For many viewers, Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret is one of the most compelling characters in The Crown.
In season one, she’s shown to challenge the mold of the quiet and well-behaved royal woman. On screen, as in real life, she falls in love with Peter Townsend, her father’s (and then her sister’s) equerry who was 15 years her senior. While the true story was likely far more complicated, The Crown portrays a Princess denied the right to marry the man she loves because of his divorce, who seems cynical about her family and what they represent.
In season two, she has her heart broken by Billy Wallace, who proposes and then finds himself injured after flirting with other women.
LISTEN: Laura Brodnik and I tackle every question to arise from The Crown Season 2, on The Binge. Post continues after audio.
But one moment in particular in this second season shows us a woman willing to break the rules, who is far more progressive than her contemporaries. After meeting photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones at a party, Princess Margaret visits him in his studio, and has a racy portrait taken – one that stands in stark contrast to the one she’s recently had taken at the palace.
She’s attracted to Antony, and as he photographs her, the tension grows. Then he approaches her, and pulls down the sleeves of her dress. She’s wearing no tiara, no pearls, and what appears to be no clothes. And that photo – one that goes firmly against the conventions of the time – is published in the newspaper.
While The Crown, as always, took some artistic license with the scene, there's substantial truth behind it. The real Antony Armstrong-Jones did take a racy portrait of Princess Margaret in 1959, the year before they were married, and it's remarkably similar to the one we see in the show.
It seems the photo featured in The Crown might be a conglomeration between the 1959 portrait and another photo taken in 1967, which seems even more daring.
Armstrong-Jones continued to take portraits of Princess Margaret throughout their marriage, and after their divorce in 1978, he continued to photograph the royal family, including the very first images of Prince William and Prince Harry when they were born.
It's believed he took photos of the royals unlike any other photographer, because he knew them.
When he died in January of this year, he was remembered for his photography, which captured some of the most significant times in royal modern history. And it seems he was able to show the world a side to Princess Margaret they otherwise would never have known.
Listen to the full episode of The Binge, where we deep dive on everything in The Crown season two.