Princess Margaret’s ill-fated romance with Group Captain Peter Townsend may have started much earlier than originally thought.
In a new biography of the late royal, who died in 2002, Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses Of Princess Margaret, author Colin Brown writes that new details seem to reveal Margaret and Townsend’s affair began years before it was thought to have, while Townsend was still married to his first wife, according to the Daily Mail.
Brown’s book reports that Margaret and Townsend had already begun seeing one another in October 1947. Townsend had accompanied Margaret to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she was set to christen her first ship, the Edinburgh Castle. At the time, Margaret was 17 and Townsend was 32 — and married with two children.
Official papers documenting the visit that revealed a telling detail were given to Brown at a book signing. The records of the visit show that Townsend had asked for his room to moved from the place he had been assigned to one that was next door to Margaret’s. Though there is no proof that anything happened between the two on this trip, there was a request for the pair to have adjoining rooms during their stay at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast, according to the Daily Mail.
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This wasn’t the first time that year that Townsend and Margaret had traveled together. Earlier in 1947, he accompanied the entire royal family, including King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and the then-Princess Elizabeth, to Southern Africa for a three-month tour. His official job was to look after the 16-year-old Margaret during the tour. During that tour, they frequently went horseback riding together and spent plenty of time in each other’s company.
“We rode together every morning in that wonderful country, in marvelous weather,” she reportedly later said. “That’s when I really fell in love with him.”
Margaret’s romance with Townsend was well-documented in the Netflix hit series The Crown. The show’s first season depicted much of their relationship, including their eventual breakup. Though Townsend was able to marry again after he and his wife divorced in 1952, it was difficult for him to marry Margaret because of the Church of England’s then-strict rules about remarriage after divorce when a person’s former spouse is still alive.
This season of The Crown saw Margaret marry her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones, in 1960. Townsend remarried a Belgian woman, Marie-Luce Jamagne, in 1959.