Did Princess Margaret Really Want to Be Queen?

The theme features heavily in The Crown season 3.

Princess Margaret Arrives In England
(Image credit: Bettmann)

Princess Margaret was an unusual figure in the royal family (opens in new tab)—the first royal to get a divorce since Henry VIII after a tumultuous relationship with Lord Tony Snowdon, she allegedly struggled to find purpose in her life and (as depicted by The Crown throughout the series) even had aspirations of becoming queen herself. Apparently, there is some historical truth to this; Margaret, according to friends, really felt that she had the right personality to be monarch and had a rebellious streak that sometimes made those feelings super-clear. So what's the truth behind the fictional portrayal?  

The two were four years apart but were apparently raised as if they had no age difference. Their father, George VI, had suffered by being compared to his brother, so he raised the two almost as if they were twins, even dressing them alike. Margaret was also reportedly spoiled to compensate for being younger (and thus not first in line to be queen), and Elizabeth was delighted by her sister's outgoing nature. "Oh, it's so much easier when Margaret's there—everybody laughs at what Margaret says," she apparently said.

Despite the rivalry that's shown in the show, Margaret apparently still longed (opens in new tab) for her sister's approval and lived in fear that she might have disappointed her—so the relationship wasn't quite as contentious as viewers might suppose.

Picture taken probably in 1940s in London of Princ

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Margaret was jealous, once Elizabeth became queen.

Of course, this hasn't been officially documented, but various biographies make note that Margaret told her friends about her jealousy over her older sister: "Elizabeth arguably had everything Margaret wanted: the crown, a husband, and children," according to Newsweek. And Margaret was apparently "subconsciously jealous" of Elizabeth, as reported in the Telegraph (opens in new tab). Margaret did, in fact, skip out on Elizabeth's 10th wedding anniversary as was shown on The Crown, which was just one of many actions (direct and indirect) to show how she felt. Despite, that, though, the two sisters remained close until Margaret's death in 2002.

Princess Margaret Arrives In England

(Image credit: Victor Blackman)

Margaret did undertake royal outings.

Margaret was patron or president of no fewer than 80 organizations, according to the official royal website (opens in new tab), and she "made many official overseas visits, representing The Queen on numerous important occasions. She also opened British fairs and trade promotions, besides making other less formal visits. The Princess's first Commonwealth visit alone was to the Caribbean in 1955."

What's less clear is what The Crown depicts throughout its seasons, which is exactly how much Elizabeth "allowed" Margaret to stand in her place, and whether Margaret asked/demanded more responsibility. But it's not that much of a jump: We know there was jealousy that lingered, and that it affected the two siblings throughout the course of their lives.

The Crown presents her as always craving her sister's power.

One theme woven throughout season three is that of Princess Margaret and her husband Lord Snowdon feeling certain that Margaret, not Elizabeth, has the right disposition to be queen. To have been born second, the couple feel, is a remarkable unfairness to Margaret, whose outgoing nature makes her a better fit for diplomatic missions than her more reticent sister. (This is exhibited in Margaratology, when Margaret's charming of U.S president Lyndon B. Johnson has favorable diplomatic consequences; this isn't actually based in fact, and Margaret's U.S. tour actually got her some very bad press  (opens in new tab)in the States.)

No matter what Margaret felt IRL about her role compared to her sister's, there's no denying that, though extroverted, her nature was also to offend people—that, too, was on show during her U.S. tour, when she famous told Elizabeth Taylor her engagement ring was "vulgar"—which may have made her not a great fit for delicate diplomatic missions.

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Katherine J. Igoe
Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.