birth to a daughter, Polly - Snowdon's daughter. The newly ennobled Lord Snowdon accepted the Frys' invitation to be her godfather. The Frys divorced in 1967 and, in 2004, after years of gossip and with Snowdon's approval, Polly initiated DNA tests. The results showed he was her father. His relaxed response was to suggested to her that she start calling him 'Pops'.
Astonishingly, if Haslam has his timing right, Tony was having an affair with him as well as with Camilla Fry while simultaneously courting the Princess and getting to know the Royal Family. He was the first commoner for 400 years to marry a king's daughter. Until now, no man has ever stepped out of the shadows to confess an affair with the slightly-built figure left with a withered leg after contracting polio as a teenager. For his part, Tony's response to de Courcy when she questioned him about the gay side to his sexual appetites was simply to tell her: 'I didn't fall in love with boys,' adding after a short pause, 'but a few men have been in love with me.' The young Armstrong-Jones was to be seen at all the debs' parties, photographing many of them in his Pimlico studio, and a 'good percentage of them' were bedded by him. 'I would say he's rather proud of his conquests - of both sexes - but he'd never be boastful about it,' says one confidante. 'He's never gossiped about them.' But in her 2008 biography, de Courcy wrote: 'To most of the girls who worked in the Pimlico Road studio, there seemed little doubt that Tony was gay, especially when they saw him kiss friends like ( choreographer) John Cranko on the lips.' Tony's camp manner is believed to have been 'absorbed' from his gay uncle Oliver Messel, the stage designer with whom he spent a great deal of time after his parents were acrimoniously divorced when he was five. Messel would rent an apartment in Venice and Tony would stay with him there during August and September. Sometimes he would bring a friend, such as Eton contemporary Tom Parr, another of Tony's liaisons from his early life, according to Haslam. Parr, who was to become head of the fine antiques and design company Colefax and Fowler, now lives with a male partner in France. The summers in Venice passed with Messel sunbathing by day and, at night, wandering through the beautiful city enthralling his nephew by pointing out the exquisite detail of the buildings.
And finally, as Tony has recalled: 'We would end up in some gay bar at five in the morning.' Princess Margaret's official biographer, Christopher Warwick, recalls the moment he asked her about her first meeting with the then Antony Armstrong- Jones, son of a Welsh QC, at a dinner party in Chelsea hosted by their mutual friend Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, sister of the late 11th Duke of Devonshire. 'She replied instantly: "I thought he was very pleasant but everybody told me that he was queer," ' says Warwick. That ghastly, though mercifully discarded, word (which Warwick did not use in the book) would not have put the Princess off, even though it was hardly an accurate description of a man who also had a passionate sexual appetite for women - 'if it breathes, take it,' according to friends. 'Margaret wouldn't have been "challenged" as some other women might by thinking he was gay,' says Warwick. 'She would rapidly have seen for herself that Tony had a gay side but that would not have put her off because she was attracted to these boyish, slightly fey men. The vast majority of her male friends were gay.' But marriage was something else, and Lady Elizabeth Cavendish asked the Princess: 'Are you sure you're able to put up with his bohemian way of life?' 'The Princess replied: I'm sure I can.' Says Warwick: 'By "bohemian" I think Lady Elizabeth was using an umbrella term covering all aspects of his life as she knew it. She was a very great friend of his, remember, and certainly knew that he had lots of gay and bisexual friends who went to his parties in Pimlico.' When Warwick, in the first of his two Margaret biographies, attempted to describe Snowdon as a 'gay young blade' the publisher's lawyers made him take it out - much to the amusement of the Princess.
Haslam writes in his memoir Redeeming Features that his 'romance' with the 'dazzlingly attractive' Tony took place at a time when the future Earl 'had other irons in the fire, especially the flowerlike Chinese actress Tsai Chin, soon to star in The World Of Suzie Wong.' At the time, Haslam was living in a small flat and writes that he was 'seduced in part by his crisply modern photographic studio with a narrow, banister-free spiral staircase.' Tony's almost instinctive flirting with handsome men and attractive women has always been known to his friends. 'He always flirts with good-looking waiters in restaurants,' says one close female friend. 'He has always needed women, but of course there have been other male liaisons - it's an on-going interest in chaps, really. 'One young chap who was assigned to work with him told me he was warned about Tony because he was so good-looking that he might not be "safe". Actually, he was very safe because he was straight - Tony would never attempt to have a go at any straight man.' Some friends are convinced he also had a 'fling' with the Queen Mother's long-serving page, the late William Tallon - Backstairs Billy, as the gay Page of the Backstairs was known. 'Tony used to look in on Billy whenever he visited Clarence House,' recalls a close figure. 'And after she died and Billy lost his job, he would go to lunch with Tony every Sunday at his house in Kensington, even when Tony had a girlfriend with him. 'No one's suggesting they had a lengthy affair. But it would be absolutely in character with Tony to have a fling and remain good friends with the other person, male or female.'
Then there was the aforementioned Jeremy Fry, handsome, amusing, and due to be Tony's best man in 1960 until it emerged (though kept secret) that he had been fined £2 by the Marlborough Street Magistrates for importuning. Fry immediately withdrew from the role, but he and Tony remained bosom friends - even after Polly's DNA paternity result - until Fry's death 4 years ago. Incredibly, the first suggested replacement for Fry as Tony's best man was another old friend from his Eton days, Jeremy Thorpe. But after discreet inquiries the task was put in the safe heterosexual hands of medical consultant Dr Roger Gilliatt, husband of Tony's great friend, writer Penelope Gilliatt. Years later, Thorpe would lose the leadership of the Liberal Party in the maelstrom of a gay affair that culminated in him being charged, and acquitted, of conspiring to have his lover Norman Scott murdered.
But the major figures in Tony's love life have always been women. Two of his five children are illegitimate. In addition to woodworker and Christie's chairman Viscount Linley and painter Lady Sarah Chatto, both with Princess Margaret, he has a daughter, Frances, 30, by film-maker Lucy Lindsay-Hogg, whom he married in 1978 within months of his divorce from the Princess. They were divorced in 2000 after it emerged that he had a son, Jasper, now 11, with Melanie Cable-Alexander, an editor at Country Life. And then there is Polly Fry, now 49 and, like him, a photographer. His longest-serving mistress was journalist Ann Hills, whom he met at a disabled charity press conference. For some 20 years he would secretly call on her at her home in London's Marylebone. On New Year's Eve, 1996, she took a lethal overdose of tranquillisers and tylenol, washed down with champagne. Police found a message on her answering machine. It was from Tony , saying that he could not see her because over Christmas and the New Year he would be too much under the spotlight. An inquest concluded that she was distressed by her failure to find a lasting relationship. 'He had affairs with women, but they were only flings with men,' explains a friend. 'And I don't need to say which ones he thinks were less trouble.' In recent years the woman in his increasingly frail embrace has been the mental health campaigner Marjorie Wallace, a vigorous and vivacious 65-year-old who adores his boyish charm and is equally unfazed by tell-tales of long ago. 'We remain very good friends and have regular lunches,' she says. 'He is in good spirits and goodish health. All is fine.' As for the Haslam-Snowdon affair, my information is that it was a one-night stand.