The Duke and Duchess of Argyll at their wedding
Image: Getty

Fresh off a Golden Globe win, A Very English Scandal is being expanded into an anthology series. Next they’ll tackle the 1963 divorce of the Duke and the so-called “dirty” Duchess of Argyll, which should provide extremely rich territory for reassessment with modern eyes.

Executive Producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins told Radio Times:

“The Duchess of Argyll was the first woman to be publicly slut shamed.

“We’re going to focus on the very public divorce from her second husband. He went through her private desk and found a list of all the men she’d slept with, as well as three polaroid photos of her wearing only her pearls and giving a blow job to a man whose head was out of the picture.

“At the time, the news was in all the papers – people thought that it could have been a member of the royal family or the Government or a Hollywood actor. No one still knows who it was.”

Advertisement

Now, it seems highly unlikely that it took until the mid 1960s for the first public slut-shaming of a woman! But the case became an absolute media circus revolving around the sex life of the duchess. The Telegraph summarized:

Aristocratic adultery and the occasional unnatural practice had passed the public way before; neither the law nor the press or its readers were strangers to them. But nothing, in fact or publishable fiction, would have prepared them for what they were about to hear: an insatiable woman, unusual sexual practices, blackmail, bribery, a diary listing conquests, odd encounters in bathrooms, artfully composed photographic mementoes of these occasions featuring the so-called “headless man” (actually, two men), rumours of the involvement of royalty and a cabinet minister, a list of 88 possible co-respondents, pornographic postcards, and more.

Dirty polaroids! Rumored royals! Pornographic postcards! In fact I strongly recommend reading the Telegraph story in full, because it is downright dizzying. The presiding judge himself ultimately ruled that the duchess was “a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men,” despite the duke was no slouch himself. It sounds like the show will be mining that vein: Treadwell-Collins said that Russell T. Davies, who wrote the initial season, will be skipping this one because, “for a feminist scandal, I need a female writer.”