October 16, 1955
The romance between Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend was "shadowed today by the awful solemnity of an affair of state," reports the New York Times.
As Princess Margaret went to church today in the "glowing Berkshire woods," it became apparent that her "expected engagement and marriage" had become a "National issue. Newspapers, such as the Manchester Guardian the The Sunday Times have taken "assumed contradictory opinions on the couple's marriage."
Questions of the "religious and political aspects" of the marriage have developed into a full-blown conversation. The issue of Princess Margaret's position has moved from the 'ain't love grand' comments of the popular press to the "stratosphere" world of the "Court, the Church of England, the Government."
The "crux of the matter" is not whether Margaret should marry Group Captain Townsend -- there is a lot of public approval -- but how will the marriage take place without "jolting the delicate relationship of the Crown, Church, Government that stands at the apex of British society."
The central theme of the argument is the Royal Marriages Act. The Guardian has called the act "mumbo-jumbo" and it would be "ridiculous" to invoke it. Many feel that the act should be repealed and the Princess "left free to marry whom she pleases."
This view was "repudiated" today by the Sunday Times, which declared that Royal Marriages and "therewith the issue of those in line of succession to the Throne are matters of vital public moment." To even debate a repeal of the act "would raise precisely the same controversy as does the question of assent under the act."
As Princess Margaret is 25 years old, she does not need the Sovereign's consent to marry, but must give 12 months notice to the Privy Council of a marriage. Both Houses of Parliament cannot object to a marriage within the 12 months. Another complication is the Church of England. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Church.
The Church of England "holds that a Christian marriage is for all time" and does not recognize the marriage of divorced persons if the other spouse is still alive.
Group Captain Townsend divorced his wife in 1952 on the grounds of her adultery. She has since remarried.
The Sunday Times argues that the Princess, if she does marry Townsend, must renounce her right of succession.
The succession is defined by the 1701 Act of Settlement. The Guardian's editorial calls for the repeal of the Royal Marriages Act and an amendment of the Act of Settlement as "too much is made of the question of divorce."
This evening, after spending a few hours with her mother at Windsor, Princess Margaret returned to Allanby Lodge, the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Lycett Willis. in Berkshire. She and Group Captain Peter Townsend "strolled arm-in-arm around the the lawns of the secluded country mansion," where they spent the weekend.
The couple appeared "relaxed and oblivious" to the photographers. They also were seen in a "rose entwined terrace," playing with a dog. As the "sunshine faded," Margaret and Peter went "slowly, apparently reluctantly" back into the house.
Princess Margaret will return to London as she has several engagements to carry out.