Did she keep a se­cret code for her first lover’s tryst?

The Mail on Sunday - - Femail -

THOSE who think of Princess Margaret’s life as a tragedy see Group Cap­tain Peter Townsend as its un­for­tu­nate hero. The dash­ing air ace and the fairy­tale Princess torn apart by the cold-hearted Es­tab­lish­ment. For these peo­ple, their bro­ken ro­mance was the source of all her later dis­con­tent. But how true is the myth?

Peter Townsend en­tered the scene in Fe­bru­ary 1944, when he was ap­pointed the King’s Ex­tra Equerry. At this time he was 29, with a wife and a small son. Margaret was 13, and a keen Girl Guide. When, pre­cisely, did Townsend start tak­ing a shine to the young Princess? It is a ques­tion rarely asked. Ac­cord­ing to him, ro­mance blos­somed shortly af­ter his di­vorce in De­cem­ber 1952. Margaret told friends she fell for him on a tour of South Africa in 1947, when she was just 17. But had this im­petu­ous young woman man­aged to hide her feel­ings for a full five years? And had the Group Cap­tain some­how ex­er­cised sim­i­lar re­straint?

Pos­si­bly not. Margaret’s chauf­feur, John Larkin asked if she wanted to trans­fer her old num­ber­plate – PM 6450 – to her new Rolls-Royce. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘It refers to an in­ci­dent in my past best for­got­ten. I want some­thing that doesn’t mean any­thing.’

Larkin worked out that ‘PM’ stood for Princess Margaret, and ‘6450’ stood for 6 April, 1950. What had hap­pened on that day? Was it, as some have cal­cu­lated, the day on which the 19-year-old lost her vir­gin­ity to the Group Cap­tain?

TO­GETHER: Margaret, then 17, and Townsend in 1947

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