The first scandal in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II

The first scandal in the reign of “Lilibeth” was before her coronation when her sister Princess Margaret fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend. Peter Townsend was divorced, in the summer before the coronation he declared his love to the Princess. The Queen asked them to wait a year before going public, after the Coronation. On the day of the Coronation Margaret was seen removing a speck of fluff from Townsend’s lapel. The day after the American newspapers wrote about it and one week later also the British tabloid Sunday People reported the news. Churchill was against the marriage and his view became the view of the Court and Cabinet. In June Townsend was posted to the British Embassy in Brussels as an air attaché. In the next months the newspapers speculated about the wedding. The Queen wanted her sister to make her own decision, as one friend explained: “ She wanted Princess Margaret to be happy, very much. But then all her advisers told her that marriage just was not possible. And had Princess Margaret married Peter Townsend, then she would have to lead a very, very different life.” People who were opposed to the wedding said that the Queen was the Head of the Church of England, and the Church did not recognize divorce. The Times, which was very influential, published an editorial on 26 October 1955 in which it explained how the Royal Family embodied the perfect family throughout the Commonwealth, and Margaret’s proposed union was something:” which vast numbers of her sister’s people, all sincerely anxious for her lifelong happiness, cannot in conscience regard as a marriage. She had to decide between Peter Townsend and the Royal Family. On 31 October she wrote a statement that the BBC journalist John Snagge read out loud: “ I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But, 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. I have reached this decision entirely alone, and in doing so I have been strengthened by the unfailing support and devotion of Group Captain Townsend.” Margaret was devastated.  A few years later she married the photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones and the Queen created the title Earl of Snowdon for him. The wedding was televised on the BBC and 300 million people followed the event.  Princess Margaret was the first, of the Royal Family, to divorce in the 1970s. In 1976 the News of the World published pictures of Princess Margaret’s holiday on the Caribbean with a youg man, Roddy Llewellyn and the Princess had to divorce. It’s a really sad story…



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