The Queen's Tragic Sister: The Story of Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret Rose was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. Margaret was born into wealth and fame but neither could give her happiness. As she grew into womanhood, Margaret was to find her life restricted and her world turned into a fish bowl.
Princess Margaret was born to Prince Albert. Bertie, as he was popularly known, was the second son of George the Fifth. Albert Frederick Arthur George was born on December 14th, 1895. December 14th was a feared day in the annals of British monarchy. Queen Victoria remembered it as the day both her husband and daughter died. The birthday was to mark a difficult life.
Bertie married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. The Duke and Duchess of York had lesser duties to fill because the Duke was only the second son. Consequently the birth of their children did not merit much attention. The Duke's elder brother Edward was expected to have children and take the throne.
Margaret was born in Scotland in honor of her mother's Scottish roots. As a young child, she was frequently dressed exactly as her older sister.
In 1936 King Edward abdicated to marry his mistress. Abdication meant that the crown passed to his younger brother. Unexpected Bertie and his wife were now king and queen. Elizabeth and her sister were now the presumptive heirs to the throne.
The abdication was to have lasting effects on Princess Margaret. As Princess Margaret grew into young womanhood, England faced an even greater crisis. World War II began. Many other royal families fled elsewhere. The English opted to stay put. London was repeatedly bombed. Princess Margaret grew up in a world filled with Nazi dangers. She and her sister and parents watched as palace walls were shattered by the terrifying Nazi arsenal.
After the war drew to a close, England became a land of scarcity. Many items were rationed including butter and sugar. The English turned to their royal family for a touch of glamor and excitement. Princess Elizabeth was the first to deliver it. In 1948 she married Prince Philip. The lavish ceremony was celebrated all over England. Her gown took days to create.
Princess Margaret had a love affair of her own but it did not turn out as well. In the early 1950s Margaret fell in love. Her daring choice was a man sixteen years her senior. Group Captain Peter Townsend was the Queen's equerry or assistant. He had served valiantly in the war. Townsend was tall and dashing. Margaret spent five years in an unofficial engagement to him. She was seen in his company. The press took little notice of her attraction until one day a photographer caught her in an intimate gesture. She was shown gently pulling fluff off of the captain's jacket. The tender picture, an obvious illustration of her adoration of the elegant courtier, was broadcast around the world.
The secret love could not be kept secret anymore.
Unfortunately, palace officials consulted with English historians and elected ministers. Margaret was offered a choice: marry him only if you give your status and income as princess. Marry him and face ostracism from your family. Marry him and your family and countrymen will not approve. Marry him and violate our social contract. Marry him and the world will disapprove. Margaret was at a crossroads. She was a deeply religious person who had been taught that a divorce was not okay. Townsend had two young children and a former wife.
When she came of age at 25 she decided against the match. In a radio speech to the country Margaret declared that she would not marry Peter Townsend. Her heart clearly broken, Margaret retreated to the drafty castles her family owned. She was to spend the next five years wandering from one relationship to the next.
At 30 Margaret finally married. Anthony Armstrong-Jones was not royal but it was his first marriage. The petite fairy tale princess took her vows in 1960 in a simple white dress with a train that spread across her back. Her vivid blue eyes shook with tears as she remembered her lost love and hoped to find love again.
It was not to be. The marriage between Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones brought two children and tremendous unhappiness to the princess. Margaret and Anthony were simply two different people. Both had numerous affairs as the years progressed. In 1978 Princess Margaret was divorced.
Princess Margaret died of a stroke at 71. To her dying day she was said to have sighed over the love forbidden to her. Her story remains a sad illustration of the restrictions of her time. Had she been allowed to marry her first love perhaps her life might have truly had a fairy tale ending.