How did Princess Margaret die

Princess Margaret (†): The real reason for the split from Peter Townsend

The love story of Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend is so tragic that it could spring from a Hollywood script. It was widely believed that Margaret's sister, Queen Elizabeth, was to blame. But in truth everything was very different

Princess Margaret met her dream man at the tender age of 14: The former "Royal Air Force" pilot Peter Townsend, then almost 16 years older than her, became her father's stable master in 1944, King George VI. involved. About seven years after they met, Townsend is said to have reported it himself, according to the British media, a romantic relationship develops between him and the princess. The problem: Townsend is married at this point and has two sons. Even when he divorced in 1952 and asks Margaret for her hand, a happy ending for the couple is a long way off.

Princess Margaret: The love for Peter Townsend is not a lucky star

The unequal couple's affair, which has been rumored about for some time, became public in 1953 - and that through a tiny detail: At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth on June 2, 1953, a newspaper reporter noticed that the princess was wiping a piece of lint off Townsend's jacket . What nobody would be surprised about today was considered an intimate gesture. The Queen is facing the most difficult decision of her life to date: According to the "Royal Marriages Act" of 1772, she has to approve the marriage because Margaret is 25 years old. Under pressure from then Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Church of England, who are against the remarriage of a divorcee on principle, the Queen forbids her sister to marry. Marrying Townsend anyway would have far-reaching consequences for Margaret: she would lose all royal privileges and her apanage. Townsend is unceremoniously taken out of the line of fire and transferred to Brussels. It is said that attempts were made to infiltrate the relationship in this way. With success - even though Margaret would have had a means of revolting against her sister with the arrival of her 25th birthday.

The end of a great love

Margaret celebrates her 25th birthday on August 21, 1955 - and with it a decisive change: She can ask Parliament to override the Queen's rejection of the marriage to Townsend. But this would have been a scandal for the British royal family, especially after the abdication of Edward VIII out of love for the American Wallis Simpson. So a compromise is being worked out behind the scenes because, luckily for Margaret, there is now a prime minister in power in Anthony Eden, who is himself divorced and is married for the second time.

The wedding deal: Eden undertakes to change the centuries-old Royal Marriages Act so that Margaret and her future children will be eliminated from the line of succession at a wedding to Townsend. This would render the Queen's permission obsolete. There was no clause to Margaret's benevolence that excluded her from the royal family or forced her and Townsend to go abroad. The BBC quotes 2004 from a letter allegedly sent to the Prime Minister in response: Although the Queen would not give formal permission for the marriage due to the divorce from Townsend, "Her Majesty would not want to stand in the way of her sister's happiness" . But then something happens that nobody expected.

Did Margaret get cold feet?

On October 31, 1955, just three days before the final draft of the wedding deal is due to be drafted, Margaret has a surprising announcement to make to the public:"I want to let you know that I have chosen not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. Given the Church's teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble and my duty to the Commonwealth, I have chosen to put that meaning above others to deliver."In an official letter, Prime Minister Eden is said to have been informed of the decision as follows:"It is Princess Margaret's wish that she continue to live in the UK and carry out her public duties as a member of the royal family."Why Margaret waived Townsend despite government concessions is not officially known.

Peter Townsend himself wrote in 1978 in his autobiography "Time and Chance":"She could only have married me if she had been willing to give up everything - her position, her reputation, her financial resources. I just didn't have the weight (...) to make up for everything she could have lost."

In fact: Margaret is said to have unofficially sent Prime Minister Eden a letter on August 15, 1995, according to "The Telegraph", in which she revealed doubts about a wedding. Her friend Lady Jane Rayne later said something similar in the BBC documentary "Princess Margaret: The Rebel Royal": "She looked like she was absolutely heartbroken, but I don't think it was her. She weighed everything, to realize what their life would have been like, they [and Peter] would have married. "

Life after Peter Townsend

Margaret met the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, later Lord Snowden, at a dinner party in 1958. In October 1959 they got engaged in private; This became known in February 1960. Explosive and tragic detail: On the day of the engagement Margaret had received a letter from Peter Townsend in which he confessed to her that he wanted to remarry. The history books write that both had actually made a pact: neither of them would ever marry again. A kind of eternal memory of the special love they shared. Townsend had now broken this pact, which Margaret is said to have been deeply disappointed with.

The princess later explained to then Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken: "I received a letter from Peter that morning, and that evening I decided to marry Tony. I didn't really want to get married. Why did I still have it? Because he asked me! Really, he was so nice then. In a way, he introduced me to a new world. "

Margaret and Armstrong-Jones married on May 6, 1960 at Westminster Abbey. The couple have two children, David (born November 3, 1961) and Sarah (May 1, 1964). But happiness - it shouldn't be left to them. "Margaret's idea of ​​marriage was very different from Tony's," says Anne de Courcy, who wrote a book about Lord Snowdon. "He had parents who had separated while Margaret's parents and her sister were married very happily. She expected her husband to be with her more, but one of Tony's strongest motivations was work." Both start affairs. "It was not an act of revenge," says Anne de Courcy of Margaret's extramarital meetings. "She just wanted to feel wanted." In 1976 Margaret and Armstrong-Jones split, and two years later the palace announced the divorce. According to the British media, this had not happened since the 16th century. Armstrong-Jones moves to France and remarries.

For Townsend, too, life went on without Margaret: in 1959, he said yes to a woman named Marie-Luce Jamagne. The marriage that results in a daughter lasts until his death. He and the princess, who never remarried after their failed marriage with Armstrong-Jones, were only to meet again.

The last meeting between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend

Lady Anne Glencoccer, a close friend of Margaret, said in the documentary "Elizabeth: Our Queen" in 2018 that she had spoken to Margaret about the meeting. "Peter Townsend went out to lunch with her and I said, 'How was it to see him?' She said, 'Charming, he hadn't changed at all.' "That he had aged outwardly made no difference to Margaret. "I looked out the window and saw him getting out of the car, he was an old man," she is said to have said to Lady Anne Glenconner. But in her eyes he was still the one she fell in love with.

Two years after reuniting with Princess Margaret, Townsend died in Paris at the age of 80. The Queen's sister was no longer to be happy: in 1998 she suffered a minor stroke; a short time later a fall follows, which leads to a permanent impairment of their ability to move. Further strokes followed in 2000 and 2001, and she is now permanently dependent on a wheelchair. Princess Margaret died on February 8, 2002 at the age of 71.Sources used: CNN, BBC, The Express, Town & Country Magazine, Daily Mail, The Telegraph