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British RoyalsFeatures

The Earl of Snowdon: From headline grabber to genteel discretion

Andrew Parsons / i-Images

Some may know him as The Right Honourable David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and some may know him as The Queen’s nephew. The 3 of November marks 60 years since David was born to Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon.

Fully named David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones at birth, David was born 3 November 1961 at Clarence House. Baptised on 19 December in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, David’s godparents include his aunt, The Queen, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, Patrick Plunket, 7th Baron Plunket, Lord Rupert Nevill, and Simon Phipps. David has one younger sister, Lady Sarah Chatto (née Armstrong-Jones), and two paternal half-sisters from his father’s side, and a half-brother.

At the age of five, David began lessons with his cousin Prince Andrew in the Buckingham Palace schoolroom. He went to several independent schools throughout the years. He started off at Gibbs Pre-Preparatory School in Kensington, then transferred to the pre-preparatory section of Ashdown House School in East Sussex. David then went on to Millbrooke House School near Abingdon, in Oxfordshire, before finally setting at Bedales School, where he developed his passion for arts and crafts. In the early 1980s, he studied craftsmen in wood at Parnham House in the small town of Beaminster in Dorset.

Before setting up his own company, David Linley Furniture Limited (now known as Linley), David opened a store in Dorking where he designed and made furniture for three years. His work consisting of furniture, upholstery, and interior design products, is sold in retail stores in Belgravia, Harrods, and overseas. However, he lost control of the company in 2012 because of money he borrowed to make loans. Acquiring some £3 million in debt, he eventually resolved the issue by selling his controlled shares for £4 million.

Besides dabbling in the restaurant and furniture business, on 1 December 2006, David took up the post of chairman of Christie’s UK – a British auction house founded in 1766. In 2005, he joined the board as a non-executive director, and ten years later, in 2015, David moved up to be the honorary chairman of Christie’s EMERI (Europe, Middle East, Russia, and India).

Because David’s father, Antony, was originally a member of the House of Lords, by virtue, David was granted a peerage. When the House was reformed in 1999, and most hereditary peers lost their seats, David was given a life peerage. In 2016, David became a candidate in a by-election to fill a vacancy among the ranks of the crossbench peers. Only hereditary peers are eligible to stand in this election, and only the 31-currently sitting in the Lords as crossbenchers are eligible to vote. David eventually withdrew from consideration for the seat after his candidacy ‘raised eyebrows’ because of his relation to the Royal Family.

On 8 October 1993, David married the Honorable Serena Alleyne Stanhope, the daughter of Viscount Petersham at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster. Stanhope descends from Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton, who is one of the illegitimate children of Charles II of England. Together the couple has two children: Charles Patrick Ingo (born 1 July 1999) and Lady Margarite Elizabeth Rose (born 14 May 2002).

In the early 2000s, David and his family lived at Kensington Palace with his mother, Princess Margaret, as her health continued to decline. The Princess died 9 February 2002 at the age of 71, just one day after having another stroke that was followed by cardiac problems.

In the autumn of 2007, David found himself the centre of rumours suggesting that a member of the Royal Family was the victim of blackmail. The first confirmation that the royal in the extortion attempt was indeed David came from journalist Nicholas Davies. In an attempt to extort £50,000, David was threatened with the potential release of video footage showing sexual acts and cocaine use (allegedly by David and a royal aide). The two men in question were arrested after showing the video to an undercover detective, and they received five years in prison.

The Earl and his wife separated in February 2020. A spokesperson for the couple said they are planning to divorce. The Earl is currently 25th in the succession to the British throne and the first person who is not a descendant of The Queen.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.