Why and When Did the Duke and Duchess Divorce?

One of the longest, costliest, and most notorious divorce cases of the 20th century is dramatized in the three-part miniseries A Very British Scandal, premiering on Amazon Prime Video on April 22. A judge annulled the marriage of the wealthy Duke and Duchess of Argyll in 1963, branding the Duchess as a promiscuous lady with a “debased sexual craving.”

Who were the Duke and Duchess of Argyll?

Margaret Whigham was born in 1912 as the heiress to a Scottish businessman and wealthy before she became known as the Duchess of Argyll. Margaret, a debutante who was much admired for her beauty, had four engagements before she turned 19 and was frequently sought after by eligible suitors. It’s been said that when she was 15, she had an illegal abortion.

Divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll

She wed American socialite and businessman Charles Sweeney when she was just 20 years old, in 1933. The Guardian called the wedding the “media event of the decade,” and as a result, 20,000 people lined up to get a sight of Margaret’s bridal attire. As a marriage, they were only able to have two children due to stillbirth and eight miscarriages. In 1947, their marriage had reached its end and they filed for divorce.

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Margaret met Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll, who had been married twice previously, in 1947. Campbell, a man born in 1903, suffered from alcoholism, gambling, and gambling addiction due to the trauma he had while a prisoner of war in Germany. His ex-wives claimed he was violent and emotionally abusive toward them. The Duke ruled his clan and inherited the opulent Scottish castle of Inveraray in 1949.

In 1951, the Duke and Margaret tied the knot, making Margaret an aristocrat and providing the Duke with the financial respite he desperately needed from his extensive gambling debts. Their marriage was troubled from the start since they both had extramarital affairs and mistrusted each other. It has been said that the Duke wiretapped Margaret’s automobile after she alleged that the Duke’s children with his second wife were not his children.

Argyll filed for divorce in 1963, after the couple had been separated for five years during which they had filed numerous lawsuits against and counterclaims against one another. After Margaret ceased helping the Duke pay the bills to maintain the dilapidated Inveraray Castle, rumors circulated that the Duke had begun divorce procedures. Campbell stole Margaret’s private Polaroid images after he filed for divorce, and now they’re renowned and will haunt her forever.

Why was the Duke and Duchess of Argyll’s divorce so explosive?

The duke suspected his wife of cheating, so he had a locksmith break into one of her closets. There he discovered nude pictures of his wife, including one of her in a sexual position with another man (dubbed the “headless man” because his face was obscured).

Divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll

The duchess refused to name the guy, prompting speculation that he might be a member of the royal family, an actor, or a government minister. After years of speculation, a Channel 4 documentary from the year 2000 suggested that the guys in the Polaroid photos were two separate individuals disguised as a single “headless” person.

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The duke allegedly slanderously accused his wife of having extramarital affairs with 88 men, and the matter led to the duchess being slut-shamed by the media. The judge in the divorce case blasted the duchess’s alleged behavior as “wholly unethical,” and he didn’t stop there. A “totally promiscuous woman whose sexual desire could only be fulfilled with a lot of men,” he described as a socialite.

Later in life, Campbell sank into poverty, where she stayed until her death. She passed away at the age of 80 after suffering a fall at the nursing home where she had spent her final years.

What Happened During the Divorce Proceedings?

The Duke filed for divorce, citing Margaret’s alleged extramarital affairs with 88 men as the reason. He showed the incriminating Polaroids at the court, in which a shirtless Margaret can be seen performing a sex act on a man whose head has been cropped out of the picture. He was only ever referred to as the “headless man,” and speculation about who the lover might have been spanned from Hollywood stars to politicians.

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Newspapers were quick to jump on the chance to write lurid headlines about Margaret’s sexual exploits. She was dubbed “the dirty duchess” because of her scandalous behavior.

As it was reported that only the Minister of Defense had access to a Polaroid camera, many assumed that the “headless guy” seen in the photo was Duncan Sandys, the son-in-law of wartime commander Sir Winston Churchill. Despite his denials, Sandys pondered leaving the government after becoming tainted by the incident.

Judging Margaret to be “a highly sexed woman” who was “not satisfied with regular relations and had started to participate in repulsive sexual acts to fulfill a debased sexual desire,” the court granted the divorce after a three-hour hearing. It was also speculated that the Duchess’s nymphomania had been sparked by her near-fatal fall down a 40-foot lift shaft in 1943.

Frequently Asked Questions…

Did the Duke of Argyll Sleep With His Stepmother the Duchess?

The Duke, who referred to his wife as “S” for Satan, blamed their problems on his wife’s extramarital activities, while Margaret claimed that the Duke’s drinking made life unpleasant. Margaret accused the Duke of having an affair with her stepmother as he pursued his adultery accusations. When sued, she withdrew the claim and handed up £25,000.

What Resulted With the Argyll Divorce?

In a three-hour verdict, the court granted the divorce and condemned Margaret as “a highly sexed woman” who was “unsatisfied with regular interactions and had begun engaging in repulsive sexual practices to sate her debased sexual desire.”

Was the Duke of Argyll Unfaithful?

While his wife was in New York, the duke broke into his wife’s drawer and discovered obscene polaroids, including one of her engaged in oral sex with an unnamed man while wearing nothing but pearls. He offered these as divorce proof in court.

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