Princess Margaret famously told Jean Cocteau “disobedience is my joy,” according to royal biographer Theo Aronson. And in recent times, her brand of royal rebellion has been introduced to a new generation through her depiction on The Crown. Even so, as these anecdotes about Queen Elizabeth’s little sister go to show, she was perhaps even more outrageous in real life.
20. Dropped coat
It turns out that Princess Margaret sure knew how to make an entrance at a party. In fact, her behavior has been compared to that of a rockstar, rather than the royal that she was. That’s because she was known to show blatant disregard to protocol and fly in the face of what might have been expected from a lady of her stature.
According to an anecdote relayed by the news site The Daily Beast in 2017, Margaret once dropped her coat at a function, sparking a fellow party-goer to offer to pick it back up. The princess was blasé about the proposal, though, reportedly telling the man, “No. I’ll never remember where it is if you move it.’”
19. Ultimate party girl
Margaret was well known for her frivolous lifestyle, and sometimes she just didn’t want the party to end. As one legend dictates, she once declared, “No one leaves my presence until I give them permission to do so.” She apparently said this as fellow party guests began to filter out of a gathering at 4 a.m.
In another anecdote, Margaret is said to have turned up three hours later to dinner and ordered the party to continue into the early hours. Critic Brian Sewell recalled, “The servants from the village had gone home to bed and the rest of us, some half-dozen, absolutely plastered, had to buckle-to, and carry and carve the baked meats of sacrifice. She then kept us up until four in the morning, kippering us with her cigarettes.”
18. Her show-stealing tiara
Margaret bucked royal tradition at her wedding to Antony Armstrong-Jones – later Lord Snowden – in 1960. Because rather than opting to wear a headpiece from her family’s collections, she bought her own – the Poltimore Tiara – at auction for approximately £4,320 ($5,925). The headdress was quite the statement item of jewelry, which is perhaps exactly why the princess chose it.
According to Helena Bonham Carter, Margaret sought out the accessory specifically for its height. In 2019 The Crown star told Town & Country magazine, “[Margaret] didn’t have a complex about being number two; she had a complex about being short. That’s why she wore the Poltimore Tiara, which was at least four inches tall, at her wedding.”
17. Dinner party capers
It seems that the endless cycle of social events that Margaret endured as a royal could become quite tedious. As a result, she and her husband Lord Snowden came up with a way to entertain themselves during long dinner parties. But it came at the expense of their other guests.
That’s because Margaret and Snowden would listen out for clichés being doled in their company. Each time they heard one, they would tear off a piece of bread and place it in the table’s center. Whoever had the biggest pile of dough in front of them by the end of the night was then declared the winner.
16. She liked to travel in style
Given that she was a born and bred royal, it’s perhaps no surprise that Margaret enjoyed the finer things in life. And this pursuit of luxury extended into the way that she liked to travel. As a member of the international jet set, the princess only liked to vacation in one way – and that was in style.
For Margaret’s honeymoon in 1960, no expense was spared as she embarked on a six-week trip onboard the royal yacht Britannia. Years later, in 1995 she packed up nearly $10,000 worth of clothes for a one-week trip to America. Meanwhile, she once reportedly insisted on a motorcycle escort for the mere four-mile journey between Kensington Palace and Waterloo Station.
15. She was not to be crossed
The royals might be known for being the picture of politeness, but Margaret was not afraid to stand up for herself. According to one anecdote, recounted by Aronson in his book Princess Margaret, she was enraged to find that she’d been the victim of theft after a party thrown for Marlene Dietrich at Kensington Palace.
Aronson wrote that Margaret “was furious to find that four bottles of very rare vodka, which had been given to her, had disappeared.” Consequently, she apparently, “spent the whole of the following morning ringing around until she had tracked down the culprit” and “the bottles were returned.”
14. Performance queen
Margaret apparently loved to sing, although some have claimed that she wasn’t always very good at it. In another story from Aronson’s biography on the princess, he wrote, “One night, at a ball given by the celebrated hostess, Lady Rothermere, the Princess ‘grabbed the microphone from the startled leader of the band, whom she instructed to play songs by Cole Porter.’”
According to the anecdote, at first, the crowd was appreciative of Margaret’s performance, spurring her to up her “gyrations.” But that’s when things turned sour. Aronson explained, “From the back of the crowded ballroom, came loud sounds of booing and barracking. The rest of the place fell silent. Mortified by this unprecedented show of hostility, the Princess abandoned the microphone and hurried out of the room.”
13. A trivial tantrum
If this story is anything to go by, Margaret wasn’t a fan of being found to be wrong, even during a light-hearted board game. Apparently, while playing Trivial Pursuit at a house party, the princess became increasingly agitated when she couldn’t think of “the name of a curried soup.”
According to Biography.com, a guest revealed how Margaret had insisted, “It’s just called curried soup. There isn’t any other name for it. It’s curried soup!” They continued, “Our host said, ‘No, ma’am – the answer is mulligatawny.’ And she said, ‘No, it’s curried soup!’ And she got so furious that she tossed the whole board in the air, sending all the pieces flying everywhere.”
12. Her rumoured flames
The ups and downs of Margaret’s romantic life have been well documented, from her ill-fated relationship with Group Captain Peter Townsend to her rocky marriage to Lord Snowden. Both parties were said to have been unfaithful to each other over the course of their relationship, with Margaret embarking on affairs with Robin Douglas-Home and Roddy Llewellyn. However, some of her rumored flames have been famous in their own right.
Among the celebrities that Margaret was romantically linked to over the years was the Rolling Stones frontman, Mick Jagger. She was also rumored to have had liaisons with the actors Peter Sellers, Warren Beatty and Richard Harris. The artist Picasso, meanwhile, was also said to have harbored a soft spot for the pretty princess.
11. She kept her guests waiting
It appears that Margaret lived by the “fashionably late” mantra. According to royal protocol, dinner wasn’t allowed to go ahead until the princess had taken up a spot at the table. But that didn’t stop her from keeping her guests waiting on occasion, causing some of them to lose their patience.
In The Letters of Nancy Mitford, the British socialite wrote, “Dinner was at 8.30, and at 8.30 Princess Margaret’s hairdresser arrived, so we waited for hours while he concocted a ghastly coiffure.” The aristocrat added, “She looked like a huge ball of fur on two well-developed legs. Shortest dress I ever saw – a Frenchman said it begins so low and ends so soon.”
10. Keeping people at arm’s length
While it’s been claimed that Margaret was more approachable than her sister Queen Elizabeth, that didn’t mean she wanted people to forget their place around her. She may have been considered friendlier to some, but she still wanted to be treated with the respect she felt she deserved as a royal.
According to Biography.com, the actor Derek Jacobi later recalled a meeting with Margaret in that way. He said, “We got on terribly well, very chummy, talking about her mum and her sister, and she really made me feel like I was a friend until she got a cigarette out, and I picked up a lighter, and she snatched it out of my hand.” He claimed the princess had then snapped, “You don’t light my cigarette, dear. Oh no, you’re not that close.’”
9. Lavish wedding
When Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, the U.K. was still recovering economically from the Second World War. As such, it was decided the couple’s ceremony would be quite lowkey, to respect the mood in the country at the time. With this in mind, the princess had to save her ration cards to purchase the fabric for her wedding dress, while floral flourishes were kept to a minimum.
Margaret’s wedding, on the other hand, was an extravagant affair, reportedly costing a total of $35,000. It reportedly took 35 yards of fabric to create her wedding gown. Without skimping on the details, the bride also enjoyed a floral arch measuring 60 feet, and not one but 20 wedding cakes.
8. Celebrity run-ins
As a member of the royal family, Margaret was no doubt used to meeting the rich and famous. That being said, she wasn’t always on her best behavior and was known for exercising her cutting wit at the expense of her well-known guests. For instance, she allegedly once told Grace Kelly, “You don’t look like a movie star.”
In another instance, Margaret asked the model Twiggy who she was. She replied “I’m Lesley Hornby, ma’am, but people call me Twiggy,” to which the princess quipped, “How unfortunate.” In another anecdote, the royal once described Elizabeth Taylor’s engagement ring as “vulgar,” but was swayed when the actress allowed her to try it on.
7. Which queen?
While Margaret was a mere princess, she had an abundance of queens in her life, reportedly by her own emission. According to U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph, she had a hilarious retort for a high-society hostess when they asked her about the queen. Margaret replied, “Which one? My sister, my mother or my husband?”
Indeed, while Queen Elizabeth had become the British monarch upon her coronation in 1952, her mother had a similar title. She was Queen consort from her husband George VI’s coronation in 1936 until his death in 1952, when she became known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. But whatever Margaret’s snipe at her husband meant is unexplained.
6. Her affair
Both Margaret and Lord Snowdon were rumored to have been unfaithful to one another throughout their marriage. But one of the princess’s better-known flings was with the landscape gardener Roddy Llewellyn, who was 17 years younger than she was. The pair reportedly met in 1973, though their relationship was not brought to the public’s attention until three years later.
It was then that photographs of Margaret and Roddy holidaying together in Mustique were published, finally bringing their affair into the spotlight. The princess ultimately divorced Lord Snowden in 1978 and remained in a relationship with Roddy for another two years.
5. Decadent morning routine
Margaret was no early riser and enjoyed an extravagant morning routine. Outlining her A.M. habits in his book Ma’am Darling, Craig Brown wrote that in her 20s, she woke for breakfast in bed at nine o’clock, “followed by two hours in bed listening to the radio, reading the newspapers (which she invariably left scattered over the floor) and chain-smoking.”
According to Brown, Margaret would then spend the remainder of the morning getting ready at a leisurely pace. Then, by 12.30p.m. it was time for a “vodka pick-me-up” followed by an “informal” four-course lunch with the Queen Mother, washed down with “half a bottle of wine per person.”
4. The snatched wheelchair
As Margaret got older, her health began to fail. And after suffering a stroke in 1998, the princess badly scalded her feet getting into a bath in Mustique a year later. From then on, the royal often preferred the use of a wheelchair. But her sister, the Queen, reportedly thought that such lengths were unnecessary.
Recounting a visit Margaret made to Buckingham Palace biographer, Craig Brown revealed, “The Queen had seen to it that a footman would have a wheelchair ready for her mother. But as the lift doors opened onto the first floor, Margaret made a dash for it.” This led her sister to cry, “For God’s sake, Margaret – get out! That’s meant for Mummy!’”
3. Demanding vacation guest
Margaret’s chosen vacation spot was Mustique, a private island belonging to her friend Colin Tennant. She embarked on many trips to the West Indian idyll between the 1970s and her death, using the retreat to let her hair down. But that didn’t mean that her presence was a relaxing experience for everyone.
Tennant took it upon himself to cater to Margaret’s every whim on Mustique. He reportedly filled bowls with fresh water so that the princess could wash the sand from her feet after her daily swim. The actor Nicholas Courtney later told biographer Brown, “He collapsed with exhaustion when Princess Margaret left the island. He put every ounce of energy into making it fun for her.”
2. She liked to remind people of her superiority
Margaret could be exhausting, in part because she liked to remind those around her of her superiority. She would turn her nose up at any water other than bottled Malvern and even critique her host’s dinner choices openly in front of them. And she wasn’t opposed to making others do her dirty work.
According to Biography.com, journalist Selina Hastings recalled a meeting with Margaret, “We were going to drive from Royal Lodge to the Castle. She was wearing some peep-toe sandals, and as she got into the car she said, ‘Selina, I’ve got some chewing gum on my shoe!’ So, I had to get out and go round to the other side and pull the chewing gum off.”
1. Her two loves
According to Brown’s book Ma’am Darling, Margaret loved cigarettes and alcohol so much that she attempted to merge the two. The biographer claimed that the royal “tried to combine the smoking and drinking by gluing matchboxes onto tumblers, so she could strike matches while drinking.”
Margaret spent her life building up her reputation as a party girl, and even on her deathbed, she remained fond of a tipple. In Margaret: The Rebel Princess, Lady Anne Glenconner recalled how she would “creep down… to the drink table and bring [Margaret] up a whiskey” during her friend’s final days.