Playboy-photographer wed sister of Queen Elizabeth
Antony Armstrong-Jones, the dapper photographer who became the Earl of Snowdon after he married Princess Margaret, the sister of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1960 and plunged into a life of privileges, parties, quarrels and infidelities that ended in divorce 18 years later, died Friday at his home in London. He was 86.
His death was confirmed by Buckingham Palace.
Tony, as his friends called him, flouted conventions, flunked out of Cambridge and used his London studio for portrait sittings and parties. He was a talented photographer whose pictures of royalty and world celebrities were widely published and hang in museums and national galleries.
He was also an ambitious, charming womanizer who was reported to have fathered two children out of wedlock, including one while courting Princess Margaret. He took her official portrait in 1958, and they connected again at a dinner party and began a secret affair.
It was not an auspicious beginning. She was heartbroken, having been in love for years with a World War II flying ace, Group Capt. Peter Townsend, 16 years her elder and the divorced father of two. The royal family, the government and the Church of England had forbidden a marriage. And not long after she learned the captain would marry another woman, the princess accepted Armstrong-Jones’ proposal.
On May 6, 1960, the 30-year-old commoner and the 29-year-old younger daughter of the late King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, were married by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a regal ceremony before 2,000 guests in Westminster Abbey and a global television audience of 300 million.
They moved into Kensington Palace and settled into a bifurcated life, joining the royal family at Windsor Castle and on trips to Scotland, but also partying with an entourage of bohemian artists, musicians and show-business celebrities.
When the princess became pregnant, the prospect of an untitled heir necessitated a peerage for Armstrong-Jones, who in October 1961 was dubbed Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley of Nymans in the County of Sussex.
A month later a son, David Albert Charles, Viscount Linley, was born on Nov. 3, 1961. A second child, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, was born on May 1, 1964.
By the late 1960s there were nasty public quarrels between the couple, and talk of a breakup.
In 1976 they formally separated after a photograph of the princess with a younger man who had been her companion for several years generated a scandal. Divorce followed in 1978. The princess never remarried and died in 2002 after a series of strokes.
Months after the divorce, Snowdon married Lucy Mary Lindsay-Hogg. Seven months later their only child, Frances ArmstrongJones, was born. The couple broke up in 2000 after it was disclosed that Snowdon had fathered a son with Melanie Cable-Alexander, an editor.
ANTONY Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones was born in London on March 7, 1930, to Ronald and Anne Messel Armstrong-Jones. His father was a barrister and queen’s counsel, the highest rank of a trial lawyer, from which judges are usually selected.
At Jesus College, Cambridge, he studied architecture and was an enthusiastic photographer and rowing coxswain but failed his examinations and was expelled in 1951.
With school and family connections, he was apprenticed to a court photographer and established his own studio.
His imaginative portraits of society figures, like lighthearted dowagers, appeared in Tatler. He became popular in fashionable circles. In
1956 he made a portrait of the Duke of Kent and soon became a court photographer, taking pictures of the royal family for birthdays and other occasions.
More than 100 ArmstrongJones photographs are in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Anthony Armstrong-Jones ———