Lord Snowdon, Queen Elizabeth’s Former Brother-in-Law, Dies at 86
By Terry O Neill/Getty Images.
Lord Snowdon, the renowned photographer and filmmaker whose marriage to Princess Margaret captured international interest, died peacefully at his home on Friday. He was 86.
Buckingham Palace has since confirmed that Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret s sister, was informed that Snowdon died.
A famous photographer whose portraits appeared in many publications, including Vanity Fair. Snowdon captured a cross section of royal members, cultural figures, and celebrities including Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Nicholson, and Elizabeth Taylor throughout his career, treating all of his subjects the same, no matter their celebrity or social standing. Snowdon first photographed actors in the early 1950s while working for his uncle, Oliver Messel, one of England s foremost stage designers. Snowdon continued working as a photographer even after marrying Princess Margaret in 1960 a milestone which made him the first commoner in four centuries to marry a king s daughter.
In an excerpt of Snowdon: The Biography printed in Vanity Fair. author Anne de Courcy describes how Snowdon made an impression on Princess Margaret:
When one of Margaret s dazzled admirers asked her in the spring of 1958 if she would sit for a photograph for him he knew just the right photographer she agreed. The chosen photographer was Antony Tony Armstrong-Jones, whom she had met a month or two earlier with Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, her lady-in-waiting. Immediately, Tony took charge of the sitting in his usual way. With the utmost politeness, he made her change her clothes, her jewelry, and her pose as if she were any other sitter, at the same time chatting away with his mixture of jokes, gossip about mutual friends, and stories of the theatrical luminaries he had photographed.
Margaret, accustomed to unquestioning deference, had never met anyone like him. She decided that she wanted Tony in her circle, and after a while his face could be seen among the parties of six or eight people in which the Princess went to the theater or dined out. As he was not a known escort, no one paid any attention to the appearance of an extra man in her wide and varied acquaintance.
A fixture of the swinging London scene, Snowdon managed to exist in both the bohemian artist s world and the royal, traditional stratosphere. Before divorcing in 1978, Princess Margaret and Snowdon had two children: Viscount Linley, born in 1961, who has since established himself as a furniture designer, and Lady Sarah, born in 1964, a painter. (Snowdon s relationship with Princess Margaret will be revisited in the second season of Netflix s The Crown .)
According to The New York Times . Snowdon was admired for his discretion, never speaking with the media about the breakup of the marriage in 1978, and rejecting offers to write a book about it. The BBC adds, Snowdon remained a favorite photographer of the queen long after his marriage to her sister ended in rancor, and he took many portraits of her. Diana, Princess of Wales, was another frequent subject.
A year after his divorce from Princess Margaret, Snowdon married again to Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, with whom he had a daughter, Frances, also in 1979. The couple divorced in 2000.
In 1998, at the age of 68, Snowdon fathered a son, Jasper, with journalist Melanie Cable-Alexander.
Lord Snowdon s portraits of Helen Mirren and Ralph Fiennes, printed in Vanity Fair s November 1995 issue.
Snowdon worked with Vanity Fair on an expansive British Theater portfolio, which ran in the November 1995 issue and featured Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, Peter O Toole, Julia Ormond, Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart, Julie Christie, Jude Law, and Kenneth Branagh, among other stage luminaries in a 38-page spread the largest photographic portfolio in the magazine s history. (The portfolio ran 56 pages in the U.K. edition.)
Vanity Fair executive West Coast editor Krista Smith remembers working with Snowdon on the portfolio in London. Although he walked with a cane, while suffering the effects of polio, Snowdon was tireless and a mastermind in composition capturing Branagh on a tanning bed preparing for his role as Iago; Mirren backstage in her dressing room; O Toole and Richard Harris having tea at the Dorchester; and Redgrave on the river Thames. Smith remembers Snowdon s daughter Frances helping on the shoot and lunches at Launceston Place.
You had to earn the right to call him Tony, remembers Smith of the hardworking, detail-focused photographer, who demanded as much from himself as he did those around him. It took me a while, especially with what he called my loud American shoes. But one of my greatest triumphs at Vanity Fair was getting Tony to like me.
In 2001, the National Portrait Gallery exhibited a retrospective of his work, which filled 14 photography books. Snowdon also made seven TV documentaries the first of which, Don t Count the Candles, about aging, won two Emmys. One of Snowdon s most prized projects, however, had nothing to do with photography or film: in 1963, Snowdon designed an aviary for the London Zoo the first in Britain to offer a walk through experience. He also endowed a fund providing scholarships for disabled students after suffering from polio, which he contracted at 16 while studying at Eton.
In 2010, Snowdon, who had a knack for modesty, told The Telegraph . I m just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill photographer doing reportage. I don t think I ll ever give up. Not a hope, added Snowdon who, at that point, was 80 and wheelchair-bound, but still taking photos. Asked if he had a favorite portrait, Snowdon revealed, Yes. I haven t taken it yet.