Despite the cutting disapproval from her family, Princess Margaret remained unaffected. She and Townsend were deeply in love. What were the ranks and conventions to true love, after all? She was determined to marry Townsend, even if it meant going against her family, the Church of England, and the Parliament.
The 1722 Royal Marriages Act required Queen Elizabeth’s approval of the marriage, and only when Princess Margaret turned 25. The Queen asked Margaret to wait a year so she could decide on the best course of action. This photo shows a document pertaining to Princess Margaret and her intention to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.
Her First Epic Romance
Who was Peter Townsend? He was a dashing British RAF officer and legendary flying ace. Townsend served as an equerry to King George VI from 1944 to 1952. Princess Margaret was but a teen when she first met the captain who was interviewing for the equerry position. She was immediately infatuated, her feelings for Townsend growing stronger with time.
As she grew older, the infatuation grew into a relationship that scandalized the family. Townsend was divorced and 16 years older. He was also the father of two children. Hoping that Margaret would grow out of the relationship, the royal family turned a blind eye.
Not All Roses
Princess Margaret was head over heels in love. She was also determined to seduce Townsend. But as for the Captain? Many sources report that he wasn’t keen on the idea at first. Like other royal courtiers, he thought of her as an indulged child.
Given how much older he was, Townsend firmly kept her at a distance. Their story was somewhat love-hate initially, but we know how that turned out.
How the Media Found Out About the Relationship
The British public was none the wiser about Princess Margaret and Captain Townsend’s relationship. But the media quickly caught on, thanks to a seemingly innocuous gesture by Princess Margaret. At Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, the princess gently flicked some dust off of Townsend’s shoulder, suggesting an intimate relationship between the two.
Every newspaper picked up the story about their relationship. Most of the British public approved of the relationship. The Church and Parliament? Their views were decidedly the opposite.
Will They? Won't They?
The relationship put Queen Elizabeth in a tricky situation. As the head of the Church of England, it was her duty to disallow the marriage. But she was also the elder sister who wanted to keep Princess Margaret happy. Elizabeth attempted to work around conventions to make the marriage possible.
Tension around the relationship created a rift between the public (largely pro-Margaret) and the royal family. During this period, Townsend served several assignments overseas where he waited until Princess Margaret turned 25 and they could marry.