Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, was no stranger to controversy and scandal, much to the chagrin of her royal relatives. In contrast to her quiet, proper sister, Margaret was outgoing and independent. Her romantic relationships, especially her potential marriage to Peter Townsend, garnered national attention and caused more than enough scandals for a single lifetime.
Margaret loved to socialize, smoke, and generally test boundaries to such an extent that UK intelligence agents might have committed a bank robbery to save her reputation. Born into a life that wasn't really her own, Margaret rebelled and made the most of her position, having a lot of fun along the way.
Princess Margaret Was Born Granddaughter To The King
Princess Margaret Rose Windsor was born on August 21, 1930, to Albert Frederick Arthur George, also known as Prince Albert and later King George VI, and Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon. She was their second daughter, born four years after her sister, Elizabeth.
At the time of her birth, Princess Margaret's grandfather, George V, was King of England. He died in 1936 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward. King Edward VIII abdicated after less than a year, however, so that he could wed an American divorcee named Wallis Warfield Simpson. Once Edward VIII stepped down, Margaret's father became King George VI. Margaret and her sister had always been important royalty but now they were daughters of a king.
Princess Margaret Was A Spirited Young Girl
Princess Margaret was an independent spirit from a young age. She spent most of her youth with her sister, Elizabeth, in London where they were both educated by their governess Marion Crawford.
Upon learning that her father was King, Margaret reportedly said to her sister “Does that mean you will have to be the next queen?”
Elizabeth replied, “Yes, some day”
“Poor you,” said Margaret.
The Princess was considered to be attractive and her future paramour, Peter Townsend, described her as "a girl of unusual, intense beauty, confined as it was in her short, slender figure and centered about large purple-blue eyes, generous, sensitive lips, and a complexion as smooth as a peach... she could make you bend double with laughing and also touch you deeply in your heart."
Her Secret Relationship With Peter Townsend Began Shortly After The Second World War
In 1947, the King and his family made their first international trip to South Africa. On that trip, Peter Townsend accompanied the King as a member of his household. Townsend was a World War II veteran, married with two children, and had first met Margaret when she was a teenager. At first, he considered Princess Margaret, fifteen years his junior, to be nothing more than a spoiled schoolgirl.
The Princess and Townsend spent more time together and soon fell in love, entering into a secret relationship. The relationship became public in 1952 when, at her sister's coronation, she flicked a piece of lint off of Townsend's jacket. The act made international headlines as word of their romance spread.
Margaret Had To Choose Between Townsend And Being A Royal
Peter Townsend divorced his wife in 1953 on grounds that she had been involved with another man. Once he was divorced, he was free to be with the Princess... in theory. As a divorced man, the Church and Parliament both frowned upon the relationship, especially since Margaret was third in line to the throne (behind her nephew and niece, Charles and Anne). Townsend proposed to Margaret and she accepted but until she turned 25, the Queen had to consent to the marriage. Townsend was sent to Brussels and the couple spent the next two years apart as the press, the public, the Church, and Parliament all weighed in on the status of their relationship.
When Townsend returned to England in 1955, Margaret was 25 and allowed to marry without her sister's approval. Parliament, however, would not sign off on the nuptials. The Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, told Margaret that if she married Townsend, she would be stripped of all privileges as a royal and would lose her royal income. In October 1953, Margaret announced her decision:
"I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But, 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."