Princess Margaret had already made a name for herself as the ‘rebel princess’ when she took up residence in Mustique. That it proved to be the perfect playground for her only served to enhance the legends of both the lady and the place. Half a century on, legions of the most jet set holiday makers in the world still follow in her footsteps, hoping to find a slice of privileged and perfect island life on that most exclusive of destinations. In part, it’s all down to the Princess Margaret effect.
Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret Rose was born in 1930, four years after her sister. Their royal upbringing took a turn for the more public when her Uncle King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, making Elizabeth and Margaret first and second in line to the throne after their father, the newly anointed King George VI. Stories from their childhood often refer to the younger Princess as mischievous and spirited. The King is said to have described Elizabeth as his pride and Margaret as his joy. With a tiny waist and brilliant blue eyes, Margaret was photographed by Cecil Beaton wearing Dior couture in 1955, a celebrity of her time. Aged 22 she fell in love with Group Captain Peter Townsend, a divorcé 16 years her senior. He proposed but she was forced to decline – it had been decided that the Queen’s sister simply could not marry a divorcé. She went on to marry photographer Antony Armstrong Jones, later created Lord Snowden in a Norman Hartnell dress and the first televised Royal Wedding in 1960. Together, they were inordinately glamorous.
With him, the debonair photographer and her, the beautiful princess swathed in fur and diamonds, they lived a gilded life. Their Kensington Palace apartment was filled with staff, their circle with aristocrats and celebrities. Golden it may have been, however, happy it was not. They had two children but their marriage was plagued by rumours of affairs and they divorced in 1978. At the time, the royal separation was seen as scandalous.
The Princess and her new husband were travelling on the Royal Yacht Britannia around the Caribbean on their honeymoon when invited ashore Mustique by her friend Lord Glenconner who had bought the island for £45,000 the year before. He later wrote in his memoirs that he said, “Ma’am, would you like something from Asprey in a box as a wedding present, or perhaps you would like this piece of land?” She waved her arm and said: “Oh, the land!” Armstrong Jones’s uncle the stage designer Oliver Messel was charged with designing the house built for her, named Les Jolie Eaux meaning ‘beautiful waters.’ The five-bedroom open plan villa featured the Greek columns and white façade identified with Messel’s famous Caribbean Colonial style. Built high on the cliffs around it’s own infinity pool, all balconies, shutters, flowery chintzes and palm fronded gardens, it was the very epitomy of 1970’s tropical glamour.
Princess Margaret photographed on mustique by Alpha
Lord Glenconner with life-long friend Princess Margaret
Lord Snowden never liked the island much, dubbing it ‘Mustake,’ and so it became Prince Margaret’s escape. Most of the affairs she was rumored to have played out on Mustique, by then a playground for the rich and famous. The images from that time have become iconic – pictures of Princess Margaret lounging on her sofa or balcony in a colorful kaftan with matching headscarf, her trusty cigarette holder never far from hand. There were legendary stories of parties, skinny-dipping and glamorous lunchtime picnics. Lord Glenconner’s 50th birthday, with it’s golden theme and guests including Mick and Bianca Jagger was the crowning moment of island’s glory. Resplendent in a Carl Toms kaftan and turban, Princess Margaret is pictured at it surrounded by locals wearing nothing but a coconut shell to hide their modesty. She was a woman – and hers was the sort of life – that we at Kotur love to celebrate. One that’s lived with a cheeky smirk, plenty of glamour and just enough give-a-damn attitude to break the rules now and again. She may have been born to a life of strict social codes, but it seems her joie de vivre simply demanded that she didn’t take too much notice of them. And for that, if nothing else, we consider her really rather fabulous.
In the end, Princess Margaret’s lifestyle caught up with her. A lifetime smoker, she had the first of several strokes whilst on her beloved Mustique in 1998 and died in London in 2002. To this day, she is considered synonymous with the island’s carefree and aristocratic sort of glamour, with a world of parties and fast sets and privileged naughtiness. A rebel Princess in legend as in life, it turns out.
Les Jolie Eaux on Mustique Island
Photo Courtesy of Patrick Litchfield, Alpha, AFP/Getty Images, mustique-island.com