The original royal rebel once said, “Disobedience is my joy”

By Monique Jessen
February 09, 2021 12:58 PM
Princess Margaret
Credit: STF/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth's beloved sister died on this day, 19 years ago.

Princess Margaret, who was known for her glamorous lifestyle but troubled love life, died at 71 years old on February 9, 2002, after months of health problems.

"The Queen, with great sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately. Her beloved sister, Princess Margaret, died peacefully in her sleep this morning at 6.30am, in The King Edward VII Hospital," an official announcement from Buckingham Palace said at the time.

After suffering several strokes and a period of poor health that left her partially paralyzed and suffering sight problems, one final stroke the day before her death proved to be fatal. She was taken from her home at Kensington Palace to the hospital where she died with her children Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto by her side.

Queen Elizabeth ll and her sister Princess Margaret attend the Epsom Derby
Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at the Epsom Derby in 1979
| Credit: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

To many she was a royal rebel, favoring a party lifestyle. She chain-smoked and was known for her acerbic wit and sometimes cruel put-downs. But according to biographer Theo Aronson, her reputation didn't bother her in the slightest. She once told the French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, "Disobedience is my joy."

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon on the island of Mustique
| Credit: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Despite this, she always remained loyal to her sister, Elizabeth, who became Queen when Margaret was 22-years-old. It was shortly after her sister's coronation that Margaret announced her engagement to Captain Peter Townsend, but the marriage never took place. As a divorced man, he was not deemed to be an appropriate match to someone so close to the line of succession.

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In May 1960, Margaret married the society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones and the glamorous couple — a fixture on the social scene for many years — went on to have two children: David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, known as Viscount Linley and Sarah Frances Elizabeth Armstrong-Jones, known as Lady Sarah Chatto. After a turbulent marriage for many years, they divorced in 1978.

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones on their wedding day on May 6, 1960

Spending much of her time in Mustique where she had built a home, her lady-in-waiting Lady Anne Glenconner said they had the best of times together wherever they were in the world.

"Often when we did official things, funny things happened," Glenconner tells PEOPLE. "Once we were alone we could laugh. I never laughed so much. We would roar with laughter."

Lady Anne Glenconner and Princess Margaret

The royal family requested that anyone making donations in memory of Margaret contribute to one of the charities of which she was patron, the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, The Guide Association and the Royal Ballet.

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It was a particularly painful time for the Queen, as although the Queen Mother managed to attend Margaret's funeral on February 15 at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, she also died just six weeks later.