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Sarah Phelps "thought a lot" about Meghan Markle while writing A Very British Scandal

The series charts the turbulent divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll.

A Very British Scandal
Published: Friday, 3rd December 2021 at 12:01 am

This year's Christmas TV schedule has plenty of mouth-watering offerings to keep everyone delighted and entertained, from little ones to bigger ones to your old-timers who have seen it all. And Sarah Phelps, the brain behind the BBC's most recent spate of Agatha Christie adaptations and the Dublin Murders, to name just a few, has written a crown jewel of a show which is certain to get the nation talking.

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A Very British Scandal, which is the unconnected follow-up to Russell T Davies' A Very English Scandal, starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw, focuses on the widely-publicised divorce between Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll and Ian Campbell, 11th and 4th Duke of Argyll.

Hot on the heels of her first divorce, the Duchess, played by The Crown's Claire Foy, was seduced by the Duke, played by WandaVision's Paul Bettany, who was the opposite of divorced but quickly took steps to pledge himself to Margaret, and the pair married. But the duo were not built to last and their relationship crashed and burned in catastrophic style as the press and public lapped up every extraordinary moment.

A Very British Scandal starring Claire Foy

Despite the events of this sorry saga unfolding in the 1950s and '60s, Phelps told RadioTimes.com and other press during a Q&A that she couldn't help but draw parallels between Margaret and one particular modern-day figure.

“I think a lot about Meghan Markle and about how much the press hate her, how much they absolutely go for her all the time compared with Kate Middleton," she said. "And there's a kind of prevailing idea that if you're in the public eye, you're fair game, you’re meat. If you put yourself out there, you’re meat, and if you get bruised, so what? That's your job. Your job is to be ripped apart by us. And that's who I thought a lot about when I was writing this.”

Meghan Markle

Phelps also went on to explain what it is about the Duchess of Argyll that really appealed to her.

“I just really admire her guts," she said. "I admire her guts and not going quietly. Yes, she had the means to fight [her husband in court]. Yes, she still lost. But I admire her guts at refusing to do what her gender, what her sex, what her class would have really, really required her to do, which is don't say a word, don't drag us through the gutter, don't fool us, don't shame us – the upper classes, the wealthy. Don't expose us and our practices and the way we live our lives that should be behind closed doors.

"And she just went, ‘Not a chance.’ And did all of that. She's kind of the birth of the tabloid, in a way.”

A Very British Scandal will premiere on BBC One on Boxing Day at 9pm. All three episodes will be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer from that time. The series will also continue across the following two nights on BBC One.

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While you’re waiting, take a look at our other Drama coverage, or find out what else is on with our TV guide.

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