Margaret, Duchess of Argyll – a match made in hell

An unseasonable tale of debauchery in high places is the BBC’s festive gift in the form of A Very British Scandal, relating the scandalous divorce and life of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll.  With an unedifying cast of well-heeled cads and bounders, it paints an unsavoury picture of what passed for high society amongst the Brit establishment.

  What is most extraordinary of all is the event packed life of the central figure of Margaret, whose 1960s divorce became the scandal of the century. She was born 1 December 1912 in Glasgow, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, had an abortion after becoming pregnant at 15 by a 17 year old David Niven; proceeded to have flings with Prince Aly Khan, an engagement to  Max Aitken, the son of Lord Beaverbrook; Glen Kidston, a married man who died in a plane crash, and Charles Fulke Greville, the Earl of Warwick. At 20, she married Charles Sweeny, an Irish-American golfer and stockbroker, who turned out to be pathologically jealous, making her a mystifying choice for a bride. She had three children and eight miscarriages during their ten year marriage. And a near fatal accident, falling 40 feet down a life shaft.

  She then married the dashing and impecunious Captain Ian Campbell, holder of the Argyll title and lands and paid for the restoration of Inveraray Castle, his family pile, despite him being a violent, vicious drunk. They were well-suited since she desperately wanted a son with him and having failed to conceive, planned to fake a pregnancy by padding her stomach and buying a newborn baby boy from Poland. Step two was to forge letters to prove sons from his first marriage weren’t his, to secure her place at Inverary.

He retaliated by suing for divorce, having found her stash of polaroid photos of sexual liaisons with an unknown headless man – widely deemed to be Duncan Sandys, the Minister for Defence or the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. Having been the It socialite girl of her day she fell dramatically from grace being vilified by the press, betrayed by her friends and exiled from the establishment.

  She turned to psychics for guidance and was a client of Eva Petulengro whose later memoirs described her as “ a cross between a high-class whore and the wicked witch who gave Snow White the apple.”

  Her later years were a downward spiral of debt since she refused to give up her extravagant lifestyle, losing first her parents’ London home, then being evicted from Grosvenor House Hotel and finally, flat broke, being supported by friends and her first husband, dying in a nursing home at 81.

  A life of breathtaking selfishness and zero self-awareness – or maybe she didn’t care.

  She had an impulsive and adventurous Sun Mars in Sagittarius in a hard-edged opposition to Saturn; with a pushily confident and sharp-tongued Pluto opposition Mercury Jupiter in Sagittarius. Her Sun was almost certainly square her Virgo Moon which may also have been linked to her Mars and Saturn if an early morning birth – so she’d never know what she wanted and wasn’t well-served by either parent.

  It’s a chart that really needs a birth time and the standard signs of promiscuity or sex addiction – Venus Saturn or heavy Scorpio are missing. Though her Jupiter was conjunct her Venus/Mars midpoint which Ebertin describes as a ‘healthy sex relationship’ and Jupiter was square her Venus/Saturn midpoint which points to ‘illegitimate relationships’. Her turbo-fuelled Jupiter clearly magnified both of these.

She did have a tight, out-of-sign Yod of Uranus sextile Mars inconjunct Pluto which would give her a tendency to go to extremes, so moderation was never her thing.  Such a Pluto would make her manipulative and bullying, and while the positive attributes could have made her influential, the fall- out from mismanaging it would be severe. Tierney talks of self-destructive passions which would reduce the individual to a ‘frustrating level of obscurity and isolation.’

  It might explain why she refused to deal in private with the divorce, sparing herself the humiliation of a public trial. As one commentator said both she and the Duke had each other round the throat and weren’t about to let go. He equally had a control-freak Pluto.

  Her pleasure-seeking 9th Harmonic unsurprisingly was heavily aspected; as was her self-defeating 16H.

  When she fell down the lift shaft in 1943 her Solar Arc Pluto was opposition her Uranus; and during her 1963 divorce her Solar Arc Sun was conjunct her Uranus – so rebellious, wayward Uranus was clearly a key planet, on one leg of the Yod.  Also around the divorce the transiting Pluto Uranus in early Virgo were squaring her Mars Sun and probably conjunct her Moon.

  Her pleasure-seeking 9th Harmonic unsurprisingly was heavily aspected; as was her self-defeating 16H.

    Ian Campbell, Duke of Argyll, 18 June 1903, was a controlling, unpredictable and self-willed Sun Pluto in Gemini opposition Uranus square Jupiter (Moon) in Pisces; with a chilly Venus opposition Saturn; and an emotionally detached and critical Air Grand Trine of Mars trine Saturn trine Mercury. It was certainly no love match but their North Nodes were conjunct the other’s South Nodes so it was a karmic connection of sorts – both bringing out the worst in each other. And both of their self-willed Jupiter Plutos also clashed.

 Their wedding chart, 22 March 1951, had a dominating, cruel Mars trine Pluto, an ego-clashing Mars opposition Neptune; and a high-tension, disruptive Sun opposition Saturn square Uranus.

  Not sure why this is worth pausing over but it is mind-boggling.

10 thoughts on “Margaret, Duchess of Argyll – a match made in hell

  1. Have to chuckle…there are more Campbells in Jamaica per head of population than Scotland —
    As a Jamaican with that as one of my family names, it sure does explain a lot!!
    “Some Jacobite rebels were also exiled to Jamaica, but the number of involuntary Scottish exiles was soon to be exceeded by Scots who chose to come to Jamaica. The first of these may have been Colonel John Campbell from Inveraray in Argyllshire.”

    • OT, but an interesting tidbit about Argyll: It’s likely a large chunk mercenaries and craftsmen employed by Swedish kings Carl IX and Gustav II Adolph were from Argyll. I keep running to distant, but very consistent Argyll clan matches looking at my husband’s DNA. He has lines that point to Viborg in the early 17th century, as well as famous Cajanus clergy/culture family connection, and that family seems to have a “Celtic” Y-haplogroup. I have a similar strange “Vallonian” streak, there a bit at my chromosome 14 that gets matched with French and Belgian Vallonian families. This is through my father, and likely his mother’s paternal lineage. The only Finnish matches I get for that line, from the 18th century, come from a very specific place geographically, and not much is known of many people there prior to that date, except this area hosted number of regimental estates.

  2. A dreadful story of Britain’s entitled elite in syncopy with today’s monied elite. The sense of entitlement in both groups screams disgrace.

  3. Thanks Marjorie. This case is fascinating, in a horrible way, as I think it shows how some of the “aristocracy” have behaved for centuries. Most aristocratic families had some ancestors who were definitely not fathered by their official male parent. To be fair, so did/do many of the so-called lower orders, as recent ancestry DNA kits available to everyone are proving! I know of two examples in my own early 20th century ordinary family history.

    It’s interesting that Margaret’s downfall was partly brought about by the infamous ‘headless man’ Polaroid photo. Her over-confident Jupiter/Mercury conjunction in Sagittarius would be careless I feel, but is awkwardly aspected by Neptune which rules both photography and scandals. Jupiter Mercury alone would be big publicity, which Margaret had experienced all her adult life. Lurking in this pattern is Saturn, representing history and I suppose some kind of inevitable “karma” of discovery, by the horrible Duke – an older man.

    I’m reminded, too, of the high society “Happy Valley” set in Kenya – which was thriving in decadence before the 2nd WW.

    • I thought of the Happy Valley set too, Jane. Many of this generation of children of aristocratic families suffered partly from lack of any parental bonding and in these two examples you see a Capricorn Venus on the one hand and a Venus/Saturn opposition on the other. Many of these children had a closer bond with their nanny than they did with their own parents and from the age of about 7 or 8, they were packed off to the various British Public Schools which specialised in educating the sons of the elite to be upstanding pillars of the British Empire. The coldness which runs through this system of early conditioning is something I associate with Moon or Venus/Saturn aspects. Also, along similar Venus/Saturn lines, these often transactional aristocratic marriages could be far from faithful, supportive and loving and so the cycle continued down to the next generation.

      • A child cruelty officer once said to me he thought he’d seen the worst of humanity working with slum families until he came across the children of aristocrats. He said it was hair-raising and stomach-churning what they survived.

  4. The Novienic Equivalent chart is a Sexascope, for it holds problems related to sex. In the
    Sexascope, the Moon is the sole significator of the native’s sexual appetite. In the Sexascope the Moon is placed at the Asc. Only 3 aspects are potent, the conjunction, the
    opposition, & square. In her Sexascope, the Moon squares Sun….”self-love, narcissism”;
    Moon squares Pluto….tending towards sexual relationships, playing the masochist”;
    Moon square Node..”forming unions, partnerships”
    Sexascope Moon is in Cancer, motherhood, nurturing…..having many children.
    From a Novien Table we can convert her Moon in Cancer to the next Moon Noviem which
    is 15Gemini27….and what do we know about Gemini’s sex drive? …..wanting a variety
    of experiences.
    Many astrological programmes allow you to set up a Novienic Equivalent or Sexascope
    chart….try it, their very accurate. Reference Cyril Fagan’s “Astrological Origins”.

  5. There’s a very tight Yod (albeit out of sign) at 0degs between Sag Mars, Aqua Uranus, Pluto (29Gem) which might be part of the compulsive sex drive, doing stuff that shocks and breaks the rules. I’d also suggest with all the Sag plus Uranus in Aqua she might deliberately self-sabotage relationships to maintain her freedom.

    The flipside is the Saturn in Taurus and Venus in Capricorn are desperate for material security (backed up by a Virgo moon). In the sort of social circles she moved, I imagine there was little-to-no affection shown by the men which would leave the Cap Venus even more desperate for attention.

    • Thanks, I missed the yod – it is important and explains a fair amount.

      What a deeply unpleasant woman – and he was almost worse. Heaven knows why the BBC thought they could make a drama out of such an unsympathetic pair.

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