On 6 May 1960, Princess Margaret became the first royal to marry in a televised ceremony when she married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in a glittering service at Westminster Abbey.
Princess Margaret had been linked to several beaus, most notably her father’s and sister’s former equerry, Peter Townsend. After a tumultuous period of will-they-won’t-they, their relationship ended on 31 October 1955 with a statement from Princess Margaret that “Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before others…”
When Princess Margaret’s engagement was announced on 26 February 1960, it came as a shock to reporters, as the romance between the Princess and the photographer had been kept under wraps.
At the ceremony, Princess Margaret was given away by her brother-in-law Prince Philip and was attended by seven bridesmaids: her niece, Princess Anne; Marilyn Wills (her goddaughter); Annabel Rhodes; Lady Virginia Fitzroy; Catherine Vesey; Sarah Lowther; and Lady Rose Nevill.
Her wedding dress was designed by Norman Hartnell – who had previously designed The Queen’s wedding dress and her coronation gown. It was made of silk organza, and its train was 30 metres long.
Life magazine later called it “the simplest royal wedding gown in history,” and the dress has been included on lists of the most famous wedding dresses of all time. When the Duchess of Cambridge married Prince William in 2011, the media included Princess Margaret’s wedding dress as a possible inspiration.
Princess Margaret wore the Poltimore tiara, a diamond tiara set in golds and silvers. It was acquired for the Princess ahead of her wedding, and she wore it from 1959 onwards. It was auctioned after her death in 2002 by her children to help pay her estate taxes.
Although Princess Margaret was one of the most senior members of the British Royal Family, only one foreign royal attended the ceremony, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, due to the disapproval of a princess marrying a photographer.
Princess Margaret’s wedding was the first to be televised, and some 300 million people tuned in to watch. Following their wedding, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones honeymooned aboard the royal yacht Britannia before moving into Kensington Palace.
As a honeymoon present, Princess Margaret was given a parcel of land on the island of Mustique from Colin Tennant. This would factor into her later life when she spent increasing amounts of time on the Caribbean island. She built a sprawling house, Les Jolies Eaux (Beautiful Waters), on the island in 1972, with five bedrooms and a drawing room. It was later gifted to her son, David, 2nd Earl of Snowdon as a wedding present, and is open for weekly rentals.
The couple had two children, David, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Lady Sarah Chatto, born 1961 and 1964, respectively. Antony Armstong-Jones was created the Earl of Snowdon in 1961.
Unfortunately, the royal couple split up in 1978 after years of bickering and affairs on both sides. Princess Margaret never remarried, but Antony married again at the end of 1978. He had another two children and revealed in 2008 that he had a child before he married the Princess.
Princess Margaret died on 9 February 2002 following a series of debilitating strokes and a long illness. Her funeral was held on the 50th anniversary of her father’s funeral, and shortly into her sister’s Golden Jubilee year. The Earl of Snowdon died on 13 January 2017.