Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon

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The Earl of Snowdon
Antony Armstrong-Jones 1965.jpg
Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1965
Born Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones
(1930-03-07) 7 March 1930 (age 92)
London, England, United Kingdom
Title Earl of Snowdon
Tenure 6 October 1961 – present
Known for Former husband of Princess Margaret, former brother-in-law of Elizabeth II
Nationality British
Heir David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley
Spouse(s) Princess Margaret
(m. 1960; div. 1978)
Lucy Lindsay-Hogg
(m. 1978; div. 2000)
Issue David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley
Lady Sarah Chatto
Lady Frances von Hofmannsthal
Jasper Cable-Alexander
Parents Ronald Armstrong-Jones
Anne Messel
Occupation Photographer

Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, GCVO, RDI (born 7 March 1930) is an English photographer and film maker. He was married to Princess Margaret, younger daughter of King George VI and younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II.

Early life

Armstrong-Jones was the only son of the marriage of the barrister Ronald Armstrong-Jones (1899–1966) and his first wife Anne Messel, later 6th Countess of Rosse.[1]

Armstrong-Jones's paternal grandfather was Sir Robert Armstrong-Jones, the British psychiatrist and physician.[2] His paternal great-grandfather was Sir Owen Roberts, the Welsh educationalist.[3] A maternal great-grandfather was the Punch cartoonist Linley Sambourne (1844–1910), and his great-great-uncle Alfred Messel was a well-known Berlin architect.

Armstrong-Jones's parents separated when he was young and as a schoolboy he contracted polio while on holiday at their country home in Wales. For the entire six months that he was in Liverpool Royal Infirmary recuperating, his only family visits were from his sister Susan.[4]


Armstrong-Jones was educated at two boarding independent schools: at Sandroyd School from 1939 to 1943,[5] which had newly moved to its current home at Rushmore Park (at the centre of Cranborne Chase, and near the village of Tollard Royal), in Wiltshire, from its former home of Cobham in Surrey, and at Eton College, followed by Jesus College at the University of Cambridge, where he studied architecture, but failed his final exams. He coxed the winning Cambridge boat in the 1950 Boat Race.[6]

Life and career

After university, Armstrong-Jones took up a career as a photographer in fashion, design and theatre. As his career as a portraitist began to flourish, he became known for his royal studies, among which were the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, and the Duke of Edinburgh for their 1957 tour of Canada.

In the early 1960s, Armstrong-Jones became the artistic adviser of the Sunday Times magazine, and by the 1970s had established himself as one of Britain's most respected photographers. Though his work includes everything from fashion photography to documentary images of inner city life and the mentally ill, he is best known for his portraits of world notables (the National Portrait Gallery has more than 100 Snowdon portraits in its collection), many of them published in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The Daily Telegraph magazine. His subjects have included Barbara Cartland, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Blunt and J. R. R. Tolkien.

In 2001, Armstrong-Jones was given a retrospective exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, Photographs by Snowdon: A Retrospective, which later travelled to the Yale Center for British Art. More than 180 of his photographs were displayed in an exhibition that honoured what the museums called "a rounded career with sharp edges."

Armstrong-Jones also co-designed, in 1960–1963, with Frank Newby and Cedric Price, the aviary of the London Zoo. He also had a major role in designing the physical arrangements for the 1969 investiture of his nephew Prince Charles as Prince of Wales.[7]

In addition, Armstrong-Jones invented a design of an electric wheelchair, for which he was granted British Patent 1230619 in 1971 ("Means for Providing Mobility for Physically Handicapped Persons").

Personal life

Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1958, photographed by Carl Van Vechten.
Princess Margaret and the Earl of Snowdon with the United States president Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird at the White House on 17 November 1965

Armstrong-Jones has been married twice. He was married first to Princess Margaret (1960 to 1978), and second to Lucy Mary Lindsay-Hogg (1978 to 2000).[8]

First marriage

In February 1960, Snowdon, still known as Antony Armstrong-Jones, became engaged to the Queen's sister, Princess Margaret, and they married on 6 May 1960 at Westminster Abbey. The couple made their home in apartments at Kensington Palace. As he had been without title, he was created Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley, of Nymans in the County of Sussex on 6 October 1961[9] due to concerns over the prospect of a British princess giving birth to a child without a title. The Snowdon title has centuries-old royal associations, since the name Snowdon was borne by the Welsh princes and the House of Gwynedd before 1282, though here it was granted as a nod to Armstrong-Jones's Welsh ancestry. A Barony of Snowdon (sometimes spelled Snaudon) was a subsidiary title of King George II's son Frederick, Prince of Wales. The subsidiary Linley title honoured Lord Snowdon's great-grandfather Linley Sambourne as well as Nymans, the Messel family estate in West Sussex.

The couple had two children: David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, born 3 November 1961, and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, born 1 May 1964.

The marriage began to collapse very early and publicly. Various causes may have been behind the failure. In 1953 Margaret had been dissuaded from accepting the proposal of Group Captain Peter Townsend. On her side there was a penchant for late-night partying, on Snowdon's, an undisguised sexual promiscuity. ("If it moves, he'll have it", was the summing up of one close friend).[10] To most of the girls who worked in his Pimlico Road studio, there seemed little doubt that Snowdon was gay or bisexual; to which he himself responded, "I didn't fall in love with boys — but a few men have been in love with me".[10] In his 2009 memoir, Redeeming Features, British interior decorator Nicholas Haslam claimed that he had an affair with Snowdon before the latter's marriage to Princess Margaret and that Snowdon had also been the lover of another leading interior decorator, Tom Parr.[11] Others have pointed out that both Snowdon and Margaret were stars in their own right and were used to being the centre of attention, leading to clashes over primacy. Margaret was initially surprised that her husband had no intention of giving up his rising photographic career. Because Snowdon travelled around the world to complete assignments, he was often separated from his wife for many weeks.

Their break-up lasted sixteen years, accompanied by drugs, alcohol, and bizarre behaviour by both parties, such as Snowdon's leaving lists between the pages of books the princess read for her to find, of "things I hate about you".[10] According to biographers Sarah Bradford and Anne de Courcy, one note read: "You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you".[10][12] When high society palled, Snowdon would escape to a hideaway cottage with his lovers or on overseas photographic assignments; most people, including the Royal Family, took his side.[10] Among Snowdon's lovers in the late 1960s was Lady Jacqueline Rufus-Isaacs, daughter of the 3rd Marquess of Reading.[13]

The marriage ended in divorce in 1978, when Roddy Llewellyn briefly entered Princess Margaret's life and Snowdon played the outraged husband.

In 2004, it was claimed that Snowdon fathered a daughter shortly before marrying Princess Margaret.[14] Anne de Courcy reports the claim by Polly Fry, born in 1960, in the third week of Lord Snowdon's marriage to Princess Margaret, and brought up as a daughter of Jeremy Fry, inventor and member of the Fry's chocolate family, and his first wife, Camilla, that she was in fact Snowdon's daughter.[15] Polly Fry asserted that a DNA test in 2004 proved Snowdon's paternity. Jeremy Fry rejected her claim, and Snowdon denied having taken a DNA test.[14]

Second marriage

After his divorce from Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon married Lucy Mary Lindsay-Hogg (née Davies), the former wife of film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, on 15 December 1978. The couple had one daughter: Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones, born 17 July 1979

From 1976 until 1996, Snowdon's mistress was Ann Hills, a journalist; she committed suicide on 31 December 1996.[13]

The Earl and Countess of Snowdon separated in 2000 after the revelation that Snowdon, at the age of 67, had fathered a son, Jasper William Oliver Cable-Alexander (born 30 April 1998), with Melanie Cable-Alexander, an editor at Country Life magazine.[16][17]

Titles, styles, honours and arms


  • 7 March 1930 – 6 October 1961: Antony Armstrong-Jones, Esq.
  • 6 October 1961 – present: The Right Honourable The Earl of Snowdon

Life peerage

On 16 November 1999 Lord Snowdon was created Baron Armstrong-Jones, of Nymans in the County of West Sussex.[18] This was a life peerage given him so that he could keep his seat in the House of Lords after the hereditary peers had been excluded. An offer of a life peerage was made to all hereditary peers of the first creation (i.e., those for whom a peerage was originally created, as opposed to those who inherited a peerage from an ancestor) at that time.[19]

The government of the day had expected Lord Snowdon to follow the example of members of the royal family and turn down his right to a life peerage. At the time, Labour MP Fraser Kemp said he was "shocked and surprised that someone who achieved their position in the House of Lords by virtue of marriage should accept a seat in the reformed Lords".[19]

Awards and Honours


Arms of Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon
Earl of Snowdon Arms.svg
These arms also appear on the arms of his son, Viscount Linley. Image sources:[23][24]
A stag stanant gules attired collared and unguled Or between two arms embowed in armour the hands proper each grasping a fleur-de-lis gold.[24]
Sable on a chevron argent, between in chief two fleurs-de-lis Or, and in base an eagle displayed Or, four pallets gules.[24]
Dexter, a griffin, and sinister, an eagle, each with wings elevated and addorsed Or.[24]
A Noddo Duw A Noddir (What God wills will be)[24]
Other elements


Name Birth Marriage Issue
David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley 3 November 1961 8 October 1993 Serena Stanhope Charles Armstrong-Jones
Margarita Armstrong-Jones
Lady Sarah Chatto 1 May 1964 14 July 1994 Daniel Chatto Samuel David Benedict Chatto
Arthur Robert Nathaniel Chatto
Lady Frances von Hofmannsthal 17 July 1979 2 December 2006 Rodolphe von Hofmannsthal Rex Antony Octavian von Hofmannsthal
Maud Dolores Diamond von Hofmannsthal[25]
Sybil Sabrina Ernestine von Hofmannsthal[26]
Jasper Cable-Alexander 30 April 1998



  1. "How Jewish is Lord Snowdon?". The Jewish Chronicle. 23 September 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Marco, Neil. "An Historic Home". Retrieved 8 June 2015. In 1899 Sir Robert Jones, who subsequently altered his name to Armstrong-Jones, had a son named Ronald. The family was, at that time, living in the London area and retained Plas Dinas as their country home. Sir Ronald Jones married Anne, and the marriage produced a son, Antony, who in 1961 married HRH Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Nobility in Tony's Background". Chicago Tribune 28 April 1960. Retrieved 1 January 2015. ...Margaret was the daughter of Sir Owen Roberts<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Snowdon: the Biography" by Anne de Courcy, reviewed by Duncan Fallowell. The Daily Telegraph. 20 June 2008.
  5. Sandroyd – Old Sandroydians – 1939–1943 The Earl of Snowdon (A Armstrong-Jones). Sandroyd School. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  6. British Rowing Almanack 1950.
  7. Royal, by Robert Lacey, 2002.
  8. Alderson, Andrew (31 May 2008). "Lord Snowdon, his women, and his love child". The Daily Telegraph.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. The London Gazette: no. 42481. p. 7199. 6 October 1961.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 "Snowdon: the Biography" by Anne de Courcy, reviewed by Duncan Fallowell, Daily Telegraph, 20 June 2008.
  11. Churcher, Sharon; Johnson, Angella (13 September 2009). "Lord Snowdon and I were lovers, says society designer Nicky Haslam". Daily Mail. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Bradford, Sarah (1996). Elizabeth. London: William Heinemann.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Lord Snowdon, his women, and his love child. Telegraph (31 May 2008). Retrieved 13 June 2012
  14. 14.0 14.1 Andy Bloxham, Andy (31 May 2008). "Lord Snowdon fathered a secret love child just months before marrying Princess Margaret". Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
  15. Conti, Samantha (21 November 2008). "The Tony Earl". Women's Wear Daily. p. 10.
  16. Bearn, Emily (16 April 2003). "Still playing Peter Pan". The Daily Telegraph.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Owens, Mitchell (27 July 1999). "Noticed: Blood Tells. So Does Burke's". The New York Times.
  18. The London Gazette: no. 55672. p. 12349. 19 November 1999.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Watt, Nicholas (3 November 1999). "Dismay as Snowdon stays in Lords". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 44888. p. 6967. 3 July 1969.
  21. "Progress Medal". The Royal Photographic Society. Retrieved 16 July 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Maclagan, Michael; Louda, Jiří (1999). Line of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe. London: Little, Brown & Co. p. 31. ISBN 1-85605-469-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David, ed. (2003). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage. London: Debrett's Peerage Limited. p. 1490.CS1 maint: multiple names: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones. Retrieved on 8 May 2014.
  26. Rhodes, Michael. (1 October 2013) Peerage News: Sybil Sabrina Ernestine von Hofmannsthal (b 2013). Retrieved on 8 May 2014.

See also


External links

Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Earl of Snowdon
1961 – present
Viscount Linley