Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Princess Margaret marries photographer

May 6, 1960

Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, was married today at Westminster Abbey to society photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones.  The New York Times reports that the "majestic splendor of Westminster Abbey and the brilliant medieval panoply of royalty were forgotten" when the princess and Mr. Armstromg-Jones knelt before the Archbishop of Canterbury pronounced  "that they be man and wife together."

More than 250,000 people lined the wedding route from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey to cheer the couple.   It was an exceptionally giddy crowd.  At one point, "they burst through the police lines to swarm in front of Buckingham Palace "to shout their good wishes to the couple on the balcony high above."

More than 2000 guests attended the wedding, "probably as varied a company as ever attended a royal wedding."  The guests ranged from the "bland and affable" {rime Minister Macmillan and Presidents and premier from Commonwealth nations.  Musical-comedy star Leslie Caron was also one of the guests, joining "field marshals and fledglings in arts.  Sir Winston Churchill "personified the great past."

The bride arrived at the abbey to a fanfare from trumpeters.  She was escorted down the aisle by her brother-in-law, the Duke of Edinburgh as the choir sang "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation."  The princess was dressed in a "white silk organza" gown and a "tiara of white diamonds surrounded her high-swept hair.   She was followed by eight young bridesmaids: Princess Anne, Lady Rose Nevill, the Hon. Catherine Vesey, Lady Virginia Fitzroy, Miss Sarah Lowther, Miss Annabel Rhodes, and Miss Angela Nevill. The best man was Dr, Roger Gilliat.

When Margret reached the altar, she handed "her bouquet of pinkish-white orchids and lilies of the valley" to her nine-year-old niece, Princess Anne.

After signing the register, the couple processed to Purcell's Trumpet Tune and Airs." The Abbey doors opened to bright sunshine and the sound of cheers.

After a reception at Buckingham Palace, the newlyweds got into a car for the quick drive to the royal yacht, Britannia, moored in the Thames, waiting to take the Princess and her husband to the Caribbean.

Only one member of a reigning royal family, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, who was Princess Margaret's godmother, attended the ceremony.

The groom's first choice for his best man was a friend, Jeremy Fry, but on April 6, Fry stepped down as best man, citing an "attack of jaundice."  The real situation was that there were rumors "circulating about his conviction for a homosexual offense eight years earlier."  However,  Fry was seen returning from a holiday tanned and fit.  Another close friend,  Jeremy Thorpe, the future leader of the library party, was considered as a candidate but was quickly dropped after an investigation by the Special Branch uncovered that he too had "homosexual tendencies"   Armstrong-Jones was provided a shortlist of five suitable names, including Dr. Gilliatt, who was the son of a former Surgeon-Gynecologist to the Queen.    He may not have been a close friend of the groom, but he wasn't gay.

In his biography of Princess Margaret, the late Theo Aronson wrote that there was "further embarrassments" when members of the European reigning royal houses declined their invitations, with the exception of Queen Ingrid of Denmark, who was one of Margaret's godmothers.   Aronson noted that it was difficult to believe that so many of the royals "were too busy to attend the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II's younger sister.     Aronson wrote that "some of the excuses were suspiciously lame."   Truth told that "for all their populist, bicycling images, many of the royal families of Europe still regarded themselves -- as did Princess Marina -- as a part of an exclusive clan: princesses married princes, not photographers."

Princess Marina, the youngest of three daughters of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and Grand Duchess Helen of Russia, was an inveterate snob.  In November 1934, she married Prince George, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary.  Her two sisters-in-law,  the Duchess of York and the Duchess of Gloucester, who were married to the second and third sons of George V, respectively, were the daughters of Scottish dukes, who were far richer than Marina's father.   Marina, whose family went into exile after the first world war, once referred to Elizabeth and Alice as "those common little Scottish girls."

The widowed Duchess of Kent had a far more continental view of royal marriages as she did not approve of a king's daughter marrying a photographer.

Three weeks after Armstrong-Jones, who received the title Earl of Snowdon in October 1961, married Princess Margaret,  Jeremy Fry's wife, Camilla, gave birth to a daughter, Polly.  Although it was largely assumed that Polly was Jeremy's daughter, DNA proved that Lord Snowdon was her father.

all images  Marlene Eilers Koenig Collection

The naysayers, which also included Snowdon's father, Ronald, were proved right.  The marriage, which produced two children, David, now the 2nd Earl of Snowdon, and Lady Sarah Chatto, was dissolved by divorce in 1978.  It was the Earl of Harewood's divorce in 1967 that set the precedent for Margaret's divorce. Lord Harewood was Margaret's first cousin, the elder son of Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, who had married the 6th Earl of Harewood in 1922.   George married Austrian-born Marion Stein in 1949, two years after he had succeeded his father as the 7th earl.   By the late 1950s, after the birth of three sons, the marriage began to fall apart, especially after George became involved with an Australian musician, Patricia Tuckwell.  In 1964, she gave birth to their son, Mark. 

Marion finally consented to a divorce, which was finalized in 1967.  After getting permission from the Queen to marry, George and Patricia flew to the United States, where they married in a civil ceremony in Connecticut.   (The Royal Marriages Act did not allow for civil marriages in England or Wales and, as a divorced person, George could not remarry in the Anglican church.

Marion Stein remarried in 1973.  Her second husband was Jeremy Thorpe, who was one of Lord Snowdon's choices for best man.

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