If you have always wanted to be a princess and live in a palace, perhaps reading this biography might change your mind. In the end Margaret paved the way for divorce in the royal family and some think that was her legacy.
I have often read of her unfortunate dashed hopes of marrying divorcee Captain Peter Townsend, but have never read an entire biography of Princess Margaret's life until this one. These are the widely known relationships of Princess Margaret, but this book covers several other serious romantic entanglements and very close friendships.
Aronson, like many others, believes that even if Margaret and Townsend had been able to marry, the marriage (like all of her romantic relationships) would have eventually failed -- because she was a royal princess and that lifestyle comes with benefits and expectations that she could not (or would not) give up, not even for love. Many of the friends who shared their stories in the book said that even if Margaret liked someone, that didn't mean they were safe from a rebuke or reprimand if she felt they'd overstepped their bounds. The book reveals that Margaret rarely gathered with the rest of the extended Royal Family at their traditional retreats at Balmoral or Sandringham. With every movement (or scandal) of the British Royal Family now covered in magazines, television, and the internet, it's hard to believe there was a time when it wasn't like that. Aronson's book offers a glimpse behind the curtain and shows that life for one royal princess wasn't much of a fairy tale at all.
Like I didn't really know her all that well, at least not beyond what I already knew from popular culture. It felt at the end like I'd just sat through a formal afternoon tea interview with Princess Margaret where she talked and talked and at the end you knew a lot about her, but only certain parts of her.
This was very well done and very informative, but a bit on the disappointing side.
Princess Margaret was, when I was growing up, the royal rebel people cheered on. Like his subject, Aronson is often a split case sycophantic in many of his praises of Margaret, whilst vitriolic in some of his judgements and criticisms. The author seems in parts to defend his contentious subject to the hilt, whilst in others viciously slapping her beautiful face (curious, given that the princess was still alive at the time of this book's publication to read it). yet when it boiled down to it bore the capacity to be infinitely kinder, more personally loyal and more down to earth than many royals we read of it all depended on who you asked and which occasion it related to. Though it could surely doubtful ever be considered the definitive work of its kind on this princess, I highly recommend it to the diehard royal biography buff.
I have recently been reading William Shawcross's edited diaries of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, divided into three volumes relating to the various stages of her life: Duchess of York, Queen and Queen Mother. However, I decided, on the basis of references to the late Princess Margaret, to read this biography before that of her mother. Born into a life of immense privilege, Margaret was an indulged, spoilt child, quite the opposite of her elder sister.
Theo Aronson has written a very thorough and enjoyable history of Princess Margaret's life.
I would have liked to read about the more controversial side of her life and an update to include the details of her death would be a great addition.