Long before there was Princess Diana, there was Princess Margaret. The daughter of a king, the sister of a queen, and the Royal Family’s original bad girl, with a liking for gin, cigarettes and the fast life. She was beautiful and often reckless, but put duty and her Royal lifestyle before love, although she may have lived to regret it. She died in 2001 at the age of 71, after suffering from a series of strokes and is somewhat forgotten now. There is a documentary series showing on Channel 5 this Sunday so I thought now was a good time to look back at the glorious style of the Princess who was adored by Dior and was maybe the second royal fashion icon (I’m taking Princess Marina as the first, and not counting the equally naughty Wallis.)
From the late 1940’s when the Princess reached adulthood and threw off the moniker Margaret-Rose and opted for just plain Margaret, to the 1960’s when she mingled with the likes of The Beatles, Peter Sellers and other icons of swinging London, Princess Margaret was a trend setter and a regular feature in glossy magazines. Like Princess Diana, she could sell papers with her royal glamour and beauty. Her real heyday was the 1950’s, her tiny yet curvy figure was perfect for the New Look style that Dior had created, and in her 21st birthday pictures by Cecil Beaton, she had the real look of a fairy tale Princess.
Like Princess Diana, and now the Duchess of Cambridge, Margaret knew what suited her, often wearing strapless styles for glossy nights out and formal evening occasions. She accentuated her tiny waist, and wore heels as she was tiny. She loved jewelled colours that suited her dark colouring, and had beautiful eyes that often saw her compared to Elizabeth Taylor. She was the jewel in the crown of the Royal family, but it did come at a price.
She chose not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend, who was divorced and many years older than her. Her marriage to photographer Anthony Armstrong Jones made them the dream couple of the early 1960’s, but the marriage soured and they both drifted into affairs and separate lives, with Margaret facing most of the criticism for this at the time (Lord Snowdon later cheated on his second wife, siring a child, and was then revealed to be the father of another child, so certainly not blameless.) Margaret had a relationship with a much younger man, Roddy Llewellyn, but that also floundered, and she was alone at the end.
Her style lives on though, especially for lovers of The Crown, where first Vanessa Kirby, and then Helena Bonham Carter brought the naughtiest princess to live again.