SHE was the Queen’s party-loving younger sister, known for smoking 60 cigarettes a day, high-profile romances and iconic style.
But in later life, Princess Margaret was plagued by health issues which saw her glamorous lifestyle replaced by hospital stays and agonising pain.
Margaret’s declining health is seen the new series of The Crown, which shows her clutching an oxygen mask to her face after undergoing lung surgery.
Yet the scenes, starring actress Helena Bonham Carter as Margaret, are only a glimpse into the chain-smoking princess’ lengthy battle with ill health – from strokes and a nervous breakdown to a horrific bath accident.
From ‘party princess’ to health woes
In her heyday, Margaret was a vivacious ‘party princess’ – dancing until dawn and finding any excuse to hang out with actors and rock stars.
A blue-eyed beauty with a tiny waist, she had a string of celebrity lovers, reportedly including actors Peter Sellers, David Niven and Peter O’Toole.
But she wasn’t lucky in love.
During her early twenties, Margaret – known for her love of vodka, Scotch whisky and cigarettes – had a doomed fling with RAF pilot Peter Townsend.
She later married motorbike-riding philanderer Lord Antony Snowdon, – with their union coming as a bombshell to the Royal Family.
Despite having two children together, the pair’s marriage was marred by affairs and “gunfire”-style rows, and they eventually divorced in 1978.
But while Margaret seemed prone to ill-fated romances, she also suffered misfortune when it came to her health – starting from her mid-teens.
Operations from aged 15
Aged 15, she underwent surgery for appendicitis at Buckingham Palace. A news bulletin in November 1945 declared the operation a “success”.
Then, in May 1948, the young princess contracted measles – though palace officials were quick to stress that she hadn’t infected sister Elizabeth.
Over the next couple of decades, while her big sister got to grips with being Queen, Margaret battled through migraines, laryngitis and the flu.
In 1964, four years into her marriage with Lord Snowdon, she was left bedbound with catarrhal infection (inflammation of mucous membranes).
Then in 1968, she had to have her tonsils removed.
Despite her pain, the princess, who had suffered from acute tonsillitis, was later pictured smiling as she left London’s King Edward VII Hospital.
She was accompanied by then-husband Antony, in a show of support.
A nervous breakdown
Yet in the 1970s, Margaret’s marriage to Lord Snowdon collapsed – and she suffered a nervous breakdown as her mental health deteriorated.
Despite the pair’s then-scandalous divorce, they remained friends.
But in October 1978, Margaret’s health took a pounding again as she was diagnosed with pneumonia in Tuvalu, in the South Pacific.
Fortunately, she pulled through after being flown to an Australian hospital.
However, in the ’80s, the princess’s health issues escalated – with Margaret suffering from a seemingly endless string of illnesses over two decades.
In 1980 – the year she turned 50 – she was admitted to a London hospital for surgery to remove a benign skin lesion, according to the BBC.
Then in January 1985, the ’60 cigarettes a day’ princess had part of her lung cut out in a cancer scare (though, luckily, the tissue was non-malignant).
At the time, Margaret’s office said doctors had removed a small area of her left lung, after she was admitted to a private suite at Brompton Hospital.
The princess’s children Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, then aged 23 and 20, were on holiday in Venice when the scare occurred.
And Margaret’s ex Lord Snowdon told reporters: ″I am very relieved that everything went all right and that it was not something serious.″
60 cigarettes a day to 30
After the op, Margaret continued smoking – despite four monarchs having died from smoking-related illnesses, including her own dad, King George VI.
Never afraid of speaking her mind, she refused to bow down to pressure from both doctors and members of her family to ditch the cigarettes.
However, it is reported she cut down to 30 a day, rather than 60.
Determined Margaret also continued with royal engagements – but in 1992, she was forced to cancel some after developing a “feverish cold”.
And months later, still only in her early 60s, the princess was hospitalised with another bout of pneumonia after complaining of “feeling unwell”.
Again, she fought through.
But in 1998, Margaret suffered her first mild stroke on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique, where she had her own holiday hideaway.
The princess – who had been gifted a plot of land on the island as a wedding present, and loved partying there – fell ill while dining with friends.
She was flown by air ambulance to Barbados, though witnesses said she was able to walk across the Tarmac to the plane and didn’t need a stretcher.
Despite her love for Mustique, Margaret’s health would take another blow on the island: a year later, she badly scalded her feet in a boiling hot bath.
She sustained horrendous burns in the accident, which left her reliant on support to walk (and on some occasions, she required a wheelchair).
Following her return to England, Margaret continued to support the work of the dozens of charities and organisations she was involved with.
But over Christmas 2000, the hard-working royal found herself bedbound at Sandringham following what was suspected to be a second stroke.
Then, in January 2001, she was hospitalised with a “severe loss” of appetite – leaving loved ones, including the Queen, concerned about her “frail” state.
Margaret’s cousin, the now-late Hon Margaret Rhodes, told the BBC: “All her life she has been the sparkling one, the centre of attention, but since her stroke three years ago, she has lost that particular facility to sparkle.”
At that point, Margaret hadn’t been seen in public since October 2000. Once the life and soul of every party, she was said to be depressed by her illness.
And the “stoic” princess’s condition only worsened that March when she had another stroke, which impaired her vision, according to the Guardian.
In her younger years, Margaret had loathed the idea of living a quiet life. Now, confused and withdrawn, it was reported she had lost the will to live.
But once more, she seemed to bounce back, even dining out in Mayfair.
In October 2001, the princess – who also fought off bronchitis, gastric flu and mild hepatitis during her life – was admitted to hospital for tests.
A couple of months later, she managed to attend the 100th birthday celebrations of her aunt, Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.
But tragically, it would be her last public appearance.
A peaceful death
On February 9, 2002, Margaret died peacefully aged 71 at King Edward VII’s Hospital, having suffered cardiac problems following yet another stroke.
The princess passed away with her children by her side.
In her last years, she had battled through more health problems than most 100-year-olds. But she’d also lived life to the full, when she could.
Aside from her passion for partying and socialising, Margaret was a talented piano player who could pick up and play by ear almost any tune.
As grieving nephew Prince Charles said after her death: “My darling aunt had such dreadful times in the past few years with her awful illness and it was hard for let alone her to bear it, but for all of us as well – particularly as she had such a wonderfully free spirit.
“She lived life and lived it to the full and from that point of view it was even harder for everybody to witness this.”