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ARMSTRONG-JONES, ANTONY - ALS by Queen Elizabeth II's Philandering Brother-in-Law
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ARMSTRONG-JONES, ANTONY - ALS by Queen Elizabeth II's Philandering Brother-in-Law

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ARMSTRONG-JONES, ANTONY. (1930-2017). Celebrated British filmmaker and photographer who was married to Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret. ALS. (“Tony & Lucy”). 2pp. 8vo. London, December 2, [1991]. On his London stationery. To American art critic, lecturer and author ROSAMOND BERNIER (1916-2016).


What a lovely surprise and of course a great great pleasure on a gloomy Monday morning to have your magnificent book arrive on my desk. I had heard about it of course and indeed it was discussed at length on Saturday morning on Radio 4 which we have driving through the autumn countryside of Suffolk. It really does look grand, beautifully laid out, superbly reproduced and as one would expect written with such sparse simplicity that only some one of your intellect can achieve. With very tender love to you & Jon. From Tony & Lucy”


Armstrong-Jones was a fashion and portrait photographer who, in 1960, married Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II. Margaret had scandalously fallen in love with her father’s equerry, a former Royal Air Force officer, Group Captain Peter Townsend, 16 years her senior who was married until 1952 when he and his wife divorced. Margaret and Townsend’s proposed marriage was opposed by the Church of England, the Cabinet and – reluctantly – Elizabeth. A happy ending was imagined for Margaret when she married Armstrong-Jones, the first commoner to marry into the royal family for nearly 300 years. The Queen created him the Earl of Snowdon, and he and Margaret had two children together. “Perhaps only a photographer of that era, when modern life began in London and the social map of British society was redrawn through the violence of two wars to depict a new meritocracy, could have bridged that gap. In the Swinging Sixties, Tony swung more than most. Diamond bright, lithe, sexually free and old-world charming: Snowdon was at the time a supreme beneficiary of the postwar breaking down of barriers,” (“The Art of Lord Snowden,” The Wall Street Journal, Kinmonth). 


Unfortunately, their union was an unhappy one and publicly disintegrated over the next 18 years. “After his wedding to Margaret, the tension between the strictures of being royal and the necessary freedoms of being an artist became intolerable to both parties. After years of increasing complication, from which turbulent soil grew two wonderfully sane children, David and Sarah, marital collapse came in 1978,” (ibid.). Princess Margaret and Armstrong-Jones’ split was the first divorce in the royal family in 77 years but paved the way for the divorces of her nephews Prince Charles and Prince Andrew and niece Princess Anne. From 1978-2000 Snowdon was married to Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, who had been married to American-British director Sir Michael Edward Lindsay-Hogg, rumored to be the son of Orson Welles.


Born to a wealthy Philadelphia family, Bernier was the European art correspondent for Vogue and, in 1955, founded the French art journal L’OEIL. She lectured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, lived in France, Mexico and the U.S. and counted “among her broad circle of close friends and acquaintances Matisse, Picasso, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Frida Kahlo, David Hockney, and Jerome Robbins, to name only a few,” (“They Just Don’t Write ‘Em Like That Anymore: Rosamond Bernier’s ‘Some of My Lives,’” Pop Matters, Leach). Our letter is likely in thanks for a copy of Bernier’s 1991 book Matisse, Picasso, Miro – as I Knew Them.


Penned from Snowden’s Kensington studio, where he photographed countless nobles, Maggie Smith, John Le Carré, Lucian Freud, Princess Diana, and the band Queen. “The studio is Snowdon’s most revealing self-portrait—an essential part of his oeuvre as a man obsessed with the look of the world and the design of things,” (ibid.).


Folded with some minor creases and in excellent condition. Uncommon in ALS.



Item #17918

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