Episode 1: The Profumo affair
Hello, and welcome to true scandals podcasts with me, Mrs Leather.
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I am known for my love of wearing leather, and seeing others wearing it. One of my lifetime fascinations is with true crimes and especially the more scandalous ones. The sort of ones that shock the nation, or cause a massive outcry across the land. You know the sort. Back in the day your mum or dad would suddenly shout out from behind the newspaper “Oh my god I cant believe she did that!” or “Well I never!”
So, listen carefully, come in closer and join me as we have a good old gossip and I tell you some scandalous news from yesteryear…
Episode 1: The Profumo affair
They say if you throw a stone into a pond the ripples go on forever and you never know where they will peter out. In this scandal the ramifications for the UK government took a very long time to peter out…
When was the year? There isn’t an exact date for this one, as it happened over a few years. But most of this story played out at the beginning of the sixties in London, England. The main court cases happened in and around 1963. So I am are going to say 1963!
In 1963 it felt like the swinging sixties were really taking off. Lets take a look at what was going on:-
The avengers started on ITV featuring the sophisticated John Steed and his often fully leather-clad sidekick, Cathy Gale played by the lovely Honor Blackman
Leather was proving popular following on from the success of the avengers TV show. They even held a fashion show with models in leather outfits accompanied by the young Patrick Macnee and Honor also in a leather catsuit! The mini skirt was also just arrive in high street shops.
Biggest movie this year was the Hollywood historical drama Cleopatra featuring the gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor and ruggedly handsome Richard Burton.
You could also see James Bond being sent from Russia with love and Jason and the argonaughts fighting those skeletons!
well there was only really one group dominating the UK charts…the Beatles, conquering the world with their mop-top tunes! They started with hit after early hits including please please me and she loves you, to name a few!
Oh and don’t forget almost everything on tv and in the news was in black and white!
This scandal appears quite a complex tale with several key characters involved. But it had massive implications for the UK establishment, the British press and the UK government. And yet, in effect, it was a simple tale of 2 good time girls sleeping their way through several high up players including a government minister or two and possibly someone from Russia! Pretty tame by today’s standards, but back in 1963, it shook the UK to its core! oh and then there was THAT photograph -Christine Keeler sat astride a wooden chair apparently naked (she was allegedly still in her knickers).
The main players in this scandal were:
- Christine Keeler, dancer, model, good time party girl.
- Stephen ward her well off boyfriend / just friend / landlord & alleged pimp
- John Profumo (foreign secretary).
With a supporting cast of
- Mandy Rice Davis – Keelers girlfriend, flatmate and fellow good time buddy.
- Yevgeny Ivanov – Russian diplomat/spy
- And many other members of the political and social naughty boys of swinging London in the sixties.
The scandal focused, initially on the fact that John Profumo, the then Secretary of state for war met Christine Keeler and began an affair with her. How long this went on for is open to debate. But basically Christine was also ‘seeing’, presumably among others, an alleged Russian spy.
I suppose when this came out, as the cold war was still in full swing. It seemed scandalous to the British public that Keeler could be in bed with a member of the UK government one night and in bed with a Russian spy the next. And as they no doubt enjoyed a post coital cigarette together loose tongues could have started wagging and vital secrets passed on. I mean Profumo might have talked in his sleep, god knows what secrets he might have given away!
Well whether the countries national security was being put on the line or not (I doubt it) the government felt that having a highly respected minister (those were the days lol) caught with his trousers down and sordid details coming out in the press was too much of an embarrassment to ignore. So the establishment got together and came down hard on these characters. No doubt teaching them and any others a lesson. So they picked on, at first, Christine and Mandys’ friend, Stephen Ward.
He had a lovely London flat and a house in the country which Christine and Mandy stayed at. The powers above decided they could teach them a lesson by prosecuting Stephen for receiving immoral earnings. They claimed that any money he got from Christine and Mandy wasn’t for rent , but for prostituting themselves. Something never proven in court. The papers were full of reports from the court room at the time (no cameras allowed in those days). One highlight came from Mandy Rice Davis when the defence counsel, pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or even having met her, she dismissed this, giggling “Well he would, wouldn’t he?”.
Well sadly before sentence and imprisonment could be given, Stephen committed suicide with a drug overdose. I guess the fear of imprisonment was too great. Or was he a spy himself working for either MI5 or the KGB as some have argued. We will never know.
But following on from the decision of wards case it became clear that Christine keeler had misled the court with her version of events and so she was taken to court for perjury. In December 1963 she was sentenced to 9 months in prison. For which she actually served 4 and a half months. She lived out the rest of her life pretty much out of the limelight and passed away in 2017. Well apart from THAT photograph continually cropping up in the press (that chair is now in a museum!). And a couple of movies, a play, a musical and a couple of television series, one as recent as just a few years ago.
This was an example of the people in power getting caught with their pants down, quite literally, and then thinking that they could cover their embarrassment by bullying people. By chucking them in jail. It clearly didn’t work and led to the sad death of one of the possible victims.
Questions were asked in parliament of Profumo and his political career was over. So too was the then prime minister, as he stepped down after losing the next general election to one Harold Wilson of labour in 1964.
I hoped you enjoyed my recounting of the Profumo scandal from 1963.
An Mp in scandalous trouble. Who would believe such a thing today eh? ha-ha
Thanks For reading
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