Photos of Princess Margaret & Peter Townsend

portrait of peter townsend

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The first season of The Crown focused on the ill-fated royal romance between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend (portrayed by Vanessa Kirby and Ben Miles). When Queen Elizabeth tells her sister that she cannot marry Peter, who is a divorced man, Margaret is heartbroken. The princess and Peter would go on to marry others, and live separate lives.

Season five of the Netflix royal drama shows the two reconnecting, with Margaret reflecting on what her life could have been had she been allowed to marry Peter (now played by former James Bond actor Timothy Dalton). In real life, Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend did reunite one last time, in 1992. They had not seen each other since they ended their engagement in 1955. To Margaret, Peter looked “exactly the same, except he had gray hair.” He would die three years later, in 1995, of stomach cancer.

In light of this poignant episode, take a look back at the best photos of Peter Townsend throughout his life.

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Peter Townsend joined the Royal Air Force in 1930. In 1939, he was promoted to flight lieutenant. He’s pictured here far right, chatting with ground crew who are seated on his Hawker Hurricane at Wick, Scotland.

Townsend, second from right, served in the Battle of Britain, flying Hawker Hurricanes.

In 1946, Townsend was appointed as a royal equerry to King George VI. He soon became a part of the royal household; here, he is pictured (front row, second from right) sitting in between Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and then-Princess Elisabeth at a theater performance in London. Princess Margaret is on the far left.

Townsend (center) with the royal family leaving St Paul’s cathedral. He met the young Princess Margaret in his role as equerry.

Princess Margaret later told friends she fell in love with Peter during a royal tour of South Africa in 1947, but their romance wouldn’t begin for a few more years.

Townsend, right, is pictured behind then-Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend pictured on holiday in Scotland; Peter would later recall that his love for the princess began while on holiday at Balmoral this year.

Townsend had married Rosemary Pawle in 1941; they had two sons, Giles (b. 1942) and Hugo (b. 1945). By 1952, they divorced; a year later, he proposed to Princess Margaret.

“She was a girl of unusual, intense beauty, confined as it was in her short, slender figure and centered around large purple-blue eyes, generous, sensitive lips, and a complexion as smooth as a peach,” Peter is said to have recalled about Margaret. “She could make you bend double with laughing and also touch you deeply in your heart.”

Pictured: Princess Margaret, center, and Townsend, in the background, in London.

The Princess, Townsend later wrote, “could have married me only if she had been prepared to give up everything—her position, her prestige, her privy purse. I simply hadn’t the weight, I knew it, to counterbalance all she would have lost.”

“When it was done, we looked at each other. There was a wonderful tenderness in her eyes which reflected, I suppose, the look in mine,” Townsend wrote of their relationship decades later. “We had reached the end of the road, our feelings for one another were unchanged, but they had incurred for us a burden so great that we decided together to lay it down.”

Townsend would go on to have a career as an author. He’s pictured here with one of his books, Duel of Eagles.

He eventually married a second time: in 1960, he married Marie-Luce Jamagne. They had three children together.

Townsend reemerged in the public eye when he consulted on the film The Battle of Britain. He’s pictured (far right) with actors Robert Shaw (second from left) and Christopher Plummer (second from right).

In 1978, he published an autobiography, Time and Chance, which detailed his relationship with Princess Margaret—telling his side of the story, in his own words.

Townsend, pictured a year before his death. He is buried in Saint-Léger-en-Yvelines, in France.

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