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Earl of Snowden and Countess wife's divorce

Revealed: How Earl of Snowden and Countess wife’s multi-million pound divorce could see battle over his £10m Kensington townhouse and villa in Provence

  • David Linley, the Earl of Snowdon, is to divorce his wife Serena after more than 25 years of marriage 
  • Earl, the 21st in line to the throne, is thought to have amassed a fortune of millions and is ‘driven by money’
  • The couple and their two children divide their time between a flat in Kensington and a holiday home in France

The Queen’s nephew David Linley could be set for a battle over millions of pounds in assets with his wife after the pair announced they were set to divorce. 

The Earl of Snowdon and his wife Serena, Countess of Snowdon are splitting ‘amicably’ after some 25 years of marriage. 

The Earl, who is 21st in line to the throne, has amassed a fortune of millions and is famously motivated by wealth, once admitting that money ‘drives him, and always has.’ 

The couple and their two children, Charles, Viscount Linley, 20, and Lady Margarita, 17, are understood to divide their time between a flat in Chelsea, a ‘tiny’ cottage in Gloucestershire and the Chateau d’Autet in Provence.

Serena is the daughter of debutante Virginia Freeman-Jackson and the 12th Earl of Harrington Viscount Petersham, the London landowner reportedly worth up to £250million. 

Her husband, meanwhile, owns Chateau d’Autet, a 19th-century French hunting lodge in the foothills of Mount Luberon, France, which he bought for £800,000 in 1998. 

He was also bequeathed his late father’s Kensington townhouse. The property in west London’s exclusive enclave was bought for Snowdon by the Queen for £70,000 on his divorce and held in trust for his children, and is now thought to be worth £10 million.

The pair are now preparing to divide their combined wealth as they go their separate ways. 

Pictured left to right, David Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon, Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Serena Armstrong-Jones, Countess of Snowdon, and Charles Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley, attend the Alexander Dundas’s 18th birthday party hosted by Lord and Lady Dundas on December 16, 2017 in London

The Earl of Snowdon inherited his father’s home in Kensington, west London – now thought to be worth some £10million 

The Earl owns Chateau d’Autet, a 19th-century French hunting lodge in the foothills of Mount Luberon, France, which he bought for £800,000 in 1998

David, Earl of Snowdon and Serena, Countess of Snowdon at Royal Ascot in Berkshire on June 20, 2017

David and Serena have use of a cottage on the Gloucestershire estate of his friend Lord Bamford, the JCB construction boss

The Earl’s mother Margaret, the Queen’s sister, died in 2002 and he became the 2nd Earl of Snowdon following the death of his father the Earl of Snowdon, celebrity photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, in 2017.

Princess Margaret’s tumultuous marriage to Lord Snowdon

On February 26, 1960, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen had consented to Princess Margaret’s engagement to Antony Armstrong-Jones.

They were married in Westminster Abbey on May 6 in a ceremony watched on television by more than 300 million people in 13 countries.

The couple made their home in an apartment at Kensington Palace and in 1961 their son Viscount Linley was born, followed by daughter Lady Sarah in 1964.

But the marriage was dogged by rumours Princess Margaret was having affairs, with rumoured dalliances with Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty.

She was also alleged to have dated jazz pianist Robin Douglas Home in 1966.

Pictures were also released of her spending time with Roddy Llewellyn on the island of Mustique in 1976. 

However, in March 1976, it was announced that Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon, as he had become, had decided to separate and their marriage was dissolved on May 24, 1978.

The announcement is the second split to rock the royal household in a week, after the Queen’s grandson Peter Phillips announced he was to separate from his wife Autumn Kelly. 

In 1982, Linley founded his bespoke furniture making business, David Linley & Company, later known simply as Linley. The company also provides interior design and upholstery products.

The Daily Mail reported on accounts filed in April 2017 which showed a return to profit for the company, with sales jumping from £6.9million to £13.5million while a loss of £1.9million turned into a profit of £337,000. 

The most recent accounts filed with Companies House for the year ended June 2018 show a turnover of £11.1million and profits of about £528,000. 

He has furnished yachts for Valentino and the Lebanese-Saudi socialite Mouna Ayoub and the company’s client list also includes Sir Elton John and designer Lady Weinberg. He has remained chairman throughout several financial bailouts of the company. 

His wife Serena had her own shop in Chelsea’s fashionable Walton Street, called Serena Linley Provence from 2010 until 2014. Her products included a £33 body lotion, Margarita, named after the couple’s daughter, and £46 drawer liners.

But she closed down the firm — which sold scent, soap and perfume made from French lavender — in 2014. 

Viscount Linley was understood to be a shareholder in his wife’s business.  

The Earl has sparked controversy over the years with the decision to sell of his family’s possessions.

He faced a backlash when he sold Les Jolies Eaux, his mother Princess Margaret’s home on the Caribbean island of Mustique, while she was still alive.

It was the only property she ever owned and, although the land was a wedding gift from her friend Lord Glenconner, she paid for the building herself. 

To her dismay, once the seven years had elapsed to escape inheritance tax, Linley sold if for around £2.1 million in 2000. 

Soon after, he splashed some £800,000 on a holiday retreat in the south of France. 

He bought the large hunting lodge in the foothills of Mount Luberon, his favourite retreat where he and his wife Serena spent holidays with their children, Charles and Margarita. 

It is where photographs were taken by a French paparazzo of the Duchess of Cambridge as she sunbathed topless in 2012.

In 1999, the Earl is understood to have sold a flat in Battersea for a £1million profit and moved into the former apartment of his late mother in Kensington Palace.

Then in 2004, he bought a £1million council-style flat above a row of shops in Chelsea before the couple purchased a £1.25 million Belgravia property, before selling it months later for a rumoured £3million. 

In 2002, the  couple bought a £2.5 million five-bedroom townhouse in Marylebone, before moving out after an intruder broke in.  

The Earl sold Les Jolies Eaux, his mother Princess Margaret’s home on the Caribbean island of Mustique, while she was still alive, for £2.1million in 2000 to a venture capitalist

Snowdon sold this Aston Martin DB5 convertible that his father gave him. It was previously owned by the late actor Peter Sellers

The Earl and Countess of Snowdon at the V&A Museum in London on January 29, 2019 (left) and leaving St Margaret’s Church in Westminster after their wedding on October 8, 1993 (right) 

The Queen, pictured today with the High Commissioner for Zambia Lieutenant General Paul Mihova at Buckingham Palace, is said to be ‘saddened’ by the news

In 1980, he sold his late mother’s Rolls-Royce, a customised Silver Wraith bought in 1980. The seats were specially upholstered in green cloth rather than leather, and the floor carpeted with green lambswool rugs.

There were spotlights above the rear seat to ensure the Princess could be seen as she was driven at night, and the rear window ledges were covered in leather because she found it distracting to see her reflection in the polished wood. 

Royal Rifts…Marriages that failed

Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones

Married: May 6, 1960

Divorced: Announced May 1978, after split confirmed in March 1976

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips

Married: November 14, 1973

Divorced: April 23, 1992

Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson

Married: July 23, 1986

Divorced: Finalised May 30, 1996

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer

Married: July 29, 1981

Divorced: Finalised August 28, 1996

Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly

Married: May 2008

Divorced: The couple remain married but separated in 2019

The car’s last official outing was to ferry mourners to her funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Soon afterwards, Linley sold the Rolls to a dealer.  

In 2006 he faced further outcry when he and his sister, Lady Sarah Chatto, auctioned their mother’s jewellery and art.

The 800 pieces, including the Poltimore Tiara she wore at her wedding to Lord Snowdon, were billed as being sold to make enough money to pay off an apparent £3million inheritance tax bill on her estate after she died in 2002.

Lasting two days, it made £13,658,000 which, after deductions, Linley shared with his sister, Lady Sarah. 

The sale included his mother’s favourite portrait of herself, painted by Pietro Annigoni in 1957.

The painting was a sister to Annigoni’s portrait of the Queen that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. The Princess hung it on a wall facing the front door of her apartment at Kensington Palace, a home Lord Linley and his family shared while between homes of their own.

The hammer came down at £680,000 but later, it emerged it had been bought back in the auction by Lord Linley. 

It emerged that hidden in the detail, Annigoni had painted a tiny self-portrait and a glass tumbler hanging from a branch and containing a dark heart – undoubtedly Margaret’s breaking heart. For she had sat for him two years after her break-up with Peter Townsend.

The portrait of Princess Margaret was historic, and presumably of considerably greater value than previously thought.  

With his parents, Lord Snowdon and Princess Margaret, in 1964. Born in 1961, David spent much of his early life at Buckingham Palace where he was schooled alongside Prince Andrew

Then there is the Aston Martin DB5 convertible his father gave him. Lord Snowdon admired it so much when his friend, the late actor Peter Sellers, owned it that he persuaded him to sell it to him. Snowdon gave it to his son – who then sold it. 

Linley sold 60 percent of his company to British yacht broker James Edmiston for a $6.5 million cash infusion (just under £5m) in 2010 and 40 percent was kept by Linley, who remained chairman throughout these changes. 

Many are now wondering what will happen to his late father’s Kensington townhouse, where Linley’s Seventies Fiat 500 is often parked these days. 

Bought for Snowdon by the Queen for £70,000 on his divorce and held in trust for his children, the property is now worth £10 million.

Last night a spokesman for David and Serena said: ‘The Earl and Countess of Snowdon have amicably agreed that their marriage has come to an end and that they shall be divorced. They ask that the press respect their privacy and that of their family.’ 

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