Royal romances have been mostly free of controversy in recent years. Indeed, we’re a far cry from Tudor times, when King Henry VIII was busy divorcing or beheading his way through wives. But it wasn’t too long ago that the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, embarked upon a clandestine affair. And apparently, one significant royal wanted the match to work out so much that she went out of her way to help keep the romance hidden from the world.
Like her sister, the Queen of England, Margaret was thrust into the public eye not long after her father’s death. And it was around that time that the 22-year-old fell in love with a royal equerry called Peter Townsend. The war hero had been part of the Indian Civil Service; unfortunately for the princess, though, he was both married and 16 years her senior.
But Townsend filed for divorce in November 1952 after his wife allegedly had an affair. Subsequently, he began a whirlwind romance with Margaret, although this would end in disaster when they announced their intentions to wed. You see, both parliament and the Church of England opposed the marriage – citing Townsend’s divorce – and so the couple ultimately parted ways in 1955.
After her split from Townsend, Margaret effectively became England’s most eligible bachelorette. She thrived among London’s arts scene – pursuing a lifestyle that would eventually see her cross paths with society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones. And when the pair met at a dinner party in 1958, sparks are said to have flown almost instantly.
Antony had spent his childhood years bouncing between both of his parents before later landing a job as the assistant of society portrait photographer Baron. And while even this was unprecedented for someone from his social background, he nevertheless ended up photographing Princess Anne and Prince Charles – snapping an iconic image of the pair on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.
Over the course of his career, Antony went on to capture portraits of an incredible cross-section of famous faces. Salvador Dali, J.R.R. Tolkien, Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Olivier, Jack Nicholson and Marlene Dietrich all appeared in front of his lens. His work also featured in a variety of publications – from Vanity Fair to Vogue.
But Antony was hired to photograph Margaret long before he encountered many of these illustrious individuals. And the shutterbug immediately made an impression on the young royal, who, according to Vanity Fair, was rather surprised by his attitude. You see, instead of treating her with resolute admiration, he approached Margaret like any other subject – politely ordering her to pose or change outfits.
After that encounter, Antony soon became a fixture in Margaret’s social circle, and their relationship began in earnest – much to the delight of the royal family. Indeed, as his biographer Anne de Courcy told Town & Country in November 2019, “They all liked him very much. [Antony] had great charm, very good manners, and he knew exactly how to behave.”
“[Antony] felt devotion to the royal family, to the Queen, who he admired immensely,” de Courcy continued. And the feeling was seemingly reciprocal, as the Queen was in turn supportive of Margaret’s relationship. Then the couple announced their engagement, and in May 1960 the first televised royal wedding took place – with the occasion watched, it’s said, by more than 300 million people.
The first few years of Margaret and Antony’s marriage were apparently sheer bliss. They honeymooned aboard the royal yacht in the West Indies and then moved into Kensington Palace. Antony was also named Earl of Snowdon, while Margaret became the Countess of Snowdon. And a year after their wedding, they welcomed their first child, David.
However, had it not been for the Queen Mother, the situation could have played out very differently. De Courcy has claimed, you see, that the royal family’s matriarch played a fundamental role in ensuring that Margaret and Antony’s relationship could blossom in those early years. And given how close the Queen Mother has had to be to those on the throne, it seems that she was more or less always on hand to help her family through difficult dilemmas.
But royalty ran through the Queen Mother’s veins long before her daughter took the title of Queen Elizabeth II. She was born to the Bowes-Lyon family, which can trace its roots back to the Royal House of Scotland. And among her ancestors was Sir John Lyon, who became the Thane of Glamis – a Scottish nobleman with a title famously held by Lord Macbeth in Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon – as she became known at the age of four – spent much of her youth with the children of King George V. Then, in 1922, she joined the bridal party for Princess Mary’s wedding. And the following January, she announced her own engagement to Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George – the second son of George V and Queen Mary.
The pair married in April 1923 and would welcome two children into the world. Elizabeth came first in 1926, followed by Margaret four years later. Both of Lady Elizabeth’s daughters were homeschooled and undertook swimming and horse-riding lessons. Margaret, meanwhile, became particularly fond of gardening and music.
And according to Biography.com, Lady Elizabeth never anticipated that she would become Queen of the United Kingdom by marrying King George V’s namesake. Then, however, George V’s first son, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne less than a year after his father’s passing in January 1936. Prince Albert was consequently crowned King George VI, and Elizabeth became the first British-born queen consort – or wife of the king – in centuries.
Queen Elizabeth jumped headfirst into her duties upon assuming the role. In the years leading up to World War II, for instance, she toured Commonwealth nations and visited other allies – firming up the U.K.’s ties with countries such as France and the United States. A stateside trip in June 1939 was also met with huge success, with Americans reportedly growing very fond of her.
In fact, when the war broke out several months later, officials raised the prospect of evacuating Queen Elizabeth and her daughters to Canada or the United States. The matriarch refused to leave without her husband, however, and thus the royal family remained in England throughout the war. And, rather frighteningly, the Queen was still inside Buckingham Palace when German bombers attacked in September 1940 – although she thankfully escaped unscathed.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth toured factories and hospitals around the country as World War II raged on. They even visited troops – occasionally coming close to the frontlines. The royal family was no stranger to wartime loss, either, as both the queen’s nephew and the king’s younger brother tragically lost their lives in the conflict.
Then, two years after WWII had ended, the royal couple embarked on a journey across South Africa. This would be their last Commonwealth tour together, as the king would pass away in 1952. His firstborn daughter, Elizabeth, was coronated the following year. She was only 27 years old at the time, and her ceremony was the first to be broadcast live on television.
Yet while many feared that Queen Elizabeth would close herself off from the world after her husband’s passing, she soon recommenced her official duties and cemented her legacy as a widely respected figurehead. She even took on the title of “Queen Mother” to avoid confusion with her daughter.
In the years that followed, the Queen Mother would also go on to serve as the matriarch of the royal family. And despite experiencing several illnesses – including a bout of colon cancer – she continued with her public appearances around the world. At the same time, she constantly took steps to ensure that she wouldn’t overshadow the reign of her daughter Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed, it seems that helping to keep Margaret’s relationship with Antony a secret was just one of the ways that she kept herself busy in the background.
But why exactly did the family want to keep quiet about Margaret’s new beau? Well, Antony’s social status wasn’t on a par with Margaret’s – even though he had close ties to the royal family in his professional life. That class difference allegedly meant that their union would have been seen as scandalous, as no “outsider” had married the king’s daughter in over four centuries. So, to avoid inciting any disapproval, the couple made the decision to keep their courtship quiet.
That’s why Antony simply joined Margaret’s followers in those early days. In de Courcy’s book Snowdon: The Biography, she writes, “As [Antony] was not a known escort, no one paid any attention to the appearance of an extra man in her wide and varied acquaintance.” And it worked: nobody knew about their relationship because no one could deduce precisely which member of Margaret’s entourage had won her favor.
De Courcy also claimed to Vanity Fair that Margaret began finding ways to see Antony in secret. For example, she is said to have regularly visited his studio in London’s Pimlico area, dressed in unassuming clothing so as not to draw attention to herself. And, apparently, the entire operation was as clandestine as possible. After Margaret’s driver dropped her on a nearby street, the princess slipped down an alleyway that led to the studio’s entrance.
These secret meetings weren’t one-way traffic, either. According to de Courcy, Antony would drive down to see Margaret in Windsor when she visited her mother. He even had a valid excuse to make the journey, as he was constructing an aviary at the royal residence that the public believed was for the Queen Mother.
But Antony was still first and foremost a photographer. That meant he had another way to justify seeing Margaret without drawing suspicion, the historian claimed. He continued to act as her royal photographer, you see, and was even commissioned to shoot the princess’ 29th birthday portraits.
According to de Courcy, the Queen Mother even stepped in to help Antony and Margaret find secret ways to meet as their relationship blossomed. She claimed that the royal matriarch was fond of the photographer, and she could see that Margaret obviously loved him. So, apparently, in 1959 the Queen Mother threw a party for the doting pair – while declaring that the bash was actually to welcome Princess Alexandra back from Australia.
Supposedly, though, the event was simply a way for the young couple to enjoy each other’s company in public. It’s said that 250 people attended the party and danced into the early hours of the morning. And de Courcy has claimed that the Queen Mother even asked the pair – who by this point could not hide their mutual affection – to lead a conga line through Clarence House.
Eventually, Margaret and Antony decided that they could no longer hide their feelings from the wider world. In February 1960, then, the couple announced their engagement – much to the surprise of the public. And as you can imagine, the news wasn’t welcomed by everyone. Some royal courtiers wanted to see Margaret wed a rich aristocrat, which Antony certainly was not.
Ultimately, though, the British public supported Margaret’s decision. Indeed, Town & Country reported that Britons were “pleased to see Margaret settle down.” And for proof, you only need to look again at those extraordinary viewing figures for the couple’s internationally broadcast wedding ceremony.
Sadly, cracks soon began to appear in Margaret and Antony’s relationship. Both partners were stubborn and strong-willed, and this reportedly caused friction after the birth of their daughter, Sarah, in 1964. Furthermore, de Courcy told Town & Country that the couple’s desire to be the center of attention also helped sow the seeds of discontent.
Antony’s professional life also drew him away from his wife. Early on in his marriage to Margaret, he had taken the position of artistic advisor at The Sunday Times. And it soon transpired that the pair had very different ideas of what married life should look like. While Antony was driven by his career and work commitments, Margaret was surprised to find him away from home so often.
So, both husband and wife embarked on extramarital affairs of their own, according to the Evening Standard. Antony allegedly had a string of flings while working away from home, while Margaret, too, apparently strayed – first with her husband’s friend Anthony Barton and then with landscape gardener Roddy Llewellyn. But de Courcy claimed that Antony’s apparent tryst with Lady Jacqueline Rufus-Isaacs was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back.
Then, finally, the couple parted ways in 1976. And, two years later, Kensington Palace announced that Margaret and Antony would be divorcing – marking the first royal legal separation in over 400 years. The last such instance had been Henry VIII’s divorce from Anne of Cleves back in 1540. Fortunately, Antony and Margaret remained on good terms even after their divorce.
What’s more, Antony continued to work as a photographer for the royal family – perhaps down in part to his discretion. He refused to speak to the media about the details of his divorce, after all, and supposedly turned down multiple offers to publish a book about his relationship with Margaret.
Meanwhile, while Margaret fell somewhat out of favor with the British public – particularly after her alleged dalliance with Llewellyn was uncovered – the princess managed to eventually salvage her reputation through charity work. Encyclopedia Britannica has also claimed that by this point, there was a wider public understanding of the difficult predicament that Margaret had faced.
But Margaret had smoked and drank during most of her adult life, and this ultimately took its toll on her health. In 1985 she underwent surgery for potential lung cancer, for instance, and in her later years, the princess had multiple strokes. Margaret died in February 2002 at the age of 71. And even though the Queen Mother attended her daughter’s funeral, she herself passed away only weeks later.
Interestingly, though, Margaret’s romance with Antony may not have been the only time that the Queen Mother has allegedly encouraged a secret relationship. According to the Channel 4 documentary The Royal House of Windsor, the royal matriarch would later do the same for her grandson Prince Charles. He had reportedly begun an affair with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles while still married to Princess Diana.
Indeed, historian Dr. Piers Brendon claimed that Charles’ grandmother was relatively relaxed about his extramarital activities. He alleged in the 2017 documentary, “The Queen Mother allowed the couple to use her Scottish home as a bolthole. [She] was relatively broad-minded; she didn’t mind Charles having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles provided that this did not become a scandal.”
And if the aforementioned claims are true, then presumably the Queen Mother’s open-minded attitude will have been appreciated not only by Charles and Camilla, but by Margaret and Antony, too. After all, if it hadn’t been for her, then the royal couple may never have wed at all.
Unlike Margaret and Antony’s marriage, Prince William and Kate Middleton usually appear to have the perfect relationship. Along with their wealth and prestige, they also have three healthy children. But in 2019 an unpleasant rumor has been following them around; the magazine In Touch had alleged that William had cheated on Kate with another woman. But what happened in the royal household after that?
We’ll discover the roots of the affair claim a little later, but let’s first learn more about William and Kate themselves. The couple married in 2011 and it was a truly spectacular royal affair; millions of people worldwide tuned in to watch the soon-to-be Duchess walk down the aisle. Later, William and Kate stood on the palace balcony and kissed for the cheering crowds.
But the road that led William and Kate to marriage hadn’t always been an easy one. Indeed, the early days of their relationship were marked with strife. The pair first met at St. Andrew’s university – where they happened to share the same halls of residence. And the shy, pretty Kate immediately caught the eye of the young prince.
William got along very well with Kate; but she wasn’t the only woman getting his attention at the time. There was also Carley Massy-Birch, a creative writing and English language student. Although Kate had been crowned the prettiest girl in her dorm, Carley had the honor of winning a “finest first-year bottom” competition at St. Andrews. William liked her very much, and his friends knew, although the tabloids didn’t.
Yet the William-Carley relationship came to an end, allegedly, when it transpired William still had feelings for an ex, Arabella Musgrave. She is a woman of high social standing and is the daughter of Major Nicholas Musgrave. William had known her when they were children, but they had met again as young adults.
William and Arabella had dated before the prince left for university, but they had then decided to take a break. The feeling between them, reportedly, was that Arabella didn’t expect him to wait around for her while they were apart. William missed her, though it seems he wasn’t at all averse to meeting and romancing other women.
And in the middle of all these complicated romantic emotions, William suddenly began seeing Kate in an entirely different light. As the oft-repeated story goes, she was modeling in a fashion show and the prince happened to be there. Apparently, he was awestruck after seeing her walking the catwalk in a sheer dress and underwear.
Right after the show, William began to romance Kate. At the afterparty, the two sat together and chatted for a long time while the alcohol flowed. Then, suddenly, William went to kiss her. She pulled away in surprise; Kate herself was taken at the time, as she was dating another university student named Rupert Finch.
Obviously, things between Kate and Rupert didn’t last, and the future Duchess of Cambridge began properly dating William. The pair moved into new accommodation, the romantically named 13a Hope Street. They kept their relationship as quiet as possible – even leaving the house at separate times – so that the tabloids wouldn’t get wind of it.
And yet, William didn’t exactly seem ready to commit. Come the prince’s 21st birthday in 2003, many noted that he seemed to be getting close to a woman called Jecca Craig – despite Kate apparently still being his girlfriend. And this relationship the newspapers very much did pick up on.
The media reported that William and Jecca had performed an engagement ceremony of sorts, where they declared their love for each other. And despite the royal family very rarely commenting regarding news stories about them, William got his people to deny such an event had ever taken place.
William also spoke to the Press Association to mark his 21st birthday, and unsurprisingly he was asked about romance. Despite Kate being in his life, the prince said at the time, “I don’t have a steady girlfriend. If I fancy a girl and I really like her and she fancies me back, which is rare, I ask her out.”
“But, at the same time, I don’t want to put [prospective girlfriends] in an awkward situation because a lot of people don’t quite understand what comes with knowing me,” William continued. “There’s been a lot of speculation about every single girl I’m with and it actually does quite irritate me after a while, more so because it’s a complete pain for the girls.”
Yet Kate definitely seemed to be being shunted aside in favour of Jecca, attendees of William’s 21st birthday party noticed. Both women were present, but while the latter woman sat at the main table with William, Kate did not. Furthermore, the celebration’s theme was “Out of Africa” – an appropriate choice, given William had first met Jecca in Kenya.
Yet despite that unfortunate blip, Kate and William stayed together – for a little longer at least. They were still keen to maintain their privacy, but news of their relationship got out in the end. In April 2004, after Kate had been spotted with William on a skiing trip, The Sun ran the headline “Finally… Wills gets a girl.”
But William didn’t have Kate for much longer. By the summer of that year allegedly the duchess had tired of William’s immature behavior, which may have included flirting and worse with other women. She had also apparently noticed him getting close with yet another female friend – this time it was Anna Sloan, a rich American girl.
Kate was apparently very upset when William went on holiday with Anna and her friends, but that wasn’t the end of it. There was also his friendship with heiress Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe to consider. Reportedly, neither woman had been interested in William romantically, though that didn’t change Kate’s feelings.
Kate apparently banned William from seeing Isabella again, but things still weren’t looking great. The pair decided to do a trial separation, although once again they tried to keep their personal business out of the tabloids. Reportedly, William’s plans to go and see Jecca in Kenya didn’t remotely help matters.
The trial separation ended with the pair getting back together, and in 2005 Kate went on holiday with William, Harry and Charles. After that, more holidays and parties followed, plus the pair both graduated from St. Andrews University. But then, as William joined the British Army, things started to go wrong again.
Although the media constantly speculated that William was about to pop the question to Kate, it seemed that the prince himself wasn’t so sure. The pressure for the two to announce an engagement mounted until neither could take it anymore. That was one problem; William being photographed with other women was another.
By 2007 William was increasingly being seen out with other ladies. At one point, the prince was spotted dancing at a nightclub with a blonde girl, Tess Shepherd. At another nightclub in Bournemouth, he was seen with his arm around a pretty young woman and reportedly took another one out for a drink. For Kate, this was the final straw; she apparently told William that she would leave him if he refused to commit fully to her.
During Easter of that year Kate and William split up, and at the time it appeared to be for good. As a result, the former donned a revenge dress and hit the party circuit. She was determined to show the media that she wasn’t missing her former royal boyfriend; but in reality, Kate was deeply hurt.
The British media subsequently made plenty of the sudden split, and in April 2007 an unnamed “friend of the prince” told The Evening Standard that a marriage was “never on the cards.” They added, “Kate did everything she could to make him stay – playing a waiting game one minute and then hard-to-get the next.”
The royal insider also said, notably, “Just the other week, she said she intended to be photographed at as many places as she could without William to punish him for all those pictures that appeared of him clubbing with other girls. But William’s heart just wasn’t in it anymore. As she was planning the wedding, he was working out how to extricate himself.”
Other alleged insiders had worse things to say about William’s behavior. Another source told the Evening Standard, “He has always had a roving eye, far more so than Harry, who is meant to be the family playboy. That’s something Kate has always known and accepted – it was part of the deal, if you like.”
The source continued, “What has changed in recent months, however, is the way in which the public was starting to view Kate as a future princess. William’s visit to that nightclub in Bournemouth the other week was all rather harmless but he knew it made him look a cad.” Elsewhere, the paper also noted that the palace was not commenting on the situation.
Of course, as we all know, Kate and William ended up getting back together. And in 2010 they finally did the thing so many people had asked them about in the years prior; they got engaged. But there were a few naysayers, and some magazines claimed that it was pretty common for a royal man to cheat on his wife.
There was a grain of truth to the claim of infidelity among royal men, perhaps, because William’s father had famously strayed from his mother. Charles was married to Diana when he had romanced his ex-girlfriend and future wife Camilla Parker Bowles. And there have long been rumors that Prince Philip, William’s grandfather, allegedly cheated on the Queen.
Certainly, the first years of William and Kate’s marriage appeared to go by without incident. In 2013 the pair had their first child, George, who is third in line to the British throne. And by all accounts, William seems to be a good and attentive father.
However, in March 2017 the prince was spotted and videotaped in a comprising position at – once again – a nightclub. While on a skiing holiday with friends in Switzerland, he was observed dancing with a young woman there. Vanity Fair, meanwhile, reported that Kate was “less than pleased” to hear about it.
And in 2019 another apparent – but unconfirmed – issue with William made it to the media. This one was quite shocking; allegedly, the prince had cheated on Kate while she was pregnant with Louis. And the other woman was supposedly their neighbor Rose Hanbury, Marchioness of Cholmondeley.
At first, the story began with tabloid reports that Kate and Rose, once friends, had fallen out. Richard Eden of the Daily Mail claimed that Kate “seems to see Rose as a rival.” Following that, The Sun quoted a source who said, “Things are tense between them… Over the years, Rose and Kate’s lives have been entwined in many ways.”
In April the magazine In Touch then published an infidelity claim – complete with quotes from alleged insiders. Apparently, Kate had confronted William upon hearing rumors, but according to the source he “just laughed it off saying there was nothing to it.” Yet she reportedly ordered him to stop seeing Rose immediately, as she “[saw] their friendship in an entirely different light now.”
To make matters worse, journalist Giles Coren of The Times tweeted out a post seemingly “confirming” that William had indeed cheated on Kate. It was removed, reportedly due to pressure from the palace. And other publications who passed along the rumors were apparently handed legal warnings.
Cosmopolitan magazine, for its part, revealed one of the letters from lawyers representing the royals. It stated, “In addition to being false and highly damaging, the publication of false speculation in respect of our clients’ private life also constitutes a breach of his privacy pursuant to Article 8 of the European Convention to Human Rights.” Of course, having legal letters sent out this way was quite an unusual move for the royals.
Unfortunately, the best way to get everyone talking about an incident is to try and stop them talking about it. The rumors grew; but the palace unsurprisingly refused to comment. However, in April some anonymous courtiers told The Daily Beast that the affair story was “totally wrong and false.” Furthermore, they questioned the reliability of In Touch as a source, adding that it had in the past claimed that “[Barack] Obama was having an affair and Britney [Spears] was having triplets.”
Then, come June Kate and Rose were seen in a room together. They were both present and on diplomatic duty when U.S. President Donald Trump came to visit the palace early that month. Rose was with her husband, director David Rocksavage, and there didn’t appear to be any bad blood between the two women.
That same month, Us Weekly published an article about the whole incident – complete with quotes from more insiders. One of them said, “Kate finds the rumors hurtful, obviously, and hates the thought that one day her children will be able to read about them online.”
However, there was apparently a silver lining to the affair allegations. The insider claimed that Kate hearing the rumors “forced her and William to sit back and examine their relationship, which they realized they should have been doing more often.” A second source who spoke to Us was less positive, however, and they argued that the headlines “didn’t go down well with Kate.” Nevertheless, the source added that the couple were “determined to pull through it and are doing a great job at getting their marriage back on track again.”
The anonymous person informed Us, “It’s not unusual to have a few hiccups in a marriage, especially after eight years, and Kate and William are no different. They’re still going strong. Regardless of their ups and downs, they love each other dearly and their kids are the most important thing in their lives.” And that would appear to be that, at least for now.