Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden
They defied the odds – and convention – to get married. But what started out as a happy union eventually turned sour. What’s more, the increasingly dysfunctional relationship between Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden was played out in full view of the papers and ended in divorce – the first to be granted to a princess for several hundred years.
When Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister wed Antony Armstrong-Jones, hopes were high that theirs would be a happy, long-lasting love. Certainly, it had all the marks of a fairy tale. Far from being a royal relative, Armstrong-Jones was a ‘commoner’. He was a society photographer, a charming gentleman at the start of the Swinging Sixties in London. But despite his relatively lowly status, the Queen agreed to their match. Their marriage on May 6, 1960 was the highlight of the year, bringing together all the traditions of royalty with the glamour and excitement of the new age.
Before long, however, cracks started to appear in the seemingly happy union. Both husband and wife were fiercely independent and stubborn. What’s more, neither was willing to back down and they both had hot tempers. While he became Lord Snowden, he was not happy to give up his own life and carried on with his artistic career, while Margaret was expected to take on responsibility for the children. His work in the world of fashion meant he travelled a lot – and had lots of contact with glamorous women, including models. Within just a few years of their marriage, Lord Snowden was being serially unfaithful, and he was not trying too hard to keep this a secret from his wife.
While Princess Margaret was, by all accounts, deeply upset by her husband’s philandering ways, she was no saint herself. In fact, she had several affairs of her own. Most notably, it emerged that she had been seeing Roddy Llewellyn, a gardener almost 20 years her junior. Increasingly, this undercurrent of mutual distrust and resentment boiled over. It became known that the couple would leave each other ‘hate notes’ instead of love notes. By the mid-1970s, the marriage had broken down completely. In 1976, Kensington Palace announced that the pair had separated. Any hopes of a reconciliation were soon dashed for good. It was announced that the toxic marriage was to end in divorce – the first royal divorce since that of King Henry VIII back in 1540!
However, despite their troubled years, divorce was good for the couple. After some time apart, they became friends again. Indeed, they were close right up until Margaret’s death in 2002. Lord Snowden carried on with his womanising ways, marrying and divorcing twice more before finally passing away at the start of 2017.