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  #21  
Old 06-05-2008, 02:37 PM
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Poor Miss Crawford, she said that it was easier to teach the princesses during the war when they were living at Windsor. I suppose they were used a for propaganda but I think that the people needed encouragement at that time and they were two lovely little girls supposedly living with the same coupons for food and clothing that every other little girl had. I think that can be taken with a grain of salt but it was widely believed at the time and lifted the people´s spirits at a time when spirits must have been low.
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  #22  
Old 06-07-2008, 07:35 AM
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I have read that King George VI was very strict about following rations most of the time at least, but I am sure that the royals had feasts sometimes!

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  #23  
Old 06-07-2008, 08:19 AM
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They also had a lot of farm produce from their different properties so they could probably stick to their rations easily. That is the coupons in their ration books.
A bit like the woman in one of Somerset Maugham´s tales, who liked a simple life, a salmon from her stream, fruit from her orchards, game from her park etc etc.
Whatever, they served as an example and a symbol of hope in those most difficult times.
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  #24  
Old 06-07-2008, 07:19 PM
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One of the things I liked about these early chapters was the way the author had permission to quote parts of letters written by the young Princess to some of her family. She said as an adult that she hadn't much liked Queen Mary, but the excerpts from the letters she wrote to her grandmother as a girl don't really show any bad attitude.

I suppose it's possible that she blamed Queen Mary's old-fashioned standards for causing her problems over Peter Townsend, and projected them back to her childhood as well. Queen Mary is supposed to have said that the young Margaret was so irresistible that it was impossible to be angry with her when she was naughty, so it doesn't sound as though she was that forbidding a presence in Princess Margaret's young life.
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Old 06-08-2008, 03:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Elspeth View Post
One of the things I liked about these early chapters was the way the author had permission to quote parts of letters written by the young Princess to some of her family.
What annoyed me about this, was the way he kept going on about "The Royal archives have asked me not to quote any more of this"… It would have been sufficient to select quotes and leave any permission discussion to the foreword.
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  #26  
Old 06-08-2008, 04:53 AM
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What annoyed me about this, was the way he kept going on about "The Royal archives have asked me not to quote any more of this"… It would have been sufficient to select quotes and leave any permission discussion to the foreword.
Very true, and it is very annoying.
Marion Crawford said that she had permission to write the book and that it had been read through by the royal family (who ??) but she ended up practically persona non grata for writing it. A very innocuous account with nothing very startling in it.....
I have to wait patiently to comment on the later chapers of the Princess Margaret book - "so, as I have been asked not to quote these" - I will wait.
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Old 06-08-2008, 11:46 AM
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I was also a bit surprised by the constant "I'm only allowed to quote this much" stuff - it sounded a bit petulant, to be honest. But it was nice to see the actual wording of these letters, especially the ones Margaret wrote to her grandmother while she was in South Africa.

If I remember right from actual official biographies, they don't tend to dwell too much on texts of entire letters written by adolescent royals thanking Granny for their Christmas presents, but I suppose it's this access to the original documents that makes the difference between this biography and other unofficial ones so he wanted to emphasise it.

I didn't see a lot of new and interesting stuff in these early chapters apart from the quoted letters, but I found the latter part of the second chapter quite interesting because it starts to introduce the Townsend factor in the description of the South Africa visit and also to describe the Princess's transition to being a working royal after her sister's marriage, when she was the only princess in the palace. Those days when George VI was still alive, Elizabeth was newly married and a new mother, especially when she was living with Philip in Malta, and Margaret was beginning royal duties and living in England, must have been the days when Margaret had the highest profile as a working royal at any time during her life.

It was quite interesting to read the details of a few of these royal duties, especially the detailed planning that went into the preparation for them, but the realisation that they were just a few highlights of a constant routine, and that this was just the beginning of a lifetime of doing the same thing, was a bit daunting to me, and I was only reading about them! I wonder how the Princess must have felt after yet another day of opening a factory, inspecting a hospital, and trying to sound interested in a pumping station, knowing she had decades of the same to look forward to.
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  #28  
Old 06-08-2008, 04:02 PM
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This week's discussion concentrates on chapters 3 and 4, which cover the 1950s and 1960s. These are probably the most turbulent and significant decades of the Princess's life, and set the stage for the events in her later life. They also show the lengths to which the Establishment will go in order to preserve the integrity and prominence of the monarchy and hence their own interests. The Princess's rebellion against the established order left her wounded and bitter, and she seemed to be fair game for the Royal Household and the press from then on.


Chapter 3: The Fifties
  • Margaret is enjoying star billing as a glamorous young princess living in the palace with her adoring parents, while her sister is concentrating on being a wife and mother
  • The King dies, leaving his widow and younger daughter bereft and bringing the new Queen and her family into prominence
  • The Townsend affair, and Margaret's treatment by her mother, her sister, the courtiers, and the press
  • Margaret's meeting with Antony Armstrong-Jones and their subsequent engagement
Chapter 4: The Sixties
  • The wedding and honeymoon
  • Early married life, and Tony's problems adjusting to being a royal husband; the move to Kensington Palace
  • Yet more details of royal engagements, both solo by the Princess and jointly with her husband, and the problems caused by and for the latter
  • The Snowdons' friendships with people in the world of the arts, and the attitude of the Establishment
  • Birth of their children and early signs of trouble in the marriage
Some questions to consider

1. Could the trauma of the Townsend affair have been avoided, or did the Princess's upbringing and the legacy of the Abdication make it inevitable?
2. Would she have had more scope to fulfill her potential if she hadn't been such a senior royal? If so, would she have had the inner resources to do so?
3. Did the demise of the Peter Townsand affair really have an effect on her? Or was it an over-dramatic excuse to gain more public sympathy?
4. Was her marriage to Tony Armstrong-Jones doomed from the start, as some people said, or were they just placed under intolerable pressure by the snobs in the Household?
5. Is it coincidence that the Snowdon marriage seemed to follow the same arc as the later marriage of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, or were they facing similar problems due to their positions in the royal pecking order?
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  #29  
Old 06-11-2008, 07:18 AM
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I remember from reading the book last year that I actually thought that Peter Townsend and the Princess were 'thrown together' rather a lot, and that it wasn't surprising that they fell in love. He often escorted her to functions, for example.

I also agreed that the Princess's behaviour was much better than Townsend's throughout. The author implied that quite strongly, I think.

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  #30  
Old 06-11-2008, 08:15 AM
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They did seem to be thrown together a lot, perhaps it was because the King trusted him. Princesses never went out without and escort and he seemed to be always available. I suppose what happened was inevitable.
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  #31  
Old 06-11-2008, 08:51 AM
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I'm sure it didn't cross the King's mind that this would happen, with Townsend being so much older and also married. But it does seem unfortunate that nobody appeared to notice the way things were developing until they'd reached the point where the friendship had turned into love (or at least infatuation). I suppose hindsight is always helpful, but there was Elizabeth in love with Philip and no doubt the King and Queen focussed on that, especially since Philip was considered unsuitable in some areas of the Establishment, including some of the royal advisors - and according to Marion Crawford, Margaret always wanted what Elizabeth had ("wait for me, Lilibet!"). In some ways it almost seemed as though Margaret was saying, "You think Lilibet's found herself a controversial spouse? Well, how about this?"

I think the way this affair was handled after the King's death was downright cruel, especially considering how Margaret had been petted and indulged and allowed to get away with things when she was younger, giving her the idea she could probably get away with this too. I understand that her mother took a long time to get over her husband's death and her own diminished position after her daughter became Queen, but she could have roused herself to intervene a bit sooner and more firmly and not let Margaret spend those years carrying false hopes.
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  #32  
Old 06-15-2008, 04:16 PM
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This week's discussion covers chapters 5 and 6, which discuss the 1970s and 1980s.

Chapter 5: The Seventies
  • The Snowdon marriage breaks down; the unpleasant atmosphere causes problems for the Princess's senior aides
  • Margaret is consistently unpopular in the press; she is accused of being extravagant and lazy, especially after taking high-profile holidays on Mustique
  • She has a highly public affair with Roddy Llewellyn, while also making friends with people who wouldn't normally be part of the royal circle
  • Royal duties continue, appearing to be much the same as in the previous decades of her life; here again, she starts being criticised for her attitude and her perceived lack of diligence
Chapter 6: The Eighties
  • Margaret attracts continuing negative publicity as she performs public duties
  • Never as healthy as her sister, she experiences some serious health problems as a lifetime of smoking and drinking catch up with her
  • She is sidelined more and more as the Queen's children take on royal duties, marry, and have children; in 1985 she ceased to be a Counsellor of State, being replaced by Prince Edward once he turned 21
  • Her close relationship with her children continues to be emphasised
  • After all the years in the limelight, she's becoming more irrelevant as a royal and isn't seen by the press or most of the public as being worth the money she receives
Some questions to consider

1. By this stage in her life, it seems as though she'd been wandering through her life with no clear purpose. Is this part of the collateral damage of being a younger royal sibling, or could it have been avoided?
2. Was there a way for her to maintain a higher royal profile without upstaging her niece and nephews?
3. The title of the book, "A Life Unravelled," is supposed to refer to the author's attempt to understand her life; however, the unravelling could also be applied to her own experience, especially at this stage. Was this unravelling inevitable, and did she get enough support from her family?
4. She received consistently bad press in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in comparison with the Queen and the Duchess of Kent. Was it deserved, or just the press playing the good guy/bad guy game?
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  #33  
Old 06-18-2008, 03:35 AM
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Well, it looks as though everyone has given up on this book. Just when it was getting interesting, too.

Is anyone still reading?
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  #34  
Old 06-18-2008, 03:46 AM
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I haven´t given up on the book but it is out of my reach by over 400 km until August, I am relying on my memory of the book and "those days". I also think it was downright cruel the way Princess Margaret was treated. It wasn´t though she was ever going to be Queen. Her sister got what she wanted and Peter Townsend was considered the innocent party in the divorce. I believe that if Princess Margaret was bitter over the way she was treated later on in life I think she had every right to feel that way. She said once that when her father became King she became nothing.....
Such a pretty talented Princess, you would think life would smile on her.
She was faced with losing her royal privileges (and probably income) and going to live abroad, she chose what she knew, but very reluctantly. I heard rumours at the time that one of the people most against her marriage to Peter Townsend was Prince Philip, but if this was true or not I have no idea.
I have always been very interested in Princess Margaret and I am always willing to discuss her life. I would just like to have the book at the moment to discuss what it actually says instead of going from memory.
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  #35  
Old 06-18-2008, 07:38 AM
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Re: Memory

I am discussing this from memory too, I'm afraid. I thought that Princess Margaret was the more honourable person in the affair with Townsend. I got the impression that she took the pact that she made with him that neither of them would marry very seriously, and she married Snowdon on the rebound. She was very upset when Townsend married.

Apparently the Royals didn't want another scandal like they had with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

I have been reading Phillip and Elizabeth by Giles Brandreth. He writes that the PM was very much against the match, even though he was divorced himself, and he was instrumental in the law which would strike the Princess off the Civil List if she married Townsend. I won't swear here, but a certain word starting with 'B' comes to mind!

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  #36  
Old 06-18-2008, 08:42 AM
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It seems e seem to be down to three discussing the book with only Elspeth with the book in front of her.
I find it amazing how a young girl with so much going for her ended up being pitied.
She had a reputation when she was young of being "wild" in those days they had no idea what wild was. She once danced the cancan and it became a huge scandal also her friendship with a young American girl (sorry can´t remember her name). This, of course, was before the Townsend affair.
At one time it seemed she couldn´t do even one thing right. I believe that it was her status as a younger sibling that caused her most grief also the realisation that her sister could do no wrong and almost without effort on her part the people revered and loved her. It would be very frustrating for anyone but Margaret was especially pretty, intelligent and gifted and of course she had been terribly spoilt. As the late King said about his daughters, the eldest was his pride and the youngest was his joy...
What a shock for her to find that the one thing she really wanted was denied her, or that she would have to pay a very high price to obtain it.
In the years she was growing up and as a young woman I never heard anything about her bad health, and as I can remember this part of the book do you think the author is exaggerating this so as to justify his theory at the end?
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  #37  
Old 06-18-2008, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Menarue View Post
It seems we seem to be down to three discussing the book with only Elspeth with the book in front of her.
Yes, it's interesting because there seemed to be a lot of enthusiasm about this book when we were discussing possible choices. I hope this is just a case of people being busy with exams and vacations and so on, and not some sort of sign that the book club isn't working.


Quote:
I find it amazing how a young girl with so much going for her ended up being pitied.
She had a reputation when she was young of being "wild" in those days they had no idea what wild was. She once danced the cancan and it became a huge scandal also her friendship with a young American girl (sorry can´t remember her name). This, of course, was before the Townsend affair.
I've been reading the Christopher Warwick biography along with the Tim Heald one, and I must say that in some respects I prefer it although they both have their strengths. It seems from both books as though Margaret was petted and indulged as a child, possibly especially so after her father became King as a way to compensate her for the increased importance of her sister, and so she was unprepared for some harsh realities when she got older. The fact that the Queen Mother was too wrapped up in her own grief at her husband's death and her own changed circumstances, as well as being the sort of person who preferred to ignore problems rather than confronting them (the well-known "ostriching" phenomenon), didn't help Margaret with the Townsend affair. Nor did the fact that her sister was having to come to grips with all her new responsibilities as well as a young family, and probably didn't have the spare time or energy to really devote to Margaret.

I remember reading - not in the context of Margaret, if I remember right - that certain senior members of the Household took advantage of the Queen's youth and inexperience to exert more control and influence than perhaps they had been accustomed to doing before. I wonder if they'd have been allowed to get away with this awful treatment of Margaret over the Townsend business if George VI had still been alive.

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At one time it seemed she couldn´t do even one thing right. I believe that it was her status as a younger sibling that caused her most grief also the realisation that her sister could do no wrong and almost without effort on her part the people revered and loved her. It would be very frustrating for anyone but Margaret was especially pretty, intelligent and gifted and of course she had been terribly spoilt. As the late King said about his daughters, the eldest was his pride and the youngest was his joy...
What a shock for her to find that the one thing she really wanted was denied her, or that she would have to pay a very high price to obtain it.
In the years she was growing up and as a young woman I never heard anything about her bad health, and as I can remember this part of the book do you think the author is exaggerating this so as to justify his theory at the end?
I'm not sure about that, because Marion Crawford hinted (and I think in at least one place actually said) that Margaret wasn't as robust as Elizabeth and was more high-strung altogether and more prone to fatigue. When that constitution is combined with her smoking and drinking - and it seems from one of the photos in the Heald book that she was already smoking by the age of 15 - I can see where her health might have buckled under the strain.
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Old 06-18-2008, 02:41 PM
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I haven't been reading the book, but it sounds interesting.

I have one question that's never been explained. I have read that the Queen Mother's situation in the early years really preoccupied her daughter EII. Beyond the widow's depression and grief, what was the problem? Was the QM unwilling to relinquish the limelight? Was there some other problem?
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Old 06-18-2008, 02:49 PM
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I am discussing this from memory too, I'm afraid. I thought that Princess Margaret was the more honourable person in the affair with Townsend. I got the impression that she took the pact that she made with him that neither of them would marry very seriously, and she married Snowdon on the rebound. She was very upset when Townsend married.

Apparently the Royals didn't want another scandal like they had with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Yes, and apparently they thought they could get away with the same underhanded and stunningly cruel behaviour. The thing is that the 1950s weren't the same as the 1930s - a lot of things had changed after the War - and also Peter Townsend wasn't as universally despised as Wallis Simpson. I think some of this stuff rebounded on them fairly badly, one way and another.

Mind you, I did read somewhere (I wish I could remember where I read some of these things!) that Peter Townsend was a young girl's fantasy of the perfect lover and wasn't really a viable real-life partner. That could well be hindsight, but I thought it was an interesting perspective.

I was surprised to read in the Heald book that Margaret was determined never to marry if she couldn't marry Townsend, and felt so betrayed when he finally married (so she married Tony Armstrong-Jones in the rebound, as you said). From all the descriptions of her as a girl and a young woman, she doesn't seem like the sort of person who would have happily remained single for ever, and it seems as though this would have been a declaration made in the heat of the moment that she'd have gone back on a couple of years later when it became clear that she couldn't marry him. The fact that she was apparently determined to see this "if I can't marry him I won't marry anyone" attitude through to middle age and maybe beyond was rather strange to me, and showed a side of her character that I hadn't expected. It seemed so self-destructive and unnecessary.

Quote:
I have been reading Phillip and Elizabeth by Giles Brandreth. He writes that the PM was very much against the match, even though he was divorced himself, and he was instrumental in the law which would strike the Princess off the Civil List if she married Townsend. I won't swear here, but a certain word starting with 'B' comes to mind!
These bloody Prime Ministers and their infernal interference in the private lives of royals! I wonder if he had some strange idea that as long as Princess Margaret wasn't allowed to marry a divorced man, so that the royals symbolically did things that everyone else thought was the right thing to do but didn't want to do themselves, it made it OK for him to have been divorced. "Do as I say, don't do as I do."

I liked the Brandreth book; what do you think of it?

The thing which really struck me about the two chapters for this week's reading - the 1970s and 1980s - was the way her earlier experiences conspired to make her later life so unhappy and meaningless. It's easy to look back with hindsight, but the system where everything is invested in the eldest child is really very hard on younger siblings, especially when there's only one of them. It's a shame she wasn't encouraged to compensate for her position by getting a decent education and maybe channelling her abilities and skills into something worthwhile. She was probably of the generation (to say nothing of the social class) where a career was out of the question, but it's a shame that an equivalent to the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, but maybe in the performing arts or something, couldn't have been set up for her.

Society was going through a lot of changes in the late 1960s and the 1970s, and the Queen and her family seemed to deal with it by sticking firmly in the 1950s in their outlook and habits. Margaret, on the other hand, tried to move with the times and didn't seem to be properly equipped to do so after her very rigidly circumscribed upbringing. Then in the 1980s, as the Queen's children married and had children, as as Margaret was displaced as a Counsellor of State, she was written off as a has-been after not really ever having been anything. The royal duties she was doing - which read almost exactly the same as the ones she was doing back in the late 1940s and 1950s - don't seem to have given her a lot of scope either, especially once the Queen's children started taking over some of the duties and patronages and she was relegated to an even lower position in the pecking order.

I always find it terribly sad to read about this part of her life, because you really can see her life unravelling before your eyes. It's such a wicked waste of a lot of potential, and she seemed to shoulder the blame for all of it, when the seeds were sown very early on by other people as well as by her.
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Old 06-18-2008, 02:55 PM
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I haven't been reading the book, but it sounds interesting.

I have one question that's never been explained. I have read that the Queen Mother's situation in the early years really preoccupied her daughter EII. Beyond the widow's depression and grief, what was the problem? Was the QM unwilling to relinquish the limelight? Was there some other problem?
Depends who you believe, I think. It seems to be pretty well documented that the Queen Mother went through a very rough time when her husband died. Whether that was mostly because of the shock of being widowed relatively young or whether there was a significant element of not wanting to hand over the position at centre stage depends on whose point of view you accept.

Personally (as someone who's never been convinced by all this "the Queen Mother is perfect" stuff), I'm sceptical about whether she was as reluctant to become Queen back in 1936 as all that. I think it's pretty much beyond doubt that George VI was a very reluctant King, but I have my doubts about how far that extended to his wife, who seemed to be such an accomplished performer and such a strong character. So my personal opinion is that Mummie was suffering somewhat from her demotion along with her doubtless severe and genuine devastation at losing her husband (as well as her anger at the Windsors for, as she saw it, causing the loss).
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