The Crown: How Princess Margaret was plagued by ill health

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·3-min read
England's Princess Margaret at the time of her 50th birthday in 1980.
Princess Margaret at the time of her 50th birthday in 1980. (Getty Images)

Princess Margaret’s portrayal on The Crown shows her to be the fun-loving royal, who was the first to be stung by being unable to marry who she wanted to.

Her older character in season four is wise to the problems within the royal rules as she sagely asks when the family will learn.

Margaret died in 2002, the same year as her mother, with the latter part of her life dogged by ill health.

The younger sister of the Queen, she suffered a breakdown in the 1970s when her marriage to Lord Snowdon was disintegrating.

She also once took an overdose of sleeping pills when her younger lover, Roddy Llewellyn, went away unexpectedly on a trip.

February 1989:  Princess Margaret (1930 - 2002) with her son David Linley on the island of Mustique in the Grenadines.  (Photo by Slim Aarons/Getty Images)
Princess Margaret with her son David Linley on the island of Mustique in the Grenadines. (Slim Aarons/Getty Images)
MUSTIQUE, WEST INDIES - FEBRUARY 01:  Princess Margaret swims in the sea with boyfriend Roddy Llewellyn whilst on holiday on February 01, 1976 in Mustique, West Indies. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Princess Margaret swims in the sea whilst on holiday in 1976 in Mustique, West Indies. (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Princess Margaret (1930 - 2002) with Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner, on the Caribbean island of Mustique, which Glenconner owns, February 1989. (Photo by Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Princess Margaret with Colin Tennant, 3rd Baron Glenconner, on the Caribbean island of Mustique, in 1989. (Slim Aarons/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

According to her obituary in The Guardian, she was treated for depression by Mark Collins, a psychiatrist from the Priory Clinic.

Much of her poor health was linked to her smoking some 60 cigarettes a day, chain smoking in between courses at dinner. She would also drink whisky heavily at home.

Her smoking continued despite her father’s death from lung illnesses, as well as three other monarchs. It is thought she started smoking at the age of 15.

In 1978 she was taken to hospital in Sydney while in Tuvalu as she was suffering with serious pneumonia. She developed hepatitis the same year.

In 1980 she had an operation to remove a benign skin lesion, and five years later she had part of her lung removed.

Princess Margaret making a rare public appearance, in her wheelchair, for part of her visit to the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre, London. The Princess badly burnt her feet while on the Caribbean island of Mustique in 1999.   (Photo by John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Princess Margaret making a rare public appearance in a wheelchair in 1999. (John Stillwell/PA Images)
The Queen Mother with Princess Margaret sit in an open top carriage as they leave Buckingham Palace, central London for the short ride to Horse Guards parade, where senior members of the Royal family gather for the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony.   (Photo by John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Queen Mother with Princess Margaret during the Trooping the Colour ceremony. (John Stillwell/PA Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Princess Margaret drinks and smokes at a party circa 1980 in London, England (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Princess Margaret drinks and smokes at a party circa 1980 in London. (Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

But despite the lung biopsy, which proved benign, she returned to smoking a few months later.

The Guardian also reported she had stopped smoking again in 1998 when she suffered her first stroke when she was on the island of Mustique.

A year after her first stroke, she burned her feet badly while getting into a bath and struggled to walk, leaving her in a wheelchair for some time.

The Telegraph reported she may have struggled to notice the temperature in the bath because she had Raynaud’s disease, which results in poor circulation.

In 2000, while at Sandringham with her family, she was reported to be depressed and confined to her room. It was later said she had suffered a second stroke.

She had a minor stroke in 2001, which affected her left side and her vision. She became more reclusive and depressed at this time too, reportedly refusing to eat.

Margaret died in 2002 at the age of 71. She died 50 years and three days after her father.

UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 31:  Princess MARGARET attending her friend's marriage. Miss Elizabeth CAREW POLE married in North Mimms Park's chapel near Hatfield.  (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Princess Margaret in 1953 at her friend's wedding. (Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 19:  Princess Margaret At The London Palladium For The Queen Mother's 90th Birthday.  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Princess Margaret at the London Palladium for the Queen Mother's 90th Birthday. (Tim Graham Photo Library)

Charles paid tribute to his aunt after her death, saying: “My darling aunt had such a dreadful time in the last few years with this illness, it was hard for let alone her to bear it but all of us as well, particularly as she had such a wonderfully free spirit.

“She loved life and lived it to the full and from that point of view it was even harder for everybody to witness this.”

He added: “I think one of the fondest memories I shall have of her was of seeing her at the piano playing away with a large, very elegant cigarette holder in her mouth.”

The Crown is streaming on Netflix from 15 November.

Watch: Is The Crown a true story?