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Snowdon: The Biography

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The parents of Antony Armstrong-Jones (he was given the title Earl of Snowdon in 1961) were very different. He was Welsh to his fingertips, she an exotic mixture of English and Jewish. They divorced when he was five and Tony's relationship with his aloof glittering mother never recovered. His inventiveness was soon apparent, at Eton and then Cambridge, where as cox in 1950 The parents of Antony Armstrong-Jones (he was given the title Earl of Snowdon in 1961) were very different. He was Welsh to his fingertips, she an exotic mixture of English and Jewish. They divorced when he was five and Tony's relationship with his aloof glittering mother never recovered. His inventiveness was soon apparent, at Eton and then Cambridge, where as cox in 1950 he designed a new rudder for his (winning) Boat Race crew. The engagement of this motorbike-riding freelance photographer in 1960 to Princess Margaret was a bombshell. Friends privately predicted disaster, and so it proved. But meanwhile in the 1960s, mixing with actors, artists, and pop stars, they were the epitome of stylish and unstuffy arts-loving Royals. Along with John and Jackie Kennedy or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, they were one of the iconic glamorous couples of that era. Tony continued to work and both began to have affairs. They divorced in 1978, the first royal divorce since Henry VIII divorced Anne of Cleves in 1540. Snowdon married again but this marriage collapsed after the birth of a secret love-child in 1998 and the suicide in 1996 of his mistress of 20 years, Anne Hill. His low boredom threshold and waspish cruelty are balanced by his fabled charm and genuine concern for the disabled and underprivileged. One of the great British photographers, up there with Beaton, Bailey, and Parkinson, at 76 he now suffers from a recurrence of childhood polio and needs sticks or wheelchair to get around. But by any standards he has had an extraordinary life.Will throw new light upon many areas of his life—his difficult childhood, his relationship with Margaret, his many affairs, his cruelty, his creativity and achievements. His story here is based on wide range of sources: friends, courtiers, servants, girlfriends and ex-mistresses.


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The parents of Antony Armstrong-Jones (he was given the title Earl of Snowdon in 1961) were very different. He was Welsh to his fingertips, she an exotic mixture of English and Jewish. They divorced when he was five and Tony's relationship with his aloof glittering mother never recovered. His inventiveness was soon apparent, at Eton and then Cambridge, where as cox in 1950 The parents of Antony Armstrong-Jones (he was given the title Earl of Snowdon in 1961) were very different. He was Welsh to his fingertips, she an exotic mixture of English and Jewish. They divorced when he was five and Tony's relationship with his aloof glittering mother never recovered. His inventiveness was soon apparent, at Eton and then Cambridge, where as cox in 1950 he designed a new rudder for his (winning) Boat Race crew. The engagement of this motorbike-riding freelance photographer in 1960 to Princess Margaret was a bombshell. Friends privately predicted disaster, and so it proved. But meanwhile in the 1960s, mixing with actors, artists, and pop stars, they were the epitome of stylish and unstuffy arts-loving Royals. Along with John and Jackie Kennedy or Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, they were one of the iconic glamorous couples of that era. Tony continued to work and both began to have affairs. They divorced in 1978, the first royal divorce since Henry VIII divorced Anne of Cleves in 1540. Snowdon married again but this marriage collapsed after the birth of a secret love-child in 1998 and the suicide in 1996 of his mistress of 20 years, Anne Hill. His low boredom threshold and waspish cruelty are balanced by his fabled charm and genuine concern for the disabled and underprivileged. One of the great British photographers, up there with Beaton, Bailey, and Parkinson, at 76 he now suffers from a recurrence of childhood polio and needs sticks or wheelchair to get around. But by any standards he has had an extraordinary life.Will throw new light upon many areas of his life—his difficult childhood, his relationship with Margaret, his many affairs, his cruelty, his creativity and achievements. His story here is based on wide range of sources: friends, courtiers, servants, girlfriends and ex-mistresses.

30 review for Snowdon: The Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    James

    Snowdon has had much more interesting, important, influential and complex a life than I had imagined. I picked up this biography because the person I saw portrayed on The Crown intrigued me. A very satisfying read - due to the subject matter and the way it was written- if I had had the time I would have finished this in two days. An incredibly interesting guy. He could be just awful to Princess Margaret, but he loved her deeply until she died and would not have anyone say anything bad about her Snowdon has had much more interesting, important, influential and complex a life than I had imagined. I picked up this biography because the person I saw portrayed on The Crown intrigued me. A very satisfying read - due to the subject matter and the way it was written- if I had had the time I would have finished this in two days. An incredibly interesting guy. He could be just awful to Princess Margaret, but he loved her deeply until she died and would not have anyone say anything bad about her in his presence. He was faithless to his wives and mistresses and two children were born to women he had affairs with. On the other hand, Snowdon, who had polio and later in life became increasingly immobile, fought and fought hard for the disabled. A groundbreaking photographer, an inventor, a rebel, a contrarian, a terrible husband, a demanding restaurant patron, a challenging friend, kind of a jerk, a fighter for those who couldn’t fight well on their own. What a complex fella.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Patty

    Dishy, gossipy and well-researched, Snowden is a surprisingly revealing story of the late Princess Margaret's husband who was both self-centred and generous, hospitable and petulant, sexually driven but a devoted and loving father. At boarding school Anthony Armstrong Jones demonstrated early creativity by making and selling wireless sets when radios were forbidden. He nearly died of polio which left him with a life-long slight limp and a devotion to improving the lives of people with disabiliti Dishy, gossipy and well-researched, Snowden is a surprisingly revealing story of the late Princess Margaret's husband who was both self-centred and generous, hospitable and petulant, sexually driven but a devoted and loving father. At boarding school Anthony Armstrong Jones demonstrated early creativity by making and selling wireless sets when radios were forbidden. He nearly died of polio which left him with a life-long slight limp and a devotion to improving the lives of people with disabilities. His photography led to meeting Princess Margaret at a dinner party. While the pair had a passionate courtship and early marriage he also fathered a daughter (unknown to him until her 40s) while he was engaged to the Princess. While cruel to Margaret during their divorce proceedings, he was her staunchest defender when anyone criticized her. He married again and had multiple affairs but his primary passion was his work. From his Snowden Award Scheme to assist with education costs of students with disabilities, to designing more humane facilities for the London Zoo to his iconic photographs, Snowden's legacy is much more than marrying a royal.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I can't finish it. They're such annoying people. And I think the author could have written it in a less gossipy style. I got no insight into him. I can't finish it. They're such annoying people. And I think the author could have written it in a less gossipy style. I got no insight into him.

  4. 4 out of 5

    May Ling

    Picked this up in my laundry room and though it was something else Not being British, I knew nothing about this person, so cool. I would agree with the "dishy" gossipy feel to the book, particularly the front chapters which appear to say nothing really at all, IMO. It's very hard to really grasp what the writer is trying to say about the man up front. It gets better as you go though. The accounts of how he interweaved with Princess Margaret were interesting, as was this idea that the only home she Picked this up in my laundry room and though it was something else Not being British, I knew nothing about this person, so cool. I would agree with the "dishy" gossipy feel to the book, particularly the front chapters which appear to say nothing really at all, IMO. It's very hard to really grasp what the writer is trying to say about the man up front. It gets better as you go though. The accounts of how he interweaved with Princess Margaret were interesting, as was this idea that the only home she knew before marriage was Buckingham Palace. Wow.. to live in a palace. I kind of get it. Here, she could have elaborated more on the difference between Snowdon's home of privilege and how much of a step down it was, though it might have been insulting to the man. I still think the public would have enjoyed understanding the circumstances. I think she also lost the opportunity to say something about the couple. I thought it funny how several people are referred to as having veracious sexual appetites. Tells me more about the writer and how this book might be a bit dated. Glad I read, though it wasn't my particular cup of tea. Well-researched and quite factual.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Painfully boring

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    British biographer Anne De Courcy, a great writer, "sort of" received cooperation from Armstrong-Jones in the writing of this "unauthorised" biography, "Snowdon: The Biography". I had known the bare bones of Armstrong-Jones/Lord Snowdon's life from reading biographies of other members of the Royal Family. De Courcy does a great job at fleshing out his life, work, and personal life, without sensationalising it too much. However, what can you say about a man with three legitimate children and two i British biographer Anne De Courcy, a great writer, "sort of" received cooperation from Armstrong-Jones in the writing of this "unauthorised" biography, "Snowdon: The Biography". I had known the bare bones of Armstrong-Jones/Lord Snowdon's life from reading biographies of other members of the Royal Family. De Courcy does a great job at fleshing out his life, work, and personal life, without sensationalising it too much. However, what can you say about a man with three legitimate children and two illegitimate ones to his credit. This is a man who seems never to be without a woman (and a "spare") in his life at all times. I suppose his womanising can be blamed on his rotten relationship with his mother, a social-climbing snob without much in the way of maternal feelings. The book details his life with Princess Margaret and how his association with her does aid his ascent into the upper ranks of society. But his superb skills at photography were just as important as his relationships in his rise. He's a man of many talents and manifest personal charm. A well-written bio of a particularly interesting subject.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Interesting biography, not authorized by Lord Snowdon but he and many people close to him were interviewed, and he did not ask for any changes to what had been written. Antony Armstrong-Jones married Princess Margaret in 1960, and while they were happy at first, both began straying from the marriage and finally divorced about 20 years later. Throughout and after the marriage, Lord Snowdon maintained his work as a magazine and portrait photographer, and an excellent one. Despite their parents' ma Interesting biography, not authorized by Lord Snowdon but he and many people close to him were interviewed, and he did not ask for any changes to what had been written. Antony Armstrong-Jones married Princess Margaret in 1960, and while they were happy at first, both began straying from the marriage and finally divorced about 20 years later. Throughout and after the marriage, Lord Snowdon maintained his work as a magazine and portrait photographer, and an excellent one. Despite their parents' many problems, the couples' two children, David and Sarah, have grown into well mannered and thriving adults by all accounts. He went on to remarry two more times following the divorce and although he has had many health problems to deal with, he is still with us as of this writing. **#71 of 100 books pledged to read/review during 2015**

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stevie Carroll

    I wavered over whether to give this three or four stars, and finally settled on three. A fascinating picture of a man who is endearing and exasperating in pretty much equal measure. From a safe distance the former wins, but like many of my favourite fictional characters I really wouldn't want to spend too much time with him. Illustrated with a wonderful selection of photographs, and just misses out on a higher level of praise because some facts were repeated a little too often for my liking. I wavered over whether to give this three or four stars, and finally settled on three. A fascinating picture of a man who is endearing and exasperating in pretty much equal measure. From a safe distance the former wins, but like many of my favourite fictional characters I really wouldn't want to spend too much time with him. Illustrated with a wonderful selection of photographs, and just misses out on a higher level of praise because some facts were repeated a little too often for my liking.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Annie Booker

    Well written and interesting book about a fascinating man.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    I'll admit that I probably would not have been drawn to this one had it not been for The Crown, but the show had me intrigued. Last season ended with the end of his marriage to Princess Margaret (PM) and after googling a bit I read somewhere that even though they divorced and it was bitter and acrimonious, Tony never stopped loving her and never let a person speak a bad word of her in his presence, until the day he died. That caught me, so I went out in search of a book about him. This book had I'll admit that I probably would not have been drawn to this one had it not been for The Crown, but the show had me intrigued. Last season ended with the end of his marriage to Princess Margaret (PM) and after googling a bit I read somewhere that even though they divorced and it was bitter and acrimonious, Tony never stopped loving her and never let a person speak a bad word of her in his presence, until the day he died. That caught me, so I went out in search of a book about him. This book had a good flow; very readable, not a dull history book. I was concerned it might get boring or focus on other British glitterati/socialites that I'm not familiar with, but there wasn't too much of that. Anthony Armstrong Jones, aka Lord Snowdon, was a very interesting, complex character; he did good and kind things, but could also be very cruel. Like most people, he just wanted to be loved, and his approach to romantic relationships, at least early on, was informed by his childhood. His emotionally distant, social-climbing mother remarried when he was young, and had two more children who would thereafter always come before Tony and his sister Susan. Of course, once he married into the royal family, she was pretty thrilled. I found the background about how he got into photography and the risks he took very interesting. The portion of the book that focused on his relationship with PM was of course the most fascinating part, because, gossip and royals! But it was also tragic, and I found myself rooting for them even though I knew how it would turn out. I loved being able to learn about PM (I haven't come across any interesting-looking biographies about her yet); the description of her personality, and her attitudes and perspective on life were endlessly fascinating. She was sharp tongued and witty, but deep down very insecure and another soul who just wanted to be loved. Reading about Tony's later life was similarly fascinating. If this is a topic that interests you, I recommend it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Glae R. Egoville

    Interesting I never knew much about Anthony Armstrong Jones beyond his marriage to Princess Margaret. Anne de Courcy's book changed that. Snowdon was a gifted artist in many different concentrations. But his picture of Princess Diana will remain forever the image the world had of the tragic princess. Lord Snowdon was complex, hedonistic, snobbish, sympathetic in many ways and a thoroughly complex character. De Courcy captures him perfectly. A very readable biography. Interesting I never knew much about Anthony Armstrong Jones beyond his marriage to Princess Margaret. Anne de Courcy's book changed that. Snowdon was a gifted artist in many different concentrations. But his picture of Princess Diana will remain forever the image the world had of the tragic princess. Lord Snowdon was complex, hedonistic, snobbish, sympathetic in many ways and a thoroughly complex character. De Courcy captures him perfectly. A very readable biography.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Arto Mutka

    A fascinating read with surprisingly private revelations about the extramarital affairs of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden. A very captivating read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Groll

    Excellent read about royal life in Great Britain. This is my fourth book by this author.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Janie A. Hutchison

    I knew nothing about Lord Snowden. What a surprise!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charles Eddy

    Interesting Man A very well written book of a great man! Both Princess Margaret and Tony sound like they were always in love!!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mrs Hilary Anne Dibble

    Amazingly detailed account of a life enmeshed in 60s culture, the Royal Family and the artistic crowds of the time. Inspite of its length I was gripped to the end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    S'hi

    An interesting background story to the ever-fascinating impact of royalty on our daily lives through media of various sorts and where it leads.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Page-turning, as you would expect.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This is a well-written biography of a man whose driving motivations are to do challenging work and to satisfy his voracious libido. de Courcy appears to have done an admirable job of showing both sides of this exceedingly brilliant and damaged human being. Snowdon is a creative genius whose most appealing qualities appear to be his artistic talent, compassion for disabled people, sense of fun, bravery, thoughtfulness and generosity to the people to whom he chooses to be kind, and devotion to pro This is a well-written biography of a man whose driving motivations are to do challenging work and to satisfy his voracious libido. de Courcy appears to have done an admirable job of showing both sides of this exceedingly brilliant and damaged human being. Snowdon is a creative genius whose most appealing qualities appear to be his artistic talent, compassion for disabled people, sense of fun, bravery, thoughtfulness and generosity to the people to whom he chooses to be kind, and devotion to providing high quality services when he takes on a job. These stellar qualities are at best balanced by those that are much less attractive--dishonesty, unfaithfulness, haughtiness, and unkindness. At bottom, according to the author, Snowdon is a man who never has been whole, due in large part to his beautiful, self-absorbed mother's poisonous influence on his life.

  20. 4 out of 5

    PastAllReason

    According to the author, Snowdon was a significant source in writing the book. Assuming this to be so, he was quite open on both the positive and negative aspects of his personality, and what this meant for his relationships, particularly with women. Growing up with two divorced parents both of whom preferred their second families, Armstrong-Jones (later made Lord Snowdon) grew up both ambitious, with a mercurial personality, and a need to test relationships. He climbed to the heights of fame in According to the author, Snowdon was a significant source in writing the book. Assuming this to be so, he was quite open on both the positive and negative aspects of his personality, and what this meant for his relationships, particularly with women. Growing up with two divorced parents both of whom preferred their second families, Armstrong-Jones (later made Lord Snowdon) grew up both ambitious, with a mercurial personality, and a need to test relationships. He climbed to the heights of fame in photography, was well known for his design skills, led a profligate sexual life, became a celebrity, married and divorced Princess Margaret, worked tirelessly for people with disabilities, and had children, in and out of wedlock.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    A dishy biography - fun to read but also quite insightful. It has lots of good info on Snowdon's tempestuous relationship with Princess Margaret and his many infidelities. The book tells us about the passions and demons that drove him, and the contributions he made with his photography and strong advocacy for people with disabilities. Snowdon does gets bogged down a bit in detail, but it's still an interesting read that also gives us a lot of insight into the troubled Princess Margaret, one of th A dishy biography - fun to read but also quite insightful. It has lots of good info on Snowdon's tempestuous relationship with Princess Margaret and his many infidelities. The book tells us about the passions and demons that drove him, and the contributions he made with his photography and strong advocacy for people with disabilities. Snowdon does gets bogged down a bit in detail, but it's still an interesting read that also gives us a lot of insight into the troubled Princess Margaret, one of the most interesting characters in the hit Netflix series The Crown.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Klemm

    Fascinating. I had no idea about whom this book was written, I just saw it at the library and decided to give it a go. Glad I did.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Interesting look at the lives of the English and the Royals.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Hoadley Vail

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

  26. 5 out of 5

    MR AW & Mrs CA West

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  28. 5 out of 5

    Penny

  29. 4 out of 5

    jim woodward

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gail Majka

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