Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend's Relationship: A Look Back

Princess Margaret, Peter Townsend

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Princess Margaret's love life was riddled with ups and downs.

The second child of King George VI and the Queen Mother, and the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret first fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend at just 17 years old. At the time, Townsend was married with two sons.

Although Townsend ended up divorcing his first wife and proposing to Margaret in 1953, their relationship ultimately didn't work out. At the time, divorcees weren't allowed to remarry in the Church of England and Margaret required her sister's permission to wed before the age of 25. But in October 1955, the princess chose the Crown over love and ended her engagement to Townsend.

From their first meeting in 1947 to their lives after each other, here is a complete timeline of Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend's relationship.

1947: Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend meet for the first time

Although Townsend became an equerry for Margaret's father, King George VI, in 1944, he reportedly didn't meet the princess until 1947 when he accompanied the royal family on a three-month tour of Southern Africa. Townsend and Margaret spent plenty of time together during the trip as his official job was to look after the princess.

"We rode together every morning in that wonderful country, in marvelous weather. That's when I really fell in love with him," Margaret reportedly later said.

At the time of their meeting, Townsend was married with two children.

October 1947: Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend travel to Belfast

Later in 1947, Townsend accompanied Margaret on a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she christened her first ship. Paperwork relating to the visit revealed that Townsend had asked for his room at Hillsborough Castle to be moved next to Margaret's room.

1952: Peter Townsend divorces his first wife

Townsend and his first wife, Rosemary Pratt, Marchioness Camden, divorced in 1952 after 11 years of marriage.

1953: Peter Townsend proposes to Princess Margaret

Townsend proposed to Margaret in 1953. However, due to the 1772 Royal Marriages Act, Margaret needed the Queen's permission to marry Townsend since she was under the age of 25 at the time. And since Townsend was a divorced man (and the Church of England had strict rules about remarriage after divorce at the time), the Queen did not grant Margaret's request.

June 2, 1953: Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend share a moment at Queen Elizabeth's coronation

Princess Margaret (1930 - 2002) at the British Industries Fair at Olympia, London. Captain Peter Townsend, the divorced Royal Air Force captain she was later refused permission to marry, stands in the background


While Townsend and Margaret's romance began before Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, their interaction at the event was fodder for the tabloids. During the festivities, a reporter saw Princess Margaret flick something off of Townsend's jacket, prompting speculation about their relationship.

1953-1955: Peter Townsend is sent abroad

Following Townsend's proposal to Margaret, the air force officer was sent abroad to Brussels as an air attaché, where he would remain for two years, per the BBC.

August 21, 1955: Princess Margaret turns 25

Princess Margaret attends Military Display at Up-Park Camp, Jamaica, at which Her Royal Highness inspected the Jamaica Regiment and took the Salute at the Trooping of the Colour, Monday 12th February 1955

Freddie Reed/Mirrorpix/Getty

Once Princess Margaret turned 25, she no longer needed the Queen's approval to marry Townsend — only Parliament's permission.

However, the British government prepared plans in the event that Margaret would decide to marry Townsend after turning 25. At the time, Margaret was third in line to the British throne behind her nephew Prince Charles and niece Princess Anne.

According to the BBC, the Queen and Parliament agreed to amend the 1772 Royal Marriages Act and remove Margaret and her future children from the line of succession. Prime Minister Anthony Eden wrote, "Exclusion from the Succession would not entail any other change in Princess Margaret's position as a member of the Royal Family."

But in August 1955, Margaret penned a letter to Eden and said that she would finally see Townsend in October after two years apart. "It is only by seeing him in this way that I feel I can properly decide whether I can marry him or not," she wrote.

October 31, 1955: Princess Margaret ends her engagement to Peter Townsend

Princess Margaret leaves the London home of a friend after her second date in 12 hours with Group Captain Peter Townsend


Margaret publicly announced that she would not marry Townsend in October 1955.

"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," Margaret said in a statement to BBC Radio at the time.

"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," she added.

1959: Peter Townsend marries Marie-Luce Jamagne

Peter Townsend et sa femme Marie-Luce Jamagne lors d'une soirée à Paris dans les années 1960, France


After his split from Margaret, Townsend moved to Belgium before settling down in France, according to The New York Times. He later wed Marie-Luce Jamagne in 1959.

February 26, 1960: Princess Margaret gets engaged to Antony Armstrong-Jones

Princess Margaret (1930 - 2002) and Antony Armstrong-Jones in the grounds of Royal Lodge after they announced their engagement

Hulton Archive/Getty

Margaret would find love again in the years after her split from Townsend. She met a photographer named Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1958 when he was hired to photograph the royal family.

The pair ended up getting engaged in 1959 but kept the news quiet for a few months.

In February 1960, Clarence House announced her engagement to Armstrong-Jones.

May 6, 1960: Princess Margaret marries Antony Armstrong-Jones

Princess Margaret and her new husband Antony Armstrong-Jones leave Westminister Abbey after their wedding.


Princess Margaret married Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960. Armstrong-Jones was the first commoner to marry into the royal family in some 400 years.

January 1, 1978: Peter Townsend releases his autobiography

Peter Townsend, the former King's equerry, signing his autobiography 'Time and Chance', at Selfridges. In the book he relates his association with Princess Margaret

Rob Taggart/Central Press/Getty

In 1978, 23 years after his love affair with Princess Margaret ended, Townsend released his first autobiography, Time and Chance. Though he didn't talk about Margaret much in his day-to-day life, he did mention her in his memoir.

"She could have married me only if she had been prepared to give up everything — her position, her prestige, her privy purse," he wrote. "I simply hadn't the weight, I knew it, to counterbalance all she would have lost."

1978: Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones divorce

Although Princess Margaret and Armstrong-Jones had separated two years prior, they divorced in 1978. "Her Royal Highness, The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and the Earl of Snowdon, after two years of separation, have agreed that their marriage should be formally ended. Accordingly, Her Royal Highness will start the necessary legal proceedings," read a statement from the palace.

June 19, 1995: Peter Townsend dies

Townsend had been ill for quite some time when he died in Paris at the age of 80. A spokesman at Buckingham Palace relayed that Princess Margaret was "sad" after hearing the news, according to The New York Times.

February 9, 2002: Princess Margaret dies

Princess Margaret died on Feb. 9, 2022, after suffering several strokes.

"The Queen, with great sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately. Her beloved sister, Princess Margaret, died peacefully in her sleep this morning at 6.30 am, in The King Edward VII Hospital," read an official announcement from Buckingham Palace. Margaret was just 71 years old.