When Princess Margaret was aged six, she discovered that her father had become King and that her older sister Elizabeth would one day become Queen, and her response was revealing, and she told her nanny that she was nobody now, and as a Royal second sibling, it was a feeling that would plague her until she died in 2002.
The dynamic between Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret was, like that between Prince William and Harry today, a profoundly complicated one. It was also one whose illuminating intricacies have been surprisingly neglected by Royal biographers.
Although at times suffocatingly close, the sisters wore identical clothes until Elizabeth was in her teens, and their relationship was at other times marked by dramatic sibling tensions that shook their close bond to its core.
During a fitting for their father’s coronation in 1937, Margaret, launched a tantrum when she saw that the train to Elizabeth’s gown was a foot longer than hers.
Her mother coldly explained that because of her sister’s status of birth, she was entitled to that right, and it was a moment that always irritated Margaret, and when 18 years old Elizabeth was allowed by her parents to participate in the war effort by entering the women’s Auxillary Territorial Service in 1945, but Margaret, then 14 years old was overwhelmed with resentment, according to their nanny Marion Crawford.
Marion Crawford said that as usual she was quite cross at seeing Lilibet, the family name for the Queen, doing something without her, but in the meantime, Elizabeth said that Margaret always wanted what she had.
And it’s fair to say that in the popular imagination, every generation of the House Of Windsor was stalked by darkness. The good versus the naughty Royal – the rebellious extrovert versus the sensible introvert.
Prince William the straight shooter – Harry the wild child. Diana the demure, Fergie the roustabout – The Sun and the Moon, and these stereotypes usually conceal as much as they reveal, and yet, each set of Royal siblings, like all siblings, feed off this asymmetry.
And the Queen and Margaret were no exception, and as Margaret told a friend that when there are two sisters and one is the Queen who must be the source of honour and all that is good, the other must be the focus of the most creative malice, the evil sister.
But it was a different time back then, with different attitudes, and should we really unearth Princess Margaret to prop up the Markles? And in those days, the treatment was generally damaging to one’s mental health, and the perceptions of what caused mental illness, particularly in women were often misogynistic.
What Margaret had to go through was awful, but then a lot of other Royals have had to go through this as well, and it was the way at the time to keep a stiff upper lip and not speak about these things.
Not that it was a good thing, but we do have to begin looking at things from the perspective of the times because history is full of aversions, and the human race is continually evolving, and we should quit judging the past and start looking at what we could improve in the present.