The Queen was said to be saddened last night as it emerged her nephew David Linley, the Earl of Snowdon, is to divorce his wife after more than 25 years of marriage.
Linley, Princess Margaret’s son from her marriage to Lord Snowdon, announced an ‘amicable’ split from Serena, the Countess of Snowdon. Friends blamed the amount of time he spends away from home on business and insisted no one else was involved.
The Earl is best known for his high-end furniture company Linley’s, makers of bespoke items and accessories.
A spokesman for the couple 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.’
It comes only a week after the Queen’s eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, and his wife Autumn announced they had separated and were planning to divorce.
The couple wed in October 1993 and have two children Viscount Linley, Charles Armstrong-Jones and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones.
No one else is said to be in involved in David and Serena’s split. Friends last night said they had drifted apart partly because he travels abroad a lot for his work.
David, who inherited the title Earl of Snowdon on the death of his father in January 2017, is known as the ‘royal carpenter’ because of his high-end furniture business, Linley.
He is 21st in line to the throne, has lectured around the world and written books about furniture and styling the home.
He is honorary chairman for Europe, the Middle East, Russia and India of auctioneers Christie’s. He was promoted to the role in 2015 from his former role of chairman of Christie’s UK.
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.
The Earl, also known by his professional name of David Linley, also produces luxury British accessories and has reportedly created the interiors for a number of exclusive central London homes.
Linley was picked by Prince Charles, his first cousin, as number two in his The Prince’s Foundation, a new merger of his charity commitments, in 2018 – an appointment which raised eyebrows as he was chosen ahead of the heir to the throne’s sons William and Harry.
Last night a friend said: ‘David is very, very close to the Queen and Prince Charles. He goes to Sandringham at Christmas and turns up at Balmoral in the summer.
‘He is George VI’s grandson and part of the inner circle of royals.
‘But he is also Mr Non-grand Royal. He turns up on his bicycle wearing a high-vis jacket and gets mistaken for a traffic warden. He is popular and social.
‘And he is the hardest-working royal – albeit not for the Royal Family. He is endlessly abroad through his Christie’s role.
‘He is their go-to rainmaker executive. But all the travel put a strain on the marriage.
‘Serena spends most of her time in Gloucestershire. He lives in Kensington. It’s been a slow drift apart. I think the impetus for the split is with her but she is very sad about it.
‘It is going to be tough for David. Everyone is surprised. Even if things weren’t perfect between them, they are both very family oriented. Their main focus now will be on ensuring that their two children and them remain a family unit even if they are no longer living together as a couple.’
The Earl and Countess’s Eton-educated son Charles, Viscount Linley, 20, studied design engineering at Loughborough University. Their daughter Lady Margarita, 17, who is still at school, served as a flower girl for the Duchess of Cambridge during her wedding to Prince William.
David and Serena announced their engagement in May 1993, when he was 31 and she 23, and married in October of that year. They had met several years earlier when Serena’s wealthy father, Viscount Petersham, commissioned David to design furniture.
But it was not until July 1992 that the depth of their relationship emerged into the public eye when, in one of the most tender sets of royal photographs ever seen, they were pictured lying poolside at the Monte Carlo Beach Club.
Linley’s father, the Earl of Snowdon, whose marriage to Princess Margaret ended in 1978, said at the time of the engagement: ‘Both David and Serena are very lucky, especially as they share so many common interests, from their love of the arts generally to the enjoyment of outdoor sports, from architecture to ballet and from fashion to furniture design.’
They were married at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster in October 1993. The 650 guests included the Queen, David’s divorced parents, Princess Diana and the Aga Khan.
On the death of his father three years ago, David became the 2nd Earl of Snowdon, although friends still call him Linley.
He has always insisted that, although he is proud of his relations, he doesn’t allow the royal connection to impinge on his business affairs.
He and his artistic sister, Lady Sarah Chatto, have long been close to the Queen and their royal cousins, even more so since the death of their parents – Princess Margaret died in 2002.
David is understood to be abroad at the moment. He has a flat in Kensington.
As well as that, David and Serena have use of a cottage on the Gloucestershire estate of his friend Lord Bamford, the JCB construction boss. Serena’s father’s fortune from land holdings, including prime spots in London, has been estimated at £250 million.
He is divorced from Serena’s mother Virginia Freeman-Jackson. Born in Ireland, Serena worked at Sotheby’s as a trainee then as a publicist for Giorgio Armani until two months before marrying Viscount Linley.
She later ran a shop in Chelsea – Serena Linley Provence – which sold scent, soap and perfume made from French lavender. It shut in 2014. David owns a house in Provence, southern France. It was there that topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge were taken while she sunbathed during a holiday with Prince William. The couple took legal action after the pictures were published in French magazine in 2012.
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.’
The news will be another bitter pill to swallow for Her Majesty as the royal family continues to suffer from a tumultuous start to the year.
Peter Phillips and wife Autumn separated following 12 years of marriage, the couple announced just six days ago.
Peter, 42, and Autumn, 41, informed their families of their ‘amicable’ decision to divorce ‘last year’ after deciding it was ‘the best course of action for their two children and ongoing friendship’.
The pair, who have not been seen publicly together since September, are thought to have been separated for several months.
The statement, released by a spokesperson on behalf of the couple, revealed the former couple will remain in Gloucestershire to co-parent daughters Savannah, nine, and Isla, seven.
It is the latest in a string of explosive developments within the Royal Family, following Prince Andrew’s decision to step down from duties amid the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s departure last month.
The breakdown of Autumn and Peter’s marriage will be particularly painful for the Queen, 93, who enjoys a close relationship with her grandson’s wife. The monarch returned to London today following her winter break.
The statement issued by Gerard Franklin their official spokesperson reads: ‘After informing HM The Queen and members of both families last year, Peter and Autumn jointly agreed to separate.
‘They had reached the conclusion that this was the best course of action for their two children and ongoing friendship. The decision to divorce and share custody came about after many months of discussions and although sad, is an amicable one.
‘The couple’s first priority will remain the continued well being and upbringing of their wonderful daughters Savannah and Isla.
‘Both families were naturally sad at the announcement, but fully supportive of Peter and Autumn in the joint decision to co-parent their children.
‘Both Peter and Autumn have remained in Gloucestershire to bring up their two children where they have been settled for a number of years.
‘Peter and Autumn have requested privacy and compassion for their children while the family continues to adapt to these changes.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Joe Middleton and David Wilkes