Inside rock's greatest love triangle: Model Pattie Boyd lifts lid on leaving George Harrison for Eric Clapton

26 February 2024, 14:15

George Harrison with Pattie Boyd (l) and Eric Clapton (r)
George Harrison with Pattie Boyd (l) and Eric Clapton (r). Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

Model Pattie Boyd is selling letters that lift the lid on her notorious love triangle with guitarist Eric Clapton and Beatles star George Harrison.

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The 1960s model and muse, who was the inspiration for both musicians, said she has Clapton's permission for the auction of the love letters and find them "heartbreaking" to read now.

She was the inspiration behind two of rock music's most famous songs - Harrison's Beatles classic, Something, and Clapton's Wonderful Tonight and Layla.

Boyd, now 79, the daughter of a retired RAF bomber pilot, married Harrison in 1966 but it lasted just under 10 years.

Patti Boyd
Patti Boyd. Picture: Alamy

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The earliest letter, written by Clapton, is dated 1970 when Boyd was still married to Harrison. It asks if she still loves her husband and asks if she has another lover.

He goes on to acknowledge that his words are "impertinent" but adds: "If there is still a feeling in your heart for me, you must let me know."

At first, she mistook it as a letter from a fan, as it was signed only with "all my love, E".

A second letter was written several months later, on a page Clapton had torn from a copy of John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men.

"Dear Layla," Clapton began, using his nickname for Boyd. "Why do you hesitate, am I a poor lover, am I ugly, am I too weak, too strong, do you know why?

"If you want me, take me, I am yours… if you don't want me, please break the spell that binds me. To cage a wild animal is a sin, to tame him is divine. My love is yours."

He later wrote the rock standard Lalya for Boyd. "It was so beautiful and so magical," Boyd recalled. "I was so flattered, but I was also so worried that George would work out why Eric had written this song."

Boyd originally rebuffed Clapton's advances but, after her marriage faltered in the early 1970s, the musician invited Boyd to join him on tour.

Their romance flourished and they married in 1979 - with the blessing of Harrison, who took to calling Clapton his "husband-in-law".

Ultimately, however, Clapton's alcoholism and infidelity undermined the marriage, and they divorced in 1989.

She will sell her memorabilia including letters, paintings, photographs, jewellery and fashion next month.

The lots include a doodle by Harrison, in which he drew himself sitting beneath an apple tree, and a Christmas card he made for her in 1968.

One of the letters up for auction
One of the letters up for auction. Picture: Christies/Patti Boyd

"I've had them all for so many years - far too long," Boyd, who turns 80 this year, told The Telegraph. "I thought, why don't I just sell everything and let everybody else enjoy it?"

The sale will be led by the the painting La jeune fille au bouquet by Emile Théodore Frandsen de Schomberg - which served as the cover for the 1970 album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Clapton's band Derek and the Dominoes.

Clapton had originally bought the painting from the artist's son because the model's blonde hair and alluring almond eyes reminded him of Boyd. It is expected to sell for between £40,000 and £60,000.

Boyd told the Telegraph she sought Clapton's permission before selling the possessions.

"He asked if I was selling the Layla painting, and I said yes," she said. "He said, 'Maybe there are other things you could sell as well.' So he's absolutely fine with me auctioning everything."


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