Entertainment

BBC’s A Very British Scandal writer says ‘Dirty Duchess’ was ‘destroyed by sexual morals’


The writer of new BBC drama A Very British Scandal says that Margaret Campbell, The Duchess of Argyll, also known as ‘The Dirty Duchess’, was “destroyed by sexual morals”.

The Duchess of Argyll featured heavily on the front pages of the papers in the sixties due to accusations of bribery, divorce and 80 extra-marital affairs as part of her highly publicised divorce hearing against the Duke of Argyll.

However, the scandal ultimately destroyed her reputation and Margaret Campbell, The Duchess of Argyll, became known as ‘The Dirty Duchess’ and was publicly shamed by society.

Years later, the story has now been told in a new drama starring The Crown’s Claire Foy and Marvel actor Paul Bettany as the Duke and Duchess.



Claire Foy and Paul Bettany star as Margaret and Ian Campbell, the Duke and Duchess of Argyle
Claire Foy and Paul Bettany star as Margaret and Ian Campbell, the Duke and Duchess of Argyle

Speaking about how The Duchess ‘set fire to the expectation of her class, gender and her sex’, writer Sarah Phelps said that the high profile case and The Duchess’ own sexual morals “destroyed her”.

She said: “It’s a story about a woman who refused to be slut shamed, who refused to go quietly and refused to do as she was told.

“She put the private lives of the wealthy, the landed and the titled all over the front pages, not the untouchable great and good but bare forked animals.



The Duke and Duchess of Argyll's divorce was highly publicised
The Duke and Duchess of Argyll’s divorce was highly publicised

“Judge Wheatley’s three hour long indictment of Margaret’s character, her sexual morals destroyed her and meant that even when she’d died, two telesales people in North London would talk about the ‘Dirty Duchess’ but I think she’s heroic.”

The three-part drama also seeks to explore the social and political climate of post-war Britain, looking at attitudes towards women, and asking whether institutional misogyny was widespread at the time.



The Crown's Claire Foy said the programme shows how the events affected everyone involved
The Crown’s Claire Foy said the programme shows how the events affected everyone involved

It also explores Margaret’s story and how her reputation was vilified by the courts and the media of the time, with actress Claire Foy saying the programme allows viewers to “see behind it and ask the questions such as what may actually had gone on at the time and how it affected the individuals.”

Claire added that Margaret Campbell was an interesting woman, and said: “Calling her the ‘Dirty Duchess’ is so misogynistic and I would like to think things have changed but I don’t think they have.



Claire Foy said she was keen to show 'how easily' Margaret Campbell fell in love
Claire Foy said she was keen to show ‘how easily’ Margaret Campbell fell in love

“Factually, there’s no way of knowing what she felt about who she was in that way.

“In this story, what I’m keen on is how easily she fell in love and how she kept letters and mementos of her lovers. In a way, I think that was the romantic side of her and her sexuality was linked to that.

“But also in this story, no one should have the right to know that side of her. It’s no one’s business and it never was. It’s straight misogyny.”

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