They were the explicit photographs that landed her the nickname ‘the dirty duchess’ and became a key piece of evidence in her high-profile divorce.
Now the moment the Duchess of Argyll performed a sexual act on a man in her Mayfair apartment has been recreated in near-graphic detail in TV’s racy drama about her life.
In Monday’s episode of TSWT’s A Very British Scandal, Claire Foy, who plays Margaret, can be seen entering her bathroom where a naked man is stood waiting.
A Very British Scandal: Now the moment the Duchess of Argyll performed a sexual act on a man in her Mayfair apartment has been recreated in near-graphic detail in TV’s racy drama about her life
Wearing black lingerie and a string of pearls, she hands him the camera as she lowers herself down his body.
In the following scene, Miss Foy, 37, opens a letter containing the explicit images.
The three-part series, which started on Boxing Day, tells the real-life story of Margaret, who in the early 1960s was at the centre of scandal when her high-profile divorce case exposed her adventurous sex life.
She dominated the front pages as her divorce from the Duke of Argyll (portrayed by Paul Bettany) played out – featuring accusations of forgery, theft, violence, drugtaking, secret recording, bribery and the pictures.
Wow: In Monday’s episode of TSWT’s A Very British Scandal, Claire Foy, who plays Margaret, can be seen entering her bathroom where a naked man is stood waiting
OMG: Wearing black lingerie and a string of pearls, she hands him the camera as she lowers herself down his body
The first episode of A Very British Scandal took viewers by surprise as they watched The Crown’s Claire Foy enjoy three sex scenes in the first 30 minutes of the first episode – with two different men.
The first episode of the three-part series, which aired last night, showed Margaret (Foy) seducing a man at a dinner party before romping with her on-screen husband at his Scottish stately home and in a cleaning cupboard at her parents’ property.
It comes just days after Foy spoke out about how she hates doing sex scenes, saying they make her feel ‘exploited’ and that they are the ‘grimmest thing you can do’.
Racy: Claire is seen stripping off in various scenes from the episode
The photo: In the following scene, Miss Foy, 37, opens a letter containing the explicit images
The first episode took place just 16 minutes into the first episode, between Margaret and an unnamed stranger she meets at a fun-filled dinner party.
Audiences never finds out the identity of this man, but in later scenes with a female friend, it is suggested that Margaret would regularly sleep with men she met the same evening.
The second sex scene took place 26 minutes into the episode. It shows Margaret arriving at Inveraray Castle in Scotland, the home of Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll.
16 MINUTES IN: The first episode of A Very British Scandal took viewers by surprise as they watched Claire enjoy three sex scenes in the first 30 minutes of the first episode – with two different men
At the time of their first meeting, the Duke was still married to Louise Timpson.
So who was the headless man?
The ‘Headless Man’ in the salacious pictures of the duchess disclosed in the divorce case has never been definitively identified. Society ached to know his identity, and the duke was even required to pose naked to prove the torso wasn’t his.
Margaret (pictured) carried the secret of the ‘headless man’ identity to her grave
The suspects included Hollywood actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr and German diplomat Sigismund von Braun, but chief among them was Duncan Sandys, the Minister of Defence and Winston Churchill’s son-in-law.
A Channel 4 documentary in 2000 claimed that the ‘Headless Man’ was in fact two different men – Sandys and Fairbanks Jr – but it seems this may be one secret Margaret carried with her to her grave.
But that didn’t stop the Duke and his guest from sleeping together. Moments after they had sex, he asked Margaret for her hand in marriage.
The third comes very shortly after, at 29 minutes, just before Margaret takes Ian to meet her father for his approval of their marriage.
They make a quick but racy stop-off in a cleaning cupboard, before going up to see Margaret’s parents.
Viewers could have expected a fair few sex scenes in the series, after Foy said ahead of its launch that she finds filming them unpleasant, and that they make her feel ‘exposed’ and ‘exploited’.
Foy told TSWT Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour: ‘It’s a really hard line because basically you do feel exploited when you are a woman and you are having to perform fake sex on screen. You can’t help but feel exploited.
‘It’s grim – it’s the grimmest thing you can do. You feel exposed. Everyone can make you try to not feel that way but it’s unfortunately the reality.’
Twitter users commented on how awkward it was to watch the three sex scenes in the presence of older family members.
User @strutcakes said: ‘Watching A Very British Scandal in front of my parents was not the best idea. Even at 37 seeing sex scenes on TV with them in the room is all kinds of awkward. Thanks @PhelpsieSarah!’
Louise Teboul similarly said: ‘Watching A Very British Scandal with my mother-in-law and OH [other half] – didn’t realise there was going to be so much sex in it – awkward.’
Another, @tguest said: ‘I forgot how awkward it was watching sex scenes with a parent till A Very British Scandal tonight.’
Michael Wave, user @SzMarsupial joked: ‘Sending thoughts and prayers to everyone else who is now locked into watching a very British scandal with their families, not realising how much sex there would be in it.’
Born in 1912, the only child of a self-made Scottish millionaire, Margaret was described by her biographer Lyndsy Spence as ‘a daddy’s girl with an absent father, living with a jealous mother who sought to remind Margaret of her every shortcoming’.
24 MINUTES IN: The second sex scene took place 26 minutes into the episode. It shows Margaret arriving at Inveraray Castle in Scotland, the home of Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll
As such, Margaret developed a stammer for which she was treated unsuccessfully by Lionel Logue, King George VI’s speech therapist.
She was just 15 when the future movie star David Niven, two years her senior, got her pregnant while holidaying on the Isle of Wight, after which her father sent her to a London nursing home for a secret termination.
As a young woman, her beauty was renowned in society and she was courted by princes and millionaires, welcoming playwright Noel Coward, actor Cary Grant and oil tycoon J Paul Getty, among others, to her Mayfair home. She went on to have four failed engagements before a failed marriage to Charles Sweeny, an Irish-American stockbroker.
29 MINUTES: The third sex scene comes in at 29 minutes, shortly after the second, where the pair dash off into a cleaning cupboard before they meet Margaret’s father for his approval of marriage
Their wedding day in 1933 was a glamorous affair, stopping traffic for three hours as 2,000 guests attended the Brompton Oratory in west London while another 2,000 onlookers gathered to see the stunning 28ft train to her Norman Hartnell wedding gown.
Despite having a daughter, Frances, and a son, Brian, together, the couple’s relationship broke down after 14 years, with Margaret claiming all Charlie wanted in a spouse was a ‘pretty brainless doll’ and they divorced in 1947.
In 1951 she wed Ian Douglas Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll, after meeting him on a train at Paris’s Gare du Nord station in 1949. He’d pursued her relentlessly, knowing she was rich while his own estate was worth nothing.
She took pity on him and convinced her father to give him £100,000 to restore his family seat in Scotland, Inveraray Castle. The duke then signed a Deed of Gift offering various items as security for the money, and vowed to marry her when his own divorce had come through.
After tying the knot the couple lived in luxury, skiing in St Moritz, sailing in the Bahamas and holidaying in St Tropez. Fashion designers and socialites clamoured around the duchess.
But the duke soon showed his true colours, with rumours of gambling and drug and alcohol addiction, as well as a vile temper.
The couple had agreed to have an open marriage and live separately. ‘How many men do you have?,’ Bettany asks. ‘How many women do you have?,’ Foy replies.
But angry that the duchess was no longer funding his excessive lifestyle, the duke hired private detectives to follow his wife. He filed for divorce.
Central to the case was a set of blurry Polaroid snaps taken via the bathroom mirror of the duchess’s Mayfair apartment of her wearing nothing but her signature triple string of pearls. In some, she was entertaining an unidentified lover whose head had been cropped out of the picture and who came to be known as the ‘Headless Man’.
The pictures had been discovered by her husband, who allegedly hired a locksmith to gain access to his wife’s private papers.
And yet the technicalities of the prehistoric legal system at that time (and the fact that many of her ‘lovers’ were gay) prevented the duchess from giving her side of the story without risking imprisonment.
A Very British Scandal focuses especially on the attitudes towards women at the time, as Margaret was vilified throughout the divorce battle for refusing to go quietly, despite being betrayed by friends and publicly shamed by society.
It took four years after he filed for divorce for a verdict to be reached, which granted it to the duke on the grounds of Margaret’s adultery.
She was ordered to pay most of the £50,000 legal bill. Meanwhile nothing was said about his own affairs or his subsequent remarriage to Mathilda Mortimer, a rich American, just six weeks later.
After the case Margaret fell out with her daughter Frances, who had not wanted her to oppose the divorce, and thanks to her extravagant lifestyle and some bad investments her fortune diminished. She lost her home and, although eventually reconciled with Frances, her children put her in a nursing home in London, where she died penniless in 1993.
The original photograph showed Margaret – wearing nothing but a string of pearls – involved in a sexual act with a ‘headless’ man in her home.
The photo had been cropped at the man’s neck and for years his identity was unknown.
However, a documentary in 2000 identified him as Cabinet minister and Winston Churchill’s son-in-law Duncan Sandys.
The final episode of A Very British Scandal is on BBC1 tonight at 9pm.
Signature pearls: Margaret’s necklace, above, appeared in nude photos found by her husband