PRINCESS MARGARET and Antony Armstrong-Jones kept their burgeoning love affair strictly under the radar – and the Queen Mother helped the lovers keep their meetings under wraps, according to a royal author.
Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960.Although the couple would go on to become infamous for being the first senior royals to divorce since Henry VIII, in the early days of their relationship their romance was scandalous because of the class difference between the bride and groom. Indeed, the princess kept her love affair with the photographer secret from all but her closest friends – and her mother, the Queen Mother, who she shared a home with at Royal Lodge, Windsor.
Writing for Vanity Fair in 2009, royal biographer Anne de Courcy explains how the Queen Mother became “extremely fond” of her future son-in-law, and helped Margaret with managing to keep her meetings with Tony under the radar.
Ms de Courcy writes: “Margaret, accustomed to unquestioning deference, had never met anyone like him.
“She decided that she wanted Tony in her circle, and after a while his face could be seen among the parties of six or eight people in which the Princess went to the theatre or dined out.
“As he was not a known escort, no one paid any attention to the appearance of an extra man in her wide and varied acquaintance.
Princess Margaret and the Queen Mothe (Image: Getty)
The Queen Mother with the couple and their firstborn child David in 1961 (Image: Getty)
“Soon she began paying secret visits to his studio in Pimlico.
“Her car would drop her unobtrusively in the adjacent, parallel road.
“Dressed as anonymously as possible in a tweed skirt, sweater, and headscarf, she would slip down a small alley that led to the studio’s backyard – at the back, the basement was at ground level – and down the spiral staircase into the small sitting room where Tony would cook them a simple supper.
“When the Princess joined her mother at Royal Lodge, Tony would drive down to Windsor to see her.
“It was known that he was building an aviary there, and the assumption was that it was for the Queen Mother.
“As the year drew on, another excellent excuse for visits was his commission to take the 29th-birthday portraits of the Princess.”
Ms de Courcy also writes how the Queen Mother gave a party for the smitten pair – under the guise of another reason entirely.
She writes: “The bond between Tony and the Princess was steadily strengthening, a fact acknowledged by the Queen Mother, who, unlike many others in the Royal Family, approved of him wholeheartedly – so much so that she gave a party for her daughter and the man Margaret now clearly loved.
“Ostensibly, this dance, at the end of October 1959, was to welcome Princess Alexandra home from Australia.
Royal Weddings timeline (Image: DX)
“There were 250 guests, who danced until three A.M. Tony and Margaret, scarcely able to hide their feelings for each other, were finally asked by the Queen Mother to lead a conga up and down the staircases and through the rooms of Clarence House.”
Encouraging a secret relationship would be something the Queen Mother would appear to do again, decades later.
According to 2017 Channel 4 documentary ‘The Royal House of Windsor’, she turned a blind eye to Charles and Camilla’s affair while the Prince of Wales was still married to Diana.
Historian Dr Piers Brendon said: “The Queen Mother allowed the couple to use her Scottish home as a bolthole.
“The Queen Mother was relatively broad-minded – she didn’t mind Charles having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles provided that this did not become a scandal.”
Birkhall, the Queen Mother’s home on the Balmoral estate, now belongs to Charles and Camilla and is where the pair are currently staying together in self-isolation.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK