Princess Margaret: Patron Saint of Doing Whatever You Want

Looking back on my childhood, my obsession with the British royal family seems almost inevitable. I grew up on a steady diet of all things princess. This is typical trait of any young femme raised during the Disney Renaissance, but the basement of my childhood home was particularly chock-full of all things pink and sparkly. I dreamed of something more spectacular than my reality of multiplication tables and waiting for my parents to pick me up from after school programs. I wanted to wear fancy dresses and fall in love and save all of China.

As I grew older, I started to search out the stories of real royals in my elementary school’s library, desperate to find some way into a royal family myself. It wasn’t enough that I was already a privileged white girl living a comfortable life in suburbia. I needed a crown, too.

When I was 10 my parents took me on my first trip to London. Our trip was full of visits to historic sites, but I was particularly invested in any stop on our itinerary that happened to involve actual real life royalty. I stared up at the gates of Buckingham Palace, willing one of the Windsors to come out and invite me in for tea. I feigned disappointment when we learned that we couldn’t visit the royal apartments at Windsor Castle, as they were in use. The trip happened to coincide with Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee, and every gift shop in town offered some kind of commemorative trinket. My parents still have a small teapot commemorating the occasion.

My feelings on the royal family have shifted over time, and I often question their relevance in today’s society. But I can’t stop reading about them. They wear pretty things and hold lavish weddings and hang out with corgis and occasionally do some good in the world. The head of the family is a 91-year-old woman who a) still makes public appearances and b) still has all her own hair. I don’t know what kind of blood oath she made when she ascended the throne, but I want in.

I started watching The Crown on Netflix in the hope that I would learn that secret to longevity. Instead, I became hopelessly enamored with Princess Margaret, the queen’s younger sister, as portrayed by the gorgeous and talented Vanessa Kirby. Margaret, or at least The Crown’s version of her, is everything I’ve ever wanted out of a princess, real or animated. We see her fall in and out of love, chain smoke to her heart’s content, grow bored at stale parties, and listen to music written after 1900. Though she was free from the pressure of being the one chosen by God to be Britain’s head of state, she was still a Windsor and had to make several heartbreaking sacrifices in order to protect her family. Instead of just wiping away a single tear and moving on with her life, we see her react to heartbreak like a normal human being. I mean, who among us hasn’t gotten drunk and ugly cried while listening to Ella Fitzgerald after a bad breakup?

One thing I came across about real life Margaret has elevated her to icon status in my mind. It’s this photo of her truly indulgent morning routine circa 1955.

Now, it’s pretty easy to get away with a two-hour breakfast and one-hour bath when your job is, you know, just existing. I don’t know if a day that starts at noon is totally for me, as I’m someone who loves having things to fill up my day. But there’s something so aspirational about Margaret’s schedule. The woman knew how to take care of herself.

There were plenty of times when Margaret had to compromise for the sake of the Crown. She ended her relationship with divorced RAF Group Captain Peter Townsend to save her family from scrutiny (and her own spot in the line of succession). As a very public member of the royal family, her daily life prior to her marriage to Antony Armstrong-Jones was fairly prescribed. But, within those confines, she did what she wanted. She smoked and drank and partied with artists. When her fiance, Billy Wallace, turned out to be a total fuckboi who used their engagement to get attention from other women, she dropped him like a hot plate (as portrayed in this stunning moment for which I hope Vanessa Kirby wins a million awards). She ended up marrying a bisexual (allegedly) polyamorous (allegedly) photographer, but wasn’t afraid to actually divorce him when the marriage fell apart in the 70s. And she actually, you know, expressed emotions on occasion.

We all have responsibilities. Even members of the most famous family in the world have limitations. I see Princess Margaret’s life not as an excuse to stay in the bath all day and start drinking vodka first thing in the morning, but more as inspiration to do things for myself. This year, I want to make more of a conscious effort to check in and ask myself if I’m doing a thing because I want to or because I think it’s what I’m supposed to do. When I’ve done this in the past, the answer is always a little murky – there’s always some sense of responsibility or social pressure driving my decisions, even if they’re things I’m very passionate about. What can I say, I’m an anxious Virgo. But I’m working on flipping that ratio this year. Because I deserve to do more stuff that makes me happy, even if it’s indulgent, or imperfect, or pisses off the Prime Minister.  

So did Princess Margaret. So do you.