What was wrong with Peter Townsend when he visited Princess Margaret, and how did he die?
Their love story was so tragic
Annus Horribilis, the tragic fourth episode of The Crown season five, details all the things that made the Queen’s life a living hell in 1992. From three failed royal marriages to the Windsor Castle Fire; it’s safe to say it looked like a pretty stressful time.
In the background, however, Princess Margaret was going through her own, private pain. Captain Peter Townsend, equerry to George VI and the Princess’ former lover, returned from exile to see her one last time.
Peter, played by Timothy Dalton, mentioned in the episode that he didn’t have much time left – something his “doctor made clear” to him offscreen. A memorial card in the end credits said he died just three years later, in 1995. But – how exactly did Peter Townsend die? What was his illness, and did he really meet with Margaret again, after all those years?
In the mid-1950s, Peter and Margaret went public with their secret relationship, as seen in season one. It was controversial at the time for a number of reasons – as well as the Group Captain being significantly older than Margaret and a former employee of her dad, he had also recently divorced from his wife. At the time, the Church of England (of which the Queen was the Supreme Governor) banned remarriage while a person’s first spouse was still alive.
The only way Princess Margaret would’ve been able to marry Peter at the time, was if she renounced all her titles and association with her family. She was advised not to do this, and Peter was shipped off to Brussels instead.
In 1992, Margaret did, in fact, meet up with Peter for one last time. While she was invited to the RAF reunion you saw in Annus Horribilis, she didn’t actually end up going, asking instead to meet in private. According to a friend of the Princess; she thought he looked exactly the same, “except with grey hair”.
Peter Townsend became ill with stomach cancer in the mid-1990s, and died in France at the age of 80. It isn’t known whether he really was ill when he saw Princess Margaret again.
The Crown season five is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
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Featured image via Netflix.