A Very British Scandal — everything we know about the scandalous drama

A Very British Scandal — Paul Bettany and Claire Foy as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll
Paul Bettany and Claire Foy as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. (Image credit: BBC)

A Very British Scandal is a new series focussing on the life of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, following her divorce from the Duke. This very public breakup is regarded as one of the most notorious, extraordinary, and brutal legal cases of the 20th century.

The series was first shown in the UK on the BBC and is now on Prime Video in the US.

Commenting on the idea behind the series, screenwriter Sarah Phelps says: “Writing the story of Margaret’s life and the events leading up to and including her divorce from the Duke has been a passion project of mine since 1993 when I first heard her name and started learning about her.

“I felt very strongly that she’d been punished for being a woman, for being visible, for refusing to back down, be a good girl and go quietly. This drama is my tribute to her.”

Star Claire Foy adds: "I think watching any relationship break down is deeply sad but also fascinating. From the outside, you always think, ‘Where did it go wrong?’ In this case, the end of their relationship plays out in the public domain. It was so messy, so underhand, so cruel and the only way she could reach the Duke was by newspapers. That’s how they both ended up communicating."

Here's everything we know about A Very British Scandal...

A Very British Scandal release date

The series is now available in the US on Prime Video.

A Very British Scandal premiered in the UK at 9 pm on December 26, 2021, on BBC One and aired over the next two subsequent nights. The whole series is still available to stream on BBC iPlayer

What is the plot of A Very British Scandal?

A Very British Scandal explores the high-profile divorce between the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, which resulted in the latter being ridiculed for the breakdown of her marriage by the press and those around her. The case included accusations of forgery, theft, violence, drug-taking, secret recording, bribery and an explicit polaroid picture, all of which threatened to tarnish the Duchess' reputation.

Through this case, the series documents the social and political climate of post-war Britain, looking at attitudes towards women and asking whether institutional misogyny was widespread at the time. 

While her contemporaries, the press, and the judiciary sought to vilify her, Margaret kept her head held high with bravery and resilience, refusing to go quietly despite being betrayed by her friends and publicly shamed by a society that reveled in her fall from grace.

Who's in the cast?

Claire Foy (The Crown) and Paul Bettany (WandaVision) lead the cast of A Very British Scandal as the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. 

Speaking about playing the Duchess, Claire Foy says: "She was very privileged, very spoiled, and also incredibly gullible and deeply flawed. She had a pathological problem with lying. She thought she could manipulate all these men and then she met the Duke of Argyll, and she couldn’t manipulate him. That kept her interested for a while." 

Claire Foy as the Duchess

Claire Foy as the Duchess of Argyll.  (Image credit: BBC)

Other cast include Amanda Drew (The Trial Of Christine Keeler), Richard McCabe (Poldark), Phoebe Nicholls (The Elephant Man), Camilla Rutherford (Phantom Thread), Timothy Renouf (Afterlife Of The Party), Sophia Myles (A Discovery Of Witches), Sophie Ward (The Moonstone), Tim Steed (The Death Of Stalin), and Katherine Manners (War & Peace).

Other cast members include Richard Goulding (The Crown), Jonathan Aris (Sherlock), Oliver Chris (Trying), Nicholas Rowe (Roadkill), and Miles Jupp (The Durrells).

Is there a trailer?

The BBC trailer for A Very British Scandal  gives us a glimpse of the relationship between Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, and Ian Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll, before inevitably going downhill as the Duchess finds herself at the center of an incredibly public scandal.

Lucy Buglass
Senior Staff Writer

Lucy joined the WhatToWatch.com team in 2021, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes, reviews and the latest TV news. Now she works for our sister site TechRadar in the same role. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.

She is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema. She especially loves horror, thriller and anything crime-related. Her favourite TV programmes include Inside No 9, American Horror Story, Stranger Things and Black Mirror but she is also partial to a quiz show or a bit of Say Yes to the Dress