Tony Armstrong Jones was the husband – and then the ex-husband – of Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth II. In season 2 of The Crown, the Netflix Original Series chronicling the monarchy, Armstrong Jones consoles the heartbroken Margaret, provoking yet another romantic scandal (he was a photographer and a commoner).
How realistic is The Crown? What the real story between Tony Armstrong-Jones (whose full name is Antony Armstrong-Jones) and the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II? As the real life story tracks elements of the screen version, stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. In real life, the couple’s marriage was salacious, dramatic, conflicted, and, ultimately, doomed. (Matthew Goode plays Armstrong Jones in The Crown.)
Here’s what you need to know as well as photos of the real-life pair:
Tony Armstrong Jones Was Described as a ‘Rake’ & ‘Crusader’
Tony Armstrong Jones, who became Lord Snowdon after he married Princess Margaret, was many things. “A tinkerer, a diarist, a rake, a prince, an earl, a crusader—he was all of this. Did I mention the matinee-idol looks and the devilish wit?” wrote Graydon Carter in 2017 in Vanity Fair.
His childhood was marked by his parents’ divorce. “He divided his time between a castle in Ireland, where his mother took up with an earl, and a house in London, where his father worked as a barrister,” Vanity Fair reported. The real-life Tony contracted polio in childhood but didn’t let it deter him; he was a storied photographer, a hobby he began practicing at Eton, according to the magazine.
Armstrong Jones met Princess Margaret in 1958, while she was still reeling from the loss of her ill-fated romance to Peter Townsend, which fell apart because he was a divorced man. At the time, he was a photographer. His photos of the Royal Family first placed him in their circle. Margaret first met him at a photo session.
Tony Armstrong Jones & Princess Margaret Eventually Divorced
The dramatic romance between Armstrong Jones and Princess Margaret was not destined to last, although it did produce two children. The couple’s marriage did last for almost 20 years, before they separated in 1976 and divorced two years after that, Cosmopolitan reports, noting that it was the first royal divorce since 1901. That split was between Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh and Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse.
Armstrong Jones would go on to remarry and divorce again. He worked “as the picture editor of The Sunday Times magazine,” according to Biography.com. He died in 2017 at the age of 86 at his home in England, outliving Margaret by years.
Tony Armstrong Jones Was a Rare Commoner to Marry a Princess
The public has gotten used to commoners marrying into the Royal Family; after all, both Princes William and Harry married commoners. However, it was a very rare thing when Princess Margaret first did it. Antony Armstrong Jones was a commoner, and, when he wed the princess, that was something that had not been done in England for 400 years. The couple married in 1960.
In addition, Margaret’s wedding was the first royal wedding seen on television, Cosmopolitan reports. Margaret died in 2002.
The Couple Had Two Children But There Were Rumors of Affairs
The marriage between Tony Armstrong Jones and Princess Margaret produced two children. They are David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, who was born in 1961, and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, who was in born 1964, and who is now known as Lady Sarah Chatto.
Biography.com reports that rumors that Margaret was having an affair with Roddy Llewellyn helped doom the couple’s marriage. Armstrong Jones was no angel in that department, either; “The twin motors that drove him throughout his life, were work and sex,” wrote biographer Anne de Courcy in a book about him.
“Though they enjoyed some years of genuine happiness, the relationship was doomed from the start. They were both used to the limelight and to having their own way and were too selfish and self-obsessed to be able to adapt so as to accommodate the other,” The Spectator reports, adding that the marriage dissolved into such rancor that Armstrong Jones would leave disparaging notes about Margaret around for her to find. Rumors of bisexuality also followed him throughout his life.
One of his affairs resulted in “a love child who was born while Snowdon was on honeymoon with Princess Margaret,” according to Vanity Fair. The mother was Camilla Fry, his friend’s wife.
Tony Introduced Margaret to a ‘Bohemian Set’
For a time, Margaret and Tony were all the rage; “Tony and Margaret represented modernity with their libidos more than with any progressive intellectual ideas,” Clive Irving wrote in Daily Beast. The couple were known for entertaining with celebrities.
“Tony introduced Margaret to a bohemia that she naturally embraced—writers, actors, artists, and even journalists. It was a very sexy set that included, whether Margaret realized it or not, a number of bisexual men who had been Tony’s lovers.”
In his obituary, the Guardian remembered Snowdon as “a photographer, film-maker, designer and champion of disabled people.” He continued taking photos even after the divorce.