The Royal Lives Of Princess Margaret's Non-Royal Children

Princess Margaret has long been known as the original wild child of the royal family, but not much is known about her family life. The late sister of Queen Elizabeth II was played by the sensational Helena Bonham Carter in seasons three and four of "The Crown," garnering her masses of new fans who saw parts of themselves reflected in the eccentric and honest "spare."

Carter herself, who became a scholar of all things, Margaret, in the course of her research for the role, described Margaret to Town & Country as a woman who "She couldn't pretend to be anything but herself, so in a way she was honest and authentic, but unfortunately also incredibly rude." She was a woman about town, who spurned the tabloids, had affairs with family gardeners, danced with Gore Vidal at parties, and reportedly smoked 60 cigarettes a day (via Town & Country). 

However, while Margaret's mischievous social life may make for great television, what the writers of "The Crown" neglected to capture is what the princess was like as a mother. After settling down with her photographer husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones, Margaret had two children – David and Sarah Armstrong-Jones — of which little is known (via Women's Health). Despite being fifth and seventh in line for the throne at the time of their births, both David and Sarah have taken a page out of their mother's book and built lives for themselves outside of the royal spotlight.

Before becoming a mother, Princess Margaret had a scandalous affair

Princess Margaret had a tumultuous relationship with Peter Townsend, Group Captain of the Royal Air Force. According to Town & Country, the two first met when Princess Margaret was 14 years old and then-30-year-old Townsend was interviewing for a position at Buckingham Palace. Though their romance wouldn't begin until eight years later, when Margaret was 22, Peter would later reflect in a quote that the young princess was "unremarkable as one would expect of a 14-year-old girl." 

In the 1950s, both the Church of England and parliament made it known that they were deeply against a princess of the royal family marrying a divorced man.

To stop her sister's doomed romance, the queen later assigned Peter to serve in Brussels as an air attaché, where he fell in love with another woman. She eventually addressed the rumors in a public statement to BBC Radio.  She said, "I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage," adding, "But, mindful of the Church's teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any others. I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so, I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend."

In 1960, she married Antony Armstrong-Jones

Not one to wallow in self-pity, Margaret was quick on the rebound following Peter's marriage to the Belgian-born Marie-Luce Jamagne. In fact, according to Women's Health, it was only 24 hours after hearing news of Peter's engagement to his new flame that Margaret accepted a proposal of her own from the dashing royal photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. The eccentric Margaret had been nursing a secret romance with the non-royal for quite a while when he eventually popped the question. 

Their May 6, 1960 wedding became the first royal wedding service ever to be televised, per the BBC. Over 20 million viewers tuned in to the service, paving the way for the royal wedding mania experienced by William and Kate and, later, Harry and Meghan. With the Peter Townsend affair left in the past, the nation celebrated the marriage of their fun-loving Princess Margaret, with the queen christening Antony as the Earl of Snowdon upon their marriage. 

However, years later, Margaret would reflect on her unlucky love life, telling the BBC, "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."

Princess Margaret's son, David Armstrong-Jones, was born a year after her royal wedding

Though their romance turned sour in the later years of their marriage, Princess Margaret (now the Countess of Snowdon) and her new husband happily welcomed their first child, a boy, on November 3, 1961 (via Women's Health). Their first and only son, David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, was born in the royal residence of Clarence House and was christened in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace. Despite their difference in rank, he counted Queen Elizabeth's four children, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, among some of his closest childhood friends. 

According to the Manchester Evening News, David often traveled with his cousins on family holidays and even took music lessons with Prince Andrew starting when he was five years old. As a testament to the closeness of the two families and the tight bond between the sisters, Queen Elizabeth was also named as David's godmother. At his birth, David was fifth in line for the throne, but now, many a royal baby later, he is only 24th in line.

Three years later, Margaret and Antony welcomed their only daughter, Lady Sarah

Three years after welcoming David, Princess Margaret's only daughter and the queen's only niece, Lady Sarah Frances Elizabeth, was born on May 1, 1964 (via Women's Health). Following in her brother's footsteps, Sarah also led a charmed life, growing up in Kensington Palace surrounded by her parents, her older brother, and a crew of royal cousins (not to mention the countless servants and nannies). 

However, things weren't always perfect. During Sarah's childhood, serious cracks began to show in Margaret and Antony's marriage. In an interview with one of Margaret's ladies-in-waiting at the time, the Evening Standard claimed that "Life at Kensington Palace had degenerated into 'open warfare.'" Infidelity was the leading cause, with History reporting that "Lord Snowdon had conducted multiple extramarital affairs, and Margaret felt lonely within her marriage."

The two divorced when their daughter Sarah was only 13 years old. Perhaps luckily for the young royal, Sarah wasn't spending much time at Kensington Palace. During her teenage years, Lady Sarah joined her brother David at Bedales Boarding School in Hampshire, which Vanity Fair called "Britain's artsiest private school." Later in life, David would tell the magazine, "Bedales was perfect for my sister and me. Very open. Very few rules. No uniforms. Co-educational. And very little of 'You have to do this like this.' You very much controlled your education."

Princess Margaret raised her children to be art lovers

Despite her marital troubles, Princess Margaret was said to have been a very hands-on mother, especially when it came to educating her children on art and culture, according to Women's Health. In several interviews following her death in 2002, David remembers his mother as a passionate lover of art who would often take him and his sister on antiquing trips and visits to the National Gallery. 

"I loved being around my mother," he told Alain Elkann in a 2018 interview. "In the house were very interesting people from all walks of life, there was creativity and music. She played the piano by ear, and at Christmas, she held the Sacred and Profane buffet, and people would play." In another interview with Vanity Fair, David recounts a story where his mother and grandmother, the Queen Mother, took him to the National Gallery to see a Vermeer painting, and "only a Vermeer." When the young David asked about the other artwork the museum had to offer, his ever-honest mother said, "If you want to see those, you can go on your own." 

It's no surprise that Princess Margaret had an artsy streak, considering she had married one of the country's most sought-after photographers. Together, she and Antony raised a bohemian family, prioritizing art and freedom and keeping around an exciting cast of high-society characters for their children to marvel at.

David now operates a furniture design company

After graduating from Bedales, the princess's oldest child flew the coop, settling down in the South East market town of Dorking. He opened a shop where he built and designed his own furniture there. With high-profile clients such as Elton John and Valentino, David Linley (as he is now known) has made a name for himself in the world of furniture craftsmen, transforming his small Dorking shop into a bespoke furniture and interior design empire, now known as Linley, according to Women's Health.

He credits his photographer father, Antony Armstrong-Jones, for his success, telling The Telegraph in 2011, "I inherited my love of design from my father, the Earl of Snowdon, who was always fascinated by pushing the boundaries of an object–working out how to make it touch the ground in two places rather than three. I was pretty bad at making things as a child but he was an excellent teacher."

Princess Margaret was also a huge supporter of David's pursuits. Looking back on the early days of his Dorking shop, David told Vanity Fair, "I remember my mother came to my first shop, and I went downstairs, and there was my mother sitting on the floor, screwing a screw into the back of a mirror. She was greatly enthusiastic."

Sarah became a well-respected painter

While David has been a furniture man for most of his adult life, Lady Sarah's career trajectory has been more of an artistic whirlwind. After leaving Bedales, the young noble found work as a wardrobe assistant in the 1983 film "Heat and Dust." Hello! reports that it was on set where Sarah met her future husband, Daniel Chatto.

She wouldn't last long in the film industry, eventually flitting off to the art world like her father before her to make her name as a painter. Under the name Sarah Armstrong-Jones, the princess's only daughter began a relationship with the prestigious Redfern Gallery in London's West End in 1994 and has seen her work exhibited there on several occasions. She has also won awards, including the Winsor & Newton Prize in 1988 and the Creswick Landscape Prize in 1990 (via The Redfern Gallery). 

Her paintings have been praised by the art editor Patrick Kinmonth, who told The Redfern Gallery that her work "grow[s] like plants flowering, or landscapes excavated over time from remembered, indistinct horizons, [...] Her work takes us into a profound contemplation of the world she seeks to know and the method she has mastered. Going ever deeper into the nature of paint, where accident, evidence, and respect are allowed full sway." Following in her mother's footsteps, Lady Sarah also became the Vice President of the Royal Ballet in 2004, of which her mother had also been President for a time.

David fell victim to the royal marriage curse

With three of Queen Elizabeth's children undergoing scandalous divorces in the 1990s, the British tabloids have christened the Windsor line with a bit of a royal marriage curse. Like his cousins before him, David also sadly fell victim to the family curse in 2020 when he announced his divorce from his wife, Serena Armstrong-Jones, after 26 years of marriage, according to Town & Country

At the time, a spokesman for the couple told CNN that the two reached an "amicable" decision to end their marriage, saying, "The Earl and Countess of Snowdon have amicably agreed that their marriage has come to an end and that they shall be divorced. They ask that the press respect their privacy and that of their family."

The news rocked royal fans when it was first revealed, coming off an announcement that very same week that another royal family member, the queen's eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, and his wife Autumn were also divorcing after thirteen years of marriage, according to CNN. Despite their rocky union, David and Serena continued to affect a united front for their children, Viscount Linley, Charles Armstrong-Jones, and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, and to raise them out of the spotlight.

Sarah remains happily married

Unlike her brother and several royal cousins (and aunts and uncles), Sarah and her actor-husband are still going strong after 28 years of marriage. Following in her mother's footsteps, David Chatto's commoner status never seemed to bother the lowkey Sarah. The couple was married in a quiet ceremony at St. Stephen's Walbrook Church in July 1994 after almost ten years of dating (via Hello!). Despite shunning all the usual bells and whistles of a lavish royal wedding, Lady Sarah still stunned in a classic Jasper Conran gown and her family's Snowdon Floral Tiara, as Tatler remembered on their 27th wedding anniversary. 

Their wedding guests featured all the usual royal suspects, Hello reports, with standouts being Lady Sarah's aunt, Her Majesty the Queen, and her uncle, the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as her grandmother, the Queen Mother. A teenaged Zara Tindall (then Phillips) even served as one of Sarah's bridesmaids. At the time, the wedding made headlines for being the first public outing attended by Prince Charles and Princess Diana following Charles' scandalous interview with Jonathan Dimbleby, where he admitted to having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. 

Despite the family drama and the alleged royal curse, Sarah and Daniel remain happily married. Residing in Kensington, the couple is parents to two sons – Samuel, 25, and Arthur, 23. After studying at the University of Edinburgh, Samuel is now an artist in West Sussex, while Arthur works as a personal trainer (via Hello). 

Princess Margaret's children keep close ties to their royal relatives

While Princess Margaret's children always maintained close ties to their maternal cousins, David and Sarah grew much closer to the queen following their mother's 2002 death. Sarah, in particular, is said to have been "adored" by Queen Elizabeth, who frequently allowed her niece to accompany her to her favorite holiday house, Craigowan Lodge, in Aberdeenshire (via Hello!). 

Sarah was also made chief bridesmaid at Charles and Diana's 1981 wedding and was named godmother to Prince Harry. David, for his part, honored his beloved aunt, Queen Elizabeth, by waking behind her coffin during its procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall. Both siblings and their families were also in attendance at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's 2018 wedding, with Sarah's son Samuel writing on his Instagram page, "The wedding yesterday was so full of love and warmth and joy [...] I wish Meghan and Harry a lifetime of happiness."

While Princess Margaret's two children may remain quietly off the British tabloids' radar, they have found ways to pay tribute to their mother's legacy and honor their place among the royal family. In addition to attending these milestone family events, Sarah has been spotted wearing her mother's statement pearl earrings on several occasions. She has also been seen sporting a diamond brooch that once belonged to Princess Margaret at both the queen and Prince Philip's 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 1997 and her mother's funeral in 2002, according to Express