Royal of the day: Princess Margaret

Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014
Princess Margaret
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SCENE STEALER: Princess Margaret, shown here in 1964, captured the imaginations of people all over the world.

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In the lead up to the Royal Tour of New Zealand, we look back at the salacious, noble and sometimes tragic lives of Britain's lesser-known royals. Today, we explore the life of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon...

Princess Margaret Rose, Countess of Snowdon was the only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II, and the younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Noted as one of the most glamorous and well-dressed women in the world during her heyday, her troubled private life aroused both sympathy and controversy worldwide.

Born at Glamis castle in Scotland on August 21, 1930, Margaret grew up with her older sister Elizabeth in a townhouse in Piccadilly.

In December 1936, a young Margaret found herself thrust on to the world stage when her Uncle David abdicated the throne - all of a sudden her father was King and her sister the heir apparent.

By the age of 18, she was known as much for her beauty as her affectionate and cheeky nature.

While Princess Diana had cultivated a somewhat shy and awkward image, Margaret was the personification of the world's idea of a Princess.

With the culture of the paparazzi burgeoning, Princess Margaret was their first and most famous subject - she even became the first royal to ever be photographed in a two-piece bathing suit (shock, horror).

When her father died at the age of 56, Margaret's world changed abruptly.

Marginalised from the new royal family consisting of the Queen, Prince Philip and Charles and Anne, her role was now to be on the sidelines.

But Margaret wasn't content to keep it that way. She entered into a love affair with Group captain Peter Townsend - a man who had been her father's equerry for years.

He was a war hero, sixteen years her senior and married - talk about scandalous - although he was soon to be divorced.

The relationship came to light when Margaret was caught brushing a piece of fluff off Townsend's lapel during the coronation.

Desperate to marry Townsend, Margaret was held back by many obstacles, the most pressing being that he was divorced.

As the Queen's sister, marrying a divorced man was deemed entirely unthinkable and she was forced to give him up.

At the age of 29 after a few years of hard partying, the Palace announced Margaret's engagement to the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones who was created Earl of Snowdon by the Queen.

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They married at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960 but it certainly wasn't smooth sailing: there were reports of bouts of infidelity on both sides as well as fights and rampant drunkenness as the sixties progressed.

The couple did, however, have two children, Lord Linley, born on 3 November 1961, and Lady Sarah Chatto, born on 1 May 1964.

When pictures of Princess Margaret and her latest paramour, Roddy Llewellyn (who at 26 was 17 years younger), were splashed across the tabloids, her marriage to Armstrong-Jones came to an end - the first divorce in the royal family in 400 years.

However, Margaret's new relationship ended soon after when Roddy informed her he was getting married to someone else - how has someone not made a rom-com based on the ups and downs in this Princess' love life?!

In her later years, Princess Margaret was plagued by constant ill-health including lung issues, strokes and a scalding incident which severely restricted her mobility.

She passed away on February 9, 2002 at the age of 71 after suffering a massive stroke.

In a conversation with her good friend Gore Vidal, Princess Margaret has been quoted saying, "It was inevitable: when there are two sisters and one is the Queen, who must be the source of honour and all that is good, while the other must be the focus of the most creative malice, the evil sister."

- Stuff

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