The Queen ‘Ruined’ Her Sister’s Life Saying ‘No’ to Her Marrying the Man She Loved – Inside Their Relationship
Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret had a close sisterly bond that withstood several disagreements and arguments. Until the end, Margaret remained loyal and understanding of her sister's duties.
Born four years apart, then-Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were the only children of the King and Queen of England, but more than being sisters, they were best friends. Their extraordinary childhood carved the way for a strong bond that lasted a lifetime.
Specifically, their close relationship began in 1936, when their father, King George VI, ascended the throne. However, both royal sisters also had their fair share of disagreements that led to arguments.
A troubled-looking Princess Margaret in a side-by-side photo with her sister, Queen Elizabeth. | Source: Getty Images
"Marion Crawford, their governess, had said they didn't hesitate to argue and fight. Elizabeth apparently had a good left hook, whereas Margaret wasn't shy to bite her sister in return, "CNN's royal commentator, Victoria Arbiter, said.
They also had different personalities, where Margaret was an entertainer while Elizabeth was more introverted. Still, the sisters always had each other's back amidst their quarrels and differences.
Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth as children, circa 1930. | Source: Getty Images
When their father became King, Elizabeth automatically became his presumed successor. From then on, the sisters were treated differently. Margaret once lamented:
“Now that Papa is King, I am nothing.”
Then-Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in the grounds of the model house on Elizabeth's 6th birthday, 1933. | Source: Getty Images
Her support for Elizabeth, however, did not waver. In fact, when Elizabeth became Queen, her sister had a telephone line installed on her Kensington Palace desk to Buckingham Palace to contact her sister directly.
In public, Margaret would only refer to her sister as "The Queen," but in private, she called the monarch "Lilibet," a childhood nickname used by her family.
Then-Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, UK, July 8, 1946. | Source: Getty Images
ELIZABETH BECOMES QUEEN
Elizabeth was crowned the Queen of England in 1953, becoming busier and more dedicated to her duty than anything else.
At 68 years old, Margaret suffered a mild stroke while on vacation on the Caribbean island of Mustique.
She had the making of a Queen in her, and wherever she went, her presence and power could be felt. She had over a hundred thousand subjects, including Margaret, who feared disappointing her sister.
Queen Elizabeth II before her Coronation ceremony, June 4, 1953. | Source: Getty Images
According to Craig Brown, author of "Ma'am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret," the Queen's sister least wanted the monarch to "disapprove" of her when the time came and had recurring nightmares of this fear.
Margaret looked up to her sister and maintained a close bond. According to Andrew Duncan, author of "The Reality of Monarchy," Margaret said:
“My sister has an aura. I'm enormously impressed when she walks into a room. It's kind of magic. In my own humble way, I've always tried to take some of the burden off my sister. She can't do it all [...].”
Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret Rose pose in the throne room of Buckingham Palace after the Coronation ceremony. | Source: Getty Images
MARGARET'S DECADENT LIFESTYLE
Although she did not want to displease her sister, Margaret lived a glamorous lifestyle filled with partying that she received the moniker "rebel royal." Margaret was an attractive young woman who enjoyed her early years as a spoiled socialite.
According to photographer Cecil Beaton, it was difficult to snap the royal's photograph because of the hours Margaret spent inside nightclubs. "More and more parties, more and more friends, less and less work," Marion Crawford, her previous governess, once said.
Her average morning would begin with breakfast in bed, followed by a two-hour-long radio tune-in. She would read newspapers while chain-smoking before getting into a bath. Her morning routine would then end with a "vodka pick-me-up."
Princess Margaret during her 26th birthday celebration. | Source: Getty Images
She would then join the Queen Mother for lunch and wine. Her lifestyle was no less luxurious but anything but boring. BBC History Magazine's Dominic Sandbrook said, as told by History Extra:
“[...] Margaret's life had a soap-opera quality. It was not a comparison she would have enjoyed since almost everybody who met her commented on her herculean, world-class snobbery.”
Princess Margaret waves from her vehicle at Buckingham Palace, headed for her honeymoon with Antony Armstrong-Jones. | Source: Getty Images
FALLING IN LOVE WITH A MARRIED MAN
Behind what people made her to be, Margaret was human, and like any other, she fell in love with a man named Peter Townsend. He, too, fell for Margaret's beauty and undeniable charm, which he described:
“She could change in an instant from saintly composure to hilarious, uncontrollable joy. She was a comedienne at heart, playing the piano and singing in her rich voice the latest hits, imitating stars.”
He added, "But what ultimately made Princess Margaret so attractive was that behind the dazzling facade, you could find, if you looked for it, a rare softness and sincerity."
Group Captain Peter Townsend at the London launch of his book "Duel of Eagles," September 3, 1970. | Source: Getty Images
Their romance was kept a secret from the world, but soon, the public found out that Townsend divorced his wife and proposed to the princess, which at that time was a significant issue. It was unacceptable for a royal to marry a commoner and divorcee.
Nevertheless, Margaret accepted the proposal at 22. Because she was below the age of 25 and close to the line of succession, she needed the consent of the Queen, as required by the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.
The issue placed Queen Elizabeth in a difficult position, so she asked Margaret to wait a few years. Two years after agreeing to the Queen's request, Margaret released a statement that she would no longer be marrying Townsend.
Princess Margaret Peter Townsend in South Africa during the royal tour, 1947. | Source: Getty Images
Contrary to what television shows portrayed, the Queen and then-Prime minister Anthony Eden drafted a plan to allow the princess to marry Townsend. However, such marriage would mean Margaret and any of her children would be removed from the line of succession.
Although the reason for her decision was never disclosed, Townsend revealed in his autobiography that they could have tied the knot. He wrote:
“She could have married me if only she had been prepared to give up everything – her position, her prestige, her privy purpose. I simply hadn't the weight, I knew it, to counterbalance all she would have lost.”
The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth, and Princess Margaret at Badminton. | Source: Getty Images
“The Queen barring her from marrying Townsend was the turning point to disaster for the Royal Family. After Princess Margaret was denied marriage, it backfired and, more or less, ruined Margaret's life.”
Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones in the grounds of Royal Lodge after they announced their engagement. | Source: Getty Images
MARGARET MARRIES ANTONY ARMSTRONG-JONES
In May 1960, Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones, with whom she had two children, Lady Sarah Chatto and David Armstrong-Jones.
Sadly, their marriage lasted only nearly 20 years before they announced their divorce. Trouble in paradise began shortly after the birth of their daughter due to strong personalities that clashed.
Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon and Viscount Linley at Kensington Palace after the birth of her daughter, Lady Sarah. | Source: Getty Images
Margaret's idea of marriage was quite different from her husband's, who was focused and dedicated to his work. Their drift led them to interact with other people, resulting in extramarital affairs.
SISTERS UNTIL THE END
After everything that had happened in Margaret's life, she and her sister maintained their strong bond. According to royal biographer Andrew Morton, Margaret "was someone who understood the Queen in a way no one else could." He added:
“They knew each other intimately from the day they were born. There is a unique intimacy between the two siblings brought up together, brought up royal together, that is absolutely fascinating.”
Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret during a royal event. | Source: Getty Images
Margaret was also loyal to the Queen until the very end. Had she been just a few years younger, her understanding of Elizabeth's decisions and behavior may have differed.
At 68 years old, Margaret suffered a mild stroke while on vacation on the Caribbean island of Mustique. "Princess Margaret scalded her feet in an accident on holiday," a palace spokesman revealed.
She remained in high spirits and recuperated at Windsor Castle despite the accident. However, she already had other health scares in the past, including an operation to have her lung removed.
The Queen Mother watches Princess Margaret being wheeled out by stewart William Tallon, alongside Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry, August 4, 2001. | Source: Getty Images
In 1992, she experienced a "feverish cold" followed by a "feverish infection," leading her to cancel several engagements. She was brought to King Edward VII Hospital the following year due to pneumonia. Margaret passed away in 2002 at the age of 71 after several illnesses in the past.