Helena Bonham Carter plays the middle-aged Princess Margaret on Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ Season 4. Here’s everything you need to know about Princess Margaret and her life!
Netflix finally released season 4 of ‘The Crown’ on November 15th. The cast remains the same from the previous season with two new eccentric additions to it. As Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) becomes the newest entrant to the royal family in season 4, Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) leads the parliament as she becomes the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom. The season, set in the 80s, has no shortage of scandals, emotional outbursts, and celebrations – all created exquisitely by Peter Morgan.
- Margaret was a symbol of modernity who enjoyed very little power
- Who was Peter Townsend and why didn’t Margaret marry him?
- Did princess Margaret have cousins who were banished to an asylum?
Helena Bonham Carter continues to one-up herself as we see her navigate through divorce, identity crisis, and depression in her 50s. Helena’s portrayal of the royal princess throws light on her complex character and the tragic life she lived.
Margaret – The royal princess who had very little power
“She (The Queen) is the oxygen we all breathe.” Prince Philip’s (played by Tobias Menzies) description of the Queen in season 4 is apt enough for viewers to understand the importance of ranks in the monarchy. Princess Margaret, who was born four years after Queen Elizabeth II, enjoyed all the luxuries as the younger daughter of King George VI soon after she realised how big a role her sister had to play from the moment she was anointed as the sovereign.
Princess Margaret, who was already struggling in an unhappy marriage, is crushed when the Queen informs her about her relegated position in the family as Edward turns 21 in the latest season which makes him the sixth Counsellor of State. At a time when Margaret is lost, aimless, and depressed, her being placed on a lower pedestal than her youngest nephew is the last nail in the coffin.
It was saddening to see the princess suffer when she could have taken up more responsibility as a royal. “Margaret wasn’t someone to be pitied though, and she probably was tired of being seen as tragic”, Helena tells Vogue UK.
Margaret’s love life was a tragedy, to say the least
Vanessa Kirby, who played young princess Margaret in the first two seasons, gave ‘The Crown’ fans enough to chew on when she began a relationship with her father’s equerry, Group Captain Peter Townsend. Margaret was 16 years younger to him when they started seeing each other.
The couple couldn’t stay away from the public eye for long and soon made appearance (rather frequent) in national dailies. While the public endorsed the match, it was the royal family and the parliament who denounced it vehemently. Besides a 16-year age gap between the two, Peter was a divorcee and a father of two.
Senior members of the family and several politicians hinted that the marriage could be the worst thing that happened to the monarchy since the abdication in 1936. After two long years of waiting, Princess Margaret released a statement in the press and called off the marriage adding that she was “mindful of the church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth”.
Townsend ended up marrying a 19-year old Belgian woman named Marie-Luce Jamagne in 1959, about which he wrote about in his letter to Princess Margaret.
Lord Snowdon was a second chance at love for Princess Margaret
Interestingly, the show covered the turbulent years of Princess Margaret’s married life which later became a potent reason for her deteriorating health alongside her smoking habit. Married to an unroyal man – a photographer named Antony Armstrong- Jones, the princess thought she had got a second chance at love, which was clearly not the case.
“The marriage did start getting really difficult, and I heard a lot of stories about him not being very nice to her. The second season for me is Margaret’s attempt to find herself. I think she thinks she’s done it with Tony, and later on, she realizes it’s not the case” Adds Vanessa Kirby in an interview with “Vanity Fair”.
Margaret’s marriage ended in 1976 after her affair with Roddy Llewellyn flashed across tabloids leading to a formal separation in 1978.
There’s more to Margaret than all the “glitz and glam”
Besides being the life of the party at London’s elite social circles in the 50s and beyond, Princess Margaret brought more glory to the crown than one knows.
Helena, who plays Princess Margaret in season 3 and 4, actually got to meet Her Royal Highness in person who told her, “Oh, you’re getting better, aren’t you?” Remembering that meet with the Countess of Snowdon, Helena describes the princess as someone who was an expert at giving a backhanded compliment.
“Margaret enjoyed enforcing rules as much as she loved breaking them herself. It was her only way of serving the monarchy – this was somebody who had no control trying to exert control”.
Said Helena in an interview with “Vogue UK”.
Her visit to the USA in 1965 with Lord Snowdon was a huge success and not only did the royal couple receive rave reviews from the media, but their visit also helped Great Britain with a huge financial bailout.
“A newspaper, on the royal visit in 1965, reported ‘To those accustomed to the formality of traditional royal visits, meeting Princess Margaret has been like going from a black and white film to wanting colour.”
The Queen’s cousins who were institutionalised in an asylum
Season 4 showed a completely hidden aspect of Margaret’s personality – empathy. While the royal princess struggles with a broken marriage, identity crisis, and depression, she discovers Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, two first cousins from her maternal side with mental disabilities, who are living at the Royal Earlswood Hospital. The queen mother’s nieces were falsely listed as long dead in Burke’s Peerage.
Infuriated by the ignorance of the royal family, the princess confronts her mother about the inhumanness towards their own flesh and blood, who settles the dispute by stating that it was done to preserve the monarchy, to save the crown. While the princess showed compassion for her cousins, history reveals that she never visited or tried to make any contact with them.
“She is not easy to be but fun to play”, said Helena Bonham Carter at a talk show. Princess Margaret’s life sure was full of lows and tragedies but she never let anyone take control of her life. She was the writer of her own story. Princess Margaret was truly a woman for the modern age who had her wedding broadcasted on TV, making it the first-ever royal wedding to be televised. She breathed her last on February 9, 2002.