The Truth About Princess Margaret And Antony Armstrong-Jones' Relationship

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones first met in 1958 at a dinner party, though they didn't really connect until Armstrong-Jones was hired to take photos of Queen Elizabeth and her family for Prince Charles' 8th birthday. Per Town & Country Magazine, Margaret and Armstrong-Jones dated in secret at first, often meeting up at the photographer's studio in an attempt to evade curious photographers and journalists. 


In a lot of ways, the marriage between Margaret and Armstrong-Jones was accurately portrayed on "The Crown." As People noted in 2017, there was plenty on the show that rang true in real life. For one thing, as royal historian Robert Lacey told the outlet, Armstrong-Jones was certainly known for being adventurous. As Lacey put it, Margaret was a victim of the man she would go on to marry. He said, "It is very explicit about the promiscuity of Armstrong-Jones — and Margaret wasn't aware of it. That will open a lot of people's eyes."

Victim or not, one thing that is true is that Margaret and Armstrong-Jones remained good friends after their 1978 split. Here is a look into their marriage.

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones met in 1958

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones officially met in 1958 when they both attended the same dinner party, but Armstrong-Jones had actually already been introduced to the royals when he was hired to take photographs of Queen Elizabeth in 1956. The queen hired Armstrong-Jones to take photos of Prince Charles for his 8th birthday, and she was reportedly so happy with the work that she invited the photographer to come back a year later to take photos of the entire family (per Tatler).


Armstrong-Jones published his first photograph in a September 1951 issue of Tatler, a magazine that he and his family had a long relationship with. His mother, Anne, was regularly featured in the publication, and Armstrong-Jones was even the star of his own spread when he was only three months old. He built a strong relationship with the magazine that would span the bulk of his career, including the time he was married to Princess Margaret (per Tatler).

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones dated in secret

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones kept their relationship a secret at first. Margaret was still bruised after her ill-fated relationship with Captain Peter Townshend, who she had hoped to marry. Biographer Anne de Courcy, who wrote a powerful biography about Armstrong-Jones, detailed the initial attraction between the pair.


According to her book Snowdon: The Biography, the initial attraction for Armstrong-Jones was that Margaret was a member of the royal family, and the idea of dating her presented "a unique and intoxicating challenge" that he couldn't resist. The author also detailed what the early weeks of their courtship was like, and noted that they often met in secret at the photographer's studio. Armstrong-Jones would also attend the same parties Margaret attended, but though the two didn't make it clear that they were attracted to one another. In the book, Anne de Courcy added, "The press focused more on the ones who were seen to be eligible. They didn't think of Tony, who was often in the background" (via Town & Country Magazine).


Princess Margaret said yes to Antony Armstrong-Jones when her ex got engaged

The story goes like this: Princess Margaret had an affair with Captain Peter Townshend, a married father of two. She was told to end the relationship but didn't. Townshend ultimately divorced his wife, but Queen Elizabeth would not allow her sister to marry a divorced man. Fast-forward five years and Margaret confessed to Jonathan Aitken that she had accepted a proposal from Antony Armstrong-Jones the same night she was informed Townshend was planning to marry someone else (per the BBC).


Margaret explained, "I received a letter from Peter in the morning and that evening I decided to marry Tony. I didn't really want to marry at all. Why did I? Because he asked me! Really, though, he was such a nice person in those days. In a way he introduced me to a new world" (via the BBC).

Margaret and Armstrong-Jones delayed announcing their engagement until after the queen gave birth to her third child, Prince Andrew. There have always been rumors that the pair were told they had to delay the announcement by the queen herself (via The Express).

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones had the first royal wedding on TV

When they did get married, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones made history by hosting the first-ever televised royal wedding. Over 20 million people in the United Kingdom tuned in to watch when Margaret and Armstrong-Jones got married on May 6, 1960. People in the United Kingdom weren't the only ones who were able to watch the wedding events unfold on TV — another 300 million people watched from around the world (per the BBC).


Margaret and Armstrong-Jones held their wedding at Westminster Abbey, where so many royal events of consequence have been held since. As Armstrong-Jones's obituary read after his death in 2017, only a handful of people seemed aware that there might be something less-than-ideal about the match. Noël Coward, a mutual friend of the couple, reportedly wrote in his own journal, "He looks quite pretty but whether or not the marriage is entirely suitable remains to be seen" (via The Guardian).

Antony Armstrong-Jones had a child born during his honeymoon with Princess Margaret

Unfortunately, things between Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones weren't off to the best start after their wedding. Margaret and Armstrong-Jones were on their honeymoon when the photographer's friends Jeremy and Camilla Fry welcomed a baby girl they named Polly. As shown on "The Crown," the rumor stood that Armstrong-Jones had a three-way relationship with both Frys and was the biological father of Polly, though he denied this claim at the time.


Ultimately, a DNA test proved that Armstrong-Jones did, in fact, father Polly Fry. Polly later opened up in an essay for The Daily Mail about finding out who her biological father was at the age of 45. She wrote, "Finding out at the age of 45 that the man I had idolized and put on a pedestal higher than Nelson's Column since I was a small child was not in fact my father was a hard burden to bear."

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones both had affairs

The 20-year marriage of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones was filled with a series of affairs carried out by both parties. Royal author Craig Brown told People that Armstrong-Jones wasn't faithful to Margaret from the beginning of their relationship, even going so far as to lament marrying her in case it meant he would have to give up his many girlfriends. As Brown put it, "There was so much he would have to give up, not least his other girlfriends, one of whom confided to a friend that Tony had wept on her bare breasts at the prospect of getting married to royalty."


Margaret also had affairs of her own while married to Armstrong-Jones. She met Roddy Llewellyn toward the end of her marriage and began a relationship that would last eight years. Helena Bonham Carter, who played Princess Margaret on "The Crown," told the Sunday Times that Llewellyn was happy to discuss what his relationship with Margaret was like. She said, "He said they found each other just at the right time. They were both very lost, both felt somewhat outsiders, just not quite accepted by the family—or not quite good enough."

Princess Margaret was the first royal to divorce since King Henry VIII

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones announced their separation in March 1976 after 16 years of marriage. The separation was novel for the monarchy at the time, and the official statement delivered via Kensington Palace read in part, "The Princess will carry out her public duties and functions unaccompanied by Lord Snowdon. There are no plans for divorce proceedings" (via the New York Times).


Kensington Palace confirmed that Margaret and Armstrong-Jones intended to divorce in a second statement that was issued in 1978. Margaret's spokesperson explained, "The marriage has broken down and the couple have lived apart for two years. These are obviously the grounds for divorce" (via People).

The divorce was finalized in July 1978. Theirs was the first royal marriage in Queen Elizabeth's immediate family that had ended in divorce since King Henry VIII had his marriage to Anne of Cleaves annulled in 1540.

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones stayed friends

Despite their divorce, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones remained exceptionally close friends for the rest of Margaret's life. In fact, Armstrong-Jones stayed close to the entire royal family after his divorce, and was still asked to take photos of several members of the family through the years. Armstrong-Jones, who had polio as a child and walked with a limp for the rest of his life, was also able to use his royal connections to advocate for the physically disabled. He established the Earl of Snowdon Award Scheme, a fund that took the money he made from the royal family as a photographer to support disabled students (per Town & Country Magazine).


Margaret and Armstrong-Jones showed up for their son, Viscount Linley, when he married his wife Serena in 1993 (via Brides). While Margaret never remarried, Armstrong-Jones married Lucy Lindsay-Hogg in 1978. They were married until 2000, when it came out that Armstrong-Jones had conceived a child with another woman (per Cosmopolitan).