Ruthless Facts About Ian Campbell, The Duke Of Scandal

August 29, 2023 | Brendan Da Costa

Ruthless Facts About Ian Campbell, The Duke Of Scandal

Ian Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll was a Scottish nobleman who spent his life in pursuit of one thing: money. Whether he was fishing for a rich wife or Spanish doubloons, Campbell was always on the lookout for a payday. However, instead of finding his riches, this Scotsman only managed to find a cupboard full of scandals. Check out these egregious facts about Ian Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll.

1. He Was Noble Adjacent

Ian Douglas Campbell was born in June of 1903 in Paris, France. His father was Douglas Walter Campbell, a member of the Scottish Clan Campbell. His mother was an American, Aimee Marie Suzanne Lawrence. But even though Campbell had close ties to nobility, it didn’t look like he was going to be living the life of an aristocrat. At least, not a rich one.

ian campbell, duke of agryll

2. He Was Bilingual

Campbell grew up mostly between France and America. He attended school in Milton, Massachusetts and grew up speaking both French and English. He later attended Christ Church, Oxford. To this point, Ian Campbell was a long way from the scandalizing tabloid headlines of his mid-life. There aren’t many records of his youth but, given his later money troubles, he must not have excelled at math...

Ian Campbell facts Getty Images

3. He Had An Ace Up His Sleeve

Casinos are a great place to get lucky and score big—even if it’s not at the slot machines. Campbell, for example, was unlucky with the cards but he had a different kind of ace up his sleeve. While gambling his fortune away, Campbell met Janet Gladys Aitken, a British-Canadian socialite, at a casino in Le Touquet, France.

You might say he hit the jackpot.

Ian Campbell factsWikipedia

4. He Was A Gambler

Early on, Ian Campbell developed a reputation as a man who liked to take risks. Of course, most of those risks never paid off. Everyone in the aristocratic circles that Campbell traveled in knew that he was a rapacious gambler. He just wasn’t a very lucky one. But that didn’t stop Aitken from taking her chances with the French-born Scotsman. She had no clue what she was getting herself into.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

5. He Wasn’t A High-Roller

Campbell and Aitken decided to roll the dice in the game of love and try their luck at marriage. The couple got married in 1927 and quickly had a daughter together, Lady Jeanne Campbell. But if Aitken had been hoping for a high roller, she ended up with a pair of snake eyes instead. Ian Campbell was not the man she had hoped for.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

6. He Married Into Money

Even though Campbell came from a noble-ish family, he didn’t have much to offer Aitken. But Aitken had lots to offer Campbell. Her father was Max Aitken, 1st Baron of Beaverbrook. As a newspaper publisher, he was a kingmaker with money to burn. And burn it, Campbell did. He used his wife’s money to support his lavish lifestyle.

Until there wasn’t much money left.

Ian Campbell factsWikipedia

7. He Wasn’t A Good Husband

The details are unclear but, at some point, Aitken must have clued into the fact that her husband was taking her for a ride. And not the fun kind like at amusement parks. The couple divorced in 1934 after seven years of a less than blissful marriage. Turns out, Campbell’s extravagances were the least of his faults...

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

8. He Had A Dark Side

Allegedly, Campbell didn’t exactly show appreciation for his wife’s financial support. In fact, it was quite the opposite. There’s not much evidence to go on except gossip, but Aitken claimed that Campbell was physically aggressive towards her and drank enough to drown a fish. In the coming years, more evidence would emerge that she was right on the money.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

9. He Tried To Be A Good Dad

Even if Campbell was a less than honorable husband to Aitken, he was a dedicated father to their daughter. Aitken returned to Canada after their disastrous marriage and essentially abandoned Jeanne. Campbell had to raise her almost on his own. Of course, he wouldn’t be alone for much longer. With his sugar mamma gone, those bills weren't going to pay themselves.

Campbell was on the lookout for his next mark—I mean, partner.

Ian Campbell factsGetty Images

10. He Needed Another Payday

Campbell didn’t have much time to spare in finding another bank machine, a.k.a. wife. Shortly after his marriage to Aitken ended, he knew he needed another major payday or he was in serious trouble—so he scouted out another unsuspecting woman. In fact, there was some speculation that Campbell might even have had his next victim lined up before his marital bed was cold.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

11. He Landed A Big One

In 1935, less than a full year after his marriage to Aitken ended, Campbell married Louise Hollingsworth Morris Clews. And she didn’t have three surnames for fun. As the descendant of a US president, a wealthy investment banker, and a famous artist, she was an American socialite of the highest pedigree with the bank account to match.

But she had never faced anything like Ian Campbell before.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

12. He Was Unfaithful

Campbell and Louise’s marriage struck many of their friends and acquaintances as a rather rushed affair. And “affair” might have been the right word to use. In addition to the rumors of his physical aggression, people speculated that Campbell had been unfaithful in his first marriage to Aitken. Adultery, it seemed, was the least of his concerns.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

13. His Title Couldn’t Save Him

Campbell was among the first to sign up at the outbreak of WWII. The 37-year-old French-born Scotsman joined the 8th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and quickly attained the rank of Captain. But if he thought that his noble peerage would spare him from the horrors and atrocities of WWII, he was wrong. So very wrong.

Ian Campbell factsWikipedia

14. He Was On The Frontlines

Despite his family connections and the fortune that he married into, Campbell was on the frontlines of WWII. He saw and participated in active combat during the Fall of France. But, despite his best efforts, he and the surviving members of his unit surrendered to the dreaded Wehrmacht. That was just the beginning of his nightmare.

Ian Campbell factsWikipedia

15. He Went For A “Hike”

Campbell remained a prisoner of the Wehrmacht until the end of WWI. The records of what he had to endure to survive are scarce, but we know one thing. No amount of money was going to save him. He was one of 80,000 prisoners to take part in the grueling “Great March West” through severe winter conditions. But, despite his torment, he could take solace in one thing.

Ian Campbell factsWikipedia

16. His Wife Tried To Rescue Him

Even as a prisoner of the Wehrmacht, Campbell’s second wife, Louise, never abandoned him. While her husband fought off the Germans, she crossed the Pyrenees Mountain range into Lisbon. She then focused her efforts on providing relief for prisoners like her husband. But if she'd known what lay ahead, she might have left him there.

Ian Campbell factsWikipedia

17. His Experience Changed Him

Campbell only barely managed to survive the hardships of WWII. He endured nearly five years as the Wehrmacht's prisoner. When he returned home to Scotland, he was a changed man—and not for the better. Once a robust man, he had turned frail and sickly. But, as the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Like Campbell’s insatiable desire for money.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

18. He Was In For A Surprise

Shortly after WWII ended, it looked like Campbell’s luck had finally changed for the better. In 1949, his cousin, the 10th Duke of Argyll, passed on without an heir. All of a sudden and unexpectedly, Campbell inherited the title of Duke of Argyll and Chief of Clan Campbell. He also inherited a potential fortune. If he could just find it.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

19. His Home Was Ugly

The title of Duke of Argyll wasn’t the only thing that Campbell inherited. He managed to snag a castle along with it. He took up residence at his ancestral home, Inveraray Castle in Argyll, Scotland. One English writer and cultural figure described the massive property as “ugly, grim and forbidding". Once Campbell took possession, things only got worse.

Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll factsWikimedia Commons

20. His Castle Nearly Burned Down

Apparently, “ugly, grim and forbidding” translates to “extremely expensive to maintain". Inveraray Castle was in a poor state when Campbell inherited it. To worsen matters, a terrible fire broke out in 1950 and gutted it. But that didn’t mean that it didn’t have potential. In fact, one could say that it was worth a fortune—and no one liked a fortune more than Ian Campbell.

Ian Campbell factsWikipedia

21. He Was A Treasure Hunter

As the new Duke of Argyll, Campbell finally got the fortune he had always wanted. There was just one small caveat. He had to find it first. Legend told of a Spanish galleon laden with treasure sitting at the bottom of Tobermory Bay, within the boundaries of his dukedom. If it was the last thing he did, Campbell vowed to find that treasure.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

22. He Couldn’t Find His Booty

Campbell planned to dredge Tobermory Bay and dig up the legendary Spanish galleon and its untold treasure. Rumors estimated the buried booty was worth “30,000,000 of money;” that’s old English for “more money than God". Despite his best efforts, however, Campbell only ever managed to find little trinkets. But he still had his cash cow—for now...

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

23. He Was Keeping A Big Secret

Just because he couldn’t find his buried treasure didn’t mean that Campbell wasn’t living like a duke. If he followed his treasure map, it would have led him right back to his wife, Louise. He continued spending her money like it was going out of style, repairing his dilapidated castle. Plus, he had other, more clandestine expenses.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

24. He Was A Cheater

When he wasn’t diving for Spanish doubloons in Tobermory Bay or rolling the dice at the casino, Campbell was busy cheating on Louise. The penniless Duke of Argyll had started a secret romance with his long-time friend, Margaret Whigham. Unlike his buried treasure, however, his affair wouldn’t stay hidden for long. But it would sink like a ton of bricks.

David Niven factsGetty Images

25. His Wife Lost Her Cool

Louise learned about Campbell’s affair with Whigham—after all, she held the purse strings. The scorned Duchess of Argyll lost her last nerve—and penny—with her spendthrift, treasure-hunting husband. She filed for divorce. She cited infidelity and adultery as the reason, but she could just as easily have cited anything else. What was the dirty duke going to do now?

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

26. He Nearly Took Everything

Louise might actually have been happy about Campbell’s affair with the equally scandalous Margaret Whigham. It gave her the reason she needed to leave the financially ruinous marriage. She later said about her marriage to Campbell, “He took everything but my trust funds". That’s probably only because he didn’t know about them.

Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll factsGetty Images

27. He Moved On Quickly

Campbell and his mistress, Whigham, didn’t waste any time getting married. Before the ink had even dried on his divorce papers from Louise, Campbell was already on bended knee. And, given what he did next, it seemed like he had perfected his skills at swindling his wives out of their fortunes. Somehow, this marriage would be the most disastrous of all.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. FactsGetty Images

28. He Scammed His Way Into Money

As an experienced gold-digging, treasure-hunting husband, Ian Campbell had picked up a few tricks. He knew exactly how to extract wealth from his wives. Before he married Whigham, he forged a Deed of Sale for numerous items in Inveraray Castle in exchange for Whigham’s money. Just by saying, “I do,” he had secured the fortune he needed to repair his castle.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

29. He Spied On His Wife

In addition to swindling her out of her fortune, Campbell also kept a close eye on his new wife. In a wildly invasive move, he wiretapped her car. Of course, apart from some engine noise, he didn’t hear much. It’s not entirely clear why he did it, but it might have had something to do with Whigham’s past. Whigham was no saint herself. Campbell might felt like he needed to protect himself from her.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

30. His Wife Was Maniac

Whigham had suffered a terrible 40-foot fall down an elevator shaft in 1943, during her first marriage. She endured horrific and life-altering injuries, including a particularly hard hit to the head. When she recovered, those who knew her noticed something had...changed. Allegedly, Whigham’s head injury made her a raging nymphomaniac.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

31. His Wife Had 88 Chances

Campbell had every reason to suspect that Whigham was, shall we say, not in control of her baser impulses. Allegedly, the socialite turned nymphomaniac carried on 88 affairs during her marriage to Campbell. While that number might have been a slight exaggeration on Campbell’s part, it was a lot closer to the truth than you'd think.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

32. His Wife Attacked His Sons

Campbell wasn’t the only one forging documents in his marriage to Whigham. The former socialite had a few tricks up her sleeve as well. She created fake letters that cast doubt on the legitimacy of Campbell’s two sons with his second wife, Louise. Forgery and fraud, apparently, is a game for two. And Whigham was a professional.

Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

33. His Wife Tried To Steal His Castle

Ian Campbell had planned on milking Whigham for all she was worth, but clearly, he had bitten off more than he could chew. After discrediting Campbell’s two legitimate sons, Whigham attempted to “acquire a newborn baby". Yes, that's as messed up as it sounds. She was intending to pass off the innocent babe as hers and Whigham’s child, thus the rightful heir to Inveraray.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

34. He Hatched A Deceptive Plan

It didn’t take Campbell long to learn that he was no match for the cunning of his new wife, Whigham. Out of his depth, he had to find a way out of the marriage—and he had to do it fast or she might just swindle him out of his castle and his buried treasure. When Whigham went on a trip to New York, Campbell saw just the opportunity that he needed.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

35. He Uncovered A Massive Secret

While Whigham was away, Campbell set his plan into motion. He hired a locksmith to break into a cupboard at their Upper Grosvenor Street home. If he was hoping to find his lost treasure or Whigham’s confession to her schemes, he was sorely mistaken. He did, however, manage to find one of the biggest scandals in British history.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

36. He Found Gold—Scandal Gold

Ian Campbell and his locksmith uncovered exactly what he hoped they would; a reason to divorce Whigham. In the locked cupboard, the Duke of Argyll and Chief of Clan Campbell discovered a treasure trove of scandals. Campbell found several polaroid photographs that would ignite the tabloids. Suffice it to say that they were NSFW.

Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

37. His Wife Caused A Massive Scandal

Though all of the polaroids that Campbell found were scandalous, some of them were truly jaw-dropping. One of the photographs captured his wife, Whigham, wearing nothing—nothing at all—but her customary three-strand pearl necklace. The real kicker was that she was with a man in the photograph and it wasn’t Campbell. And that was just the first one.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

38. He Beheaded His Enemy

Another one of the scandalous polaroids became something of a national mystery. The photograph depicted Whigham performing an… "oral favor” on a gentleman. The photograph didn’t show a face—but no one was thinking that the “headless man” was Ian Campbell. The speculation surrounding his identity consumed the press.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

39. He Had A Thing For Mothers

Whigham countered Campbell’s allegations with accusations of her own. The now-disgraced Duchess of Argyll claimed that Campbell had carried on an affair with her stepmother, Jane Corby Wigham. But, unlike Campbell, she didn’t have countless salacious photos to prove it. And no one believed her stories after her racy photos came to light.

Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

40. He Shared Whigham With “A Number Of Men”

During their divorce proceedings in 1963, Campbell provided the court with all of the photographs that he had found. The judge was so appalled by the pictures of Whigham’s “exploits” that he claimed she was “a completely promiscuous woman whose [carnal] appetite could only be satisfied with a number of men". Well, not any number—88, allegedly.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

41. His Wife Was “Wholly Immoral”

For once, Ian Campbell looked like the innocent party in his marriage. Or, at least, the not-so-guilty party. During the divorce proceedings, the judge further went on to say about Whigham that “her attitude to the sanctity of marriage was what moderns would call 'enlightened' but which in plain language was wholly immoral".

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

42. He Knew A Scandalous Secret

The mystery of the identity of the “headless man” outlived Campbell and Whigham’s marriage. The going theories were that Campbell owed his scandalous divorce to Duncan Sandys, Winston Churchill’s future son-in-law. Or, even more salaciously, to a member of the Royal Family. Namely, Prince George, Duke of Kent. Either way, the scandal endured.

Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll factsWikimedia Commons

43. He Had A Terrible Addiction

Unsurprisingly, Campbell won his highly publicized divorce case. Whigham’s romantic escapades caused such a stir that almost everyone forgot that Campbell was no saint himself. Maybe because of the stresses of his divorce or because of his years as a prisoner, Campbell developed a drinamyl addiction. It clearly impaired his judgment.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

44. He Never Faced The Music

Ian Campbell’s substance use issues caused his already poor behavior to become even worse. During the divorce proceedings, there’s no evidence that Whigham brought up Campbell’s physical aggression towards her or his habit of spending her money. Most importantly, his own lascivious behavior never came up. And he had some truly lascivious behavior.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

45. He Crossed The Line

Shortly after his divorce from Whigham, Ian Campbell met Mathilda Coster Mortimer. She was a Scottish noblewoman, herself only recently divorced. Even though Whigham was a nymphomaniac, it turns out that Campbell was the one with the broken moral compass. His relationship with Mortimer crossed all kinds of moral boundaries.

Ian Campbell factsGetty Images

46. He Married His Maybe-Daughter

Campbell met Mortimer in Scotland a short time after he finalized his divorce from Whigham and they immediately hit it off. But oddly, Mathilda Mortimer wasn’t the first member of the Mortimer family that Campbell had liaisons with. In the 1920s, Campbell had carried on an affair with Mortimer’s mother. That should have been a warning.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

47. He Tried To Keep A Low-Profile

Despite the obvious ick-factor, the intergenerational couple continued dating. Even though Campbell could have been Mortimer’s biological father, it took them less than a year to seal the deal. They got married 1963. But Campbell must have been eager to avoid another tabloid, headline-grabbing scandal. Or at least, he tried to.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

48. He Eloped In Secret

Instead of advertising their romance, Campbell and Mortimer tried to keep a low profile. They might have been trying to hide their icky, inappropriate relationship from the public. The last thing Ian Campbell needed was another scandal. So, they skipped out on the ceremony and got married at a Registry Office in West Sussex.

Ian Campbell factsGetty Images

49. He Lived Quietly Ever After

Campbell and Mortimer lived together in France after their quiet nuptials. By all accounts, Campbell had given up diving for buried treasure in Tobermory Bay. But all good things come to an end. After ten years of substance use and hard living, Campbell fell terribly ill and returned to Edinburgh. After a short stay in a nursing home, he passed on quietly.

Ian Campbell factsA Very British Scandal (2021), BBC

50. He Sold His Birthright

The money-hungry 11th Duke of Argyll never found his pot of gold—and we’re not just referring to the Spanish galleon at the bottom of Tobermory Bay. Even though he had managed to restore Inveraray Castle, he had had to sell nearly 30,000 acres of land. He also opened the doors of the castle to tourists so they could take a peek at his scandalous life.

In the end, the last thing Ian Campbell had to sell was his own notorious reputation—and he sold it just like everything else.

Ian Campbell factsWikimedia Commons

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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