A series of letters written by Princess Margaret in the 1950’s have revealed her own doubts over her relationship with Group Captain, Peter Townsend. The letters form part of a recently declassified Government dossier and form part of a new Channel 4 documentary.
At the time, Margaret’s relationship with Peter Townsend was described as “the most controversial Royal romance since Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.”
The letters formed a series of correspondence between Princess Margaret and Prime Minister at the time, Anthony Eden. The first letter, dated 15th August 1955, sees Margaret admit her doubts over the relationship to Eden, “I have no doubt that during this time – especially on my birthday – the press will encourage every sort of speculation about the possibility of my marrying Group Captain Peter Townsend. But it is only by seeing him that I can properly decide whether I can marry him or not.”
In a letter from Eden to Commonwealth leaders he remarks, “Her Majesty The Queen would not wish to stand in the way of her Sister’s happiness.”
These letters seem to suggest that it wasn’t The Queen who put a stop to the marriage but simply Margaret’s indecisiveness over her relationship with Townsend that ultimately prevented the pair from becoming husband and wife.
In the documentary, author Penny Junor says, “I think this throws a whole new light on the affair. We’ve always believed she didn’t marry Townsend because she was prevented by the Government, by the Church of England and by her sister. But this very much suggests she didn’t love him enough.”
On 31st October 1955, after meeting with her fiancé one final time, Princess Margaret issued a statement saying, “I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend. Mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have resolved to put these considerations before any others.”
Princess Margaret went on to marry Antony Armstrong-Jones in May 1960.
Queen Elizabeth: Love, Honour and Crown will air on Channel 4 at 9pm next Sunday.
Photo: Eric Koch