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Princess Margaret ‘cleared the way’ for royal splits, says royal expert

Princess Margaret’s 1978 divorce paved the way for future royal marriages to be dissolved, a new documentary on the Queen’s sister claims. 

A Channel 5 documentary airing this Saturday, Princess Margaret: A Rebel Without a Crown, examines the life and loves of Princess Margaret and claims divorcing her husband of 18 years, Lord Snowdon, in 1978, paved the way for other unhappy marriage to flee unhappy relationships.

Earlier this year, the newest royal divorcé was Peter Philips, who split from wife Autumn after 17 years of marriage. 

The royal family has become no stranger to divorce proceedings in recent decades,  with Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne all separated or remarried. 

 

Princess Margaret: A Rebel Without a Crown, airing on Channel 5 on Saturday 30 May, claims Princess Margaret’s divorce from Anthony Armstrong-Jones paved the way for other royals to escape their unhappy marriage (pictured together in 1965 in New York) 

Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond says Princess Margaret's 1978 marriage breakdown made it okay to be a divorcee in the royal family in the documentary

Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond says Princess Margaret’s 1978 marriage breakdown made it okay to be a divorcee in the royal family in the documentary

The programme examines Margaret’s colourful love life, which made her a must-invite in London social circles, the Sunday Express reports. 

From her love affair with married Peter Townsend to her marriage to the sulfurous Antony Armstrong-Jones, royal experts on the show say Margaret, who passed away in 2002, aged 71, stepped away from tradition in more ways than one. 

‘She did tarnish the family’s reputation but she cleared the way for others to get out of unhappy marriages,’ Ex-BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond said, speaking of Margaret’s highly publicised divorce from Lord Snowdon. 

The pair met in 1958 at a dinner party organised by mutual friends, and wed at Westminster Abbey in May 1960, the first royal wedding to be televised. 

Margaret was popular with the press, equaled in popularity only by legendary Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor (pictured: Margaret and Lord Snowdon in Beverly Hills, 1965)

Margaret was popular with the press, equaled in popularity only by legendary Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor (pictured: Margaret and Lord Snowdon in Beverly Hills, 1965)

Speaking in the Channel 5 programme, royal biographer Christopher Warwick claimed that Margaret’s popularity with the show-business world made her as popular as famed actress Elizabeth Taylor, and a favourite with photographs. 

‘Everything she did made news. The press only wanted pictures of Margaret and Taylor,’ he said. 

‘Margaret would go to parties and the sun would often be rising as she was driving home,’ he added.  

However, the union was reportedly not a good one, and the pair soon drifted apart, with both royals entering into extra-marital affairs. 

Peter Phillips and Autumn Phillips were the latest royal couple to announce their split in early 2020 (pictured in 2014 in London)

Peter Phillips and Autumn Phillips were the latest royal couple to announce their split in early 2020 (pictured in 2014 in London)

Princess Anne divorced from Peter's father Captain Mark Phillips (right) in 1992 after 19 years of marriage (pictured during a tour of Canada in Toronto, in the 1960s)

Princess Anne divorced from Peter’s father Captain Mark Phillips (right) in 1992 after 19 years of marriage (pictured during a tour of Canada in Toronto, in the 1960s)

Margaret famously invited Roddy Llewellyn, a lover who was 17 years her junior, to the island of Mustique in 1974, where they were photographed by paparazzis, precipitating the end of her marriage. 

The pair made their divorce official in 1978, after 18 years of marriage. The romance between Anthony Armstrong-Jones and the royal has been romanticised more than once, most lately in the second and third season of Netflix royal drama the Crown. 

In March 1992, Prince Andrew and the Duchess od York Sarah Ferguson announced their split, which led to their divorce in May 1996 (pictured with Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice in 1997)

In March 1992, Prince Andrew and the Duchess od York Sarah Ferguson announced their split, which led to their divorce in May 1996 (pictured with Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice in 1997)

Prince Charles and Lady Diana announced their split in 1992 after it was rumoured the Prince of Wales had engaged in an extra-marital affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. The pair pictured in 1991 in Toronto

Prince Charles and Lady Diana announced their split in 1992 after it was rumoured the Prince of Wales had engaged in an extra-marital affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. The pair pictured in 1991 in Toronto 

The separation fed newspaper columns at the time, and according to Jennie Bond, paved the way for royals such as Charles, Andrew and Peter to go through their own divorce 14 and 42 years later. 

The Queen’s first three children famously split from their spouse in 1992, a year which the monarch herself dubbed her ‘annus horribilis.’

Prince Andrew was the first to separate from his wife, the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson on March 19. 

Anne, now 70, followed suit by divorcing from her husband Captain Mark Phillips on April 23 after 19 years of marriage. 

In December of the same year, Charles split from Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales after years of marital trouble, and the very public announcement of his extra-marital affair with Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall. Both Andrew’s and Charles’ divorces were officialised in 1996.

Princess Margaret: A Rebel Without a Crown, airs on Saturday 30 May on Channel 5. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk