Before there was King Charles and Prince Harry, this royal parent and child had a famously difficult relationship

All eyes might be on Charles and Harry’s strained relationship, but Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother had a well-reported strained relationship decades before

The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret had a difficult relationship, according to those close to them
(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

While Prince Harry and King Charles’ strained father-son relationship dominates the headlines recently, it might be reassuring for the pair to remember they aren’t the first parent-child to have a turbulent relationship, and they won’t be the last. In fact, in their own family, Princess Margaret (Charles’ aunt) and her mother (Charles’ grandmother) had a choppy relationship, as documented in books by former aides and close sources.

“Lilibet is my pride. Margaret is my joy,” King George VI once said of his two daughters, the late Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

The simple but profound statement turned out to be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, many felt, as it came to define the two sisters’ differing personalities.

While Lilibet would go on to become the Queen – famous for being practical, reserved and diligent in her duties – Margaret always sought out the joy in life. Sometimes at the expense of others.

While notorious for her love of a decadent morning routine and an acerbic putdown, Margaret might have been her father’s joy, but the picture was quite different when it came to the relationship with her mother.

Margaret and the Queen Mother would irritate each other, their aides have said

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Margaret’s mother, known best today as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and her daughter would often find themselves antagonistic towards one another, sometimes in the pettiest of ways.

Margaret’s former lady-in-waiting, Lady Clenconner wrote in her book about the pair, “One would do things like open all the windows, only for the other to go around shutting them. Or one would suggest an idea and the other would dismiss it immediately.”

"Those weekends at Royal Lodge were always fun, despite the bouts of bickering between the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, who at times had a slightly strained relationship."

"Perhaps they were too similar – I don’t think it is an unusual predicament for a mother and daughter," she wrote. "And while they had been part of a foursome originally, they were left as the spare pair, to a certain extent."

The Queen and the Queen Mother were said to have a better relationship

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

But some would suggest it ran deeper than this.

The Queen Mother’s authorized biographer, William Shawcross, wrote about their dynamic in his book, Counting One’s Blessing: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

In it, he writes of Margaret, “Although she loved her mother, she was not always kind to her – indeed she could be rude.”

“On one occasion,” he writes in the book, “Lady Penn said to Queen Elizabeth, ‘I cant bear the way Princess Margaret treats you.’ To which the Queen Mother replied, ‘Oh, you mustn’t worry about that. I’m quite used to it.’”

He’d go on to detail behavior from Margaret which included criticizing her mother’s clothes and turning the TV channel if the Queen Mother was watching something Margaret didn’t approve of.

Margaret was reported to be difficult at times, even towards her mother

(Image credit: Getty)

The book also points out that the pair would often communicate through letters, despite living in rooms one floor apart in Clarence House between 1952 and 1960.

Perhaps the saddest revelation was that it took Margaret thirty years to visit the castle the Queen Mother moved into during the early days of her widowhood.

Christopher Warwick, with help from Princess Margaret herself, published an authorized biography of the Princess. Titled Princess Margaret, a Life of Contrasts, he reveals that Margaret wrote to her mother, saying “I cant think why you have such a horrible place as the Castle of Mey.”

The Queen Mother reportedly wrote back, “Well darling, you needn’t come again.”

And she didn’t.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.