Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Royal Profile: The Earl of Snowdon

The announcement that Antony Armstrong-Jones would marry Princess Margaret took people by surprise. Although people were happy for the Princess, especially after the Peter Townsend affair, many felt a "bohemian" photographer, who worked for a living, had no place in the royal family.

Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones was born on March 7th 1930 in Eaton Terrace, London. He was the only son, and second child of Ronald Owen Lloyd Armstrong-Jones and his first wife Anne Messel, who later became the Countess of Rosse. His parents divorced in 1934 and as a result of his parent's subsequent marriages, he has three half-brothers.

He was educated at Sandroyd preparatory school then he went on to Eton. An attack of polio left him in a wheel-chair for a year, severely interrupting his education, and would leave him with one leg slightly shorter than the other. He eventually attended Jesus College Cambridge, first studying natural sciences and then switching to architecture. Neither subject stimulated his interest so he decided to pursue photography, a hobby he'd had since boyhood. His first shots appeared in an undergraduate newspaper and he then progressed to taking photos for various society magazines, which brought him professional status. While at Cambridge he coxed the college rowing team, and in 1950 he led the Cambridge Eight to victory. Having failed the architecture exams, he left Cambridge without a degree and joined the studio of the photographer Baron, who had taken the wedding photographs of the Queen and Prince Philip. After six months he set up his own studio and soon established himself as one of London's most successful photographers in the fields of fashion, design and theatre.

His career as a royal portraitist began in 1956 when he was comissioned to photograph the young Duke of Kent. The following year he photographed the Queen's children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, and then the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh themselves. He has continued to photograph the royal family, taking the engagement photos of Charles and Diana, the first official photos of the infant Prince's William and Harry and more recently, a portrait of the Queen for her 80th birthday.

He met Princess Margaret at a dinner party on February 20, 1958. Their relationship was kept from the public eye and when their engagement was announced on February 26, 1960, it took many by surprise. They were married on May 6, 1960 in Westminster Abbey. The couple were very popular in the 1960's, regarded as the epitome of glamour and modernity. They moved in showbiz, artistic, and fashion circles befriending the Beatles and Peter Sellers.

With the announcement that the Princess was pregnant with her first child, Antony was created the 1st Earl of Snowdon, Viscount Linley of Nymans, a title with centuries old royal associations and an acknowledgement of his Welsh ancestry. It was thought that this child, as the grandchild of a sovereign, should not go without a title. Their son, David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley was born on November 3, 1961. A daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones was born on May 1st 1964.

Following his marriage to Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon continued his work as a photographer and as a design consultant. His work included designing an aviary at London Zoo in 1965 and in his role as Constable of Caernarvon Castle, he played a significant part in the design preparations for the investiture ceremony for the Prince of Wales in 1969. He has done a great deal of work for disabled people. In 1972 he designed the Chairmobile, a motorised platform intended to give greater mobility to those suffering from physical handicaps. As the reknowned photographer 'Snowdon', he had had several international exhibitions, and his work has appeared in over a dozen books. He has also made several television films, which have earned him international awards, including two Emmy's.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon announced their separation in March 1976 and the marriage ended on May 24 1978. On December 15 1978 Lord Showdon married Lucy Mary Lindsay-Hogg and their daughter, Lady Frances, was born on July 17, 1979. They divorced two decades later when it was revealed that Snowdon was having an affair with another woman, Melanie Cable-Alexander, with whom he fathered an out-of-wedlock child, Jasper William Oliver Cable-Alexander, born on April 30, 1998.

He was awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Victorian order in 1969 and in 1999 he was created Baron Armstrong-Jones.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Royal Trivia

Did you know...

  • Buckingham Palace does not have air conditioning

  • King Edward VIII, while Prince of Wales, was the first member of the royal family to make a public broadcast on October 7, 1922.

  • The Queen does not vote

  • The Queen does not require a drivers licence

  • The Duke of Edinburgh is currently the oldest member of the royal family.

  • The Queen received 20,000 birthday cards and 17,000 emails on her recent 80th birthday.

© Marilyn Braun 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Royal Profile: Frances Shand Kydd

Two significant events occured on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk on January 20, 1936. King George V died and The Honorable Frances Ruth Burke Roche was born. The Fermoy's had long been friends of King George V and Queen Mary and it is said that Queen Mary was able to tell the King the news of her birth before he died. Frances was the younger daughter of Edmund Maurice Burke Roche, 4th Lord Fermoy, and Ruth Silvia Gill, an accomplished concert pianist and later lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Frances had an elder sister, Cynthia (or Mary), and a younger brother, Edmund.

She was educated at home in the schoolroom of Park House under a governess by the name of Miss Gertrude Allen, who would later teach Frances' own children. When Frances and her sister graduated from the schoolroom they went to Downham, in Hertfordshire. Frances did exceptionally well, leaving at the age of sixteen as head girl and captain of cricket, netball, lacrosse and tennis. She became a good tennis player and qualified for a national school's tournament, however appendicitis sidelined her chance to play at Wimbledon.

When she left school in 1952 to met John 'Johnny' Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer). Like the Fermoy's, the Spencer's had long associations with the royal family and Johnny was equerry to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. On June 1, 1954 she married Johnny at Westminster Abbey. This wedding was touted as the society wedding of the year, attended by the queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Frances at eighteen, was the youngest royal bride to be married in the Abbey in the 20th century. Like her daughter Diana, she married a man 12 years her senior.

The Althorps began their married life in Gloucestershire where Johnny was a student in a farming course at the Royal Agricultural College. They would have five children: Sarah (b 1955), Jane (b 1957), John (born 1960, and died within 10 hours of his birth), and Diana (born 1961). After the death of their son and the birth of Diana, the marriage was increasingly marred by pressure to produce a male heir to continue the Spencer title. Frances was sent to various doctors to evaluate her failure to produce a boy. In 1964, their son Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer was born.

Increasingly unhappy in her marriage, Frances caused a scandal by having an affair with a married, wealthy businessman, Peter Shand Kydd. Lord and Lady Althorp separated in 1967 and divorced in April 1969. As a result of her affair, and having been named as 'the other woman' in the Shand Kydd's divorce, Frances lost custody of her children. One month later, Frances married Peter on May 2, 1969 in a quiet register office ceremony. In 1972 the Shand Kydd's bought a 1,000 acre farm on the isle of Seil, south of Oban in Argyllshire.

The Shand Kydd's led a quiet life until Diana married into the royal family and the media turned their attention on the family. Peter and Frances separated in June 1988 after he had an affair with a younger woman. She continued to live on the island, and she was respected and known for taking long walks and for her love of fishing. She converted to Catholicism and was well known for her charity work. She died on June 3, 2004, in her home after a long illness at the age of 68.

© Marilyn Braun 2006