Group Capt. Peter Townsend, 80, the dashing World War II fighter pilot who loved and lost Princess Margaret, has died after more than 30 years of self-imposed exile. Buckingham Palace announced Captain Townsend's death yesterday and said the princess "was sad to learn of this news."
He died late Monday in France, where he lived 30 miles outside Paris with his Belgian second wife, Marie-Luce Jamagne. He left Britain after Princess Margaret, bowing to a disapproving establishment, told the nation Oct. 31, 1955 that she had decided not to marry him because he was divorced.
The romance between Captain Townsend and the young princess, 16 years his junior, became public in 1953. It was a year after his divorce and the year Queen Elizabeth II was crowned monarch and temporal head of the Church of England, which frowns on divorce.
"She could have married me only if she had been prepared to give up everything -- her position, her prestige, her privy purse," Captain Townsend wrote in his 1978 autobiography.