A Very British Scandal creator on how Meghan Markle influenced BBC drama

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claire foy in a very british scandal

Claire stars as The Duchess of Argyll in the three-parter (Picture: BBC/Blueprint Pictures/Alan Peebles)

Sarah Phelps revealed how she was inspired by Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle when it came to penning her scandalous new drama A Very British Scandal, starring Claire Foy.

The tells the rise and fall of Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll (Claire Foy), who was ‘hung out to dry’ by the press after a very public divorce battle with her husband Ian Campbell (Paul Bettany).


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The period drama, which comes to BBC One on Boxing Day, looks at what is perceived to be one of the most brutal legal cases of the 20th century, which took place in the 1960s.

Margaret was a regular fixture of the front pages at the time and was famed for her charisma, beauty and style amid a very chaotic life.

When speaking about the new series, Sarah admitted she thought about another famous duchess when creating the three-part series, in the form of Meghan Markle.

She told press including Metro.co.uk why this was: ‘I think a lot about Meghan Markle and about how much the press hates her, how much they absolutely go for her all the time compared with Kate Middleton.

BGUK_2269734 - na, - Meghan Markle speak about her family, activism and her hairstyles on The Ellen Show. Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex talked about her New York Times bestselling children???s book, ???The Bench,??? which originally started out as a poem for her husband, Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex. The activist also talked about fighting for paid family leave in America, what she liked to do when she was growing up in Los Angeles, and how she once had a haircut that resembled ???The Simpsons??? character, Krusty the Clown! Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, reminisced about the old Ford Explorer Sport she used to drive and the unique way she would have to get into the driver???s seat. She also chatted with Ellen about being back on the Warner Bros. lot where she used to come for auditions, and going incognito at a post-apocalyptic themed Halloween party with now-husband Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex --------- *BACKGRID DOES NOT CLAIM ANY COPYRIGHT OR LICENSE IN THE ATTACHED MATERIAL. ANY DOWNLOADING FEES CHARGED BY BACKGRID ARE FOR BACKGRID'S SERVICES ONLY, AND DO NOT, NOR ARE THEY INTENDED TO, CONVEY TO THE USER ANY COPYRIGHT OR LICENSE IN THE MATERIAL. BY PUBLISHING THIS MATERIAL , THE USER EXPRESSLY AGREES TO INDEMNIFY AND TO HOLD BACKGRID HARMLESS FROM ANY CLAIMS, DEMANDS, OR CAUSES OF ACTION ARISING OUT OF OR CONNECTED IN ANY WAY WITH USER'S PUBLICATION OF THE MATERIAL* Pictured: Meghan Markle - Duchess of Sussex BACKGRID UK 19 NOVEMBER 2021 UK: +44 208 344 2007 / uksales@backgrid.com USA: +1 310 798 9111 / usasales@backgrid.com *UK Clients - Pictures Containing Children Please Pixelate Face Prior To Publication*

Meghan Markle was thought of ‘a lot’ by Sarah during the writing process (Picture: Backgrid)

Paul Bettany and Claire Foy in A Very British Scandal

Paul Bettany and Claire Foy depict the very messy divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll (Picture: Alan Peebles/BBC/Blueprint Pictures)

‘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 are 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,’ Sarah added.

Star of the show Claire thought her character has ‘basically been forgotten’ from recent history, as she gears up to play the so-called Dirty Duchess.

Sarah Phelps

Writer Sarah Phelps has created the raucous drama set in the 1960s (Picture: Nils Jorgensen/Shutterstock)

‘I think because it’s a different time, isn’t it?’ Claire remarked at the recent Q&A.

She shared: ‘That was what I found really interesting about trying to understand her as a person is you look at photographs of her and she is not photogenic!

‘You would look at her and think, she doesn’t look like she’s massively impressive as a person, she just looks like a woman in a dress and a certain period of time.

‘There’s a difference in the period in the sense that at that period of time, she was the height of class, fashion, beauty and interest, everyone was fascinated by her.’

The panel all addressed how the Duchess of Argyll almost seemed ‘ahead of her time,’ due to wanting to properly fight for what she felt she was owed amid a very messy set of divorce proceedings.

‘I really admire her guts and I admire her guts in not going quietly,’ said Sarah.

‘In refusing to do what her gender, and what her class would have 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, don’t expose us and our practices and the way we live our lives behind closed doors.

‘She just went, “Not a chance” and did all of that.’

A Very British Scandal will premiere at 9pm on Boxing Day on BBC One, with all three episodes available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer at the same time.

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