January 20


The late Princess Margaret, in more recent years, was the target of some quite malicious people who write inthe London press. Their code of ethics appears to exempt the Royal Family from the usual constraints. Under this exemption, rumour is published as fact, with one proviso-the rumour must be damaging. Otherwise it does not attract attention-that is, it will not sell newspapers and books. But for those who can remember, there was a time when the beautiful young Princess was everybody's darling, and could do no wrong. The whole world seemed transfixed by the story of her romance with Group – Captain Peter Townsend. The obstacle to their marrying was that he was a divorcee. As The Times editorial of 26 October 1955 put it:" The Princess will be entering into a union which vast numbers of her sister's peoples, all sincerely anxious for her life-long happiness, cannot in conscience regard as a valid marriage "Whatever people's views on divorce today, The Times reflected the standards of those days. Even then, some parts of the press sought to profit from this. But their offences were mild in comparison with those of today. After one newspaper offered one hundred pounds for the best letter of advice to the Princess, the editor earned a stern rebuke from the Press Council!


But four days later the Princess made her sad announcement, that "mindful of the teaching of the church on the indissolubility of Christian marriage, and my duty to the Commonwealth", she had taken the decision not to marry the man she loved. In subsequent years, some malicious people, prepared to put the worst interpretation on anything she ever did, would write that she made this decision only to keep her position and her income. It has now been revealed from documents released by the UK National Archive that these malicious people were completely and absolutely wrong the government, having consulted around the Commonwealth, was prepared to allow her to retain her position and her income. And they did not keep this from her- she was told this in official briefings. So her decision to sacrifice her happiness was made for precisely the reason she had stated – her duty, her duty to God and the Commonwealth. It was a decision based on principle, and only on principle. Princess Margaret, and all the Royal Family, deserves an apology.


The story about the release of the cabinet papers of the day was published in the British press early this month-see for example the excellent account in The Telegraph of 3 January 2004, Margaret Could Have Married and Kept Title. That was over two weeks ago. I have not seen one I stress one-apology. I have to admit that this causes me no surprise, but many regrets.


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