How did Princess Margaret die? What to know about her final days and cremation

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Throughout past seasons of Netflix’s “The Crown,” Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret, is depicted mainly as the life of any party. The charming and witty royal, so far portrayed by actors Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham Carter, can be seen winning over every audience — often with a gin and tonic in one hand and a smoldering cigarette in the other.

How much Margaret’s habits contributed to her health struggles later in life has long been discussed among those who knew her well.

Last season of “The Crown” left viewers with the impression of an ill-at-ease princess who enjoyed her drink but also began seeking treatment for depression. Season 5 will peer into this later half of Princess Margaret’s life with Lesley Manville portraying her.

With the latest season debuting, here is everything to know about the princess’s health in the lead-up to her death and the details around her final days.

How old was Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, when she died?

Princess Margaret died at 71 on Feb. 9, 2002, at King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.

princesses Elizabeth (L) and Margaret (SIPA via AP)
princesses Elizabeth (L) and Margaret (SIPA via AP)

What contributed to Princess Margaret's poor health in late life?

Princess Margaret’s later years were plagued with various health ailments, some of which, according to New York Times, included migraines, bronchitis, hepatitis and laryngitis.

According to the BBC, in 1985, the royal — who smoked heavily throughout her life — had a small portion in order to test for cancer. of her left lung surgically removed. The princess reportedly gave up smoking in 1993 after having pneumonia. In addition, she experienced a mild stroke in 1998 while dining with friends at her vacation home in Mustique.

Following the news of her death in 2002, the Guardian reported that she would experience two other strokes before the final one the day before her death.

What happened with Queen Margaret and the bathtub?

Season Six of “The Crown” includes a harrowing episode in Princess Margaret’s life which took place in 1999 and was covered in the press at the time.

In the episode, actor Lesley Manville depicts the late princess three years before her death in 2002. During the scene, the princess steps into a hot bath and is unable to get out, scalding her feet.

In reality, the princess did severely burn her feet after she stepped into a bath at her home in Mustique. The Royal Family’s official website notes in her biography that the incident so affected her mobility that she would later need “support when walking and was sometimes restricted to a wheelchair.”

What caused Princess Margaret’s death?

At the time of Princess Margaret’s death, newspapers noted that her death came on the heels of her longtime struggle with heart and lung problems.

Others believed her self-indulgent lifestyle may have contributed. Friends of the royal, however, refuted those claims in a piece for The Guardian published a week after she died.

Princess Margaret in October, 1956.  (AP)
Princess Margaret in October, 1956. (AP)

At the time, the princess’s friends argued on her behalf, underlining that she grew up in an era when smoking and drinking regularly were part of the norm.

"Of course, the princess grew up in an age where drinking and smoking was much more acceptable," a friend explained. "We all did. However, I don’t believe she was addicted to alcohol. It’s preposterous. She just got very used to it."

Margaret died in 2002 after a series of heart and lung-related illnesses. In 1985, the princess, who was a heavy smoker, had surgery to remove part of her left lung, according to a Washington Post obituary. From 1998 until 2001, she had several strokes that impacted her sight and mobility. In 1999, she severely scalded her feet in a hot bath, which also impacted her ability to walk. She suffered a stroke the day before her death and had developed heart problems, The New York Times reported.

Why was Princess Margaret cremated?

In the aftermath of her death, “royal watchers” told The New York Times that Princess Margaret had opted to be cremated so that her remains could fit alongside her father King George VI’s grave in a vault that was made especially to hold him specifically.

Princess Margaret, 1948. (PA via Getty Images)
Princess Margaret, 1948. (PA via Getty Images)

In keeping with her rebellious reputation, the princess broke from what was typically expected of a royal family member and chose to be cremated. Her cremation took place at Slough crematorium.

According to The Guardian, the princess was the first member of the royal family to be cremated in the century since the procedure became legal.

Did Queen Elizabeth cry at Princess Margaret’s funeral?

While attending her sister Princess Margaret’s funeral at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II openly showed her grief over her loss.

A 2016 Vanity Fair article written by Reinaldo Herrera, a friend of the sisters, described the queen's unconventional show of emotion.

Queen Mother Margaret Queen (Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Queen Mother Margaret Queen (Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

“The queen lost her most intimate companion,” Herrera wrote. “Never explaining anything to the world—what she feels, or why she does what she does—is part of her greatness. But for a few minutes that day, as she stood by the steps of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, watching her sister’s coffin being borne away, her eyes betrayed her.”

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