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Princess Margaret versus the Crown

The romance of Margaret and Peter Townsend has captivated lovers of the hit series The Crown. As the second season graces our screens, Mel Sherwood recounts the headline-grabbing relationship that set the princess against her sister
ROYAL RIFT Did the Crown’s refusal to allow a marriage between Margaret and Peter Townsend cause conflict between the royal sisters?

On 31 October 1955, the BBC broadcast a statement issued by Princess Margaret: “I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend,” it began. The nation, indeed the world, had been waiting with baited breath for a statement on the subject of Margaret’s marriage. But this was not what most wanted to hear. Margaret and Peter’s roller-coaster romance was one of the most talked-about love a airs of the 20th century. Their names and faces had been plastered on newspapers and television screens for twoand-a-half years. Today, the ill-fated love a air is once more in the public interest After The Crown (2016) suggested how much the romance may have a ected the relationship between Margaret and her sister the Queen, people are once more asking, what really happened between the Princess and the pilot? To look back at their first meeting, one would not expect anything much to have arisen between them…

Though close as children, the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 dramatically changed the relationship between princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, as the former grew more aware of her impending duty

Margaret was 13 when, in February 1944, a decorated fighter-pilot, Peter Townsend, was appointed equerry to her father, King George VI. He was 29, married, and a parent. In his autobiography, Time andChance, Peter reflected on the first time he met the young princesses: they were “adorable and quite unsophisticated girls”. He wasn’t wrong. Throughout the entirety of the war, the royal girls had lived very sheltered lives, under armed guard, inside Windsor Castle. Unsophisticated she might have been but, despite these isolated formative years, Margaret had developed an outgoing, artistic personality and was becoming quite the performer – a singer and gifted mimic. When peace came, their seclusion ended and, in 1947, the four members of the immediate royal family went on a tour of South Africa. Peter was among the staft they took with them.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

When we began thinking of how best to celebrate our 50th issue, we thought it would be great to look at the turning points in history, to pick which decisions had the greatest impact on the world. But as we started to come up with a list of key moments, it soon became clear that this was a herculean task; we were going to need some help. A few phone calls and emails later, we had assembled a panel of experts including some of the most respected and popular historians, writers and broadcasters in the land. We quickly realised it’s not possible to define the single biggest decision in history – how could anyone? – but the variety of responses we had illustrated the vast richness of history. So, from Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, to Decca Records choosing to pass on the Beatles, we present 50 decisions that, for better or worse, have shaped our world. Before I let you go, I’d like to thank all of our readers most sincerely for your support since we launched – here’s to the next 50 issues!