Today in Royal History: Queen Elizabeth’s Sister Princess Margaret Died 19 Years Ago
Queen Elizabeth's beloved sister died on this day, 19 years ago.
Princess Margaret, who was known for her glamorous lifestyle but troubled love life, died at 71 years old on February 9, 2002, after months of health problems.
"The Queen, with great sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately. Her beloved sister, Princess Margaret, died peacefully in her sleep this morning at 6.30am, in The King Edward VII Hospital," an official announcement from Buckingham Palace said at the time.
After suffering several strokes and a period of poor health that left her partially paralyzed and suffering sight problems, one final stroke the day before her death proved to be fatal. She was taken from her home at Kensington Palace to the hospital where she died with her children Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto by her side.
To many she was a royal rebel, favoring a party lifestyle. She chain-smoked and was known for her acerbic wit and sometimes cruel put-downs. But according to biographer Theo Aronson, her reputation didn't bother her in the slightest. She once told the French poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, "Disobedience is my joy."
Despite this, she always remained loyal to her sister, Elizabeth, who became Queen when Margaret was 22-years-old. It was shortly after her sister's coronation that Margaret announced her engagement to Captain Peter Townsend, but the marriage never took place. As a divorced man, he was not deemed to be an appropriate match to someone so close to the line of succession.
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In May 1960, Margaret married the society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones and the glamorous couple — a fixture on the social scene for many years — went on to have two children: David Albert Charles Armstrong-Jones, known as Viscount Linley and Sarah Frances Elizabeth Armstrong-Jones, known as Lady Sarah Chatto. After a turbulent marriage for many years, they divorced in 1978.
Spending much of her time in Mustique where she had built a home, her lady-in-waiting Lady Anne Glenconner said they had the best of times together wherever they were in the world.
"Often when we did official things, funny things happened," Glenconner tells PEOPLE. "Once we were alone we could laugh. I never laughed so much. We would roar with laughter."
The royal family requested that anyone making donations in memory of Margaret contribute to one of the charities of which she was patron, the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, The Guide Association and the Royal Ballet.
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It was a particularly painful time for the Queen, as although the Queen Mother managed to attend Margaret's funeral on February 15 at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, she also died just six weeks later.
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