PRINCESS Margaret’s 1960 nuptials to photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones was every bit the fairytale wedding.
Crowds cheered and some even fainted as the handsome photographer said “I do” to the beaming bride, who was getting her happy ending following years of heartbreak.
The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth was finally getting married (at the, ahem, ripe old age of 29) after her failed engagement to Group Captain Peter Townsend.
But unbeknown to Margaret, one of the worst periods of her life was just beginning; the princess leaving Westminster Abbey and entering into an unhappy marriage which would see both her and Armstrong-Jones have countless affairs before finally divorcing in 1978.
But while Margaret’s infidelities have often been characterised as the side-effects of her party lifestyle, a new documentary has shed fresh light on her marriage.
In BBC series Princess Margaret: The Rebel Royal, friends and staff of the royal, who died in 2002, denounced Armstrong-Jones as an absent and uncaring husband.
Margaret first met Armstrong-Jones at a dinner party in 1958, three years after breaking off her engagement to Townsend.
Sixteen years her senior and a close friend of her father, King George V1, Townsend and Margaret had began an affair in 1952 following the King’s death.
After public scandal over their relationship due to Townsend’s divorced status, a heartbroken Margaret broke off their engagement in 1955.
While vastly different from Townsend, Margaret and Armstrong-Jones hit it off and announced their engagement in February 1960.
They wed in a fairytale ceremony in May that was the first royal wedding to be televised and watched by more than 20 million viewers.
But almost immediately cracks began to appear in their relationship, with the new Lord Snowdon unwilling to give up his sought after photography work for a life of royal duty.
According to biographer Anne de Courcy, the princess had expected Armstrong-Jones to give up his photography but hadn’t realised that “one of Tony’s strongest motivations was work”.
“They were both pretty strong-willed and accustomed to having their own way, so there were bound to be collisions,” she said.
Princess Margaret’s close friend Jane Stevens denounced Lord Snowdon’s behaviour towards Margaret, revealing he stopped supporting her royal duties early in their marriage.
“It was naughty in a way because he married Princess Margaret, and therefore knowing who he was marrying, he should have helped her, but he didn’t,” she claimed.
“He stuck with the job he had, which had nothing to do with the royal family, and that was hard for her.”
Childhood friend of Margaret’s, Lady Anne Glenconner, said while Armstrong-Jones had initially been starstruck by the royals, it waned over time.
“Tony loved all the royal thing at the beginning, but then he got bored and off he went,” she told the BBC. “He was a brilliant photographer and he wanted to go around the world and photograph interesting people.
“And suddenly there he was having to do what he considered to be the rather boring things of Princess Margaret.”
After two children, followed by numerous affairs, Margaret and Armstrong-Jones eventually separated in 1976 before divorcing in 1978 — the first royal couple to do so since Henry VIII’s marriage to his fourth wife Anne of Cleves was annulled in 1540.
Lord Snowdon married Lucy Hogg that same year, however, the couple divorced in 2000 after Armstrong-Jones discovered he had fathered an illegitimate child.
Meanwhile, Margaret never remarried but had numerous colourful relationships, including one with a gardener 18 years her junior, until her death in 2002.
Originally published as Inside Princess Margaret’s tragic marriage