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Margaret: The Rebel Princess

Margaret: The Rebel Princess

  • Premiered: 
    September 11, 2018
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: BBC2
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Biography
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Historical
  • Tags: royalty

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Plot Synopsis

Using archival footage and photos and first-person interviews, MARGARET: THE REBEL PRINCESS is a two-part documentary that profiles Princess Margaret, whose life and loves reflected the social and sexual revolution that transformed Britain during the 20th century. In the process, she redefined the image of a modern princess by combining the rebellious force of modernity and respect for tradition. Contributors include Lady Anne Glenconner, a childhood friend and lady in waiting; Basil Charles, bar owner on the Caribbean island of Mustique who met the Princess in the 1970s; Christopher Warwick, an authorised biographer; Anne de Courcy, biographer of Lord Snowdon; David Griffin, Princess Margaret's chauffeur; and Craig Brown, Princess Margaret's most recent unauthorised biographer.

Part 1 begins in 1930 with the birth of Margaret Rose Windsor, a princess of the largest Empire the world had ever seen. The abdication of her uncle propelled the princess to being second in line to the throne. Margaret's life would be shaped by dramatic social change as Britain entered a more egalitarian era after the Second World War. The sister of the future Queen needed a role in this new world; it involved everything from opening council housing estates and visiting schools to opening flower shows. Privately Margaret preferred fashion, theatre and house parties. Aged 16, Margaret fell in love with Peter Townsend, a married man. Clergy and politicians were against the relationship but the public voiced support for Margaret's right to marry the man of her choice. In 1955, Margaret decided not to marry Townsend; she said she'd chosen duty. But in 1960, the royal rebel married bohemian photographer and 'commoner' Antony Armstrong-Jones. Margaret was drawn into a circle of artists, writers and celebrities riding the wave of the swinging sixties. As royal mystique gave way to the age of celebrity, journalists and photographers felt free to drop their deferential attitude to the royal family. When things began to go wrong in Margaret's marriage, it would be subject to the glare of public scrutiny.

Part 2 finds Princess Margaret and her husband Antony Armstrong-Jones at the start of their married life in the early 1960s. At home with celebrities and artists, they're riding the wave of a cultural revolution that's transforming Britain.
In 1965 they set off on an official Royal Tour of the United States, promoting Britain by day and partying by night. Back in Britain, the press start to speculate if the extravagant royal tour is a good way to spend public money. The mystique of the monarchy is being increasingly undermined by the emergence of a more open and egalitarian society. In the years that follow, Antony Armstrong-Jones begins to withdraw from royal duties and the couple lead increasingly separate lives. Press speculation about their marriage intensifies. In the 1970s Margaret retreats to the Caribbean island of Mustique in an attempt to secure a private life. In an era of celebrity gossip and the telephoto lens, her relationship with a younger man and beach parties with rock stars lead to ever more press interest. As Britain lurches from one economic crisis to the next, Margaret's Caribbean lifestyle becomes the lightning rod for republican attacks on the monarchy. In 1978, Margaret reflects changing attitudes sweeping the country and gets a divorce. The rebel royal is now increasingly eclipsed by a new generation of princesses. But in her own way, Princess Margaret helped pave the way for them and for the monarchy of the 21st century.

MARGARET: THE REBEL PRINCESS had its U.S. premiere on Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings), with the finale the following Sunday.

Other Titles

  • Originally aired in the UK with the title: Princess Margaret: The Rebel Royal