A new documentary says Tony Armstrong-Jones had a charm which appealed to the royal rebel

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February 07, 2019 11:42 AM

He was an unusual choice for a royal husband — a Bohemian-style photographer with a “sense of mischief.”

But a new documentary says Tony Armstrong-Jones, who became husband to Princess Margaret and brother-in-law to Queen Elizabeth, had a charm which appealed to the royal rebel – and she was drawn to him despite initially thinking he might be gay.

Margaret’s doomed love for Group Captain Peter Townsend, her father’s former equerry, was a key plotline in the first season of Netflix’s The Crown. The princess then turned her attention to Armstrong-Jones, who was looked upon as a humble “tradesman” because he was a photographer.

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones after announcing their engagement. Photographed at Royal Lodge in February 1960.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the exclusive clip above from PBS’s Margaret: The Rebel Princess, Margaret’s biographer Anne de Courcy says, “He was full of chat and fun. At first she thought he was gay and she dismissed him as the idea of a boyfriend.”

But a friend wanted a photograph of her and recommended Armstrong-Jones, who had been gaining a “cutting edge” reputation around London of what became known as the swinging 60s.

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“He was very good at getting people to do what he wanted. It was a mixture of charm, it was a mixture of determination,” de Courcy adds. “He gossiped away to the princess. And he got her to change her clothes. She never had somebody to tell her what to do that.”

Clive Irving, features editor for the British newspaper, the Daily Express at the time, says, “He was a famous womanizer and swordsman and he was very well-equipped for the role – that’s what everyone said. He was a very engaging personality. In the back of his eyes was a sense of mischief.”

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The two-part documentary — part one of which airs on PBS on Sunday, February 10 at 10 p.m. with the second following Sunday, February 17 — features rare footage and interviews with some of those who knew her best including Lady Anne Glenconner, Lady Jane Rayne and Jane Stevens.

Margaret and Armstrong-Jones in 1970.
Anwar Hussein/WireImage

In his “avant garde” existence, Armstrong-Jones – who later became Lord Snowdon —  juggled “several different lives at the same time with extreme skill. He was bisexual for a start,” Irving adds.

“The last thing you expected to happen was for someone like Princess Margaret to land into that Bohemain world — and wham, she did.”

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