The Legendary Relationship Between Princess Margaret And Peter Townsend

Those of you who are familiar with the hit Netflix series The Crown will likely be at least partially familiar with the love story of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and RAF officer Peter Townsend.

Younger sister of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret passed away in 2002 and left behind a legacy and a love story steeped in controversy and tragedy.

But who was Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend, and why, decades later, are we still showing such a keen interest in their relationship?

First Meeting

When Princess Margaret first met Peter Townsend, she was still in her teens.

The story goes that the princess’ father George VI had interviewed Peter for a position on his equerry.

Margaret was just 14 when they first met, and Peter was 30. Despite the media trying to put an insidious spin on the age gap, Townsend was reported as saying he showed no interest in her when they first met, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

It wasn’t until the death of her father in 1952, 8 years after their first meeting, that the two fell in love.

New Relationship

Princess Margaret fell in love with the RAF man when she was aged just 22.

Despite the 16 year age gap, this wasn’t what kept the two apart for so long. Instead, Peter was married, yet filed for divorce in 1952 after his wife had an affair. Because of the fact that he was divorced, his status meant that the two couldn’t be together officially.

Both parliament and the Church of England were said to be against the coupling. Despite this, Peter and Margaret grew closer, with Townsend claiming it was her sense of humour and natural beauty which he found the most attractive.

Because Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret’s sister, was supreme governor of the Church of England, the couple’s relationship was especially frowned upon.

Princess Margaret And Peter Townsend
Margaret (front) with her grandmother Mary and sister Elizabeth, May 1939

Controversy And Heartbreak

The Palace was said to have kept their relationship a secret. During the Queen’s coronation, however, Margaret was seen to pick a piece of fluff from Townsend’s suit and flick it away. This is what lead to people putting 2 and 2 together and realizing they were in a relationship.

The two wished to marry but they encountered obstacles from every angle. Townsend was sent to work abroad yet the press still obsessed over their relationship.

He worked abroad for 2 years and when they were reunited, they were still not granted permission to marry.

The government was still against the couple marrying and proclaimed that, should they wed, the princess would be stripped of her official title, as well as her royal income and other privileges.

The princess, forced into a corner, proclaimed that she would not be marrying Townsend, and despite being heartbroken, just 3 years later she married Anthony Armstrong-Jones, who would go on to become Lord Snowdon. The couple had 2 children and divorced in 1978.

Princess Margaret And Peter Townsend
Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, May 1965

Townsend moved to France and married a Belgian woman who held a striking resemblance to Margaret. Margaret passed away in 2002 aged just 71, 7 years after Townsend passed away aged 80. 

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