Did Lord Snowdon Really Skip Princess Margaret's Birthday?

One of the saddest scenes from the latest season of The Crown involves Princess Margaret, whose marriage with Antony Armstrong-Jones is in decline.

Lord Snowdon
(Image credit: Anwar Hussein)

Spoilers for season 3 of The Crown. One of the saddest scenes from the latest season of The Crown involves Princess Margaret, whose marriage with Antony Armstrong-Jones (opens in new tab) (a.k.a. Tony Snowdon) is in decline. She's celebrating her birthday, and Snowdon isn't there. Margaret erupts into full-blown rage as the family speaks kindly about him, her longstanding feelings of neglect from both her family and her cheating husband coming out all at once. She knows that he's off with "The Thing," as she calls it—Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, Snowdon's long-time girlfriend and eventual second wife. But the fact that he would be with her and not with his actual wife on her birthday is just all too much.

It's a fascinating scene...but is it true? While it is clear that Snowdon and Margaret had a bitter, angry relationship, especially in the later years of their marriage, did he actively spurn her in major events of her life? 

Snowdon was cruel to Margaret in the later years.

English writer Philip Hoare wrote in Snowdon's obituary:

By now, the marriage had deteriorated to the level of exchanged grunts when passing in the hallway. Snowdon locked himself away in his studio, leaving “antagonistic notes” on his wife’s desk, including one headed, “Twenty Reasons Why I Hate You.” He belittled her in front of guests, and told her she looked “like a Jewish manicurist.”

Which, ugh, for a lot of reasons. But, to be fair, it sounded like a tempestuous relationship on both sides, even if Snowdon's behavior sounded much worse from a fidelity perspective (opens in new tab). What must have been just as difficult was the public pretense that the relationship was all right. Snowdon did in fact spend large amounts of time away from the palace and with Lindsay-Hogg, but the two had to put up a show of solidarity in public and in front of the cameras. The two were still photographed from time to time at royal events, like this one in 1974 (four years before their divorce):

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones

(Image credit: Images Press)

Where they had to hide their animosity.

It culminated in absence.

So apparently this scene, of Snowdon choosing to avoid family gatherings, is apparently based in some truth. Hoare wrote, "On their last family holiday, Snowdon refused to speak to his wife, and left her and the children after the first week." But he also refused to move out until Margaret's relationship with the much younger Roddy Llewellyn became public, which precipitated their royal divorce. So he was around, just not actively involved in Margaret's life.

So while the exact scene might be fictional—who can say what goes on behind closed doors—there's accuracy in the avoidance and unhappiness, before the epic royal divorce occurred.

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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.