How MPs feared the monarchy was being ‘tarnished’ by Princess Margaret and husband Lord Snowdon


Royals ‘cashing in on titles and blowing our money on their home’? How MPs feared the monarchy was being ‘tarnished’ by Princess Margaret and husband Lord Snowdon in the 1960s

  • Senior politicians feared the reputation of the royals was being tarnished   
  • Tory MP Sir Martin Lindsay compiled a critical report of the couple in January ’64
  • Sir Martin was especially concerned about the decision to spend public money renovating the couple’s apartment at Kensington Palace

They are the glamorous Royal couple who sparked controversy with lavish taxpayer-funded spending on their home and concerns about using their status for commercial gain.

However, this isn’t Harry and Meghan, but Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, more than half a century ago.

Documents unearthed by The Mail on Sunday reveal how senior politicians feared that the reputation of the Royal Family was being ‘tarnished’ by the ‘crass’ actions of the Queen’s sister and her husband in the 1960s.

Documents unearthed by The Mail on Sunday reveal how senior politicians feared that the reputation of the Royal Family was being ¿tarnished¿ by the ¿crass¿ actions of the Queen¿s sister and her husband (pictured) in the 1960s

Documents unearthed by The Mail on Sunday reveal how senior politicians feared that the reputation of the Royal Family was being ‘tarnished’ by the ‘crass’ actions of the Queen’s sister and her husband (pictured) in the 1960s

Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle are pictured on Thursday

Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle are pictured on Thursday 

Tory MP Sir Martin Lindsay – a former polar explorer – compiled a highly critical report into the couple in January 1964, which he sent to Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home. In it, he said: ‘It is of the greatest importance that something should be done about this before it is too late and I venture to think that you are the only person who might be able to take action.’

Sir Martin was especially concerned about the decision to spend public money renovating the couple’s apartment at Kensington Palace. ‘There has been a number of major mistakes in policy which are so crass that is difficult to think how they could have been made,’ he wrote. ‘For example, it was madness to have sanctioned the expenditure of £80,000 on a new home for Princess Margaret at this particular time and while she was already having a bad press.’ The sum is the equivalent of £1.6 million today.

The letter, discovered in the National Archives, also questioned the decision to allow photographer Lord Snowdon to work as artistic director of The Sunday Times while remaining a member of the Royal Family.

The letter, discovered in the National Archives, also questioned the decision to allow photographer Lord Snowdon to work as artistic director of The Sunday Times while remaining a member of the Royal Family

The letter, discovered in the National Archives, also questioned the decision to allow photographer Lord Snowdon to work as artistic director of The Sunday Times while remaining a member of the Royal Family

Observing that the newspaper had recently been bought by Canadian press baron Roy Thomson, Sir Martin wrote: ‘The fact that most of Fleet Street feel that it brings the Palace into association with a particularly controversial newspaper proprietor as well as a party [political] newspaper must, inevitably, bring the Queen into controversy… Royalty should not be used as a stunt.

‘There never has been such an appointment as artistic director in the history of Fleet Street. Lord Snowdon’s job does not exist.’

Sir Martin added: ‘The Royal Family is far from popular with a large number of middle-class and working-class British people… The image of the Monarchy has been allowed to become tarnished.’

Princess Margaret (1930 - 2002) with Lord Snowdon and Viscount Linley at Kensington Palace shortly after the birth of her daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones

Princess Margaret (1930 – 2002) with Lord Snowdon and Viscount Linley at Kensington Palace shortly after the birth of her daughter, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones

The MP, an ardent Royalist who died in 1981, apportioned blame to the Queen’s advisers. ‘It will be tragic if the public’s estimation of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh should be allowed to continue to deteriorate,’ he added.

More than 50 years later, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have drawn criticism for spending £2.4 million of taxpayers’ money on Frogmore Cottage, their home in Windsor. Following their decision to leave Royal duties, they have pledged to refund the money.

Concerns have also been voiced that, despite agreeing not to use their HRH titles, the couple may be drawn into controversy with lucrative commercial ventures.

 

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