We wouldn’t be doing Wedding Wednesday justice if we didn’t bring you the first royal wedding to be televised. Princess Margaret, the sister of the current Queen Elizabeth and Antony Armstrong-Jones married at Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960 in front of 2000 guests and hundreds of millions of TV viewers worldwide. But theirs wasn’t to be an easy marriage and it had actually already gotten off to a rocky start.
If The Crown is to be at all believed, and it is supposedly just a work of historical fiction, Margaret and Antony’s courtship was a tangled mess. But not as tangled as their marriage would prove to be. They met at a dinner party in 1958 and dated quietly, Margaret intent on keeping the relationship from the press after a disastrous and very public courtship with Captain Peter Townsend (that’s a story for another post entirely on its own). It’s hard to say if Margaret was truly interested in Armstrong-Jones or still heartbroken, but she did accept a proposal from him a day after learning that Captain Townsend was going to marry someone else.
The two announced their engagement the 26th of February but had become engaged in October 1959, Armstrong-Jones popping the question with a ruby and diamond engagement ring in the shape of a rosebud, a nod to her middle name, Rose. After the wedding, the Queen bestowed Armstrong-Jones with the title of Earl of Snowden, looping him into the royal fold, while he in turn widened Margaret’s social circle to include show business celebrities and bohemians, something that would have been unheard of just a few years earlier for a royal.
The couple honeymooned for six weeks aboard the royal yacht Britannia throughout the Caribbean and then returned home to set up their house in Kensington Palace. Margaret had her charity work, Antony his photography assignments. They had two children together but by the early 1970s both had been involved in numerous affairs and the relationship had cooled substantially. Margaret was photographed scandalously with a much younger man at her vacation home in Mustique. Antony had taken a mistress several years before, while carrying on other relations in tandem.
In March of 1976 the Snowdens admitted that their marriage had broken down and separated, with their divorce becoming final in July of 1978. It was the first royal divorce for a senior member of the family since 1901. Little did they know it at the time, but their divorce would pave the way for the acceptance of three of Margaret’s sister’s children’s divorces much later. Does that make them trailblazers when it comes to royals? We’ll let you decide and you can tell us what you think in the comments.