The racy portrait of Princess Margaret that inspired one of The Crown’s most powerful scenes.

Video by Netflix

For many viewers, Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret is one of the most compelling characters in The Crown

Princess Margaret in The Crown, played by Vanessa Kirby. Image via Netflix.

In season one, she's shown to challenge the mold of the quiet and well-behaved royal woman.

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Princess Margaret in The Crown. Image via Netflix.

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.

Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon in The Crown. Image via Netflix.

In season two, she has her heart broken by Billy Wallace, who proposes and then finds himself injured after flirting with other women.

Billy Wallace, played by Nick Hendrix, and Princess Margaret in The Crown. Image via Netflix.

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.

Princess Margaret meets Anthony Armstrong-Jones at a party in The Crown. Image via Netflix.
Princess Margaret getting her royal portrait at the palace in The Crown (left), and Princess Margaret's real portrait (right). Image via Netflix/Getty.
Princess Margaret getting her portrait taken by Armstrong-Jones in The Crown. Image via Netflix.

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.

The Crown's adaptation of Princess Margaret's portrait. Image via Netflix.

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.

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The real 'racy' photograph of Princess Margaret, published in 1959. Image via Getty.

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.

A portrait of Princess Margaret by her husband, then known as the Earl of Snowdon, in 1967. Image via Getty.

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.

Armstrong-Jones watches as Princess Margaret takes a photo. Image via Getty.

It's believed he took photos of the royals unlike any other photographer, because he knew them.

Armstrong-Jones filming a documentary. Image via Getty.

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.

Princess Margaret with her then-husband. Image via Getty.

Listen to the full episode of The Binge, where we deep dive on everything in The Crown season two.

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