Heritage

All the Misconceptions About Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret's Ex-Husband

From his true motives for marrying Princess Margaret to his relationship with the royal family.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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As half of the most fascinating duo in the 20th-century, Lord Snowdon’s fast-paced, loose lifestyle was often the subject of tabloid fodder.

Here, we address the rumors and misconceptions about the royal spouse and photographer.

He never loved Princess Margaret.

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Based on how the media portrayed their relationship, it may be easy to conclude that Antony Armstrong-Jones, or Tony as he was called, never loved Princess Margaret. But it’s clear through various accounts that Lord Snowdon was fully devoted to the glamorous royal in the early days of their relationship.

In one of her sittings with the storied photographer, Margaret found herself smitten. He was different from other people she had crossed paths with; he was comfortable with the Princess, gossiping about mutual acquaintances, cracking harmless jokes, and casually sharing stories about his profession.

Almost immediately, Lord Snowdon was invited to join the royal’s intimate circle of friends. And soon after, Princess Margaret made anonymous jaunts to his photographing studio in Pimlico. It was then that the two got to know each other, with friendship turning into something more. The rest, as they say, is history. Not only did Lord Snowdon risk his career for the princess, but he also gave up his privacy and earned the ire of many his friends.

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He only married the royal because of his insistent mother.

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Lord Snowdon’s socially ambitious mother has been cited as one of the reasons why he married Princess Margaret. A well-known hostess, Anne Messel made her society debut in 1922. She married Ronald “Ronnie” Armstrong-Jones and had two children: Susan and Tony. Five years after Lord Snowdon’s birth, she divorced Armstrong-Jones and became the Countess of Rosse after marrying Michael Parsons, the 6th Earl of Rosse.

Though Lord Snowdon has been historically tied to his mother’s social ambitions, real-life events prove otherwise. After marrying the Earl of Rosse, he fell from his mother’s list of favorites. Numerous accounts say she was fearful he would marry one-time girlfriend Jacqui Chan, whom she thought socially unfit for him.

Lord Snowdon later regained his mother's attention after becoming engaged to Princess Margaret. The Countess was reportedly keen to have her brother-in-lawLawrence Patrick Parsons, Lord Oxmantownas best man in the royal wedding, a decision her son vetoed.

The royal family wasn’t too fond of him.

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The couple’s Kensington Palace servants and several courtiers often looked down on the pairing, but it seemed the royal family welcomed him with open arms. One notable fan was the Queen Mother, who went as far as throwing a party for Princess Margaret and her husband-to-be. The dance, disguised as a party for Princess Alexandra’s homecoming, took place on October 1959 at Clarence House. This signified the start of his visits to the royal residence.

After the marriage, he became equally popular with his in-laws. An excerpt from Anne de Courcy’s Snowdon: The Biography states, “The Queen quickly became fond of her brother-in-law. He was meticulous about following the correct etiquette, always calling her ‘ma’am’ (his children were to know her as Aunt Lilibet), bowing before kissing her on the cheek, and inquiring through an equerry when it would be convenient to telephone Her Majesty (although if she rang him, she would say, ‘Oh, Tony, it’s Lilibet’).”

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Lord Snowdon was friendly with his brother-in-law, Prince Philip, and he was frequently seen with Prince Charles, as well. After the divorce, Lord Snowdon remained on the roster of official photographers—even becoming the first to photograph Prince William and having snapshots of Princess Diana with William and Harry.

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Paolo Chua
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