Childhood & Early Life
Princess Margaret Rose was born on 21 August 1930 at Glamis Castle, Scotland and baptized on 30 October in the chapel of Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Her birth was verified by the then Home Secretary, J. R. Clynes.
At the time of her birth, she was the fourth in the line of succession. Her father, Albert Frederick Arthur George, the Duke of York, was the second son of King George V. Later, on the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, he succeeded the throne, becoming King George VI.
Her mother, Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon, was the daughter of 14th and 1st Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, Lord of Glamis. She wanted to name her younger daughter Margaret Ann; but later settled on Margaret Rose because King George V did not approve of ‘Ann’.
Born younger of his parents’ two children, Margaret had an elder sister named Elizabeth, who on their father’s death became the Queen of United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II. The two siblings were very fond of each other; but their characters were far apart.
In 1932, when Margaret, lovingly called Margot, was two years old, the family moved to the Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park. They also had a town house located at 145, Piccadilly, where they spent considerable time.
Forward and intelligent for her age, Princess Margaret was a talkative and amusing child. Yet, there was a rumor that she was born deaf and mute. It was dispelled when in 1934 she made her first public appearance at the wedding of her uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent.
In 1935, Margaret, began her education under a Scottish governess, Marion Crawford. Princess Elizabeth, who was four years her senior, also studied under the same governess. Together they studied language, literature, history and music. Her mother also supervised her education.
In 1936, her grandfather, King George V, passed away and her uncle, King Edward VIII, ascended the throne. But very soon, he decided to marry Wallis Warfield-Simpson, a twice divorced American lady, abdicating in favor of his younger brother, the Duke of York, who reluctantly agreed to become the king.
As Duke of York was coroneted as King George VI on 11 December 1936, the family moved to Buckingham Palace. While Princess Elizabeth became heir presumptive, Margaret was elevated to the second place in the line of succession to the British throne. She now became ‘Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret’.
In 1937, as the two princesses continued their education under their governess, 1st Buckingham Palace Brownie Pack was formed to enable Princess Elizabeth to become a Girl Guide. Shortly, Princess Margaret also joined the pack, which consisted of twenty girls from royal household and palace employees.
As the Second World War erupted in September 1939 and children of well-to-do families were being evacuated to safety it was suggested that the two princesses should be sent to Canada. But their parents refused to send them to a safer zone while the country was facing the gravest crisis.
Elizabeth and Margaret spent the first few months of the Second World War at Birkhall in Scotland, returning to Sandringham House near Sandringham, Norfolk to spend the Christmas. Thereafter, they moved to Windsor Castle, a royal residence close to London, where they spent rest of the war years.
During the war, they spent most of the time away from their parents. In addition to their Scottish governess, Marion Crawford, the children now had a French governess, Vicomtesse de Bellaigue. Princess Elizabeth, more mature and responsible than Princess Margaret, took it upon herself to control her little sister.
Too young to take up any official duty, Margaret spent her time developing her skills in singing and piano. She also joined the Girl Guide, concurrently taking part in plays and pantomimes. In October 1940, they sent a cheering message on ‘Children Hour’ a program by ‘Uncle Mac’.
As the Second World War ended on 8 May, 1945, Princess Margaret appeared with her family in the balcony of the Buckingham Palace. Later the two princesses disappeared in the crowd, secretly enjoying the victory celebration.
On 15 April 1946, Princess Margaret was confirmed into the Church of England. Also from now, she began to appear in public more frequently and soon became famous as a glamorous young beauty.
On 1 February 1947, Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth accompanied their parents on a month long state tour of Southern Africa. During this trip, Princess Margaret was chaperoned by her father’s equerry Peter Townsend, who would play a big role in her life for the next five years.
On 20 November 1947, Princess Elizabeth got married to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark and gave birth to Prince Charles in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950. Their birth pushed Margaret down the line of succession. Nonetheless, she enjoyed social life, often being featured in the press at balls, parties, and nightclubs. Her official engagement also increased from this period.
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Princess Margaret began her public life with the launching of ‘Edinburg Castle’, a 747 feet (228 m) long ocean liner, on 16 October 1947 at Harland & Wolff's yard in Belfast. By eighteen, she had number of public engagements and had joined many charitable organizations as patron or president.
In September 1951, one month after she had celebrated her twenty-first birthday, her father, King George VI, underwent a surgery for lung cancer. During this period, Princess Margaret was appointed one of the Counsellors of State and was entrusted with carrying out her father’s official duties while he was incapacitated.
King George VI died on 6 February 1952, throwing Margaret into intense grief. While she found solace in her Christian beliefs, her friendship with Townsend also helped her to overcome her grief.
After the coronation of her elder sister as Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and her mother, ‘Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother’, moved to the Clarence House while Queen Elizabeth II moved to the Buckingham Palace. Steadfast in her loyalties to the Crown, Margaret continued to carry on her royal duties.
In 1953, Princess Margaret and Queen Mother went on an official tour to Rhodesia. However, her first solo official tour took place in 1955 when she visited the British colonies in the Caribbean on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. Here, she earned great popularity with calypsos being dedicated to her.
In 1962, she represented the British Crown at the independence ceremonies in Jamaica. It was followed by an official visit to the United States of America in 1963 and to Denmark in 1964 and Japan in 1969. It is believed that she was bugged by the KGB while she was in Copenhagen.
In 1974, Princess Margaret once again traveled to the New World, visiting both United States and Canada. Next in 1975, she visited Australia. When the island republics of Dominica and Tuvalu attained independence in late 1978, she attended their independence ceremonies as the representative of the Crown.
In 1979, she visited Japan for the second time. In October, she went on a fund raising tour to the United States of America on behalf of Royal Opera House. It was followed by her visit to Philippines in 1980, Swaziland in 1981, and China in 1987.
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Personal Life & Legacy
In 1953, Princess Margaret accepted marriage proposal from recently divorced Group Captain Peter Wooldridge Townsend. The marriage proposal aroused negative sentiment from all quarters and the British cabinet refused to approve it. Eventually in 1955, it was decided that Princess Margaret could marry Townsend provided she opted out of the line of succession.
On 31 October 1955, Princess Margaret issued a statement, in which she said that she had decided to opt out of the marriage. As reasons, she had sighted not only the teachings of the Church, but also her duty to the Commonwealth.
On 6 May, 1960, five years after her break up with Townsend, Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones, a well-known photographer, at Westminster Abbey. In 1961, he was created Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley, of Nymans in the County of Sussex.
Although the marriage began to fail from an early stage, they remained married for sixteen years; having two children; David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, born in 1961 and Lady Sarah, born in 1964. The marriage ended in a divorce in 1978.
A heavy smoker and drinker, Princess Margaret underwent several major operations since 1980. In early 2001, she suffered two severe strokes, which left her paralytic on the left side. In February 2001, she had another stroke and died from it on 9 February 2002 at the age of 71.
Her mortal remains were cremated and ashes were placed in the tomb of her parents in the King George VI Memorial Chapel in St George's Chapel. Today, she has many roads named after her across the world. Two plants, Gladiolus "Princess Margaret Rose" and Hyacinthus orientalis "Princess Margaret", also bear her legacy.