Princess Margaret’s youth was dominated by a love of music and dancing, displaying a natural talent for the piano and singing. She was reported to have perfect pitch and during her time spent at Windsor Castle during World War II, she received singing lessons from Sir William Henry Harris, the resident organist at St George’s Chapel.
Unlike other members of her family, she showed little interest in the typical royal pursuits of hunting, shooting and fishing, instead developing an interest in ballet and amateur plays. Owing to her glamorous lifestyle, many famous actors would visit her at her residence in Kensington Palace. In 1984, she appeared as herself in the BBC Radio Drama The Archers, becoming the first member of the Royal Family to participate in a BBC production.
At periods in her life, Princess Margaret – or Margaret Windsor as she is sometimes known – was accused of not pulling her weight when it came to royal commitments. Nevertheless, she still played an important role in the Royal Family both at home and abroad. Margaret’s early royal duties included tours of South Africa and the Caribbean, later representing the Crown at independence ceremonies throughout the Commonwealth. She was primarily concerned with helping children and the sick in her roles as the president or patron of many organisations including the NSPCC and St John Ambulance Brigade. Due to her interest in music and dancing, her work as President of the Royal Ballet and Northern Ballet Theatre would have come naturally.
Princess Margaret was also Colonel-in-Chief of a number of military units, including the King’s Royal Hussars and the Royal Highland Fusiliers. She made a point of being kept up to date with the latest news concerning the units and she also enjoyed a special relationship with HMS Illustrious and HMS Norfolk.
Troubled personal life
Princess Margaret was renowned for her temperamental personality that could switch in a split second. Often charming and informal, she was also capable of cutting remarks and displays of arrogance. Her childhood tutor disputed this claiming that Margaret would often make impulsive comments that, taken out of context, led to an unrepresentative image of her in the press.
Margaret’s private life was always a huge source of fascination for the press, most notably her relationship with her father’s equerry Peter Townsend. Only 14 years old when they first met, their secret relationship wouldn’t begin until 8 years later, after the death of Margaret’s father in 1952. Married with two sons, Townsend split from his wife in the same year, but the Queen was unable to sanction her sister’s marriage due to his divorced status. Margaret ultimately chose to end the relationship and would later marry Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Often claimed to be a source of friction with the Queen, the sisters remained close throughout their lives until Margaret’s death in 2002 at the age of 71.