Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, dead at 71
Saturday, February 9th 2002, 12:00 am
News On 6
LONDON (AP) _ Princess Margaret, the high-spirited and unconventional sister of Queen Elizabeth II, died Saturday after a life that echoed with regret and thwarted love. She was 71.
The princess died peacefully in her sleep at King Edward VII Hospital at 6:30 a.m., a statement from Buckingham Palace said.
Margaret suffered a stroke Friday afternoon and developed cardiac problems during the night. She was taken from Kensington Palace to the hospital at 2:30 a.m., the statement said.
Her children, Lord Linley, 40, and Lady Sarah Chatto, 37, were with her, the statement added.
A heavy smoker for many years, Margaret had suffered repeated respiratory illnesses and had part of a lung removed in January 1985. She had a mild stroke in February 1998 and another in March 2001.
Margaret was last seen in public before Christmas at the 100th birthday party of Princess Alice, the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester. Margaret was confined to a wheelchair and wore heavy dark glasses, her sight having been affected by a stroke.
The queen left Sandringham, her Norfolk estate, Friday and traveled to Windsor. The 101-year-old Queen Mother Elizabeth, who is recovering from a persistent cold, stayed on at Sandringham.
``I know the whole country will be deeply saddened by Princess Margaret's death. She will be remembered with a lot of affection,'' Prime Minister Tony Blair said as he arrived in Sierra Leone Saturday.
The princess' former husband, Lord Snowdon, said he and the children were ``extremely saddened.''
Buckingham Palace said the princess' coffin would rest at Kensington Palace for several days, to permit family and close friends to pay their respects.
The death will cast a shadow over this year's Golden Jubilee celebrations. Margaret died three days after the 50th anniversary of her father's death, and her sister's accession to the throne.
A full program of Jubilee celebrations is planned for later in the year. On Feb. 18, the queen is due to start a visit to Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia.
In the 1950s, Margaret's ill-starred romance with royal aide Peter Townsend made headlines around the world because he was divorced. Twenty-three years later, she became a divorcee herself _ the first in the queen's immediate family _ when her marriage to Lord Snowdon was dissolved.
Margaret had not remarried.
Despite the upheavals, the publicity and their different personalities, the princess and her dignified sister remained close.
``In our family,'' Margaret once said, ``we don't have rifts. We have a jolly good row and then it's all over. And I've only twice ever had a row with my sister.'' She didn't say what they argued about.
Margaret's cheerful informality was sometimes offset by an unsettling ``royal'' streak.
Even close friends had to call her ``Ma'am,'' although members of the family were said to get away with ``Margot.'' If any of her companions crossed the line of familiarity, they risked her icy, blue-eyed ``acid drop'' stare.
She once explained it as ``a defense mechanism. I'm not aware that I'm doing it.''
The high-spirited, party-going princess first ran afoul of royal protocol when she was 22, shortly after sister took the throne in 1952.
Margaret fell in love with Group Capt. Townsend, a hero of the Battle of Britain and a former aide to her father, King George VI.
The shock of the abdication of King Edward to marry a divorcee was still fresh in the public memory, and the Church of England forbade remarriage of a divorced person. The government firmly opposed such a marriage for the sister of the queen, who is temporal head of the state church.
After more than two years of negotiation, press speculation and enforced separation from Townsend, Margaret announced in October 1955 that she would not marry him, ``mindful of the church's teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth.''
Townsend, who remarried happily, reflected on his romance with Margaret in a 1978 autobiography: ``I simply hadn't the weight, I knew it, to counterbalance all she would have lost. It was too much to ask of her, too much for her to give.''
Margaret blamed the queen's private secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, for campaigning against the match. He retired to an apartment at Kensington Palace, where Margaret lived, and she was heard to say when he walked by, ``There goes the man who ruined my life.''
Margaret was strictly brought up in the peculiarly isolated world of royal children, surrounded by adults, doted on by the public.
When Margaret and Elizabeth were born, their father was the Duke of York, second son of the king. The abdication of their uncle thrust their father onto the throne and set Elizabeth on the path to monarchy.
Margaret, 6, told her sister: ``Does that mean you're going to be queen? Poor you.''
An elderly courtier who collided with little Margaret Rose when she was cartwheeling down a Buckingham Palace corridor was said to have sighed, ``Thank God the other one was born first.''
Margaret was musical, liked to perform and had a gift for mimicry. Unlike most of the other royals, who prefer tweedy, outdoor pursuits, she supported the arts, loved opera, theater and dance. She was often seen at restaurants and nightclubs with groups of friends and smoked her ever-present cigarettes in a long, distinctive holder.
Jazzman Louis Armstrong, following a conversation with Margaret about music, told the press, ``Your Princess Margaret is one hip chick.''
In 1958, she began to see Antony Armstrong-Jones, a society photographer. She was 30 when they were married in Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960. He became Earl of Snowdon.
By the early 1970s, the marriage was beset by rumors of infidelity.
In 1973, the princess, then 43, met Roderic ``Roddy'' Llewellyn, a man of no apparent means 17 years her junior.
They were romantically linked for half a dozen years, and the publication of a photograph of them together on the Caribbean island of Mustique was followed by announcement of the Snowdons' formal separation.
The marriage was dissolved in May 1978, with little fuss from a public that expressed nothing but sympathy and regret for a woman who seemed never to have found lasting love.