Those watching “The Crown” on Netflix know that its second season is focused on Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth. By today’s’ standards among British royalty, the life of Princess Margaret, who died in 2002 at age 71, seems tame.
Following the crowning of Queen Elizabeth, Margaret’s life was turbulent. She was angry at feeling irrelevant following the birth of her sister’s first child. Her fear of being a spinster led her to make inappropriate choices in potential mates. Once Queen Elizabeth and her family became the focus of the press, Margaret resented losing the limelight.
“The Other Windsor Girl” tells the story of Princess Margaret through the eyes of Vera Strathmore, a friend of Margaret’s who becomes her lady-in-waiting. Vera writes steamy romance novels under the name of Rose Lavish. Her goal is to move to New York as a writer, and her secret publications provide her with savings to do so.
Princess Margaret, a fan of Vera’s novels, expresses an interest in meeting Vera through a mutual friend. Vera is only slightly older than Princess Margaret who is 19 when they meet. A friendship is formed, and when Vera is asked to work for Buckingham Palace as Margaret’s lady-in-waiting, she accepts. Vera longs for recognition and a life of luxury, and she decides she can achieve some of her goals by aligning herself with Margaret in London. Vera then abandons her writing.
Vera enjoys, for a few years, at least, attending events, dinners, and theatre outings with Margaret. Less enthusiastically, Vera also must also follow the princess to her trysts with Captain Peter Townsend. Charged with keeping Margaret’s indiscretions from the press, Vera finds her duties less enjoyable and more worrisome.
Margaret’s evolving relationship with the man she marries, photographer Anthony Armstong-Jones, tests Margaret and Vera’s friendship. The inappropriateness of Margaret’s behavior with Armstrong-Jones forces Vera to question her role as lady-in-waiting, her decision to give up marriage to an American she loves, and abandoning her writing career.
Princess Margaret’s story is well known, but the author’s gift for telling a still-mesmerizing historical fiction story through the eyes of a confidant working behind the scenes offers new insights into the life of a royal.
Princess Margaret and her Uncle David who abandoned the throne in the 1940s, faced the first of the 20th century public’s obsession with the “scandalous” happenings of the royal family. Princess Margaret was one of the first royals to receive negative attention from the press and the public. Had she been a commoner, her life would have played out the same as millions in her situation but without the universal scrutiny.