Christina Balassas, for CBC News Online | February 9, 2002
She was the bad-girl of the British monarchy and the darling of the press. Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth has died at age 71.
Princess Margaret, in a November 1995 file photo. CP picture archive (David Giles)
Decades before Princess Diana came along, it was Princess Margaret who was the starlet of Britain's royal family, often defying the traditionally strict code of conduct imposed by the monarchy, choosing instead to live her life the way she pleased.
Princess Margaret was born in 1930. Six years later her father ascended to the throne as King George VI with his wife Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother. Margaret's older sister, Princess Elizabeth, became first in line to the throne. Princess Margaret remained second in line until the birth of Prince Charles in 1948.
In her late teens and far beyond, Princess Margaret was regarded as one of the most glamorous figures on the world stage. For one thing, she was attractive. Throughout the 1950s she was considered a woman of great style. Princess Margaret was also an avid supporter of the arts. She could sing and play the piano and she loved the theatre.
The public loved her because she was the quintessential party girl. Margaret would frequently be spotted at nightclubs, restaurants and parties. At the age of 19 she shocked the nation when she was spotted in public smoking something women at the time were only supposed to do in private.
Margaret further defied convention when she fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend, once equerry to her father and comptroller to her mother. Townsend had two strikes against him. He was 17 years older than the princess and he was divorced. Eventually, Margaret was forced to choose between Townsend and the Royal Family. She decided she would remain a princess.
In May of 1960 she again veered away from the royal norm when she married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in Westminster Abbey. She reportedly accepted the proposal after hearing that Townsend had decided to marry someone else. Margaret and Armstrong-Jones had two children, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones.
In March of 1976 the couple separated and two years later they divorced.
Margaret's health began to deteriorate. She slowly began distancing herself from the public eye, choosing instead to spend more time on the Caribbean island of Mustique. She became ill with hepatitis and had part of a lung removed. Still, she continued to smoke. She finally kicked the habit in 1993 following a bout of pneumonia.
Margaret suffered her first stroke in 1998, while on holiday in Mustique. In January 2001 she spent several days in hospital, after apparently suffering another stroke. In March of the same year she had another stroke that left her paralysed on her left side.
Despite the adversity, Margaret continued to find solace in her work. She remained the president of the Royal Ballet a post she had served in since 1956 and also kept up her duties as president of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.