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  Lord Snowdon (Antony Armstrong-Jones) Biography

Lord Snowdon (Antony Armstrong-Jones) Biography

born London (UK) 1930

The Right Honourable Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, GCVO, FRSA, RDI, FCSD, (born March 7, 1930) is a well-known photographer, Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker, and the former husband of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, the sister of Queen Elizabeth II.

The only son of Welsh barrister Ronald Owen Lloyd Armstrong-Jones (1899–1966) and his first wife, socialite Anne Messel (1902–1992, later Countess of Rosse), Antony Armstrong-Jones was educated at Eton and Cambridge. Of Welsh and German Jewish ancestry, Snowdon comes from artistic lineage. His maternal great-grandfather was the Punch cartoonist Linley Sambourne (1844–1910), his great-great-uncle Alfred Messel was a well-known Berlin architect, and his maternal uncle was Oliver Messel, a noted British set and costume designer and architect.

After leaving Cambridge, he worked as a photographer, particularly in the fields of fashion, design and the theatre. His career as a portraitist began to flourish and he became known for his royal studies, amongst which were the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh for their 1957 tour of Canada.

On February 26, 1960 he became engaged to Princess Margaret and they married on May 6, 1960 at Westminister Abbey. (Princess Margaret said she agreed to be Snowdon's wife on the very day that she received a letter from the love of her life, Peter Townsend, telling her he was marrying a young Belgian woman.) In 1961 he was created Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley. The title of Earl of Snowdon, has centuries old royal associations (the name Snowdon had been borne by the Welsh Princes and the House of Gwynedd prior to 1282). With Princess Margaret, Lord Snowdon had two children. David Armstong-Jones, Viscount Linley, born November 3, 1961 and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, born May 1, 1964. The marriage ended in divorce in 1978.

After his divorce from the princess, Lord Snowdon married Lucy Mary Davies, daughter of Donald Brook Davies and former wife of film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg (now Sir Michael Lindsay-Hogg, 5th baronet), on December 15, 1978. They had their only child, Lady Frances Armstrong-Jones, seven months later, on July 17, 1979. They divorced two decades later upon the revelation that Lord Snowdon was seeing another woman, with whom he fathered a child out of wedlock.

The Earl's illegitimate son, Jasper William Oliver Cable-Alexander, was born April 30, 1998 to Melanie Cable-Alexander, an editor at Country Life magazine. The Earl's mistress of twenty years, Anne Hill, killed herself with an overdose on January 1, 1996.

In 1999 he was created Baron Armstrong-Jones. This was a life peerage given to him so that he could keep his seat in the House of Lords after the hereditary peers had been excluded. An offer of a life peerage was made to all hereditary peers of the first creation (i.e. those for whom a peerage was originally created, as opposed to those who inherited a peerage from an ancestor) at that time. However, Lord Snowdon was the only person owing his title merely to a royal connection who accepted a life peerage.

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  • "I think it is quite wrong to photograph, for example, Garbo, if she doesn't want to be photographed. Now I would have loved to photograph her, but she obviously didn't want to be photographed so I didn't follow it up. Then somebody will photograph her walking down the street because she has to walk down the street, and I mind that sort of intrusion. I think this is horrible."
  • "It's no good saying "hold it" to a moment in real life."
  • "To me, The goal is to move people, to make people think, but never, never at the expense of the person you're photographing. To laugh with, yes - but never to laugh at."
  • "Photographers should not exploit their subjects. In the old days I did appalling gimmicky pictures but I've tried to become simpler. Now I wouldn't even mind taking a boring picture if it gave truthful information about a human being."
  • "A telephoto lens is all right for animals or sport but too intrusive for people who are unaware. If you want a close-up view you should move yourself if it is possible. The trouble is that so many photographers seem afraid to move in."
  • "I'm very much against photographs being framed and treated with reverence and signed and sold as works of art. They aren't. They should be seen in a magazine or a book and then be used to wrap up the fish and chucked away."


  • Sittings, 1979-1983 by Snowdon - Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1983 Harper & RownHardcover
  • Israel: A First View - , NY, Little Brown, 1986

Quick Facts

  • Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, GCVO, RDI is a British photographer and Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker who sits in the House of Lords by a life peerage granted him in 1999.
  • Snowdon, who is of Welsh and German Jewish ancestry, is a member of a notably artistic family.
  • Armstrong-Jones took up a career as a photographer in the fields of fashion, design and theatre.
  • In the early 1960s, he became the picture editor of The Sunday Times Magazine, and by the 1970s, Snowdon had gained a reputation as one of Britain's most prominent and respected photographers.
  • In 2001, Snowdon was the subject of a career retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, "Photographs by Snowdon: A Retrospective", which travelled to the Yale Center for British Art. More than 180 of his photographs were displayed in an exhibition that honored what the museums called "a rounded career with sharp edges"


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 Lord Snowdon (Antony Armstrong-Jones)

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