Who was Captain Peter Townsend?
A few years before wedding Antony Armstrong-Jones, Princess Margaret had fallen for a different man: Captain Peter Townsend. The princess met him when she was 17 years old, and he was 37. As Townsend was a divorcé, their relationship was looked down on by Winston Churchill's government and the Church of England, headed by her sister Elizabeth at the time. If she were to marry Captain Peter Townsend, she would have been forced to leave England for five years and renounce all her royal privileges.
The Guardian reported that women shouted "Go on, Marg, do what you want" at her from the streets of the East End. In her mid-twenties, she ultimately ended the relationship, saying, "mindful of the Church's teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have decided to put these considerations before any others. I have reached this decision entirely alone..."
Captain Townsend wasn't her only suitor. Princess Margaret was even pursued by Pablo Picasso, who had made plans in the 1950s to ask the princess to marry him, but they never crossed paths. She was outraged when Picasso's friend told her of his plan, probably because Picasso was 50 years her senior. Yeesh.
How did Princess Margaret and her husband meet?
The two met at a dinner party, and Tony soon gave Princess Margaret a rosebud-shaped ruby engagement ring, a likely nod to her middle name.
Where was Princess Margaret positioned in the royal family? How did this affect her choice of husband?
Princess Margaret was initially considered a minor member of the royal house, but eventually garnered a reputation for being what was deemed to be rebellious at the time – some believe her choices represented the sexual revolution and cultural movements taking place in the sixties.
Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones kept their engagement a secret, as he was considered a "commoner" by other royals and it was frowned upon at the time to marry someone outside of what the royals thought of as acceptable.
What made her wedding day special?
Princess Margaret married Tony when she was 29 years old. Thousands showed up on the day to celebrate the union, lining the streets from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. Princess Margaret's wedding made history, being the first royal wedding ever broadcast on television. Roughly 300 million viewers around the world tuned in to witness the event.
The government provided roughly $31,000 to the ceremony, which caused some criticism for being over the top, especially considering Queen Elizabeth bought her 1947 wedding dress using ration coupons.
Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, led the ceremony to an audience of royals, politicians, and celebrities. Princess Margaret's wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell, who fashioned dresses for other royalty, such as the Queen's bridal gown. The princess' dress was considered one of the simplest gowns ever worn by a royal bride, made of silk organza. A long veil trailed behind her, and her bouquet featured orchids and lily-of-the-valley.
To top it off, she wore the Poltimore tiara, made in the 1870s. Her children recently sold the princess' crown to help pay off a 5.5 million dollar inheritance tax debt. The crown sold for a massive 1.7 million dollars.
How many children did they have and how long were they married for?
Princess Margaret and Tony went on to have two children: David, born on November 3 1961, and Sarah, born on May 1 1964. Their marriage lasted 18 years before they divorced, although they remained friends until late in their lives.
Biographer Anne de Courcy said, "They were both pretty strong-willed and accustomed to having their own way, so there were bound to be collisions." Princess Margaret's husband was known for getting lost in his work, and for having affairs with both women and men. He remarried after they divorced, but his second marriage ended when he learned that he'd fathered a child while having an affair with his best friend's wife.
Princess Margaret had her own affairs while married to Tony. She didn't remarry after they split up, but it was rumoured she had several relationships. Princess Margaret and Tony Armstrong Jones's relationship features in Netflix series The Crown.