Exploring Antony Armstrong-Jones: Bisexual Photographer And Princess Margaret's First Husband

Antony Armstrong-Jones was one of the British royal family’s most scandalous members. Married to Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret, from 1960 until 1978, Armstrong-Jones was a high-society charmer. His wife may have earned her reputation as the party-girl princess, but Armstrong-Jones's shocking behavior proved that husband and wife were two of a kind.

Born in 1930 into a life of privilege, but not a title, Antony Armstrong-Jones grew up to become a society photographer who ran in the best circles. He counted artists, writers, and actors as friends, and he first met Princess Margaret in the late 1950s, while she was already nursing a broken heart. When they married in 1960, Princess Margaret's husband received the title Earl of Snowdon from his royal sister-in-law.

But the marriage would prove to be a disaster as the couple's personalities began to clash. There were affairs on both sides, and many even suspected that Antony Armstrong-Jones was gay. By 1978, Prince Margaret and Lord Snowdon had called it quits. Their marriage may have ended, but rumors, stories, and allegations about the relationship were just getting started.

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  • A Few Weeks Into His Marriage With Margaret, Another Woman Gave Birth To His Love Child

    On May 6, 1960, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones tied the knot. Just three weeks later, while the royal newlyweds were in the middle of a six-week Caribbean honeymoon, he became a father—but not by his new wife. On May 28, 1960, Camilla Fry gave birth to Polly, her love child with Armstrong-Jones.

    Fry was actually married to Armstrong-Jones's best friend at the time, and Polly grew up believing that Jeremy Fry was her father. Polly's true parentage was only confirmed more than 40 years later, in 2004. Despite official recognition, when Armstrong-Jones died in January 2017, he reportedly left Polly out of his will.

  • He Left "Hate Notes" For Princess Margaret Around Their Home

    He Left "Hate Notes" For Princess Margaret Around Their Home
    Photo: Eric Koch/Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

    Some husbands leave love notes for their wives. Antony Armstrong-Jones, however, left "hate notes" for Princess Margaret. As their marriage crumbled, Armstrong-Jones would jot down little things about Margaret that he grew to loathe, and then leave the messages in places where she'd randomly find them.

    In one, he wrote, "You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you." To no one's surprise, the couple divorced in 1978.

  • He Was A Serial Cheater And Even Fathered An Illegitimate Child At The Age Of 68

    Armstrong-Jones was a notorious Don Juan. At the time that he became involved with Princess Margaret, he was also in relationships with at least two other women: Gina Ward and the actress Jacqui Chan. Over the years, his affairs resulted in at least two illegitimate children that were publicly recognized. His first child was the result of a fling with Camila Fry, the wife of his best friend. He had his second illegitimate child in 1998 when he was 68 years old and married to his second wife.

  • He Had Relationships With Both Women And Men

    He Had Relationships With Both Women And Men
    Photo: Eric Koch/Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

    Though some of the most significant relationships of his life were with women, he was rumored to have had affairs with men as well. Nicholas Halsam had what he claimed was a "one-sided" romance with Armstrong-Jones in the 1950s. There were also rumors that Armstrong-Jones had a three-way relationship with Jeremy and Camilla Fry, a complicated liaison that produced the one-time Earl's first illegitimate child.

  • Their Separation Was The First Royal Divorce Since Henry VIII's

    Their Separation Was The First Royal Divorce Since Henry VIII's
    Photo: Jac. de Nijs/Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

    By the late 1960s, the marriage between Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones was virtually over. When the divorce became final in 1978, the pair earned the distinction of being the first royals since Henry VIII to divorce. Famously, Henry VIII divorced two wives: Catherine of Aragon in 1533 and Anne of Cleves seven years later.

    Though other royals have almost divorced—King George IV, for one, horrified the British public when he attempted to divorce his wife in 1820—no one had actually gone through with it until the Armstrong-Joneses. The media coverage unleashed on the former couple precipated the scandals that would rock the relationships of Princess Margaret's nephews in the 1990s.

  • He Was The First Commoner To Legally Marry A Royal Princess In Centuries

    Long before the divorce, Princess Margaret's marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones was itself kind of a big deal. She was the first high-ranking royal to legally marry a commoner—that is, someone who wasn't a titled aristocrat—in centuries. Thanks to the Royal Marriages Act, members of the royal family could only marry with the monarch's permission.

    Historically, monarchs only gave permission to matches that were of the proper rank. Before Margaret and Antony's marriage, only a handful of high-ranking royals (heirs or the sons and daughters of heirs) wed commoners. Before Margaret, the most recent royal to marry a commoner was Prince James, Duke of York (the future, ill-fated James II), who wed Anne Hyde in 1660.