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Letter to New Zealand Prime Minister announcing the divorce of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong Jones, 1978 | by Archives New Zealand
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Letter to New Zealand Prime Minister announcing the divorce of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong Jones, 1978

On 9 February 2002 Princess Margaret, only sister of Queen Elizabeth II, died at age 71.


Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, and the daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother). Born in 1930, she became second in line to the throne at age six when her parents unexpectedly became king and queen after her uncle King Edward VIII’s sudden abdication to marry a divorced woman.


Charismatic and glamorous, Margaret was shadowed by scandal throughout her life and she became the subject of intense media coverage. Fans of ‘The Crown’ television series will know her as a rebellious royal who fell in love as a teenager with Captain Peter Townsend, a palace staff member 15 years her senior and a divorcee, causing global press speculation about their potential marriage. However the echoes of her uncle’s abdication still continued to reverberate and it was decided that Margaret’s marriage to a divorced person would require her to relinquish her royal status. Margaret chose to remain a Royal.


In 1960 Margaret made another unconventional choice in love and wed photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. The marriage was heralded as being reflective of the modern, classless world of 1960s Britain. The couple were made Earl and Countess Snowdon and had two children soon after. The Snowdons embraced the bohemian social and cultural atmosphere of the swinging 1960s, but their marriage was continually marked by sordid gossip and extra-marital affairs which eventually came to the attention of the press. In 1978 the marriage ended in divorce and Margaret became the first senior member of the Royal family to divorce since 1901. Margaret was plagued by ill health in her later years and suffered a series of strokes which eventually led to her death in 2002. She is buried with her parents at Windsor Castle.


Archives New Zealand holds several records about the life of Princess Margaret. Some, like the letters and telegrams shown here, relate to announcements from Buckingham Palace about events in her life such as birthdays, her wedding, the births of her children, and her divorce. Many others relate to proposals for Margaret to visit New Zealand, the first of which was a plan to visit with her parents in 1949. Her father’s ill health prevented this visit however, and although many subsequent proposals were made in the decades to come, Margaret never visited New Zealand.


Archives reference: ABAH 16603 W4187 41/ R8 (R18698117)


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Material from Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga



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Taken on January 26, 2021