On This Day In Photos: Princess Margaret Cancels Wedding To Group Captain Peter Townsend
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 it would not consent to her marriage.
She was left with only two options: renounce all her rights and privileges and become Mrs Peter Townsend or give up all ideas of the marriage.
Pressure was cranked up.
Police had to force a way through a crowd of about 300 people for Group Captain Peter Townsend when he left the Marquess of Abergavenny’s home in Lowndes Square, London on October 14th 1955. He said he was going away for the weekend ‘I cannot say where’. He drove off in his car. Townsend, the subject of romantic speculation concerning Princess Margaret, has been staying at the Lowndes Square house. Picture shows: Group Captain Peter Townsend, wearing a light check sports suit and carrying a brown leather jerkin and two books. Date: 14/10/1955
Group Captain Peter Townsend chats with Miss Norah Wilmot, who had lent him a horse, after going riding at Binfield, Berkshire on October 15th 1955, near the house where both he and Princess Margaret are staying.
Police cars drawn across the narrow road effectively bat Press and sunday morning sightseers from following the car in which Princess Margaret drove from Allanbay House where she is staying at Binfield, Berkshire. The Princess, in a Rolls Royce bearing the Royal coat of arms, drove off in the direction of Windsor. In the car with her was her hostess for the weekend, Mrs John Lycett Wills. About a hundred press men, photographers, home and foreign correspondents, massed at the gates of Allanbay House, where the Princess and Group Captain Peter Townsend are staying as guest. Date: 16/10/1955
Followed by dozens of Pressmen in cars and on foot, Group Captain Peter Townsend goes riding at Binfield Berkshire on October 17th 1955.
Great Britain’s Princess Margaret birthday portrait shown Oct. 18, 1955. (Cecil Beaton)
Princess Margaret, wearing a grey fur wrap over a green velvet dress, is pictured leaving the London home of Major John Wills and Mrs. Wills in Kinnerton Street, at 1.10 on October 21st 1955. Opening the door of her car is her personal detective, Detective inspector Fred Crocker. The Princess and Group Captain Peter Townsend had been guests of the Wills with whom they stayed at Allanbay Park, Binfield, Berkshire. Date: 21/10/1955
Life went on.
Peter Townsend follows his two sons, 16 year old Giles (left) and 12 year old Hugo across the tarmac at Ferryfield Airport, Kent after returning from a continental holiday.
She would marry.
Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones at Buckingham Palace after their marriage ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London. Date: 06/05/1960
He married, his “young fiancé Marie Luce Jamagne”.
PETER TOWNSEND 1978: Former RAF Fighter Pilot Group Captain Peter Townsend at Selfridges, London, where he signed copies of his book ‘Time and Chance’ which gives details of his relationship with Princess Margaret. Date: 13/02/1978
France: The Funeral of Group Captain Peter Townsend took place today at the village church at St. Leger-en -Yvelines Pictured the coffin arriving