The Fascinating Life of '60s It Girl Pattie Boyd


| LAST UPDATE 09/07/2023

By Benedict Swirsky

Pattie Boyd was the muse for a few iconic love songs, including The Beatles' Something and Eric Clapton's Layla. And her time in the middle of rock and roll's famous love triangle was one for the books. This is her story.

A Somerset Gal

Pattie Boyd's iconic look and charming personality made her a well-recognized It Girl for the flower power era. But long before she was the subject of magazine headlines, Boyd was a just a young girl born in England.

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Facebook via Helen Mary Boyd

Pattie was born on March 17th, 1944 to Colin and Diana Boyd in the southwest county of Somerset. She was the young parents' firstborn, but soon had a few siblings by her side. Boyd became a big sister for the first time in 1946 to brother Colin, and later to sisters Jenny and Paula.

Her Adventurous Upbringing

While Pattie certainly became known as a stylish jet-setter later in life, her comfort with traveling started at an early age. Dad Colin was a pat of the Royal Air Force and his job moved the family around quite a few times throughout Boyd's adventurous childhood.

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Facebook via Official Pattie Boyd

After her birth in Somerset, the Boyd's moved to Scotland and later back to England in Surrey county. After the Royal Air Force discharged Colin, the family made their way to Nairobi for a few years. Much to Pattie's surprise, her parents divorced while in Kenya.

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From "Shampoo Girl" to Model

After the divorce, Pattie and her siblings moved back to the U.K. with their mom and her new beau. When Boyd finished school, she was ready to be an independent gal in one of the most bustling cities of the decade: London. So in 1962, at about 18 years old, she went for it.

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Chaloner Woods / Stringer via Getty Images

Boyd soon found a job as a "shampoo girl" at an Elizabeth Arden salon in the city. Working there got her in touch with some of the fashionistas of London. So when an employee for Honey magazine suggested Pattie try modeling, she took the leap. And it was worthwhile.

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A British Cover Girl

It didn't take long for Pattie's modeling career to blow up. The young model had regular gigs with the likes of British Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle in Paris, and Honey. Boyd's big eyes and blonde hair also graced the pages of newspapers like The Daily Telegraph and The Times.

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Justin de Villeneuve / Contributor via Getty Images

Eventually, some of the top photographers of the decade were looking to work with the rising model. From David Bailey to Brian Duffy, Pattie became acquainted with some of the biggest faces of the day. Other '60s icons, like famed supermodel Twiggy, looked to her as inspiration.

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Embodied the British Female "Look"

Pattie seemed unstoppable. Just a year after moving to London, she was a style icon. Boyd later recalled in her autobiography how she was a muse to English fashion designer Ossie Clark, who even called some of his pieces "Pattie." The young model became the epitome of '60s beauty.

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Keystone / Stringer via Getty Images

Journalist Tom Hibbert probably put it best when he called Pattie and some of her young peers the personification of the "British female 'look.'" With bold outfits, rocking the latest mini-skirt trend, long and straight hair, and an innocent wide-eyed look, they set the tone for a new wave of fashion.

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A Role in A Hard Day's Night

It was Pattie's success as a model that ultimately led her to one of the greatest loves of her life. Towards the beginning of 1964, the gorgeous starlet landed a role in a television campaign for a famous potato chip brand. After nailing that part, another opportunity came Boyd's way.

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Max Scheler - K & K / Contributor via Getty Images

The same director who shot the TV advertisement, Richard Lester, became the director for A Hard Day's Night, a 1964 film by The Beatles. After working with Pattie for the chips' ad, Lester hired her to act as one of the school girls in the band's musical comedy.

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Meeting George

On March 2, 1964, Pattie met some of the world's biggest icons face-to-face. It was the time of Beatlemmania, where just the sight of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, or Ringo Starr could cause women to faint and fans of all ages to be starstruck.

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Max Scheler - K & K / Contributor via Getty Images

Boyd clicked instantly with George, the band's lead guitarist. "Almost the first thing he said to me was: 'Will you marry me?'" she recalled of that fateful day on set. "He was joking, but there was a hint of seriousness." Pattie initially rejected the musician, but a few days later changed her mind.

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A Total Power Couple

During filming for A Hard Day's Night, Pattie was dating photographer Eric Swayne. But the couple went their separate ways shortly after the model met The Beatles. And when they called it quits, Boyd made sure George Harrison knew she was newly-single.

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Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer via Getty Images

Sparks flew just as they had that first day the duo met. George and Pattie quickly fell head-over-heels for one another. And so did the rest of the world, as the two youngsters became one of Swinging London's biggest power couples. While some envied Boyd for snagging the attractive musician, others idolized her.

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She Became an It Girl

There was no doubt that Pattie was a successful model in her own right. But the London gal's relationship with the famous Beatles member skyrocketed her to fame. Boyd became an official It Girl, landing more spreads in top magazines and commercials with L'Oréal.

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Cummings Archives / Contributor via Getty Images

British fashionista Mary Quant said that Pattie's influence became so great, that other women aimed "to look like Pattie Boyd ... Their aim is to look childishly young, naively unsophisticated, and it takes more sophistication to work out that look than those early would-be sophisticates ever dreamed of."

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"Patti's Letter from London"

Of course, Beatlemania wasn't limited to the borders of the United Kingdom: the whole world was obsessed with the Liverpool rock band. So when George and Pattie became an It Couple, international opportunities came her way. That's when Boyd started writing for an American magazine.

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Michael Ward / Contributor via Getty Images

The It Girl had a recurring column called Patti's Letter from London in the teen publication 16. "She reported on the latest trends in Carnaby Street, informed readers as to what the Beatles and Stones were wearing at the moment, and gave advice on how to turn dark and curly hair straight and blonde," said journalist Tom Hibbert.

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Harrison Asked Her to Stop

Pattie enjoyed the magazine column. She received fan mail from young women all over the United States, asking for advice and insight into London. But as The Beatles continued to blow up, as did the attention on Harrison and Boyd. And it wasn't always for the good.

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Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images

George ultimately asked Pattie to stop writing for the teen magazine because he wanted more privacy in their lives. Boyd obliged and turned her endeavors elsewhere: she opened a boutique store with her sister Jenny in Chelsea Market. Jenny took care of the shop while Pattie found unique pieces to sell.

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She Became a Photographer

Just as she left her writing job at 16 magazine, Pattie also eventually said goodbye to the modeling world. Although she later dipped her toes in the scene once more, Boyd preferred to be on the other side of the camera and became an amateur photographer.

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Icon and Image / Contributor via Getty Images

Having a front row seat at all of the biggest shows around the world, Pattie took pictures of endless '60s icons. "What is so bizarre is that I had no idea at the time how important these photographs where," she later told Weekender. "I was just photographing my life."

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Moving In Together

As things got more serious between Pattie and George, the lovebirds moved in together. Tired of the lack of privacy in London, Harrison bought a house for both of them in Surrey. "When we moved out of London to the country it wasn't quite so crazy," Boyd recalled.

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Len Trievnor / Stringer via Getty Images

"It was normal for everyone we knew to drop by and say hello. One time Mick Jagger and Marianna Faithfull came by and we weren't home. They saw this can of spraypaint and they painted 'Mich and Marianne were here' on the walls of the house," she added. "Never mind using pen and paper. But it was funny."

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Husband and Wife

Pattie and George's life together was far from ordinary. At just 21 and 22 years old, they were wealthy, one of the most famous couples of the decade, and total icons in every sense of the word. In December of 1965, the dream couple took things up a notch and got engaged.

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Manchester Daily Express / Contributor via Getty Images

"I was so happy and so much in love. I thought we would be together and happy forever," Boyd commented. With no need to prolong the wedding, the couple married about a month later on January 21st, 1966. This marked the beginning of a wild - and complicated - ride.

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A Spiritual Journey

It's no secret The Beatles had a spiritual journey that led them to an ashram in India. But what is less known is that Pattie was the one who led them there. It was her continued interest in mediation once The Beatles first returned from India that brought them all back.

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Cummings Archives / Contributor via Getty Images

"The time at the ashram was wonderfully peaceful and tranquil, just as we had hoped," Boyd said. "We were out of the glare of the public eye and could meditate and listen to the Maharsihi's lectures and teachings in an ideal environment." But underneath the surface, things weren't going so great.

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They Grew Apart

The world saw an envy-worthy couple, but there was trouble in paradise. "It wasn't all happy clappy, you know," Boyd said. "I'm sure people imagine that if you're married to a rock star you'd be smiling every day from the minute you woke up to the minute you went to sleep."

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Keystone / Stringer via Getty Images

"That's not the reality," she added. Along with George's spiritual awakening came another sort of awakening: one that led him to other women. It didn't take long for Pattie to realize her husband was no longer loyal. And around the same time, a new friend came into the picture...

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Anonymous Love Letter to Their New Home

Despite their marriage troubles and Harrison's affairs, the couple powered on. In March of 1970, they moved into Friar Park: a Victorian Gothic home in Oxfordshire with 25 bedrooms, a ballroom, a library, and 12 acres of land. Not long after arriving, an anonymous love letter arrived for Pattie.

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David Goddard / Contributor via Getty Images

Someone named "E" confessed their deep desires for Boyd. "I assumed it was from some weirdo," Pattie admitted, since at the time she often received intense fan mail. "I showed it to George and others who were at the house. They laughed and dismissed it, as I had." But things were not what they seemed.

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It Was From George's Friend, Eric Clapton

Pattie soon found out that the love letter was not from some random "weirdo." It was from George's best friend and famous musician Eric Clapton. "That evening, the phone rang. It was Eric. 'Did you get my letter?' he asked," Boyd remembered of the surprising call.

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John Rodgers / Contributor via Getty Images

For Pattie, it wasn't a secret that Clapton had a crush on her. Eric often spent time at her and George's mansion, where he went out of his way to compliment Boyd and sit close to her. But the model-turned-photographer had no idea how deep his feelings went until reading that letter.

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They Met Secretly

Pattie resisted his advances for quite some time. Eric even tried dating her younger sister Paula, but a close blood-relative couldn't substitute his desires for George's wife. The two remained close friends until one day things took a turn: they met secretly in a South Kensington apartment.

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Graham Wiltshire / Contributor via Getty Images

"[Eric] wanted me to listen to a new number he had written," Boyd shared. "He switched on the tape machine, turned up the volume, and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was Layla, about a man who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable."

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The Song Was About Her

It was glaringly obvious that the track, which became one of the most famous love songs in history, was about Pattie. "He played it to me two or three times, all the while watching my face intently for my reaction," she recalled. Boyd was overwhelmed by the beautiful tune.

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Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer via Getty Images

"My first thought was: 'Oh God, everyone's going to know this is about me.' I was married to Eric's close friend, George Harrison," Pattie continued. "I felt uncomfortable that he was pushing me in a direction in which I wasn't certain I wanted to go."

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"I Could Resist No Longer"

She felt uncomfortable but at the same time beyond flattered. "With the realization that I had inspired such passion and creativity, the song got the better of me," Pattie confessed. "I could resist no longer." It seemed that maybe Eric had finally stolen the heart of his dream girl.

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Mirrorpix / Contributor via Getty Images

Following their time together in the apartment, Boyd left for a theater show and after-party with her friend. George wasn't in the mood to attend either event, but Eric Clapton was. So after their secret meeting that day, the two reunited at a party at film producer Robert Stigwood's house.

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George Showed Up

While the secret lovers showed up separately, they ended the night together out in the home's garden. "It was a great party and I felt elated by what had happened earlier in the day but also deeply guilty," Pattie admitted. Not surprisingly, she felt even worse when George suddenly showed up at the party.

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William Lovelace / Stringer via Getty Images

"He kept asking, 'Wheres Pattie?' but no one seemed to know," Boyd recalled. "He was about to leave when he spotted me in the garden with Eric. It was just getting light and very misty. George came over and demanded: 'What's going on?'" She could hardly believe what happened next.

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Eric Told Him Everything

Pattie was still processing the turn of events that occurred earlier in the day and was in no way prepared for what happened once George showed up to the party. So when Clapton suddenly told his friend and Boyd's husband the truth, she could hardly believe her ears.

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Michael Putland / Contributor via Getty Images

"To my horror, Eric said: "I have to tell you, man, that I'm in love with your wife,'" Boyd said of what went down in those early morning hours. "I wanted to die. George was furious. He turned to me and said: 'Well, are you going with him or coming with me?'"

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She Left With George

What should Pattie do? She still loved George, but there was no denying her feelings for his best friend. Nor was there any taking back what happened earlier in the South Kensington flat after Eric played her Layla for the first time. Now, Harrison pushed Boyd to make a decision.

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Jim Gray / Stringer via Getty Images

"I held marriage very dearly but felt torn at that moment," Pattie shared. But she ultimately put her wedding vows and dedication to George above her developing feelings for Eric. That night, Boyd left the party with Harrison. But it wasn't the end of this rock and roll love triangle.

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Eric's Downward Spiral

Layla was released in 1970, but Pattie was no longer in touch with the man who wrote the love ballad in her honor. In fact, Eric disappeared from many peopel's lives during that time. The famous guitarist was deeply heartbroken by Boyd's rejection and sunk into a hole of despair.

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Gijsbert Hanekroot / Contributor via Getty Images

Clapton struggled with substances and his mental health and Boyd hardly saw him for three years. "It was appalling," she said of those dark times. When asked if Pattie blamed herself, the '60s It Girl said: "No, it was his choice." But their story wasn't over just yet.

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A Guitar Duel

By 1974, Eric had gone to rehab and was a healthier version of himself. And that's when the musician began trying to win Pattie's heart, again. In a moment for the rock and roll history books, Clapton and Harrison met up at Friar Park for a guitar "duel," as actor John Hurt called it.

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Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images

Surrounded by John and a few other friends - and, of course, Pattie - two of the decade's most famous guitarists battled it out on the strings for Boyd's heart. "[It was] extraordinary," Hurt said. "The air was electric. Nobody dared say a word." Not long after that, things fell apart between Harrison and Boyd.

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The Last Straw

Pattie knew that George saw other women. And while she dipped her toes in infidelity now and then, the fashion icon was mostly loyal to her husband and stuck by his side throughout his many errors. But there was one relationship that was too much for Boyd to bear.

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Cummings Archives / Contributor via Getty Images

Pattie found out that George was having an affair with his friend and Beatles drummer Ringo Starr's wife. To make matters worse, Boyd considered Ringo's partner, Maureen, to be a close friend of hers. "She would turn up at midnight and she'd still be there the next day," Pattie said.

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She and Eric Rekindled

George and Maureen stopped hiding their indiscretions. Author Chris O'Dell, who worked for The Beatles, recalled an evening in Ringo's kitchen when Harrison told his friend, "'You know, Ringo, I'm in love with your wife.'" Pattie was sitting right across from both of them.

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Dave Hogan / Contributor via Getty Images

Ultimately, George and Maureen didn't last. But neither did he and Pattie. The couple divorced in 1977 and Boyd rekindled her short fling with Eric Clapton. By 1979, the new couple moved in together and wed. But a storm soon hit this relationship, too.

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Trouble in Paradise

Things were great at the beginning. Their rekindled love even inspired more iconic love songs, like Clapton's Wonderful Tonight. But eventually, some of the same patterns that took place with George popped up in Pattie's relationship with Eric. But things went even further this time.

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Graham Wiltshire / Contributor via Getty Images

Clapton had a child with someone else. "I felt sick. I couldn't breathe properly and my heart was pounding so hard I couldn't think," Boyd recalled in her autobiography of the moment she learned the news. "I was in shock." Things would never be the same.

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Who Was Her Greatest Love?

The story of Pattie's love triangle with Eric and George finally came to an end in 1989 when she divorced the Layla singer. Looking back, Boyd wasn't sure whether leaving Harrison was the right choice. The answer was clear when an interviewer asked who was the greatest love of her life.

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Cummings Archives / Contributor via Getty Images

"I would say [Harrison]. He will always stay with me," the flower power legend admitted. "I think he always loved me ... Eric loves himself." But both unions had their faults: "In both my marriages I had neglected myself, and got lost in a big cloud of fame, I got lost in their lives," Pattie admitted.

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