Anorak | On This Day In Photos: Princess Margaret Cancels Wedding To Group Captain Peter Townsend

On This Day In Photos: Princess Margaret Cancels Wedding To Group Captain Peter Townsend

by | 31st, October 2013


ON October 31, 1955 Princess Margaret cancelled her wedding to Group Captain Peter Townsend. This is the story of a scuppered love affair in photos. All captions are from the time.

The BBC broadcast the Princess’s statement:

“I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But, mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any others… I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.”

An early meeting:

The Princess first met Battle of Britain fighter pilot Group Captain Townsend when she was still a teenager and he, twice her age, was married with two children. He later separated from his wife. Group Captain Townsend was equerry to the King and after George VI’s death in February 1952, Comptroller of the Queen Mother’s household.

Princess Elizabeth arriving at the Palace Theatre in London to attend the all-star matinee of “1066 And All That”. Battle of Britain fighter pilot Group Captain Peter Townsend (in uniform) looks on as Princess Margaret emerges from the car. Date: 07/05/1946




Group Captain Peter Townsend (centre), then an Equerry to the King, leaving St Paul’s Cathedral, London, with the Royal family (L-R front): King George VI, the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret after they attended a church service on a National Day of Prayer. Date: 06/07/1947


(L-R front row) Princess Margaret, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Group Captain Peter Townsend and Princess Elizabeth in the Royal Box at the Strand Theatre, in London. Date: 05/08/1946



Group Captain Peter Townsend, right, watches Princess Margaret hold Prince Charles hand, at Berkhall, Deeside, Scotland on March 12, 1951. Princess Ann is in her pram, with the queen standing by. Senior members of the pipe band of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, look on after playing for the royal party. Date: 12/03/1951



A stiff upper lip:

Princess Margaret (left) sits beside her smiling sister, Queen Elizabeth II, in car after attending wedding of her former boy friend, the Earl of Dalkeith at Edinburgh, Scotland on Jan. 10, 1953. The groom is the son and heir of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and godson of Queen Mary. The 29-year-old Earl wed Jane McNeill, 22, a former top model in London’s fashionable West End salons. 



Was she made to jump?

A draft letter designed to be released by Princess Margaret in 1955, acknowledging her intention to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend, a divorcee, and relinquish her right to the Throne, is displayed at the National Archives Office in west London. The letter, which was never released, after the Princess’ decision not to marry Mr Townsend, is part of a set of documents published by the records office after their secrecy expired.




Who influenced her?

Under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, the Princess required her elder sister’s permission to marry before the age of 25. After then, she needed Parliament’s approval. News of the proposed marriage was leaked in the press. Shortly after Group Captain Townsend was sent to Brussels for two years as air attaché at the British Embassy.

The Princess turned 25 in August 1955 but Parliament had already made clear

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Posted: 31st, October 2013 | In: In Pictures, Royal Family Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink