Princess Margaret's Wedding

Caitlin Paterson

Princess Margaret took the nation by surprise by announcing her engagement

On 27 February 1960, Princess Margaret took the nation by surprise by announcing her engagement to notable society photographer, Antony Armstrong-Jones. Although Armstrong-Jones had been seen around the royal family, he was known for taking informal photos of the monarch and her family, so when he was invited to both Sandringham and Balmoral, suspicions were not spiked in the press. This led their relationship to be dubbed ‘the best kept secret of modern times’ upon the announcement, especially after the media frenzy surrounding Princess Margaret’s previous relationship with Peter Townsend. However, with the relationship now known, this opened the stage for Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones’ closely guarded secret to become one of the biggest royal events since the Queen’s coronation. These nuptials made history in more ways than one. This marriage was the first time in centuries that a person labelled a ‘commoner’ was to marry into the royal family. Although given approval by the Queen and the Queen Mother who both ‘warmly approved the engagement’, other foreign royals did not see this in the same way, with Queen Ingrid of Denmark being the only foreign royal to attend the wedding. However, this was drowned out by the overwhelming support of the public for the wedding and Princess Margaret’s happiness. Much of the public felt Margaret had been hard done by when she was made to choose between her duty to the royal family or the relationship she had with Peter Townsend, which ‘more than 96 per cent’ of the public supported in a poll according to the Daily Mirror. This meant that when she finally announced her engagement the public were thoroughly pleased that the princess could finally live her ‘happily ever after’. This was further amplified when it was decided to televise the wedding day, making this the first royal wedding to be televised.
Princess Margaret’s Wedding
Princess Margaret

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Princess Margaret’s Wedding
Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones married

Just over two months after the engagement announcement, on 6 May 1960, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones married, watched by their 2,000 invited guests and for the first time ever, the nation. According to the BBC, ’20 million people in the UK’ tuned in to watch the couple celebrate their nuptials, whilst those watching ‘in Australia, Canada and the USA took the total viewing figures to 300 million’. Alongside the viewing figures, many also lined the streets, with members of the public camping out along the processional route, from Clarence House to Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, the night before, in hopes of catching a glimpse of Princess Margaret on the way to the church. Media reporting on the royal wedding emphasised the public’s support for the couple, making note of the crowds waving and cheering. In light of Margaret’s previous tumultuous relationship, those reporting also highlighted the couple’s marriage as ‘so obviously a love match’ as they reached the ‘climax of [their] royal romance’. Televising the royal wedding allowed the celebrations to be accessible to everyone, both to those in the UK and abroad who simply couldn’t make the journey to be there in person. The televising of the Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones’s wedding set the tone for a new landscape of media access to the royal family’s private lives and affairs. Although the public had always been informed of important events such as births, engagements and weddings in the past, this new level of access where the public could be right there in the action set a new expectation that the public should be involved in large events in the future. Indeed, since broadcasting of royal weddings began, they have remained some of the most watched moments in television history. However, some 60 years since the first televised wedding, it can now be seen that certain members of the royal family have started to actively avoid the media in order to keep some sense of their lives private. The rise of tabloid press alongside major milestones in media such as the televised wedding gave the royal family a celebrity status which now can be seen as a negative rather than a positive. That being said, televising Princess Margaret’s wedding has undoubtedly assisted the royal family in the long run, allowing a new platform for public support and adoration.
Ancestry UK
Princess Margaret’s Wedding

Caitlin Paterson

I’m Caitlin and I’m a Historical Studies graduate from the University of Lincoln, where my MA dissertation focused on the Princess Margaret and how she was portrayed in the popular press throughout her life. Throughout my studies I never settled completely on one topic, however I would consider myself a modern historian with a particular interest in royal history, but ultimately, I love exploring all time periods and people. This is also the second article I’ve written for the magazine, the first being in Edition 2.
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