In case there wasn’t enough going on this year, two couples within the Royal Family have announced their separations. This is obviously sad news, regardless of the circumstances, and unfortunately the timing of it all means that it’s fitting into a broader narrative that the Queen’s family is full of young people making her white hair go even whiter. Honestly, if the Queen was able to trudge through the 1990s, I think she’ll be okay.
Let’s start with the more junior couple: The Earl and Countess of Snowdon. The Earl is the only son of the Queen’s younger sister, the deceased Princess Margaret, and her husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones (elevated after his marriage to Earl of Snowdon, a title that his son inherited upon his death in 2017). The Earl, known informally as David Linley, was born in 1961, and somewhat notably grew up in the same suite apartments now occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children.
Given that the Earl’s royal blood is through his mother, he is not in fact considered “royal.” He’s never carried out royal work in an official capacity – nor was he ever expected to. As such, he built his own independent career as a bespoke, high-end furniture maker. In 1993, he married Serena Stanhope, a descendant of one of Charles II’s illegitimate children (aren’t we all?). The couple have two children – Charles, the Viscount Linley, who is now 20, and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, who is 17.
While not front and center of the Royal Family when it comes to public attention, the Snowdons are very close to the Queen and her children. The Queen is said to have doted upon her nephew (and her niece, his sister) over the years, particularly after his parents’ divorce in the late 1970s and after his mother’s death in 2002. Both the Earl and his sister, Lady Sarah Chatto, are frequent guests of the Queen’s at Balmoral, Sandringham, and wherever else she is in residence. The Earl is also said to be close to the Prince of Wales, who is his first cousin.
The second divorce hits a little closer to home and has garnered more attention: Peter and Autumn Phillips. Peter is the Princess Royal’s only son, and the Queen’s eldest grandson. The couple have been married since 2008 and have two daughters, both of whom are playmates of the Cambridge children and those of Peter’s sister, Zara Tindall. The announcement the couple was separating came as a surprise, if for no other reason than there’s been no rumors about the state of their marriage, and the couple frequently appear at royal events looking like a happy family.
The split seems to be an amicable one – the photo taken at the top of this post was in fact taken a month after the separation announcement. So…do with that what you will.
One interesting note about the timing – the Phillips announcement was actually made on February 11, the same day that the Cambridges joined the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall for a joint engagement and that Kensington Palace announced the Ireland tour for March. Given the familiarity between the Cambridges and Phillipses, it wouldn’t surprise me if the day of the announcement was timed to be buried by other royal news. Some of that might be traditional PR handiwork to not let bad news gain traction, but I also think it might have been kindness on the Cambridges’ part.