Margaret, Duchess of Argyll

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Today marks the Anniversary of the Death of the infamous Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, who died on this day in 1993. The daughter of George Hay Whigham, a Scottish millionaire, and Helen Mann Hannay, she grew up in New York City and became pregnant at 15 by David Niven in 1928, the baby being secretly aborted. Margaret Whigham became the ‘Debutante of the Year’ in 1930, and after a failed engagement to the Earl of Warwick, she married American golfer Charles Sweeny in 1933, with whom she had three children, including the Duchess of Rutland. In 1943, she had a near fatal fall down a lift shaft, losing her sense of taste and becoming sexually voracious, which led to her divorce in 1947. In 1951, Margaret became the third wife of the 11th Duke of Argyll, becoming the chatelaine of Inveraray Castle, which her fortune paid for the renovation. Years later, the Duke broke into her cupboard and found incriminating photographs of the Duchess, including with a famous ‘Headless Man’ whose identity continues to be unknown, that resulted in their 1963 divorce case with a heavily biased judge who ruled against her. Having lost much of her fortune, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, who said ‘Always a poodle, only a poodle! That, and three strands of pearls! Together they are absolutely the essential things in life’, eventually opened her London house for paid tours, though debts forced her to move, with her maid, to the Grosvenor House Hotel, and then later to a nursing home (where she was photographed by Tatler), with Loelia, former Duchess of Westminster and Lady Lindsay, who she disliked, with staff talking about: ‘The Duchess of Argyll wanted to go to the Ritz and Lady Lindsay to Claridge’s, but I took them both to the Carlton Towers and they had a wonderful time.’ She passed away in 1993 and is buried beside her first husband in Surrey.

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