The name Anthony Armstrong-Jones may no longer be widely recognized on this side of the pond, but there was a time when the Earl of Snowdon was a tabloid fixture with as firm a grip on the public’s imagination as the most scandalous stars of today.
The husband of Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret, Snowdon lived out loud in a fashion that scandalized the royals and helped define the hedonistic zeitgeist of the Swinging Sixties.
A photographer, filmmaker and unabashed bohemian, Snowdon captivated Britons when he married Margaret in 1960, and his status as a relatable commoner amongst royals has earned him comparisons to Princess Diana.
At first, Snowdon’s freewheeling lifestyle made him a perfect fit for the rebellious Margaret, and the British press fell in love with the young couple that was so unlike the more sedate Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Eventually, however, Snowdon’s appetite for promiscuous sex (with women and men alike), hard-partying, and hob-nobbing with his era’s biggest celebrities put a strain on his marriage, and he and Margaret divorced in 1978.
In the years that followed, Snowdon was lauded for his discretion, turning down lucrative offers to pen a tell-all about his time as a royal in-law.
Eventually, however, the more lurid details of his wild life and times came to light:
Snowdon lived a life of extremes, at once both highly ambitious and accomplished (In addition to his artistic achievements, he received a patent for an electric wheelchair that he invented in 1971.), and given over to debauched behavior that’s shocking by today’s standards, let alone the stuffy mores of England in the early ’60s.
One of the more recent gossip items about his personal life came to light in 2008, when Snowdon admitted to fathering a daughter out of wedlock just months before marrying Princess Margaret.
The child – conceived during an alcohol and amyl-nitrate-fueled threesome – was born while Armstrong-Jones was on his honeymoon with Princess Margaret.
It was only when she was in her late forties that the woman learned Snowdon was her father via a DNA test.
Just months after his marriage to Margaret ended, Snowdon married Lucy Lindsay Hogg, who gave birth to his daughter, Frances, in 1979.
Margaret never remarried, and died of a stroke in 2002.
Though he’ll likely be best remembered for his involvement with the royals and his decadent lifestyle, those who followed Snowdon’s career say that he had a tremendous impact on the arts scene in London throughout his multi-decade career.
The many famous subjects who sat for photo sessions with Snowdon say his charisma, warmth, and sense of humor made for a relaxed environment that resulted in uniquely intimate images.
Sources say he passed away peacefully at home.