Season 3 of The Crown gives viewers a detailed look at the troubles in Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones’s marriage, but how much of the regal Netflix series is accurate? Here, we explore key moments leading up to and following the couple’s real-life split.
1969–1974: Trouble in paradise?
According to The New York Times, one of the first signs of marital trouble was when Margaret decided not to put in an appearance at Lord Snowdon’s birthday party in 1973, favoring a vacation in Mustique without her husband or children instead. Apparently, the queen’s sister did the same in 1974, which didn’t help the rumors that her marriage was on the rocks.
History reported that “Lord Snowdon had conducted multiple extramarital affairs, and Margaret felt lonely within her marriage.” In fact, Evening Standard revealed that the first major affair that Armstrong-Jones had was in 1969 “with Lady Jacqueline Rufus-Isaacs, daughter of the Marquess of Reading.” According to the publication, “Life at Kensington Palace had degenerated into ‘open warfare’, said one of her ladies-in-waiting.”
Snowdon reportedly wasn’t alone in conducting extramarital relationships. Good Housekeeping reported that Margaret had dalliances with “her husband’s friend Anthony Barton and a nightclub pianist Robin Douglas-Home.”
It’s also worth noting that Armstrong-Jones had a love child named Polly Fry, who was born while he was on his honeymoon with Margaret.
February 1976: Photos of Margaret with Roddy Llewellyn emerge.
Per History, Margaret’s marriage to Armstrong-Jones was already in trouble when photos of the royal with Roddy Llewellyn were published, something The Crown covered extensively in the Season 3 finale.
The BBC reported that Margaret and Llewellyn “first met in Scotland in September 1973 at the Café Royal in Edinburgh when traveling to a house party in Peebleshire hosted by Margaret’s old friend, Colin Tennant.” At the time of their first meeting, 25-year-old Llewellyn, a landscape gardener, was 17 years younger than Margaret.
Margaret’s marital problems had long been rumored, so when the new couple was photographed on vacation together in Mustique, it became clear that their relationship was more than a fling. While The Crown‘s timeline differs slightly from the real events, it’s true that paparazzi photos revealed Margaret’s affair to the world and forced her and Armstrong-Jones to confront their marital problems.
March 1976: Margaret announces separation from Lord Snowdon.
The New York Times reported that a month after the photos of Llewellyn were published, Kensington Palace released a statement regarding Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon’s separation. The statement said, “Her royal highness, the Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and the Earl of Snowdon have mutually agreed to live apart. The Princess will carry out her public duties and functions unaccompanied by Lord Snowdon. There are no plans for divorce proceedings.”
According to The New York Times, Armstrong-Jones was in Australia at the time of Margaret’s announcement and responded, “I am naturally desperately sad in every way that this had to come.” The publication also noted Lord Snowdon’s more extensive statement to the press regarding the split, in which he said, “Firstly to pray for the understanding of our two children, second to wish Princess Margaret every happiness for her future and thirdly to express with all humility the love, admiration, and respect I will always have for her sister, her mother and indeed her entire family.”
1978: The divorce is finalized.
A spokesperson for Margaret confirmed to The New York Times in 1978 that the royal would be getting a divorce. According to the publication, the statement said, “The marriage has broken down and the couple have lived apart for two years.” It continued, “These are obviously the grounds for divorce. Naturally, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon will continue to see each other on the same friendly basis as they have with each other over the last two years.”
1978: Lord Snowdon remarries months after his divorce from Margaret.
Apparently, one of Armstrong-Jones’s affairs was responsible for his relatively quick divorce from the queen’s sister. Margaret’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Anne Glenconner, revealed in her book, Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown (via Town & Country), “Tony pushed her into a divorce when his mistress, Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, became pregnant in 1978 with their first child.” Lindsay-Hogg and Armstrong-Jones subsequently welcomed a daughter, Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones. Glenconner continued, “Princess Margaret was devastated that her marriage had failed, but it was impossible for her to do anything about it.”
Lindsay-Hogg played an important role in The Crown Season 3, as viewers were shown the jealousy Margaret felt toward her husband’s mistress.
And although the princess and Armstrong-Jones divorced, they remained friendly until Margaret passed away in 2002.
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