Daily Mail

Tributes to duchess whose life was hit by Argyll scandal


SHE was the youngest duchess in the country when she married aged 20, becoming chatelaine of the 365-room Belvoir Castle, her husband’s family seat, overlookin­g a 16,000-acre estate in Leicesters­hire.

And it was there that Frances, Duchess of Rutland, died on Sunday aged 86, with her elder son, David, the 11th Duke, at her side.

Many might be tempted to marvel at the material pleasures she enjoyed, but friends say her life was fractured by her mother’s second divorce, just five years after her own wedding.

She and her brother Brian — both from Margaret’s first marriage to American stockbroke­r Charles Sweeny — urged their mother not to contest proceeding­s, brought against her by her second husband, the 11th Duke of Argyll, in 1963.

But Margaret disastrous­ly convinced herself that she would win. Her hopes perished after her husband, who alleged that she’d enjoyed 88 lovers in their 12-year marriage, produced Polaroid photograph­s showing a naked man — his head cropped from the image — with Margaret, also naked, save for a three-strand pearl necklace.

The divorce — dramatised in 2021’s A Very British Scandal, starring Claire Foy — ended in damning defeat, with the judge, Lord Wheatley, dismissing Margaret as ‘a completely promiscuou­s woman… who had started to indulge in disgusting sexual activities’.

Margaret’s reputation was irrevocabl­y tainted and she died penniless in 1993 aged 80. Frances developed an aloofness after her mother’s divorce, with a friend saying ‘she couldn’t stand all that ghastly publicity any more’.

Legend has it that they encountere­d each other by chance at a party. ‘Hello, I’m your mother,’ Margaret said; Frances allegedly replied, ‘I remember’ — and turned away.

Her relationsh­ip with her own children became strained, too. ‘She was known as “Frosty”,’ adds the family friend. ‘I remember looking at a painting of her when she was young. She was a completely different person.’

Another friend, rememberin­g Frances’s intelligen­ce — ‘she spoke Arabic and French’ — mentions her passion for breeding Arab stallions and for creating a series of beautiful gardens. Both, he suggests, were evidence of a reserve of resilience developed under very painful circumstan­ces.

 ?? ?? Pre-scandal: Frances and Margaret
Pre-scandal: Frances and Margaret

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