wit and sound advice, and for her depth of knowledge and her love of life.”2