‘Dirty Duchess’ of Argyll will be subject of TV drama

Margaret Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, is pictured outside the law courts in London in 1960 during what became a famous divorce case

Margaret Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, is pictured outside the law courts in London in 1960 during what became a famous divorce case

Margaret Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, is pictured outside the law courts in London in 1960 during what became a famous divorce case

A British aristocrat known as the ‘Dirty Duchess’ of Argyll – whose husband accused her of sleeping with 88 men including government ministers and royals – will be the subject of a TV drama. 

The mini-series about Margaret Campbell, whose sex scandal made headlines in 1963, will be a spin-off of the BBC‘s award-winning A Very English Scandal. 

The Duchess’s divorce ignited public speculation when a list emerged of 80 men she had reportedly slept with, said to include two ministers and three members of the royal family. 

Executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins said the scandal made her the first woman to be publicly ‘slut shamed’.  

Granting the divorce, presiding judge Lord Wheatley said she ‘was a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men’.

The Duchess was the third wife of Ian Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll, whose family owned Inveraray Castle in western Scotland. 

Born Margaret Whigham, she married wealthy American golfer Charles Sweeny in 1933, having three children with him. 

After divorcing him in 1947 she married the Duke in 1951 but the marriage fell apart after her suspicious husband hired a locksmith to break open a cupboard at her house in Mayfair. 

The search allegedly uncovered love letters and polaroid photos of her engaging in sexual acts with her various partners. 

First marriage: The Duchess of Argyll on her wedding day after marrying wealthy American golfer Charles Sweeny in 1933 

First marriage: The Duchess of Argyll on her wedding day after marrying wealthy American golfer Charles Sweeny in 1933 

First marriage: The Duchess of Argyll on her wedding day after marrying wealthy American golfer Charles Sweeny in 1933 

Second marriage: Margaret on the day she became Duchess of Argyll, after marrying Ian Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll, at Caxton Hall in London in March 1951

Second marriage: Margaret on the day she became Duchess of Argyll, after marrying Ian Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll, at Caxton Hall in London in March 1951

Second marriage: Margaret on the day she became Duchess of Argyll, after marrying Ian Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll, at Caxton Hall in London in March 1951

Margaret Campbell is pictured at Inveraray Castle in Scotland in 1953

Margaret Campbell is pictured at Inveraray Castle in Scotland in 1953

The Duchess pictured at a party in 1961

The Duchess pictured at a party in 1961

Margaret Campbell is pictured left at Inveraray Castle in Scotland in 1953 and right at a party in 1961. Her life will be the subject of a new BBC mini-series 

The Duchess at home in her Grosvenor House apartment with her poodle in a picture from later life in 1989

The Duchess at home in her Grosvenor House apartment with her poodle in a picture from later life in 1989

The Duchess at home in her Grosvenor House apartment with her poodle in a picture from later life in 1989

One of them showed a naked man who was visible only from the neck down, who became known as the ‘Headless Man’, with the Duchess wearing only her pearls.  

The British Government – already rocked by the Profumo sex scandal – made efforts to track down the mystery man but his identity has never been confirmed. 

The Duke also accused his wife of fabricating evidence alleging that his two sons had been fathered by other men.  

It was speculated that one of her partners had links to the Kennedy family while John F. Kennedy was President of the United States.  

She did not marry again after her divorce from the Duke and died in July 1993 at the age of 80. 

The Duke married his fourth wife, Mathilda Coster Mortimer, in 1963 after the divorce from Margaret had been granted.  

Producer Treadwell-Collins said Sarah Phelps, who has adapted several Agatha Christie books for the BBC, had been asked to write the drama.

Speaking to the Radio Times, he said: ‘The Duchess of Argyll was the first woman to be publicly slut shamed. 

Family home: The Duke and Duchess of Argyll stroll around the grounds of Inveraray Castle in Scotland in a picture from 1953

Family home: The Duke and Duchess of Argyll stroll around the grounds of Inveraray Castle in Scotland in a picture from 1953

Family home: The Duke and Duchess of Argyll stroll around the grounds of Inveraray Castle in Scotland in a picture from 1953

Day in court: The Duchess of Argyll arrives at court with her solicitor in October 1962 during her divorce proceedings 

Day in court: The Duchess of Argyll arrives at court with her solicitor in October 1962 during her divorce proceedings 

Day in court: The Duchess of Argyll arrives at court with her solicitor in October 1962 during her divorce proceedings 

The Duchess in 1985

The Duchess in 1985

The Duchess in a colour photo in 1989

The Duchess in a colour photo in 1989

Later life: The Duchess of Argyll is pictured left in 1985 and right in a colour photo in 1989. Her marriage to Ian Campbell was her second after she wed a wealthy golfer in 1933

The mini-series about Margaret Campbell will be a spin-off of the BBC's award-winning A Very English Scandal, starring Hugh Grant (right) and Ben Whishaw (left)

The mini-series about Margaret Campbell will be a spin-off of the BBC's award-winning A Very English Scandal, starring Hugh Grant (right) and Ben Whishaw (left)

The mini-series about Margaret Campbell will be a spin-off of the BBC’s award-winning A Very English Scandal, starring Hugh Grant (right) and Ben Whishaw (left)

‘We’re going to focus on the very public divorce from her second husband.’ 

A Very English Scandal dramatised Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant) and his attempts to cover up an affair with ex-lover Norman Josiffe, also known as Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw) in the late 1970s.   

It was written by Doctor Who’s Russell T Davies, who will not return to pen the spin-off. 

Treadwell-Collins added: ‘I’m talking to Russell about another story because we have a few more ideas in development. But for a feminist scandal, I need a female writer.’

The new series will use letters and photos found by BBC researchers.

Read the full interview in the Radio Times. 

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