I Started Watching The Crown and Now I Can’t Stop Thinking About Princess Margaret
When I watched – and cried – as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said their vows inside St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle I knew I had fallen in love with the couple. And no one was more surprised than me.
I wasn’t an early supporter of this relationship. I just didn’t buy it.
I didn’t buy it when Meghan said she knew nothing about the royal family or Prince Harry. I didn’t buy it when she said the only question she asked her friend before their impending date was, “Is he kind?” And I didn’t buy how quickly they had decided to spend the rest of their lives together.
Well, clearly I couldn’t have been more wrong. And I now find myself enamoured with the historical drama series The Crown, but more specifically the loveable chaos of a young lady called Princess Margaret.
I can’t stop thinking about her. Both the character and the real-life person who’s heart was clearly too fragile to come of age during the 1950s, let alone as a member of the royal family.
At 21 years old, Princess Margaret had a boldness that never stood a chance in the British monarchy. King George famously said that “Elisabeth was his pride and Margaret was his joy.” But am I the only one who thinks that Margaret’s joy was stolen? Am I the only one who can see how her strength was worn down over time to reveal her vulnerability which later revealed a full existential panic? What will I do. Why am I here. What is this body. What future can I bare.
It’s no coincidence to me that when Margaret’s father died at age 57 she began a relationship with King George’s former aid and friend of the family, Captain Peter Townsend. She wasn’t doing it to be provocative or because she “liked older men”. And she wasn’t doing it spitefully to put her sister, now Queen, in a compromising position. She fell in love with Peter Townsend because he was a piece of her father and felt like home.
For those who haven’t seen The Crown or read about the history of the royal family, Princess Margaret was later informed that if she married Townsend she would forfeit her royal rights and income and would be forced to leave England for a minimum of five years. The couple spent almost two years living apart on request from the monarchy, and ultimately decided that their love could have no happy ending. I’m talking generations upon generations of royal protocol that prevented Margaret’s life from ever being entirely her own. A Time magazine report from 1953 wrote that the princess’s “increasingly sober face in the news-pictures seemed to reflect a deeply troubled heart.”
A troubled heart that was born into a family that never spoke about their feelings, so wasn’t it inevitable that Margaret would learn to find her identity through men? It’s also likely the reason she became famous for drinking too much and taking long baths in the middle of the day; she was looking for anything that would suppress the extremities of her emotions.
The Crown’s portrayal of Princess Margaret, played brilliantly by Vanessa Kirby, reminds me of Winona Ryder’s troubled character in Girl, Interrupted. Both of these women had a brilliance that was never properly acknowledged, both were misunderstood. Sure, Winona’s character was diagnosed with “borderline personality disorder”, but she was also – like Margaret – just born in the wrong time in history. Not crazy. But driven crazy by her circumstances.
What’s most devastating to me though, is that only one of these women is a fictional character.