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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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).

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

11 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of TV Meteorologists

nicoletaionescu/iStock via Getty Images
nicoletaionescu/iStock via Getty Images

The first weather forecast to hit national network television was given in 1949 by legendary weatherman Clint Youle. To illustrate weather systems, Youle covered a paper map of the U.S. in plexiglass and drew on it with a marker. A lot has changed in the world of meteorology since then, but every day, millions of families invite their local weatherman or weatherwoman into their living room to hear the forecast. Here are a few things you might not know about being a TV meteorologist.

1. SOME PEOPLE JUST NEVER MASTER THE GREEN SCREEN.

 A meteorologist working in front of a green screen.
eldinhoid/iStock via Getty Images

On-camera meteorologists might look as if they’re standing in front of a moving weather map, but in reality, there’s nothing except a blank green wall behind them. Thanks to the wonders of special effects, a digital map can be superimposed onto the green screen for viewers at home. TV monitors situated just off-camera show the meteorologist what viewers at home are seeing, which is how he or she knows where to stand and point. It’s harder than it looks, and for some rookie meteorologists, the learning curve can be steep.

“Some people never learn it,” says Gary England, legendary weatherman and former chief meteorologist for Oklahoma’s KWTV (England was also the first person to use Doppler radar to warn viewers about incoming systems). “For some it comes easily, but I’ve seen people never get used to it.”

Stephanie Abrams, meteorologist and co-host of The Weather Channel’s AMHQ, credits her green screen skills to long hours spent playing Nintendo and tennis as a kid. “You’ve gotta have good hand-eye coordination,” she says.

2. THEY HAVE A STRICT DRESS CODE.

Green is out of the question for on-air meteorologists, unless they want to blend into the map, but the list of prohibited wardrobe items doesn’t stop there. “Distracting prints are a no-no,” Jennifer Myers, a Dallas-based meteorologist for Oncorwrites on Reddit. “Cleavage angers viewers over 40 something fierce, so we stay away from that. There's no length rule on skirts/dresses but if you wouldn't wear it to a family event, you probably shouldn't wear it on TV. Nothing reflective. Nothing that makes sound.”

Myers says she has enough dresses to go five weeks without having to wear a dress twice. But all the limitations can make it difficult to find work attire that’s fashionable, looks good on-screen, and affordable. This is especially true for women, which is why when they find a garment that works, word spreads quickly. For example, this dress, which sold for $23 on Amazon, was shared in a private Facebook group for female meteorologists and quickly sold out in every color but green.

3. BUT IT’S CASUAL BELOW THE KNEE.

Since their feet rarely appear on camera, some meteorologists take to wearing casual, comfortable footwear, especially on long days. For example, England told the New York Times that during storm season, he was often on his feet for 12 straight hours. So, “he wears Mizuno running shoes, which look ridiculous with his suit and tie but provide a bit of extra cushioning,” Sam Anderson writes.

And occasionally female meteorologists will strap their mic pack to their calves or thighs rather than the more unpleasant option of stuffing it into their waistband or strapping it onto their bra.

4. THERE ARE TRICKS TO STAYING WARM IN A SNOWSTORM.

“In the field when I’m covering snow storms, I go to any pharmacy and get those back patches people wear, those heat wraps, and stick them all over my body,” explains Abrams. “Then I put on a wet suit. When you’re out for as long as we are, that helps you stay dry. I have to be really hot when I go out for winter storms.”

5. THERE’S NO SCRIPT.

Your local TV weather forecaster is ad-libbing from start to finish. “Our scripts are the graphics we create,” says Jacob Wycoff, a meteorologist with Western Mass News. “Generally speaking we’re using the graphics to talk through our stories, but everything we say is ad-libbed. Sometimes you can fumble the words you want to say, and sometimes you may miss a beat, but I think what that allows you to do is have a little off-the-cuff moment, which I think the viewers enjoy.”

6. MOM’S THE AUDIENCE.

A retro image of a weatherwoman.
H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

Part of a meteorologist’s job is to break down very complicated scientific terminology and phenomena into something the general public can not only stomach, but crave. “The trick is … to approach the weather as if you're telling a story: Who are the main actors? Where is the conflict? What happens next?” explains Bob Henson, a Weather Underground meteorologist. “Along the way, you have the opportunity to do a bit of teaching. Weathercasters are often the only scientists that a member of the public will encounter on a regular basis on TV.”

Wycoff’s method for keeping it simple is to pretend like he’s having a conversation with his mom. “I’d pretend like I was giving her the forecast,” he says. “If my mom could understand it, I felt confident the general audience could as well. Part of that is also not using completely science-y terms that go over your audience’s head.”

7. SOCIAL MEDIA HAS MADE THEIR JOBS MORE DIFFICULT.

Professional meteorologists spend a lot of time debunking bogus forecasts spreading like wildfire across Twitter. “We have a lot of social media meteorologists that don’t have necessarily the background or training to create great forecasts,” Wycoff says. “We have to educate our viewers that they should know the source they’re getting information from.”

“People think it’s as easy as reading a chart,” says Scott Sistek, a meteorologist and weather blogger for KOMO TV in Seattle. “A lot of armchair meteorologists at home can look at a chart and go ok, half an inch of rain. But we take the public front when it’s wrong.”

8. THEY MAKE LIFE-OR-DEATH DECISIONS.

People plan their lives around the weather forecast, and when a storm rolls in, locals look to their meteorologist for guidance on what to do. If he or she gets the path of a tornado wrong, or downplays its severity, people’s lives are in danger. “If you miss a severe weather forecast and someone’s out on the ball field and gets stuck, someone could get injured,” says Wycoff. “It is a great responsibility that we have.”

Conversely, England says when things get dangerous, some people are reluctant to listen to a forecaster’s advice because they don’t like being told what to do. He relies on a little bit of psychological maneuvering to get people to take cover. “You suggest, you don’t tell,” he says. “You issue instructions but in a way where they feel like they’re making up their own minds.”

9. DON’T BANK ON THOSE SEVEN-DAY FORECASTS.

A weatherman reporting during a storm.
pxhidalgo/iStock via Getty Images

“I would say that within three days, meteorologists are about 90 percent accurate,” Wycoff says. “Then at five days we’re at about 60 percent to 75 percent and then after seven days it becomes a bit more wishy-washy.”

10. THEY’RE FRENEMIES.

The competition for viewers is fierce, and local meteorologists are all rivals in the same race. “When you’re in TV, all meteorologists at other competitors are the enemy,” England says. “You’re not good friends with them. They try to steal the shoes off your children and food off your plate. If they get higher ratings, they get more money.”

11. THEY’RE TIRED OF HEARING THE SAME JOKE OVER AND OVER.

“There’s always the running joke: ‘I wish I could be paid a million dollars to be wrong 80 percent of the time,’” Sistek says. “I wanted to have a contest for who can come up with the best weatherman insult, because we need something new! Let’s get creative here.”

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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