The Golden-Globe winning A Very English Scandal is to be turned into an anthology series, in the vein of US shows such as the American Crime Story strand.
The first follow-up to the 2018 BBC drama starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw is set to focus on the 1963 sex scandal involving Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins said: “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.”
The original 2018 series of A Very English Scandal, written by Russell T Davies from the book by John Preston, centred around one-time Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe (Grant) and his desperate attempts to cover up an affair with disgruntled ex-lover Norman Josiffe (Whishaw).
Asked whether Davies would return to script the new series, Treadwell-Collins commented: “No, 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.”
RadioTimes.com understands that Sarah Phelps – who has recently adapted several Agatha Christie novels for the BBC – has been asked to write the drama. She has previously worked with Treadwell-Collins on EastEnders, where she penned Barbara Windsor’s acclaimed exit as Peggy Mitchell.
The new series will not be adapted from an existing novel, but is instead the result of research conducted by the production team at Blueprint Pictures. Said Treadwell-Collins:
“We have a very clever researcher, who has copies of both the letters and the photos. For an actress in her late 40s or early 50s, it’s an amazing part. In fact, three actresses have asked to play the role.”
Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll’s divorce from the 11th Duke of Argyll in 1963 sparked widespread public speculation at the time thanks to the inclusion of the sexually explicit photos and presiding judge Lord Wheatley’s comments that the Duchess was “a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men”.
However, the scandal went on to be eclipsed later that same year by the emergence of details surrounding the Profumo Affair.
The Duchess of Argyll died in 1993 but in 2013, Lady Colin Campbell – the late Duchess’s stepdaughter in law – opted to ‘name’ the ‘headless man’ embroiled in the scandal as American airline executive William “Bill” H Lyons.
This article was originally published on 30 January 2019