History Podcasts

Sex Scandal Shakes the British Government

Sex Scandal Shakes the British Government

A 1963 news report of the Profumo Affair describes a prime minister in crisis. Once Secretary of War John Profumo resigned over his affair with a 19-year-old who had ties to a Soviet spy, many called for the resignation of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as well.

The True Story of ‘A Very English Scandal’ and the Trials of a Closeted Gay Politician

Even in their wildest dreams, the British tabloids couldn’t have imagined such a salacious story dropping into their laps. It was January 1976, and Jeremy Thorpe, British MP (Member of Parliament) and leader of the Liberal Party, had been charged with conspiracy and incitement to murder. His supposed target was aspiring model Norman Scott, who claimed to have been Thorpe’s lover—and Scott’s dog, a Great Dane named Rinka, already shot to death by hitman Andrew Newton in what appeared to be a bungled assassination.

The story of Thorpe’s career in politics, his relationship with Scott, and the alleged assassination attempt is told in the BBC’s “A Very English Scandal.” Starring Hugh Grant as Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Scott, the three-part miniseries will premiere in the U.S. on June 29, on Amazon. For Grant, playing Thorpe offered some insight into the fear the politician must have experienced.

“He was a star and everyone thought he was extraordinary. And permanently nagging at him was this possibility of exposure of his secret,” Grant told NPR. “To feel the net of the law closing in on him slowly—the stress must have been absolutely unendurable.”

But of course, in reality, fear of exposure came long before Thorpe’s run-in with the law. To be gay in Britain during that era meant putting oneself in constant danger of arrest. “It was a very oppressive climate right up to and including the Margaret Thatcher years,” says political scientist David Rayside, the author of On the Fringe: Gays and Lesbians in Politics. “In the 1970s and 80s, the overwhelming majority in Britain thought homosexual activity was morally wrong.”

Like many countries, Britain had a long history of anti-gay discrimination. The Buggery Act, passed in 1533, made sodomy a capital offense it wasn’t repealed until 1861. Even then, it was followed by draconian measures to prevent gay relationships, including the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which made “gross indecency” between men—a purposely vague term—a criminal act. The panic over homosexuality continued after World War II, writes historian Michael Bloch in Closet Queens: Some 20th Century British Politicians: “A fiercely homophobic Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, aided by an equally puritanical Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Theobold Matthew, was determined to ‘rid England of this plague.’”

Jeremy Thorpe, British politician and leader of the Liberal Party, pictured here leaving the House of Commons after his election in 1967. (Alamy)

Some forward progress was made in the 1960s, especially as grassroots activism took hold within the LGBTQ community. In 1957, a government commission published the Wolfenden Report, making recommendations for laws on sexual behavior. That report recommended public statutes should avoid legislating morality, and that the government should remove consensual homosexual liaisons from criminal law. Within a decade, those goals were achieved. The 1967 Sexual Offenses Act decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults in private, though it didn’t remove the stigma attendant on such acts. In some ways, gay individuals were just as vulnerable as before.

“The police were still entirely willing to heavily police those venues where it was thought that homosexual activity occurred. There were many, many arrests every year,” Rayside says. As for a politician being outed, that usually meant the end of one’s political career.

That’s not to say all politicians fought actively against gay rights. The Liberal Party in particular (to which Thorpe belonged) supported continued changes to the laws. But the two dominant parties of the era, the Labour and Conservative parties, were nowhere near as interested in aligning themselves with the gay rights movement.

“Labour as a whole was very uncomfortable associating itself with what it continued to interpret as a bourgeois and dangerous issue,” writes historian Lucy Robinson in Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain. Labour Party MP Richard Crossman wrote of the 1967 Sexual Offenses Act, “Certainly working-class people in the north jeer at their members at the weekend and ask them why they’re looking after the buggers at Westminster instead of looking after the unemployed at home.”

Those class tensions were a major component of the homosexuality issue in Britain. Just consider another popular historical series, “Downton Abbey.” In one episode, Lord Grantham excuses the homosexual behavior of his footman, Thomas, saying such incidents happened regular when Lord Grantham attended Eton, a private school. Regardless of how historically accurate the earl’s reaction to his servant’s behavior was, it is true that gay experimentation flourished in upper-class, sex-segregated milieus like boarding school, the military, and the clergy.

“Thorpe embodied that kind of upper-class arrogance that you could get away with things,” Rayside says. “He just assumed it because he belonged to that political class.”

And whatever other politicians may have thought of Thorpe’s behavior, it had little impact on his career for as long as his dalliances remained out of the public eye. Indeed, Thorpe seems to have been remarkably blasé about his sexuality. Although he married twice and fathered a son, he also wrote compromising letters to lovers on House of Commons paper, including a note to a friend at the time of Princess Margaret’s wedding: “What a pity about [Her Royal Highness]. I rather hoped to marry the one and seduce the other.”

But the affair Thorpe could never outrun was the one he conducted with Scott, beginning in 1961. Although Thorpe maintained for the rest of his life that the relationship was only an emotional one, Scott insisted it was sexual—and used it to blackmail Thorpe. With the help of the Liberal Party, Thorpe paid Scott to help with his divorce, when he was on trial for social security fraud, and at other points throughout the 󈨀s. “Almost every senior Liberal MP and party official either knew about Scott or was actively involved in attempts to shut him up,” writes journalist Douglas Murray in The Spectator.

As the Liberal Party grew in size throughout the early 1970s, the pressure for Thorpe to remain in control of the situation only grew. After all, he was a charismatic politician, “the life and soul of the party” writes Liberal politician Richard Lamb. Thorpe opposed apartheid in South Africa and minority rule in Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe). He helped establish Amnesty International and collaborated with other politicians to pass legislation that brought Britain into the European Common Market. Thorpe’s friends and colleagues would do almost anything to help keep him in power—including, perhaps, hire a hitman to kill the person threatening to tank Thorpe’s career.

By the time of the court trial in 1979, Thorpe had long resigned from his position and been replaced by David Steele as Liberal Party leader. Although Scott and the hitman, Newton, testified against Thorpe and several of his co-conspirators, the judge ultimately ruled in Thorpe’s favor. Newton was jailed for two years for killing Scott’s dog, and the judge deemed Scott to be “a neurotic, spineless creature, addicted to hysteria and self-advertisement.” But even though Thorpe avoided prison, his reputation never recovered and he faded from the public limelight. His exposure slowed the progress of the LGBTQ movement it wasn’t until 1984 that British politician Chris Smith became the first to come out as gay.

For Rayside, the tragicomedy has remained a popular story precisely because of its unbelievable elements. But he thinks there’s also a real note of fear behind the mockery. “Thorpe was a prominent political figure. For this to come that close to the centers of political power and political legitimacy was new. In other cases where politicians were getting close to being exposed, they would simply resign.”

But Thorpe, risktaker that he was, refused to give in. He fought to the last, leaving behind a turbulent—and still unresolved—legacy.

4 Greystone Mansion Murder Mystery

Not all Hollywood scandals revolve around people. Built in 1928, the Greystone Mansion, designed by Gordon Kaufmann, is a favored location for movies and TV shows set in a lavish home complete with lush gardens. Over the decades, the mansion accumulated a list of credits to rival that of any Hollywood A-lister: The Big Lebowski, Columbo, Alias, There Will Be Blood, The Bodyguard, MacGyver, The Prestige, and Rush Hour, just to name a few.

The house originally belonged to Ned Doheny, son of oil tycoon Edward Doheny. Four months after Ned moved to Greystone Mansion, he and his secretary, Hugh Plunkett, were found dead.

It was officially labeled a murder-suicide. Plunkett was ruled the killer due to mental instability. Some investigators thought that the evidence said otherwise, but the case was quickly closed with no inquest or autopsy.

Allegedly, this was because Doheny Sr. made the case go away to protect his son&rsquos reputation. Rumors claimed that Ned was actually the killer or that his wife killed both men after finding out they were lovers.

4. Mau Mau Uprising

Thousands of elderly Kenyans, who claim British colonial forces mistreated, raped and tortured them during the Mau Mau Uprising (1951-1960), have launched a £200m damages claim against the UK Government.

Members of the Kikuyu tribe were detained in camps, since described as "Britain's gulags" or concentration camps, where they allege they were systematically tortured and suffered serious sexual assault.

Estimates of the deaths vary widely: historian David Anderson estimates there were 20,000, whereas Caroline Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died.

Inside the Biggest Royal Scandal Ever: How King Edward VIII's Explosive Affair With Wallis Simpson Changed the Course of History

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

King Edward VIII's reign began on Jan. 20, 1936.

Less than 12 months later, England had a new king.

Regardless of how fascinated people would become by Princess Diana decades later or how heated royal baby fever can get to this day, it was Edward's decision to give up his throne for love 81 years ago that entirely altered the course of the monarchy. Many might wonder why he couldn't do as he darn well pleased, considering he was the literal King of England. Quite possibly, if a similar scenario presented itself now, perhaps it would go a different way.

But back then, the United Kingdom's sovereign monarch marrying a twice-divorced American woman just wouldn't do at all. Let alone a woman who actually wasn't even divorced from her second husband yet when the king fell in love with her.

Bessiewallis Warfield was born June 19, 1896, at the Monterey Inn, the biggest hotel in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., and a popular summer vacation spot for folks from nearby Baltimore, where the family lived. Her father, Teackle Wallis Warfield, son of a flour merchant who was known as "one of the most popular citizens of Baltimore, died that November of tuberculosis, after which the child and her mother, Alice Montague, moved in with a widowed aunt.

Montague married her second husband, John Freeman Rasin, in 1908—and at some point in her youth, Wallis dropped the "Bessie."

Solomon Warfield, an uncle on her father's side, financed Wallis' education at Oldfields, a Maryland finishing school, but—according to Anne Sebba's That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor—his refusal to pay for a coming-out ball for his niece sent her scurrying to Florida to visit a cousin.

It was in Pensacola, Fla., that she met Navy pilot Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. (known familiarly as Win Spencer) in April 1916. He would become her husband on Nov. 8, 1916, but his military duty ensured that they spent a lot of time apart. Wallis, who was never considered a great beauty but who by all accounts had charm to spare, hypnotic eyes and a fiery magnetism that proved irresistible to men from all walks of life, reportedly kept busy while her husband was away.

"Mrs. Spencer was infamous for arousing bouts of passion among adoring males," a friend, Diana Angulo, said about Wallis, according to Sebba. "Through the years I think men found her witty, and that special ability of giving them her full attention, quite an art! I think men were more generous and complimentary than women."

Among her rumored extramarital paramours were Argentine diplomat Felipe de Espil and Count Galeazzo Ciano, an Italian aristocrat seven years her junior, whom she met in China while her husband was stationed there. (Ciano would go on to marry Mussolini's daughter, Edda, and he was executed by an anti-fascist firing squad in 1944.) Edda would later deny it, but the big rumor of the day was that Ciano got Wallis pregnant and a botched abortion left her infertile.

What people do know was that Wallis got sick in 1925 while on a transpacific ocean liner traveling from Japan to Seattle. Upon arrival in Seattle, she underwent an undisclosed operation that later was wildly speculated to be anything from the abortion in question to a complication from being born with male sex organs. While still recovering from the surgery, she boarded a train to take her back to Washington, D.C. Spencer met her in Chicago and dropped her off with her mother, by then married to her third husband, in D.C.

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Wallis and Spencer divorced in 1927, but while she was waiting for that to be finalized, she found out her uncle Sol Warfield had died—and, upset that she was getting divorced, had left her only $15,000. A paltry sum, compared to the $5 million she thought she was going to inherit.

While figuring out her next move, she surfed her friends' guest quarters in New York and Pennsylvania, at one point even considering a career in steel scaffolding sales. While staying with an old school chum in New York, she met Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Simpson, who had been married since 1923 and had one daughter. At some point over friendly bridge games and trips to art galleries and museums, Simpson, who was one year younger, fell for Wallis and asked if he could marry her as soon as they were both officially divorced.

They married on July 21, 1928.

Simpson had been born in New York to British parents, and he and Wallis soon moved to England. They had high-society friends (Simpson's sister had married a prominent politician) and lived in a stylish flat where Mrs. Simpson liked to entertain.

Meanwhile, Wallis had decided—ultimate goal unknown—that she would meet the Prince of Wales, aka Prince Edward, son of King George V and Queen Mary and next in line to the British throne.

Wallis did meet the prince in 1931 through her friend Thelma Furness, who happened to be one of Edward's girlfriends at the time.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David wasn't considered much of an intellectual, nor, at 5ɷ", did he cut a powerful figure, but he was said to be quick-witted and free-spirited (a distant, antagonistic relationship with his father may have contributed to that). He was also quite the libertine, though girlfriends were said to refer to him a "the little man." He was very fair-faced and only required a shave once a week. He was also, according to certain analyses of his correspondence and reported behavior, anywhere from crazy or deeply disturbed to on the autism spectrum.

At 20 years old he joined the British Army's Guards when World War I broke out, in 1914. In 1918 he embarked on an affair with 28-year-old Freda Dudley Ward and, despite her being married, she became Edward's main squeeze for the next 16 years. He had other squeezes, as did she, but Freda was his main one.

"Each day I long more and more to chuck this job and be out of it and free for you, Sweetie," Edward wrote to Freda in 1920 during a seven-month tour of Australia and New Zealand, "this job" apparently being his royal duties. "The more I think of it all, the more certain I am that really the day for kings and princes is past, monarchies are out of date, though I know it is a rotten thing for me to say. "

And again, he had no trouble attracting women. Wallis Simpson biographer Hugo Vickers told NPR in 2011 that he was of the opinion that, though she married Prince Albert in 1923, Queen Elizabeth II's mother was actually in love with Edward, and that's why she resented Simpson (she was said to have blamed the throne being thrust upon her husband for his early death at 56 in 1952).

"My theory is that the Queen Mother was really rather in love with the Duke of Windsor and probably would have quite liked to have married him," Vickers said. "It must have passed through her mind. And I think it suited her very well to present the Duchess of Windsor as the woman who stole the king. And people rather swallowed that line."

Weirdly enough, Edward was in Kenya in 1928 when he was informed that his father, the king, was close to death. (Edward's brother Albert, eventually King George VI, would die while his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II, was in Kenya.) But when Edward got the communique to come home right away, his father was ill, he dismissed it as some political ploy cooked up by the prime minister. Alan "Tommy" Lascelles, his assistant private secretary, was so outraged by the prince's behavior, he resigned when they did return to England.

Biographer Hector Bolitho wrote of Edward that he "was almost stubborn in his habit of turning his back upon the conventions of polite society." Instead, the prince enjoyed all things modern and American, telling Freda that "Princing" was easier abroad.

While he was still seeing Freda, he met Thelma Furness (whose twin sister was Gloria Morgan, mother of Gloria Vanderbilt and grandmother of Anderson Cooper) at a cattle show. Furness was on her second marriage, to a much older man, and she became the prince's second mistress.

Edward had no real responsibilities, as far as he could see, and two women who doted on him.

Wallis Simpson met Thelma Furness through her friendship with Thelma's sister Consuelo, and in January 1931 Consuelo invited Wallis and Ernest Simpson to the Furnesses' home for a fox-hunting weekend. Prince Edward was also on the guest list.

According to Sebba's book, Edward struck up a conversation about central heating in British country homes and some remembered Wallis basically calling him out for being boring. "She always had a challenging line for the prince," Wallis' friend Mary Kirk wrote in a diary entry.

Wallis did write to her aunt after the weekend that it had been a treat to meet the prince in that informal setting. She wouldn't see him again until May, when Thelma threw Edward a welcome-home party after he took a trip to South America. Wallis having carefully orchestrated a swift rise through the ranks, the Simpsons first had a party that included the prince to dinner at their home in early 1932.

And the rest really is history.

Ernest had to start traveling more for work and Wallis took a solo trip to the U.S.—largely, Sebba wrote, to prove to herself that, approaching 40 in that When Harry Met Sally, "I'm going to be 40—someday!" manner, she was still desirable to men. Her mission proved successful. Back in England, meanwhile, Edward—who still was keeping company with Thelma Furness—was becoming more and more smitten with her. He threw her a 37th birthday party in June 1933. She had an American Independence Day-themed party for him at her home on July 4.

The prince, the Furnesses and the Simpsons all spent New Year's Eve together, and then Thelma sailed to the United States. It was then that Edward turned his full attention to Wallis. He started buying her clothes and jewelry, just as she and Ernest were starting to have trouble paying for their own lavish lifestyle. Ernest amiably went along, though it's unclear if he knew the extent of his wife's romantic involvement, even wrangling an invitation to join the exclusive Freemasons via his connection with the prince.

By May 1934, Wallis was Prince Edward's only girlfriend.

Wallis had met Edward's younger brother Prince George (not to be confused with his other brother Prince Albert, who would become King George VI) on weekend outings to his home, but the prince wanted her to finally meet his parents at a party celebrating George's marriage to Princess Marina of Greece that November.

King George V crossed Wallis and Ernest Simpson's names (they were still married, after all) off the guest list, but Edward somehow managed to get them invited anyway. She exchanged "meaningless pleasantries" with the king and queen, Wallis later said, but George V demanded that the Simpsons not be invited to any upcoming Silver Jubilee ceremonies marking his 25th year on the throne in the coming year.

Prince Edward was undeterred. After Christmas he took Wallis skiing in Austria and bought her a reported 60,000 pounds-worth of jewels for New Year's. According to That Woman, Edward was starting to go overboard, with Wallis expressing concern that his undivided attention was irreparably damaging, not only her marriage, but what was left of her social standing as well.

The prince's treasurer told the king in July 1935 that Edward was providing a 6,000-pound-a-year income for his girlfriend. By all accounts, she had Prince Edward wrapped around her little finger, and the royal didn't give a damn that half of polite society found her to be a preposterous match for him. Moreover, he continued to insist to his father that Mrs. Simpson wasn't his mistress, which made it easier for him to get her invited to big events, such as that year's Court Ball.

Meanwhile, after his third son, Prince Henry, got married, King George V wrote in his diary on Nov. 6, 1935, that he hoped Edward (whom he familiarly called David) would never marry and therefore not have any heirs, which would mean the line of succession would shift to Edward's younger brother Albert, and his daughter Lilibet (Princess Elizabeth) would succeed him on the throne.

George V would halfway get his wish. The monarch died on Jan. 20, 1936, at the age of 70, and his neɾr-do-well son David became King Edward VIII. He was not married, but he wanted to marry Wallis Simpson.

No one but the entire government and the Church of England—which forbade divorce (let alone two divorces) and remarrying if one's former spouse was still alive—stood in the way.

With Hitler in power in Germany and Britain staring down the barrel of the prospect of yet another world war, it couldn't have been a worse time for a king's devotion to the crown to be in question.

And we just mean because of his love life, but there were deeper concerns afoot. It would become clear that Edward VIII didn't initially look at Hitler as the mortal threat to the world that he was.

As seen in the just-premiered second season of The Crown, upon her uncle's return to England from France, where he and Wallis had been living in relative exile, Queen Elizabeth II would find documents indicating that the Duke of Windsor, if not exactly collaborated with the Nazis, then was on the verge of being re-installed on the throne by the Germans in 1940. When telegrams entertaining that plot (and suggesting that Wallis was amenable to the idea) were intercepted by the British in real time in the 1940s, Winston Churchill suspected they were fabricated by the Germans as propaganda, to create more turmoil for the enemy. U.S. intelligence concurred.

But back in 1936, Edward was the king, and a restless one. On Nov. 16 he invited Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to Buckingham Palace and informed him that he wanted to marry Simpson. Baldwin said that the British people would never accept "that woman" as their queen. Plus, as the head of the Church of England, Edward was expected to uphold its tenets. (Although, ironically, King Henry VIII started the Church of England in the 1500s because the Catholic church wouldn't allow him to divorce his first wife.)

At some point, Baldwin is said to have advised the king just to keep Simpson as his mistress, but not marry her. It was the public face of things that mattered.

But with his desire to be free to marry Wallis Simpson intact, King Edward VIII signed his own abdication papers on Dec. 10, 1936.

"I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love," he said in his official announcement.

The next day he was back to being a prince and his next-youngest brother Albert became King George VI. On Dec. 12, George VI announced he would make his older brother the Duke of Windsor. There was some dispute over whether the now ex-king should also be a Royal Highness, as the new king intended. His HRH would be allowed, but Simpson would be denied the Royal Highness assignation.

There were still some hoops to jump through. After securing her divorce from Ernest Simpson (who would go on to marry Wallis' old friend Mary Kirk), she changed her name back to Wallis Warfield.

On June 3, 1937, she became the Duchess of Windsor when she married the Duke of Windsor at the Château de Candé in France. The date would have been George V's 72nd birthday. The bride wore a blue dress by American designer Mainbocher, the shade soon to be known as "Wallis blue." None of the groom's family attended.

The newlyweds settled in Paris, but when war broke out in 1939 they decamped to Spain, and then the Bahamas, where the Duke of Windsor became governor in 1940. When World War II ended with the Allied victory, they returned to France and retired from public life. They would return to England occasionally.

On The Crown, the duke, as played by Alex Jennings, tells the duchess, played by Lia Williams, "I never thought Iɽ find myself saying it, but a life of pleasure really has its limits."

They remained married until Edward's death in 1972. The Duchess of Windsor lived till she was 89, and after she died in 1986 she was laid to rest next to her husband in the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor Castle. Unlike her wedding, her funeral at St. George's Chapel was attended by a number of members of the royal family, including Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales, as Edward had once been), Princess Diana, Prince Philip and the queen.


Government and press Edit

In the early 1960s, the British news media were dominated by several high-profile spying stories: the breaking of the Portland spy ring in 1961, the capture and sentencing of George Blake in the same year and, in 1962, the case of John Vassall, a homosexual Admiralty clerk who had been blackmailed into spying by the Soviets. [3] Vassall was subsequently sentenced to 28 years in prison. After suggestions in the press that Vassall had been shielded by his political masters, the responsible minister, Thomas Galbraith, resigned from the government pending inquiries. Galbraith was later exonerated by the Radcliffe inquiry, which sent two newspaper journalists to prison for refusing to reveal their sources for sensational and uncorroborated stories about Vassall's private life. [4] The imprisonment severely damaged relations between the press and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan [5] columnist Paul Johnson of the New Statesman warned: "[A]ny Tory minister or MP . who gets involved in a scandal during the next year or so must expect—I regret to say—the full treatment". [6] [n 1]

Profumo Edit

John Profumo was born in 1915, of Italian descent. He first entered Parliament in 1940 as the Conservative member for Kettering, while serving with the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, and combined his political and military duties through the Second World War. Profumo lost his seat in the 1945 general election, but was elected in 1950 for Stratford-on-Avon. From 1951 he held junior ministerial office in successive Conservative administrations. In 1960, Macmillan promoted Profumo to Secretary of State for War, a senior post outside the cabinet. [8] After his marriage in 1954 to Valerie Hobson, one of Britain's leading film actresses, Profumo may have conducted casual affairs, using late-night parliamentary sittings as his cover. [9] His tenure as war minister coincided with a period of transition in the armed forces, involving the end of conscription and the development of a wholly professional army. Profumo's performance was watched with a critical eye by his opposition counterpart George Wigg, a former regular soldier. [10] [11]

Keeler, Rice-Davies, and Astor Edit

Christine Keeler, born in 1942, left school at 15 with no qualifications and took a series of short-lived jobs in shops, offices and cafés. She aspired to be a model, and at 16 had a photograph published in Tit-Bits magazine. [12] In August 1959, Keeler found work as a topless showgirl at Murray's Cabaret Club in Beak Street, Soho. This long-established club attracted a distinguished clientele who, Keeler wrote, "could look but could not touch". [13] [14] Shortly after starting at Murray's, Keeler was introduced to a client, the society osteopath Stephen Ward. Captivated by Ward's charm, she agreed to move into his flat, in a relationship she has described as "like brother and sister"—affectionate but not sexual. [15] She left Ward after a few months to become the mistress of the property dealer Peter Rachman, [16] [n 2] and later shared lodgings with Mandy Rice-Davies, a fellow Murray's dancer two and a half years her junior. The two girls left Murray's and attempted without success to pursue careers as freelance models. [18] [19] Keeler also lived for short periods with various boyfriends, but regularly returned to Ward, who had acquired a house in Wimpole Mews, Marylebone. [20] [21] There she met many of Ward's friends, among them Lord Astor, a long-time patient who was also a political ally of Profumo. [8] [22] She often spent weekends at a riverside cottage that Ward rented on Astor's country estate, Cliveden, in Buckinghamshire. [23]

Ward and Ivanov Edit

Ward, born in Hertfordshire in 1912, qualified as an osteopath in the United States. After the Second World War he began practising in Cavendish Square, London, [24] where he rapidly established a reputation and attracted many distinguished patients. These connections, together with his personal charm, brought him considerable social success. In his spare time Ward attended art classes at the Slade school, [24] and developed a profitable sideline in portrait sketches. In 1960 he was commissioned by The Illustrated London News to provide a series of portraits of national and international figures. These included members of the Royal Family, among them Prince Philip and Princess Margaret. [25]

Ward hoped to visit the Soviet Union to draw portraits of Russian leaders. To help him, one of his patients, the Daily Telegraph editor Sir Colin Coote, arranged an introduction to Captain Yevgeny Ivanov (anglicised as "Eugene"), listed as a naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy. [26] British Intelligence (MI5) knew from the double agent Oleg Penkovsky that Ivanov was an intelligence officer in the Soviet GRU. [27] Ward and Ivanov became firm friends. Ivanov frequently visited Ward at Wimpole Mews, where he met Keeler and Rice-Davies, and sometimes joined Ward's weekend parties at Cliveden. [21] MI5 considered Ivanov a potential defector, and sought Ward's help to this end, providing him with a case officer known as "Woods". [28] [29] Ward was later used by the Foreign Office as a backchannel, through Ivanov, to the Soviet Union, [30] and was involved in unofficial diplomacy at the time of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. [31] His closeness to Ivanov raised concerns about his loyalty according to Lord Denning's September 1963 report, Ivanov often asked Ward questions about British foreign policy, and Ward did his best to provide answers. [21]

Cliveden, July 1961 Edit

During the weekend of 8–9 July 1961, Keeler was among several guests of Ward at the Spring Cottage at Cliveden. [32] That same weekend, at the main house, Profumo and his wife Valerie were among the large gathering from the worlds of politics and the arts which Astor was hosting in honour of Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan. On the Saturday evening, Ward's and Astor's parties mingled at the Cliveden swimming pool, which Ward and his guests had permission to use. [33] Keeler, who had been swimming naked, was introduced to Profumo while trying to cover herself with a skimpy towel. She was, Profumo informed his son many years later, "a very pretty girl and very sweet". [34] Keeler did not know, initially, who Profumo was, but was impressed that he was the husband of a famous film star and was prepared to have "a bit of fun" with him. [35]

The next afternoon the two parties reconvened at the pool, joined by Ivanov, who had arrived that morning. There followed what Lord Denning described as "a light-hearted and frolicsome bathing party, where everyone was in bathing costumes and nothing indecent took place at all". [36] Profumo was greatly attracted to Keeler, [37] and promised to be in touch with her. Ward asked Ivanov to accompany Keeler back to London where, according to Keeler, they had sex. Some commentators doubt this—Keeler was generally outspoken about her sexual relationships, yet said nothing openly about sex with Ivanov until she informed a newspaper eighteen months later. [38] [39]

On 12 July 1961, Ward reported on the weekend's events to MI5. [40] He told Woods that Ivanov and Profumo had met and that the latter had shown considerable interest in Keeler. Ward also stated that he had been asked by Ivanov for information about the future arming of West Germany with nuclear weapons. This request for military information did not greatly disturb MI5, who expected a GRU officer to ask such questions. Profumo's interest in Keeler was an unwelcome complication in MI5's plans to use her in a honey trap operation against Ivanov, to help secure his defection. Woods therefore referred the issue to MI5's director-general, Sir Roger Hollis. [39]

Affair Edit

A few days after the Cliveden weekend, Profumo contacted Keeler. The affair that ensued was brief some commentators have suggested that it ended after a few weeks, while others believe that it continued, with decreasing fervour, until December 1961. [39] [41] [42] The relationship was characterised by Keeler as an unromantic relationship without expectations, a "screw of convenience", [43] although she also states that Profumo hoped for a longer-term commitment and that he offered to set her up in a flat. [44] More than twenty years later, Profumo described Keeler in conversation with his son as someone who "seem[ed] to like sexual intercourse", but who was "completely uneducated", with no conversation beyond make-up, hair and gramophone records. [45]

From Profumo's "Darling" letter to Keeler, 9 August 1961 [39]

The couple usually met at Wimpole Mews, when Ward was absent, although once, when Hobson was away, Profumo took Keeler to his home at Chester Terrace in Regent's Park. [39] On one occasion he borrowed a Bentley from his ministerial colleague John Hare and took Keeler for a drive around London, and another time the couple had a drink with Viscount Ward, the former Secretary of State for Air. During their time together, Profumo gave Keeler a few small presents, and once, a sum of £20 as a gift for her mother. [41] Keeler maintains that although Stephen Ward asked her to obtain information from Profumo about the deployment of nuclear weapons, she did not do so. [46] Profumo was equally adamant that no such discussions took place. [47]

On 9 August, Profumo was interviewed informally by Sir Norman Brook, the Cabinet Secretary, [42] who had been advised by Hollis of Profumo's involvement with the Ward circle. Brook warned the minister of the dangers of mixing with Ward's group, since MI5 were at this stage unsure of Ward's dependability. It is possible that Brook asked Profumo to help MI5 in its efforts to secure Ivanov's defection—a request which Profumo declined. [41] Although Brook did not indicate knowledge of Profumo's relationship with Keeler, Profumo may have suspected that he knew. That same day, Profumo wrote Keeler a letter, beginning "Darling . ", cancelling an assignation they had made for the following day. Some commentators have assumed that this letter ended the association [39] Keeler insisted that the affair ended later, after her persistent refusals to stop living with Ward. [48] [n 3]

Gordon and Edgecombe Edit

In October 1961 Keeler accompanied Ward to Notting Hill, then a run-down district of London replete with West Indian music clubs and cannabis dealers. [41] [50] At the Rio Café they encountered Aloysius "Lucky" Gordon, a Jamaican jazz singer with a history of violence and petty crime. He and Keeler embarked on an affair which, in her own accounts, was marked by equal measures of violence and tenderness on his part. [51] Gordon became very possessive towards Keeler, jealous of her other social contacts. He began confronting her friends, and often telephoned her at unsocial hours. In November Keeler left Wimpole Mews and moved to a flat in Dolphin Square, overlooking the Thames at Pimlico, where she entertained friends. When Gordon continued to harass Keeler he was arrested by the police and charged with assault. Keeler later agreed to drop the charge. [52] [53]

In July 1962 the first inklings of a possible Profumo-Keeler-Ivanov triangle had been hinted, in coded terms, in the gossip column of the society magazine Queen. Under the heading, "Sentences I'd like to hear the end of" appeared the wording: ". called in MI5 because every time the chauffeur-driven Zils drew up at her front door, out of her back door into a chauffeur-driven Humber slipped. " [54] Keeler was then in New York City with Rice-Davies, in an abortive attempt to launch their modelling careers there. [55] [n 4] On her return, to counter Gordon's threats, Keeler formed a relationship with Johnny Edgecombe, an ex-merchant seaman from Antigua, with whom she lived for a while in Brentford, just west of London. [57] Edgecombe became similarly possessive himself after he and Gordon clashed violently on 27 October 1962, when Edgecombe slashed his rival with a knife. [58] Keeler broke up with Edgecombe shortly afterwards because of his domineering behaviour. [57]

On 14 December 1962 Keeler and Rice-Davies were together at 17 Wimpole Mews when Edgecombe arrived, demanding to see Keeler. When he was not allowed in, he fired several shots at the front door. Shortly afterwards, Edgecombe was arrested and charged with attempted murder and other offences. [59] In brief press accounts, Keeler was described as "a free-lance model" and "Miss Marilyn Davies" as "an actress". [60] In the wake of the incident, Keeler began to talk indiscreetly about Ward, Profumo, Ivanov and the Edgecombe shooting. Among those to whom she told her story was John Lewis, a former Labour MP whom she had met by chance in a night club. Lewis, a long-standing enemy of Ward, passed the information to Wigg, his one-time parliamentary colleague, who began his own investigation. [61]

Mounting pressures Edit

On 22 January 1963 the Soviet government, sensing a possible scandal, recalled Ivanov. [62] Aware of increasing public interest, Keeler attempted to sell her story to the national newspapers. [63] The Radcliffe tribunal's ongoing inquiry into press behaviour during the Vassall case was making newspapers nervous, [64] and only two showed interest in Keeler's story: the Sunday Pictorial and the News of the World. As the latter would not join an auction, Keeler accepted the Pictorial ' s offer of a £200 down payment and a further £800 when the story was published. [65] The Pictorial retained a copy of the "Darling" letter. Meanwhile, the News of the World alerted Ward and Astor—whose names had been mentioned by Keeler—and they in turn informed Profumo. [63] When Profumo's lawyers tried to persuade Keeler not to publish, the compensation she demanded was so large that they considered charges of extortion. [66] Ward informed the Pictorial that Keeler's story was largely false, and that he and others would sue if it was printed, whereupon the paper withdrew its offer, although Keeler kept the £200. [63]

Keeler then gave details of her affair with Profumo to a police officer, who did not pass on this information to MI5 or the legal authorities. [66] [67] By this time, many of Profumo's political colleagues had heard rumours of his entanglement, and of the existence of a potentially incriminating letter. Nevertheless, his denials were accepted by the government's principal law officers and the Conservative Chief Whip, although with some private scepticism. [68] Macmillan, mindful of the injustice done to Galbraith on the basis of rumours, was determined to support his minister and took no action. [67] [n 5]

Edgecombe's trial began on 14 March but Keeler, one of the Crown's key witnesses, was missing. She had, without informing the court, gone to Spain, although at this stage her whereabouts were unknown. Keeler's unexplained absence caused a press sensation. [71] Every newspaper knew the rumours linking Keeler with Profumo, but refrained from reporting any direct connection in the wake of the Radcliffe inquiry they were, in Wigg's later words, "willing to wound but afraid to strike". [72] They could only hint, by front-page juxtapositions of stories and photographs, that Profumo might be connected to Keeler's disappearance. [73] Despite Keeler's absence the judge proceeded with the case Edgecombe was found guilty on a lesser charge of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. [71] A few days after the trial, on 21 March, the satirical magazine Private Eye printed the most detailed summary so far of the rumours, with the main characters lightly disguised: "Mr James Montesi", "Miss Gaye Funloving", "Dr Spook" and "Vladimir Bolokhov". [72]

Personal statement Edit

The newly elected leader of the opposition Labour Party, Harold Wilson, was initially advised by his colleagues to have nothing to do with Wigg's private dossier on the Profumo rumours. [74] On 21 March, with the press furore over the "missing witness" at its height, the party changed its stance. During a House of Commons debate, Wigg used parliamentary privilege to ask the Home Secretary to categorically deny the truth of rumours connecting "a minister" to Keeler, Rice-Davies and the Edgecombe shooting. [75] He did not name Profumo, who was not in the House. [76] Later in the debate Barbara Castle, the Labour MP for Blackburn, referred to the "missing witness" and hinted at a possible perversion of justice. [76] [77] The Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, refused to comment, adding that Wigg and Castle should "seek other means of making these insinuations if they are prepared to substantiate them". [78]

At the conclusion of the debate the government's law officers and Chief Whip met, and decided that Profumo should assert his innocence in a personal statement to the House. Such statements are, by long-standing tradition, made on the particular honour of the member and are accepted by the House without question. [79] In the early hours of 22 March Profumo and his lawyers met with ministers and together agreed an appropriate wording. Later that morning Profumo made his statement to a crowded House. He acknowledged friendships with Keeler and Ward, the former of whom, he said, he had last seen in December 1961. He had met "a Mr Ivanov" twice, also in 1961. He stated: "There was no impropriety whatsoever in my acquaintanceship with Miss Keeler", and added: "I shall not hesitate to issue writs for libel and slander if scandalous allegations are made or repeated outside the House." [80] That afternoon, Profumo was photographed at Sandown Park Racecourse in the company of the Queen Mother. [81]

Christine Keeler, press interview 25 March 1963. [81]

While officially the matter was considered closed, [81] many individual MPs had doubts, although none openly expressed disbelief at this stage. Wigg later said that he left the House that morning "with black rage in my heart because I knew what the facts were. I knew the truth." [82] Most newspapers were editorially non-committal only The Guardian, under the headline "Mr Profumo clears the air", stated openly that the statement should be taken at its face value. [83] [84] Within a few days press attention was distracted by the re-emergence of Keeler in Madrid. She expressed astonishment at the fuss her absence had caused, adding that her friendship with Profumo and his wife was entirely innocent and that she had many friends in important positions. [81] Keeler claimed that she had not deliberately missed the Edgecombe trial but had been confused about the date. She was required to forfeit her recognizance of £40, but no other action was taken against her. [85]

Investigation and resignation Edit

Shortly after Profumo's Commons statement, Ward appeared on Independent Television News, where he endorsed Profumo's version and dismissed all rumours and insinuations as "baseless". [86] Ward's own activities had become a matter of official concern, and on 1 April 1963 the Metropolitan Police began to investigate his affairs. They interviewed 140 of Ward's friends, associates and patients, maintained a 24-hour watch on his home, and tapped his telephone—this last action requiring direct authorisation from Brooke. [87] Among those who gave statements was Keeler, who contradicted her earlier assurances and confirmed her sexual relationship with Profumo, providing corroborative details of the interior of the Chester Terrace house. [88] The police put pressure on reluctant witnesses Rice-Davies was remanded to Holloway Prison for a driving licence offence and held there for eight days until she agreed to testify against Ward. [87] [89] Meanwhile, Profumo was awarded costs and £50 damages against the British distributors of an Italian magazine that had printed a story hinting at his guilt. He donated the proceeds to an army charity. [90] This did not deter Private Eye from including "Sextus Profano" in their parody of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. [91] [92]

On 18 April 1963 Keeler was attacked at the home of a friend. She accused Gordon, who was arrested and held. According to Knightley and Kennedy's account, the police offered to drop the charges if Gordon would testify against Ward, but he refused. [93] The effects of the police inquiry were proving ruinous to Ward, whose practice was collapsing rapidly. On 7 May he met Macmillan's private secretary, Timothy Bligh, to ask that the police inquiry into his affairs be halted. He added that he had been covering for Profumo, whose Commons statement was substantially false. Bligh took notes but failed to take action. [94] [95] On 19 May Ward wrote to Brooke, with essentially the same request as that to Bligh, to be told that the Home Secretary had no power to interfere with the police inquiry. [96] Ward then gave details to the press, but no paper would print the story. He also wrote to Wilson, who showed the letter to Macmillan. Although privately disdainful of Wilson's motives, after discussions with Hollis the prime minister was sufficiently concerned about Ward's general activities to ask the Lord Chancellor, Lord Dilhorne, to inquire into possible security breaches. [94]

On 31 May 1963 at the start of the parliamentary Whitsun recess, Profumo and his wife flew to Venice for a short holiday. At their hotel they received a message asking Profumo to return as soon as possible. Believing that his bluff had been called, Profumo then told his wife the truth, and they decided to return immediately. They found that Macmillan was on holiday in Scotland. On Tuesday 4 June, Profumo confessed the truth to Bligh, confirming that he had lied, and resigned from the government and from Parliament. Bligh informed Macmillan of these events by telephone. The resignation was announced on 5 June, when the formal exchange of letters between Profumo and Macmillan was published. [97] [98] [n 6] The Times called Profumo's lies "a great tragedy for the probity of public life in Britain" [99] and the Daily Mirror hinted that not all the truth had been told, and referred to "skeletons in many cupboards". [100]

Retribution Edit

Gordon's trial for the attack on Keeler began on the day Profumo's resignation was made public. He maintained that his innocence would be established by two witnesses who, the police told the court, could not be found. On 7 June, principally on the evidence of Keeler, Gordon was found guilty and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. [101] The following day, Ward was arrested and charged with immorality offences. [102] On 9 June, freed from Profumo's libel threats, the News of the World published "The Confessions of Christine", an account which helped to fashion the public image of Ward as a sexual predator and probable tool of the Soviets. [103] The Sunday Mirror (formerly the Sunday Pictorial) printed Profumo's "Darling" letter. [104]

Nigel Birch, House of Commons, 17 June 1963 [105]

In advance of the House of Commons debate on Profumo's resignation, due 17 June, David Watt in The Spectator defined Macmillan's position as "an intolerable dilemma from which he can only escape by being proved either ludicrously naïve or incompetent or deceitful—or all three". [106] Meanwhile, the press speculated about possible Cabinet resignations, and several ministers felt it necessary to demonstrate their loyalty to the prime minister. [107] In a BBC interview on 13 June Lord Hailsham, holder of several ministerial offices, denounced Profumo in a manner which, according to The Observer, "had to be seen to be believed". [108] [n 7] Hailsham insisted that "a great party is not to be brought down because of a squalid affair between a woman of easy virtue and a proven liar". [111]

In the debate, Wilson concentrated almost exclusively on the extent to which Macmillan and his colleagues had been dilatory in not identifying a clear security risk arising from Profumo's association with Ward and his circle. [112] Macmillan responded that he should not be held culpable for believing a colleague who had repeatedly asserted his innocence. He mentioned the false allegations against Galbraith, and the failure of the security services to share their detailed information with him. [113] In the general debate the sexual aspects of the scandal were fully discussed Nigel Birch, the Conservative MP for West Flintshire, referred to Keeler as a "professional prostitute" and asked rhetorically: "What are whores about?" [114] Keeler was otherwise branded a "tart" and a "poor little slut". [n 8] Ward was vilified throughout as a likely Soviet agent one Conservative referred to "the treason of Dr Ward". [103] Most Conservatives, whatever their reservations, were supportive of Macmillan, with only Birch suggesting that he should consider retirement. [114] In the subsequent vote on the government's handling of the affair, 27 Conservatives abstained, reducing the government's majority to 69. Most newspapers considered the extent of the defection significant, and several forecast that Macmillan would soon resign. [116] [117]

After the parliamentary debate, newspapers published further sensational stories, hinting at widespread immorality within Britain's governing class. A story emanating from Rice-Davies concerned a naked masked man, who acted as a waiter at sex parties rumours suggested that he was a cabinet minister, or possibly a member of the Royal Family. [118] Malcolm Muggeridge in the Sunday Mirror wrote of "The Slow, Sure Death of the Upper Classes". [119] [120] [n 9] On 21 June Macmillan instructed Lord Denning, the Master of the Rolls, to investigate and report on the growing range of rumours. [121] Ward's committal proceedings began a week later, at Marylebone magistrates' court, where the Crown's evidence was fully reported in the press. [122] Ward was committed for trial on charges of "living off the earnings of prostitution" and "procuration of girl under twenty-one", and released on bail. [123]

With the Ward case now sub judice, the press pursued related stories. The People reported that Scotland Yard had begun an inquiry, in parallel with Denning's, into "homosexual practices as well as sexual laxity" among civil servants, military officers and MPs. [124] On 24 June the Daily Mirror, under a banner heading "Prince Philip and the Profumo Scandal", dismissed what it termed the "foul rumour" that the prince had been involved in the affair, without disclosing the nature of the rumour. [125] [126]

Ward's trial began at the Old Bailey on 28 July. He was charged with living off the earnings of Keeler, Rice-Davies and two other prostitutes, and with procuring women under 21 to have sex with other persons. [127] The thrust of the prosecution's case related to Keeler and Rice-Davies, and turned on whether the small contributions to household expenses or loan repayments they had given to Ward while living with him amounted to his living off their prostitution. Ward's approximate income at the time, from his practice and from his portraiture, had been around £5,500 a year, a substantial sum at that time. [128] In his speeches and examination of witnesses, the prosecuting counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones portrayed Ward as representing "the very depths of lechery and depravity". [129] The judge, Sir Archie Marshall, was equally hostile, drawing particular attention to the fact that none of Ward's supposed society friends had been prepared to speak up for him. [130] Towards the end of the trial, news came that Gordon's conviction for assault had been overturned Marshall did not disclose to the jury that Gordon's witnesses had turned up and testified that Keeler, a key prosecution witness against Ward, had given false evidence at Gordon's trial. [131]

After listening to Marshall's damning summing-up, on the evening of 30 July Ward took an overdose of sleeping tablets and was taken to hospital. On the next day, he was found guilty in absentia on the charges relating to Keeler and Rice-Davies, and acquitted on the other counts. Sentence was postponed until Ward was fit to appear, but on 3 August he died without regaining consciousness. [132] [n 10]

Lord Denning's report was awaited with great anticipation by the public. [n 11] Published on 26 September 1963, it concluded that there had been no security leaks in the Profumo affair and that the security services and government ministers had acted appropriately. [136] Profumo had been guilty of an "indiscretion", but no one could doubt his loyalty. [137] Denning also found no evidence to link members of the government with associated scandals such as the "man in the mask". [138] He laid most of the blame for the affair on Ward, an "utterly immoral" man whose diplomatic activities were "misconceived and misdirected". [139] Although The Spectator considered that the report marked the end of the affair, [140] many commentators were disappointed with its content. Young found many questions unanswered and some of the reasoning defective, [141] while Davenport-Hines, writing long after the event, condemns the report as disgraceful, slipshod and prurient. [142]

After the Denning Report, in defiance of general expectations that he would resign shortly, Macmillan announced his intention to stay on. [143] On the eve of the Conservative Party's annual conference in October 1963 he fell ill his condition was less serious than he imagined, and his life was not in danger but, convinced he had cancer, he resigned abruptly. [144] Macmillan's successor as prime minister was Lord Home, who renounced his peerage and served as Sir Alec Douglas-Home. [145] In the October 1964 general election the Conservative Party was narrowly defeated, and Wilson became prime minister. [146] A later commentator opined that the Profumo affair had destroyed the old, aristocratic Conservative Party: "It wouldn't be too much to say that the Profumo scandal was the necessary prelude to the new Toryism, based on meritocracy, which would eventually emerge under Margaret Thatcher". [147] The Economist suggested that the scandal had effected a fundamental and permanent change in relations between politicians and press. [92] Davenport-Hines posits a longer-term consequence of the affair—the gradual ending of traditional notions of deference: "Authority, however disinterested, well-qualified and experienced, was [after June 1963] increasingly greeted with suspicion rather than trust". [148]

After expressing his "deep remorse" to the prime minister, to his constituents and to the Conservative Party, [149] Profumo disappeared from public view. In April 1964 he began working as a volunteer at the Toynbee Hall settlement, a charitable organisation based in Spitalfields which supports the most deprived residents in the East End of London. Profumo continued his association with the settlement for the remainder of his life, at first in a menial capacity, then as administrator, fund-raiser, council member, chairman and finally president. [150] Profumo's charitable work was recognised when he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975. [151] He was later described by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a national hero, and was a guest at her 80th birthday celebrations in 2005. [150] His marriage to Valerie Hobson lasted until her death on 13 November 1998, aged 81 [152] Profumo died, aged 91, on 9 March 2006. [8]

In December 1963 Keeler pleaded guilty to committing perjury at Gordon's June trial, and she was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, of which she served four and a half months. [153] After two brief marriages in 1965–66 to James Levermore and in 1971–72 to Anthony Platt that produced a child each, the eldest of whom was largely raised by Keeler's mother Julie, Keeler largely lived alone from the mid-1990s until her death. Most of the considerable amount of money that she made from newspaper stories was dissipated by legal fees during the 1970s, she said, "I was not living, I was surviving". [154] She published several inconsistent accounts of her life, in which Ward has been variously represented as a "gentleman", her truest love, [155] a Soviet spy, and a traitor ranking alongside Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. [156] Keeler also claimed that Profumo impregnated her and that she subsequently underwent a painful abortion. [157] [158] Her portrait, by Ward, was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1984. [159] Christine Keeler died on 4 December 2017, aged 75. Rice-Davies enjoyed a more successful post-scandal career, as nightclub owner, businesswoman, minor actress and novelist. [146] She was married three times, in what she described as her "slow descent into respectability". [160] Of adverse press publicity she observed: "Like royalty, I simply do not complain". [161] Mandy Rice-Davies died on 18 December 2014, aged 70.

Ward's role on behalf of MI5 was confirmed in 1982, when The Sunday Times located his former contact "Woods". [162] Although Denning always asserted that Ward's trial and conviction were fair and proper, [163] most commentators believe that it was deeply flawed—an "historical injustice" according to Davenport-Hines, who argues that the trial was an act of political revenge. [24] One High Court judge said privately that he would have stopped the trial before it reached the jury. [164] The human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has campaigned for the case to be reopened on several grounds, including the premature scheduling of the trial, lack of evidence to support the main charges, and various misdirections by the trial judge in his summing up. Above all, the judge failed to advise the jury of the evidence revealed in the Gordon appeal that Keeler, the prosecution's chief witness against Ward, had committed perjury at the Gordon trial. [165] In January 2014 Ward's case was being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has the power to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice and refer cases to the Court of Appeal. [166] [167]

After his recall in January 1963, Ivanov disappeared for several decades. [168] In 1992 his memoirs, The Naked Spy, were serialised in The Sunday Times. When this account was challenged by Profumo's lawyers, the publishers removed offending material. [169] In August 2015 The Independent newspaper published a preview of a forthcoming history of Soviet intelligence activities, by Jonathan Haslam. This book suggests that the relationship between Ivanov and Profumo was closer than the latter admitted. It is alleged that Ivanov visited Profumo's home, and that such was the slackness of security arrangements that the Russian was able to photograph sensitive documents left lying about in the minister's study. [170] [171]

Keeler describes a 1993 meeting with Ivanov in Moscow she also records that he died the following year, aged 68. [172] Astor was deeply upset at finding himself under police investigation, and by the social ostracism that followed the Ward trial. [173] After his death in 1966, Cliveden was sold. It became first the property of Stanford University, and later a luxury hotel. [146] Rachman, who had first come to public notice as a sometime-boyfriend of both Keeler and Rice-Davies, was revealed as an unscrupulous slum landlord the word "Rachmanism" entered English dictionaries as the standard term for landlords who exploit or intimidate their tenants. [174]

There have been several dramatised versions of the Profumo affair. The 1989 film Scandal featured Ian McKellen as Profumo and John Hurt as Ward. It was favourably reviewed, but the revival of interest in the affair upset the Profumo family. [175] The focus of Hugh Whitemore's play A Letter of Resignation, first staged at the Comedy Theatre in October 1997, was Macmillan's reactions to Profumo's resignation letter, which he received while on holiday in Scotland. [176] Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Stephen Ward opened at London's Aldwych Theatre on 3 December 2013. Among generally favourable reviews, the Daily Telegraph ' s critic recommended the production as "sharp, funny – and, at times, genuinely touching". [177] Robertson records that the script is "remarkably faithful to the facts". [178]

The scandal is also one of the main topics of the tenth episode (The Mystery Man) of season 2 of The Crown, Netflix.

Profumo affair

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Profumo affair, in British history, political and intelligence scandal in the early 1960s that helped topple the Conservative Party government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Involving sex, a Russian spy, and the secretary of state for war, the scandal captured the attention of the British public and discredited the government.

At a party at the country estate of Lord Astor on July 8, 1961, British Secretary of State for War John Profumo, then a rising 46-year-old Conservative Party politician, was introduced to 19-year-old London dancer Christine Keeler by Stephen Ward, an osteopath with contacts in both the aristocracy and the underworld. Also present at this gathering was a Russian military attaché, Eugene Ivanov, who was Keeler’s lover. Through Ward’s influence Profumo began an affair with Keeler, and rumours of their involvement soon began to spread. In March 1963 Profumo lied about the affair to Parliament, stating that there was “no impropriety whatsoever” in his relationship with Keeler. Evidence to the contrary quickly became too great to hide, however, and, 10 weeks later Profumo resigned, admitting “with deep remorse” that he had deceived the House of Commons. Prime Minister Macmillan continued in office until October, but the scandal was pivotal in his eventual downfall, and within a year the opposition Labour Party defeated the Conservatives in a national election.

Despite charges of attempted espionage, neither the FBI nor British intelligence was able to confirm or deny that Ivanov had attempted to entrap Profumo or to use Keeler as an access agent. Ivanov left Britain before the scandal became public, attending the Academy of the General Staff and later serving in important intelligence positions until his retirement in 1981.

How does the royal family fit in with the Profumo Affair?

The scandal was one that concerned mainly the British government, and not the royal family, but The Crown attempts to establish a connection between Stephen Ward and Prince Philip. The Daily Mail reports that while in real life, Ward, who had some real artistic talent, painted a picture of the Duke of Edinburgh, evidence of any connection between them stops there. But that didn't stop The Crown from deciding to involve Philip in the affair, first as a patient of Ward. In one scene, Philip is shown deciding to attend a weekend party hosted by Ward, in which Keeler (played by Gala Gordon) will be in attendance. In another, it is speculated that a photograph of a "mystery man" taken at Ward's party might indeed be Prince Philip.

Historians have taken issue with the show's decision to implicate the royal family in this event. Royal historian Christopher Wilson said that producers have become "increasingly elastic" with the truth, according to The Daily Mail, and he added that thinks "the show has crossed a line and stepped out of reality into fiction." The Daily Mail also reports that biographer Margaret Holder believes that the episode had gone beyond what was a matter of public record, as the piece paraphrases.

It seems that the show's creator, Peter Morgan, made the choice to associate Philip more closely with Ward than evidence supports in order to ramp up the drama and exacerbate tensions between the queen and her husband. It's obviously impossible to know what exactly went on between the couple behind closed doors, so taking some historical license is to be understood. Actor Matt Smith, who plays Prince Philip, spoke to The Los Angeles Times about sacrificing historical accuracy for domestic drama:

“[Philip's] got a huge conflict in him between his duty to his wife and his duty to himself as a man,” he said. “All the conflicts in his marriage are always quite satisfying to play because it’s quite a rich tapestry emotionally. It’s Peter Morgan’s version of what happens. There wasn’t a camera in there recording these things. It’s impressionistic, but it’s based on as much fact as we can gather.”

Yet though that might hold true for rumors of Philip's infidelities, it seems that most historians agree that The Crown's decision to create a closer relationship between Philip and Ward than the historical record shows was perhaps a step too far. The New York Times' review of Season 2 noted that "a plot contrivance" linking Philip more closely to the Profumo scandal ultimately doesn't pan out well for the show. Perhaps the decision was motivated by the desire to connect historical events more closely to the central cast, or to create more strife in the marriage between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

The documents that revealed Duke of Windsor’s Nazi ties

The incredible story of the Duke of Windsor, who reportedly plotted with Nazis to put his American wife on the throne.

Prince Andrew's relationship with Jeffrey Epstein maybe the worst scandal to hit the Windsors but it's certainly not the only one.

Prince Andrew's relationship with Jeffrey Epstein maybe the worst scandal to hit the Windsors but it's certainly not the only one.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s love story created a scandal. Picture: Supplied Source:Supplied

Since the early 1900s, the British royal family’s connection to Germany has been called into question.

Arguably no other monarch, however, was tied to the Third Reich in the same ways as the Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII.


The former king gave up the crown 83 years ago this week, in order to marry his American mistress Wallis Simpson — a woman who would set off a chain of events, altering the British monarchy forever.

To most British politicians, and the Church of England, a twice-divorced American woman was unacceptable as queen of England.

Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII in the 1930s. Picture: Supplied Source:News Limited

So less than a year after he was crowned king on December 10, 1936, Edward made history when he abdicated the throne.

“I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love,” he announced in a public address.

Now demoted to Duke of Windsor, he and Simpson married on June 3, 1937 in France, where the pair “lived in virtual self-exile from Britain”.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor pose after their wedding at the Chateau de Cande in France. Picture: Popperfoto/Getty Images Source:Getty Images

And while the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s complicated love story is often held responsible for the rift driven between Edward and the rest of the royal family, the true reason is a lot more sinister, filled with pro-Nazi sympathies and ties to Hitler.


Following their marriage, Wallis and Edward embarked on a jetsetting lifestyle that attracted wide publicity.

No trip, however, was more controversial than the one the newlyweds took to Germany in 1937, a mere two years before Britain declared war.

It was “the tip of the iceberg”: the first in a long string of incidents that linked the couple to Adolf Hitler, causing rumours to run rampant around the world that the former king was a Nazi sympathiser and his wife a Nazi spy.

The motives behind the now-notorious visit to Hitler at his holiday spot, Berchtesgaden, were “peaceful”, royal historian Carolyn Harris told the BBC, and led to a gaining acceptance of Wallis, whose treatment in Britain had been icy at best.

The Duke of Windsor during his visit to Germany. Picture: Morgan Evans & Co Source:Supplied

The Duke of Windsor during his visit to Germany. Picture: Morgan Evans & Co Source:Supplied

Harris said the Duke was �ger to carve out a new role for himself and ensure that his wife was treated as a full member of the Royal Family even though she had not received the title of Her Royal Highness – an issue that was of great concern to the duke”.

The Duchess was well and truly treated like royalty during the two-week trip — met by massive, cheering crowds and the curtsies and bows she had been denied elsewhere.

But reports of the Duke’s actions while there — meeting with a series of high-profile Nazi figures and photographed returning the Nazi salutes of Germans — caused the monarchy and British government great embarrassment.

Following their meeting with Hitler, the dictator reportedly stated that “Simpson would have made a good queen.”

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are greeted by German leader Adolf Hitler. Picture: Supplied Source:News Corp Australia

While the Duchess denied he had ever said such a thing, the damage had already been done.

By the time WWII officially began in 1939, the Duke had become a liability to his family, and, in the eyes of Hitler, an advocate of the Nazi cause.

While the visit heightened public and government fear about the couple’s loyalties, it wouldn’t be until years later that the true extent of Edward’s ties to Hitler were revealed.

The outbreak of war in 1939 only heightened tensions between the British government and its former monarch.

Still unwelcome in England, the Duke was offered the governorship of the Bahamas by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, anxious to keep the Windsors “out of Hitler’s grasp”.

As Churchill explained to US President Franklin Roosevelt: “there are personal and family difficulties about his return to this country.”

The Duke of Windsor, who Hitler intended to use as his puppet in a scheme to control the British government. Picture: Supplied Source:News Corp Australia

When France fell under Nazi control in 1940, the Duke and Duchess travelled to Madrid, where the Germans attempted to use them as pawns in an ill-fated plan to gain control of the British government.

Details of the ploy — and the true extent of the Duke’s ties to Nazi Germany — were revealed in 1945, when British, French and American forces uncovered tons of Foreign Ministry archives following the collapse of Nazi Germany.

Among the papers and telegrams were roughly 60 pages of material that contained information about and correspondences between the Duke and Nazi Germany, which consequently became known as the Windsor File.

Increasing suspicion of the Duke’s Nazi sympathies, the most shocking piece of information to come to light was the details of a German plan, known as Operation Willi.

Hitler planned to reinstate the Duke and Duchess as Britain’s monarchs. Picture: Supplied Source:Supplied

While unsuccessful, the Nazis had plotted to lure the ostracised former monarch over to the enemy side – even attempting to convince the Duke that his brother, the King, planned to assassinate him – and reinstate him as king in exchange for his support.

“The Germans propose to form an opposition government with the Duke of Windsor, having first changed public opinion by propaganda,” the memo of a Foreign Office informant read.

According to the Windsor File, the Duke and Duchess did not dismiss the plan — nor did they inform British authorities of the conversation, with the Duchess reportedly �siring at any price to become Queen”.

Churchill pleaded with the other governments to suppress the telegrams, claiming that the information they contained was “unreliable” — but they eventually came to light in 1957.

Years later, the Duke quashed the rumours of his support to the Nazi regime, publicly calling Hitler 𠇊 somewhat ridiculous figure”.

But in a private statement about his relationship with the Fuhrer, in many ways he confirmed his reputation as a Nazi sympathiser, saying, “I never thought Hitler was such a bad chap”.

10 Famous Politicians and Their Salacious Scandalous Sex Scandals

On July 18, 1969, Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy of Massachusetts, possibly the next Democratic presidential nominee, drove his Oldsmobile off a bridge over Chappaquiddick Creek, killing his passenger, a young woman not his wife. This scandal mixing a woman and booze may well have cost Kennedy a chance to ever earn the Democratic presidential nomination that he felt was his. Many times over the years famous politicians have tainted their legacies by sexual scandal, and here we list 10 of the most egregious and most famous indiscretions.

Today, when surveillance video and cell phone recording capability are rampant, politicians and celebrities are ever susceptible to public scrutiny. In recent months political candidates for President of the United States (2020 election) have been targeted for any hint of sexual impropriety, including former Vice President Joe Biden with his predilection for creepily smelling the hair of women and girls, Senator Kamala Harris for having had an affair with her married boss while serving as a prosecutor in California, and of course, President Trump for his many documented affairs and other sexual peccadilloes, including his alleged association with suspected child abuser Jeffrey Epstein.

Question for Students (and others): What political sex scandal would you place at the top of this list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

Digging Deeper

10. John Profumo, Sex With Spy.

Profumo was Secretary of State for War in the United Kingdom in the heart of the Cold War when he was discovered to be having an affair with a 19 year old model, Christine Keeler, that just happened to be the mistress of a Soviet spy. Profumo lied to Parliament in 1963, but soon was forced to admit the truth, resigning his post and costing Harold Macillan his position as prime minister. This incident spawned the 1989 movie Scandal , the Andrew Lloyd Weber play Stephen Ward , and the song “ Killer Queen” by Queen (about Christine Keeler).

9. Wilbur Mills, Fanne Fox.

Mills was a powerful Arkansas congressman, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the 1950’s through 1974. He was stopped by US Park Police one night for drunk driving when his mistress, known as Fanne Fox, the Argentine Bombshell, jumped out of the car and into a ditch. The scandal did not cost Mills his seat in congress and he was reelected easily, but when he showed up at the strip joint where Fox was working and held a drunken press conference in her dressing room, he was forced out of his position as Committee Chairman. A year before he died he opened an alcohol rehab center.

8. Moshe Katsav, Rape and Sexual Harassment.

This pillar of the community was born in Iran as Musa Qasab, and was serving as the President of Israel when he complained of being blackmailed by a woman. Investigators found this woman and several others complaining of rape and sexual harassment at the hands of the President. Not able to prosecute a sitting president, prosecutors waited until he left office in 2007. Katsav (of course!) blamed the media for inciting feelings against him, but he was convicted of 2 counts of rape and of obstruction of justice. He would have had more charges, but the statute of limitations had run out on several other cases. He lost an appeal of his convictions and 7 year prison sentence.

7. Mark Foley, Paging the Page.

Another typical hypocrite in office, Foley was a gay bashing congressman that got caught soliciting teenage boys that served as congressional pages and instant messaging sexually suggestive messages to them. The scandal may well have cost the Republican party the majority in the House in the 2006 elections. Foley was also accused of having sex with former pages after they left congress and had turned 18 years old. He blamed his conduct on having been sexually abused by a priest when he was a boy, and alcoholism. One or more other Republican congressmen were implicated in the scandal, and senior Republican congressmen were found to have known about the unethical e-mails and done nothing about them, including John Boehner who claimed he notified the House Speaker, but then recanted when the Speaker denied that.

6. Larry Craig, Wide Stance.

Conservative Republican senator from Idaho, Craig is the typical anti-gay rights politician that turns out to have closeted gay issues himself. He got caught in a Minneapolis-St. Paul airport bathroom reaching under a bathroom stall in an effort to solicit sex from an undercover policeman. He was arrested for lewd conduct in public and tried to quietly plead guilty to disorderly conduct to make the embarrassment go away. Craig offered a pathetic excuse of having a “wide stance” when he uses the bathroom on the police report, a ridiculous notion. It turns out Craig has been accused of homosexual activities in other incidents, and Craig got into further trouble by improperly using campaign funds for legal bills.

5. Anthony Weiner’s Weiner.

In a scandal referred to by the press as “Weinergate” this outspoken progressive congressman from New York was found to have been sending unwanted “sexts,” sexually oriented messages and photos by cell phone. The married Weiner at first denied the allegations, but then admitted the truth when confronted with the evidence. He resigned his seat in Congress in June of 2011, and in an attempt to reenter the political world decided to run for mayor of New York City in 2013. Sure enough, new sexts surfaced and it was apparent Weiner was up to his old tricks, this time using the internet nom de penis of “Carlos Danger.” He came in fifth in the Democratic primary.

4. Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky.

While the Republican party was spending tens of millions of taxpayers’ dollars in a massive attempt to find any incriminating information about Bill and Hillary Clinton in 1998 under the guise of a real estate investigation, they hit pay dirt when information leaked out about the President’s affair with a young White House intern. Clinton at first denied any “sexual relations with that woman” but was forced to admit that he indeed had engaged in sexual behavior (though not intercourse) with Monica Lewinsky when confronted with the evidence he left on her dress. Impeached by Congress not for the sex, but for lying to Congress, Clinton was tried by the Senate and got a 50-50 vote, an acquittal under our laws.

3. Silvio Berlusconi, Bunga Bunga.

Serving a total of 9 years as the Prime Minister of Italy, this media mogul has a personal fortune of $9 billion, which he apparently enjoys to the fullest. Frequently on the wrong side of the law, and convicted of tax evasion in 2013, it was the 2009 and 2010 accusations by his wife and others of his sexual misconduct that grabbed the attention of the world. He was accused of engaging in sexual relations with females less than 18 years old, including participation in orgies known as “bunga bunga” parties. Berlusconi was eventually convicted of paying for sex with a minor in 2013 and sentenced to 7 years in jail, with a permanent ban from politics. Court testimony revealed Berlusconi had paid a teenage prostitute 4.5 million euros for her services.

2. Ted Kennedy, Chappaquiddick.

As described above, Kennedy, the heir apparent to the Kennedy dynasty, was undone by his predilection for women and booze, two things that would haunt his entire career and probably the only things that kept him out of the White House. Drunkenly driving Mary Jo Kopechne into the water where she drowned, and failing to attempt to get help, being more worried about his own welfare apparently was okay with Massachusetts voters who continued to reelect him, but enough of an obstacle that he would never become president.

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Sperminator.

Dogged by rumors and accusations of sexual harassment for years, the Austrian Oak shrugged off questions about his indiscretions and got himself elected governor of California in 2003 and again in 2006. When the sexual harassment allegations resurfaced in a big way, during these campaigns he still fought back, until the last straw broke the camel’s back in 2011 when it was revealed that Arnold had fathered a son out of wedlock with his maid back in 1997. His wife left him and he became the brunt of late night comedians’ jokes, often referred to as “The Sperminator.” Any talk of amending the constitution to allow him to run for president of the US went out the window, as did most of his female fans.

Question for students (and subscribers): Which ones would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

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The featured image in this article, a photograph by Joel Kramer of a bumper sticker he saw in a parking lot, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Joelk75 at https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2718450178. It was reviewed on 10 January 2018 by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.

Watch the video: A Very British Scandal (January 2022).