Five decades ago, scandal rocked British social circles when one of their own, Margaret Campbell, known as the Duchess of Argyll, was exposed in pictures of her and an unidentified man (whose head was cut out of the photos) performing sexual acts.
Her husband at the time, Ian Campbell, the 11th Duke of Argyll, used these explicit photos as evidence in their divorce trial in 1963.
The Duchess never revealed the true identity of the “headless” man. She died in 1993 at the age of 80. However, according to The Telegraph, the stepdaughter of The Dutchess, Lady Colin Campbell, has come forward to name him.
He is William “Bill” H Lyons, sales director of Pan American Airlines and “scion of a wealthy family,” according to Lady Colin.
“The mystery of The Headless Man distorted Margaret’s life while she was alive, and it threatens to distort her memory in death… It is to restore some small measure of justice that I have decided to end the mystery and reveal who it was in the picture with her, and why. I know the answer for a fact because, in the course of our long friendship, it was Margaret who told me.”
The Duchess and Lyons had been lovers for six years and, being one of the first to own a Polaroid in England, she used the new technology to record an encounter that actually happened after The Duke had already begun the divorce proceedings.
“Margaret was a genuine neophyte,” Lady Colin said. “If it was new, she had to have it…”
Lady Colins alleges that the Duke and his daughter broke into The Duchess’ house to find evidence against her and found the photos revealing her, naked, wearing a three-strand pearl necklace.
At the divorce trial, the Duke also claimed that the Duchess had as many as 88 lovers after revealing her appointment diaries. The men named in the pages were assumed to all be her lovers.
“There is enough in her own admissions and proven facts to establish that, by 1960, she was a completely promiscuous woman whose sexual appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men,” said Lord Wheatley, the divorce trial judge.
But Lady Colin said that most of the men listed in the diaries were gay friends, a fact she could not reveal since homosexuality was illegal at that time.
The affair between The Duchess and Lyons eventually ended due in part that Lyons wife threatened to kill herself each time he went to visit the socialite.
“She was simply a woman in love – who was unfortunate enough to have a memento of something happy stolen from her,” Lady Colin said.
The Duchess’ secret was revealed today in The Daily Mail through a piece written by Lady Colin Campbell.
Preview of the opera about The Duchess of Argyll:
Image via Wikimedia Commons