By Jenny Hollander published
This past spring, leaked photos from filming of The Crown season three revealed Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret in the recast third season, filming alongside Harry Treadaway. Judging by the interactions on show in the photos, it's thought that Treadaway plays the real-life (and still very much alive) Roddy Llewellyn, who embarked on an eight-year affair with Princess Margaret in the early '70s.
Roddy was 25 when he met Princess Margaret in 1973, and the romantic relationship lasted eight years. At the time they met, Margaret was married to Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, the Earl of Snowdon; during this period, Armstrong-Jones is thought to have been unfaithful to her as well. Partially due to her marriage, and partially due to Margaret being almost 20 years Roddy's senior—she was 43 when they met—their relationship incited a tabloid scandal that rocked the royal family, and led to the first royal separation, and then divorce, since Henry VIII.
Today, Roddy, short for Roderick, is 72. (Margaret passed away in 2002.) After his relationship with the princess ended, he married Tatiana Soskin, with whom he had three children. He's a keen gardener, an actual baron, and has dabbled in television presenting.
The Queen reportedly liked Llewellyn.
In spite of the shame that Margaret's affair brought on the royal family—the scandal hit the newspapers in 1976 when a photographer captured the couple being touchy-feely on vacation—it's thought that the Queen actually quite liked Llewellyn. In a documentary that aired last year, the woman who introduced Llewellyn and Margaret said she'd been approached by the Queen at Margaret's funeral. Per Vanity Fair:
“After Princess Margaret’s funeral, the Queen, she said, ‘I’d just like to say, Anne, it was rather difficult at moments, but I thank you so much [for] introducing Princess Margaret to Roddy ’cause he made her really happy.’”
Margaret's marriage was already breaking down.
Though the divorce between Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon wasn't finalized until 1978—I mean, who wants to be the first person since Henry VIII to do something?—it's well-established that Margaret's relationship with Llewellyn was far from the sole reason the marriage ended. Lord Snowdon, who is thought to have acted cruelly to his then-wife, had already had affairs, including with Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, the woman he married in 1978 and divorced in 2000.
Nevertheless, the photographs of Margaret and Llewellyn spurred Lord Snowdon to begin the steps of formally ending his marriage.
Llewellyn and Margaret were together for eight years.
The couple went on to date for eight years, so it was clearly no passing fling. One slightly awkward side note: In 1978, Llewellyn tried to kick-start a career in pop music, apparently aiming to capitalize on his fame as Princess Margaret's boyfriend. This did not work out. (You can listen to some of his music here, if you so choose.)
Llewellyn, who became a baron much later after the death of his father, spent much of the rest of his life pursuing his true love: gardening. He wrote extensively about gardening (I did not know "gardening correspondent" was a job, but there we have it), went on TV to talk about gardening, and, well, did a lot of gardening. In short, the man really, really loves gardening, and is considered an expert in the field.
My favorite quote on the relationship came from Dame Anne Leslie, who knew the pair, and remarked in a documentary later: "He was a nice, dim gardener, but he came from quite a good family. Anyway, she was having it off with him.”
Llewellyn and Margaret remained on good terms after their split.
It was the "conscious uncoupling" of 1981, if you will. Though their relationship was significant on both sides, their breakup seemed amicable—Margaret remained good friends not just with Llewellyn but with Llewellyn's new wife, Soskin, and Tatler reports that Margaret gave the couple her blessing. Here they are in 1998 (Llewellyn is in the back behind Margaret):
Certainly, the split was far more amicable than Margaret's from Lord Snowdon; when told by her secretary that her husband was divorcing her following the "compromising" photos, Margaret is said to have replied: "Thank you, Nigel. I think that's the best news you've ever given me."
Season three of The Crown doesn't hold back in its depiction of Margaret and Lord Snowdon's volatile relationship, and Roddy is presented as the polar opposite of Margaret's husband. The character is young and sprightly, sure, but he's also sweet and playful, whereas Lord Snowdon is intense and often derogatory to his wife. There's even a nod to the iconic Union Jack Speedo-type swimsuit shown in the above photo: Margaret drags an easygoing Roddy to a local store, where Roddy tries on the swimsuit at her behest.
Later, Roddy and Lord Snowdon meet face-to-face, a tense occasion that Roddy lasts about five minutes in before he makes his escape. Even though Snowdon has had affairs himself, he is condescending and aggressive to both Roddy and Margaret; Roddy, by comparison, is gentle and loving, and knows immediately he can't handle the kind of volatility that characterizes Snowdon and Margaret's relationship.
Of course, there's only so much we know about Llewellyn and Snowdon's personalities at the time, but it's well-established that Margaret and Snowdon had a fraught relationship marked by intense ups and destructive downs, whereas Llewellyn and Margaret went on to have a long relationship that, in time, evolved into a loving and long-lasting friendship. So it's fair to say that, whatever the men's personalities, Llewellyn was more suited to Princess Margaret than her then-husband was.
Correction: A previous version of this story included a quote believed to be written by Roddy Llewellyn. As The Guardian reported, that information was actually a compilation of newspaper clippings.
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Jenny is the Director of Content Strategy at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless.
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