16 Grand Facts About Princess Margaret

Victor Blackman/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Victor Blackman/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the first two seasons of Netflix’s The Crown, Vanessa Kirby portrays Princess Margaret as a graceful, glamorous force to be reckoned with—and by all accounts, she was. The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II rubbed elbows with the Hollywood elite, landed on countless tabloid covers, and rarely played by the royal rule book. Beneath the haze of mystery and cigarette smoke was a smart, loving woman who struggled to find her place in a world that was always watching and never satisfied.

Before Helena Bonham Carter debuts her interpretation of Princess Margaret in The Crown’s upcoming third season, discover the real-life facts behind the larger-than-life royal.

1. Princess Margaret was born in Scotland.

Margaret Rose was born on August 21, 1930, in Glamis Castle, her mother’s ancestral home in Scotland. Though it’s often said that Margaret was the first royal birth to happen in Scotland since King Charles I in 1600, there was actually one other in 1887: Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, daughter of Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s ninth child. Since Victoria Eugenie was so far down the line of succession, her Scottish birth is often overlooked.

2. Princess Margaret was pushing boundaries even as a toddler.

queen mother with her daughters elizabeth and margaret
The Queen Mother with her daughters, Elizabeth (left) and Margaret (right) in 1936.
Getty Images

Princess Margaret identified her earliest memory as the time she was told to stop trying to inch her pram forward by squirming around in it. She didn’t listen, promptly tipped it over, and “was rescued, screaming loudly.”

3. J.M. Barrie quoted Princess Margaret in his final play.

At Princess Margaret’s third birthday party, J.M. Barrie asked if one of the gifts was really hers, to which she replied, “It is yours and mine.” Upon hearing that she had remembered him later, saying, “I know that man. He is my greatest friend, and I am his greatest friend,” Barrie wrote both statements into The Boy David, his final play. He promised Margaret a penny for each performance, and Margaret’s father (King George VI) playfully held him to it; Barrie drew up a formal contract in 1937 and gave the princess 170 golden pennies.

4. Princess Margaret's father referred to her as his “joy.”

royal family at King George VI's coronation
The royal family at King George VI's coronation in 1937.
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King George VI summed up the difference between effervescent, free-spirited Margaret and staid, responsible Elizabeth in one simple statement: “Lilibet [Elizabeth] is my pride, Margaret my joy.”

5. Pablo Picasso wanted to marry Princess Margaret.

Pablo Picasso’s friend and biographer John Richardson recalled how the artist plotted throughout the 1950s to woo the princess with proper fanfare, which would include a formal marriage proposal written on parchment and presented on a red velvet cushion, while Richardson himself would be dressed as a herald or page and stationed nearby with a trumpet. They never crossed paths, and Richardson later told Princess Margaret of Picasso’s intentions, which “outraged” her. “She said she thought it the most disgusting thing she had ever heard,” he told Craig Brown for his book Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret. Perhaps it was because Picasso was nearly 50 years older than her.

6. Richard Burton thought Princess Margaret was boring.

princess margaret with elizabeth taylor
Princess Margaret shakes hands with Elizabeth Taylor (Burton's wife) at the premiere of Staircase in 1969.
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While Picasso and plenty of others couldn’t get enough of the enigmatic, audacious princess, Richard Burton was wholly unimpressed. “We have to see Princess Margaret again at the opening night of Staircase and she is infinitely boringly uncomfortable to be around,” he wrote in a 1969 diary entry.

7. Princess Margaret almost married a divorcé.

Group Captain Peter Townsend on horseback
Peter Townsend photographed during a weekend away at Allanbay Park with Princess Margaret in 1955.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Princess Margaret was just 14 years old when she met 30-year-old Group Captain Peter Townsend when he interviewed as her father’s equerry, and began a romance with him eight years later. Since Margaret was not yet 25, the Queen would have to approve her marriage, which both the Church of England and Parliament opposed because Townsend was divorced. As a stall tactic, he was stationed at the British Embassy in Brussels. Upon his return two years later, the couple was informed that if they married, Margaret would forfeit her place in the line of succession. Margaret then issued a statement explaining that she had decided not to marry Townsend because of the Church’s issue with his divorce. However, Margaret’s official biographer Christopher Warwick believes the real reason she changed her mind was simply because their feelings had faded during their two-year separation. The only time she ever mentioned him to Warwick was when she said, “How do you know when you’ve been apart from somebody for two years if you want to marry them?”

8. Princess Margaret's wedding was the first royal wedding to be broadcast on television.

Princess Margaret's wedding to Antony Armstrong-Jones
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On May 6, 1960, 29-year-old Princess Margaret married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in England’s first televised royal wedding, captivating an estimated 300 million viewers worldwide. (The couple would divorce in 1978.) The government contributed around $31,000 to the ceremony, which critics considered extravagant—especially considering that Queen Elizabeth’s 1947 wedding was strictly budgeted in the wake of World War II; Elizabeth had even used ration coupons to purchase her wedding dress.

9. Princess Margaret had several alleged affairs.

Roddy Llewellyn
Roddy Llewellyn in 1978.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Princess Margaret may have been a rule-breaker by royal standards, but she would never sink so low as to address any of the tabloid rumors about her alleged affairs—so they technically remain just rumors. In 1968, she was linked to nightclub pianist Robin Douglas-Home, who died by suicide 18 months after Margaret reportedly ended their liaison. In 1973, the paparazzi captured photos of the princess at her private island vacation home with Roderic “Roddy” Llewellyn, a high-society landscape gardener who was 17 years her junior. While there’s likely truth to those two purported relationships, others—such as Mick Jagger and Peter Sellers—have practically no evidence behind them.

10. Princess Margaret loved watching ballet.

Princess Margaret at the ballet
Princess Margaret with British prima ballerina Svetlana Beriosova in 1968.
William Lovelace/Daily Express/Getty Images

Princess Margaret adored all the arts, but she said ballet was her favorite; she even served as the first president of The Royal Ballet.

11. If Princess Margaret could only take one record to a deserted island, it would be from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

During her 1981 appearance on Roy Plomley’s BBC radio program Desert Island Discs, Princess Margaret said that she’d choose Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake, Op. 20, Act II: 13. Dances of the Swans” as her one desert island disc because she “could imagine the scene.” She chose a piano as her luxury item and Tolstoy’s War and Peace as her book, because it “rather needs reading several times, so it’ll keep [me] going for a long time.”

12. Princess Margaret patronized more than 80 charities—which still wasn’t enough.

In addition to her stint as president of The Royal Ballet, Princess Margaret supported or chaired more than 80 organizations, including the Highland Fusiliers of Canada, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, and the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Some Members of Parliament, however, still criticized her for not adhering to the standards of civic duty set by previous members of the monarchy, and felt that she simply wasn’t doing enough.

13. Princess Margaret had two children.

Princess Margaret with husband and children
Getty Images

Princess Margaret's son, David Armstrong-Jones, Second Earl of Snowdon, was born in 1961 and is now a successful furniture maker whose clients have included Elton John and Valentino. Three years after the birth of David, Margaret and Tony welcomed Sarah, known as Lady Sarah Chatto. She inherited both her father’s artistic aptitude and her mother’s affinity for the ballet; she’s a painter who currently serves as the vice president for The Royal Ballet.

14. Princess Margaret was plagued by health issues later in life.

A year after her first stroke in 1998, Princess Margaret sustained severe burns when she accidentally stepped into scalding hot bath water. Her second stroke occurred in 2001, which impaired both her vision and movement. On February 9, 2002, she passed away at age 71 from heart complications following her third stroke.

15. Princess Margaret's mother outlived her by seven weeks.

At the time of Margaret’s death, her 101-year-old mother was fighting a bad cough and chest infection she had contracted over Christmas. On March 30, 2002—just seven weeks after Margaret passed away—the Queen Mother died peacefully in her sleep.

16. Princess Margaret was cremated, which is uncommon for the royal family.

Princess Margaret in 1965
Princess Margaret in Amsterdam, 1965.
Les Lee/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Princess Margaret left this world much like she entered it—breaking with tradition. She insisted on cremation rather than burial, which a former lady-in-waiting claimed was because largely the princess found the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore “too gloomy.” Others said it was so that her ashes could be placed in the tomb of her beloved father (which they were). She also requested that no members of her family attend the actual cremation (which they didn’t), but that her ex-husband, Lord Snowdon, and reported lover Roddy Llewellyn attend the funeral ceremony (which they did).

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6 Things We Know About the Game of Thrones Prequel Series, House of the Dragon

HBO
HBO

By the time Game of Thrones wrapped up its record-breaking eight-season run in 2019, it was a no-brainer that HBO would be producing another GoT series to keep the success going. The first announced show in the works, which was reportedly picked from a few prequel ideas, was going to chronicle a time thousands of years before the start of GoT, and was set to star actress Naomi Watts. Unfortunately, that project was eventually scrapped after the pilot was shot—but a new prequel series, House of the Dragon, was announced in October 2019. Here's what we know about it so far.

1. House of the Dragon will be based on George R.R. Martin's book Fire & Blood.

George R.R. Martin's novel Fire & Blood, which tells the story of House Targaryen, will serve as the source of inspiration for the plot of House of the Dragon. The first of two volumes was published in 2018, and takes place 300 years before Game of Thrones.

2. House of the Dragon will likely chronicle the Targaryen family's tumultuous past.

Game of Thrones showed that the Targaryen family has a long-standing history of inbreeding, secrets, betrayal, war, and insanity. Fire & Blood covers topics like the first Aegon Targaryen's conquest of the Seven Kingdoms and his subsequent reign, as well as the lives of his sons. Seems like we'll probably be meeting Dany's ancestors, and Martin confirmed there will definitely be dragons present—maybe even Balerion the Black Dread, the biggest dragon in all of Westerosi history.

3. George R.R. Martin and Ryan Condal are co-creators of House of the Dragon.

Co-Executive Producer George R.R. Martin arrives at the premiere of HBO's 'Game Of Thrones' Season 3 at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 18, 2013 in Hollywood, California
George R.R. Martin
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Martin shared on his blog that he's been working with writer and producer Ryan Condal (Rampage, Colony), on the show. "Ryan Condal is new to Westeros, but not to me," the acclaimed author wrote. "I first met Ryan when he came to New Mexico to shoot a pilot for a fantasy western that was not picked up. I visited his set and we became friendly ... He’s a terrific writer … and a fan of my books since well before we met." In another blog post, Martin said that the show's script and bible were "terrific, first-rate, exciting." Sounds like we'll be in good hands.

5. A Game of Thrones director is returning for House of the Dragon.

Per a tweet from the Game of Thrones Twitter account announcing the show, Miguel Sapochnik, who directed many of the original HBO series' biggest episodes, such as "Battle of the Bastards" and "Hardhome," will be returning for House of the Dragon as showrunner alongside Condal. Sapochnik is also known for directing a handful of other notable shows, such as True Detective, Masters of Sex, and Altered Carbon.

6. House of the Dragon could be coming in 2022.

HBO ordered 10 episodes of House of the Dragon, and HBO president of programming Casey Bloys said he thought that the show would debut "sometime in 2022." However, with the film industry facing major delays due to safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, there's no word on when the show will begin filming.

Meanwhile, Martin revealed that he won't be writing any scripts for House of the Dragon until he finishes The Winds of Winter, which has been in the works since A Dance With Dragons, his most recent book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, debuted in 2011. The good news, however, is that Martin says he has been "writing every day" while keeping indoors and social distancing, leaving fans with the hope that The Winds of Winter will come soon.