The parents of Anthony Armstrong-Jones (he was given the title Earl of Snowdon in 1961) were very different. He was Welsh to his fingertips, she an exotic mixture of English and Jewish. They divorced when he was five and Tony's relationship with his aloof glittering mother never recovered. His inventiveness was soon apparent, at Eton and then Cambridge, where as cox in 1950 he designed a new rudder for his (winning) Boat Race crew. The engagement of this motorbike-riding freelance photographer in 1960 to Princess Margaret was a bombshell. Friends privately predicted disaster. And so it proved. But meanwhile in the 1960s, mixing with actors, artists and pop stars, they were the epitome of stylish and unstuffy arts-loving Royals. Along with John and Jackie Kennedy or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, they were one of the iconic glamorous couples of that era. Tony continued to work and both began to have affairs. They divorced in 1978, the first royal divorce since Henry VIII divorced Anne of Cleves in 1540. Snowdon married again but this marriage collapsed after the birth of a secret love-child in 1998 and the suicide in 1996 of his mistress of twenty years, Anne Hill. nHis low boredom threshold and waspish cruelty are balanced by his fabled charm and genuine concern for the disabled and underpriviledged. One of the great British photographers, up there with Beaton, Bailey and Parkinson, at 76 he now suffers from a recurrence of childhood polio and needs sticks or wheelchair to get around. But by any standards he has had an extraordinary life.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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