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Foreign News: The Princess’ Chain

2 minute read

While all Britain talked about Princess Margaret’s romance with 40-year-old R.A.F. Group Captain Peter Townsend, the royal family did its best to see that there was little to talk about. Captain Townsend returned to Belgium after a three-day visit to England without so much as a glimpse of his princess: neither he nor Margaret attended last week’s classic St. Leger horse race at which it was hoped they might meet and exchange, at the very least, a significant look. The Court Calendar noted without comment the visit to Balmoral Castle of Britain’s Attorney General, which led the Associated Press into excited speculation that perhaps he and the Queen were talking over how to get Margaret married. English editors, who know more than they print, did not fall for such speculation: they know that the legal considerations are being handled, not by the Attorney General, but by the Lord Chancellor.

Margaret’s long-awaited 25th birthday (after which she presumably can marry whom she pleases without the Queen’s permission) had come and gone to the accompaniment of such impertinent tabloid headlines as COME ON, MARGARET and PLEASE MAKE UP YOUR MIND. All the proper British papers condemned such improper journalism. But the surprising fact in the whole situation was how carefully the respectable papers, without being so vulgar as to mention Townsend’s name, had kept their readers up on the news. They did so by a sudden rash of articles about the archaic Royal Marriage Act which requires that Parliament shall have a year in which to disapprove of any marriage in the royal family. The Manchester Guardian learnedly explained that the act was passed by the slimmest of majorities in 1772 to control the marriages contracted by the libertine brothers of George III. “Sensible mortals,” concluded the Guardian last week, “will doubtless feel that in the 20th century, such matters can safely be left to the head of the royal family without the restrictions of antique acts of Parliament.” “Isn’t it time,” asked Lord Beaverbrook’s Daily Express, “we took this chain from Princess Margaret?” In short, by indirection and implication, British editors seemed to be saying that if Margaret chooses to renounce her right of succession in order to marry Townsend, her decision is all right with them.

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