Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones is a name that many people, if asked, would admit to not knowing.
By definition, and the propensity of the English aristocracy to imbibe in lengthy, hyphenated names, some people will readily acknowledge that the name belongs to an English person.
So let’s talk a little about him…how did he become such a famous photographer, his loves and his life.
He was born the only son of his father who was a well-to-do barrister with a frenetic social life. His mother had equally wide social tastes and was a wealthy socialite.
His parents unfortunately separated when he was just a baby, his mother remarrying into a titled family, namely the Earl of Rosse, which later led to her becoming the Countess of Rosse.
As fate would have it, Snowdon contracted polio when he was 16 years of age, and during his lengthy recuperation of around 6 months, his mother gave him a camera in order to help ease his confinement.
He emerged from hospital with a severely withered leg but true to form, he struggled triumphantly to overcome the disability, learning to use his camera and finding an immediate love with photography.
His attraction to photography was inevitable, as he hails from a family who were all prone to creativity, his great-grandfather being the lead cartoonist for Punch magazine, with two uncles being noted architects.
As it happened, although his father enrolled him into Cambridge University, one of the world’s most well-known learning centres, he unfortunately failed his exams and later took to photography with a renewed interest.
His work initially covered fashion, design and theatre personalities, but he also covered street and documentary work as well. With his portraits of the Royal household, he became friendly with the Family, which later led to his marriage with Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth.
In the 60s, he landed a very prestigious job, possibly through his connections with the Royals, as picture editor with the esteemed Sunday Times newspaper.
His marriage to Princess Margaret was unique by the fact that he was the first “commoner” (ie Joe Public!) to marry into the Royal Family in almost 50 years. As he was not already a titled member of any English lineage, he was granted, of course by a Royal agreement, the title of Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley, as there were worries within the Royal household that he may father a title-less child with the Princess. Such is Royal life! As it happened, the Snowdon name goes back many years in antiquity, as far back as 1282.
They had 2 children together, a boy and girl. But sadly, due to rumours of infidelity by Princess Margaret with Roddy Llewellyn, Snowdon divorced. Again, it was a precedent….being the first time since 1900 that a member of the Royal Family had separated.
He later remarried his assistant Lucy Mary Davies, which yielded a daughter, but again sadly ended in divorce, this time due to allegations that Snowdon himself was having an affair.
His photographic work however was of extraordinary quality, as can be seen here from a selection of shots.
photos courtesy flickr.com