Stephen Ward was a London based society osteopath who moved in high circles, counting Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Ava Gardner among his clients. However, he also had a taste for the flip side of society, simultaneously immersing himself in the London club scene.
Stephen, who was also a talented artist, briefly married a fashion model before moving on to a string of girlfriends. The extent of his multi-faceted lifestyle was memorably captured by his secretary who, during Lord Denning's Parliamentary inquiry into the Profumo Affair, described him as "that osteopath, artist, demon, socialite, pervert, now anxiously awaiting his trial at the Old Bailey”.
One of Stephen’s patients, Lord Astor, relied so heavily upon his services that he gave him a cottage on the grounds of his beautiful stately home, Cliveden. It was at Cliveden, that Stephen Ward introduced Christine Keeler to the Macmillan Government's Minister for War, John 'Jack' Profumo. With that introduction, Ward's two lives collided causing an explosion that would ruin his life and bring down a government.
He was charged with living off immoral earnings and was sent to trial at the Old Baily. During the course of the trail, he realised that he was to be the scapegoat for the whole affair and having been deserted by all of this so called friends, he took an overdose and died three days later.
On Monday August 5th 1963, the trial was formally closed with no sentence pronounced. Stephen Ward ended up as a waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors in Blackpool.
Christine Keeler was 19 years old in 1961 when she traded her family's home, which was a converted railway carriage, near a Buckinghamshire gravel pit, for the bright lights of London’s West End. The brunette beauty was hired as a dancer at Murray's Cabaret Club in Beak Street - where the clients included the aristocracy, artists, members of the Royal Family, and the Kray twins.
At Murray's, Christine met Stephen Ward, who invited her to live in his Bayswater flat. Christine was swept into his world of glamorous parties and London society. Of the many important men introduced to Christine by Stephen, two spelled ultimate disaster for the both of them: Yevgeny Ivanov, a naval attaché in London at the Russian embassy, and John 'Jack' Profumo, British Minister for War, who fell for Christine after meeting her by the swimming pool at Lord Astor’s country house Cliveden.
As news of Profumo’s indiscretions broke, Christine soon found herself at the centre of the scandal and was one of people being investigated by the police and MI5. She also became one of the victims of a prurient press onslaught, led by The News Of The World. She was vilified in the press as a traitor and a prostitute - events which led to the tragic and untimely death of Christine's friend and benefactor, Stephen Ward
Mandy Rice-Davies was born in Wales, the daughter of a policeman and an actress. The family later lived in Solihull before Mandy moved to London at the age of 16, getting a job as a showgirl at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho, where she met Christine Keeler.
Mandy often visited the house Christine shared with Stephen Ward and indeed later lived there after Christine moved on. Mandy moved in the same circles as Christine and claimed to have had an affair with Lord Astor, owner of Cliveden, the country house where Christine met the UK Minister of War, John 'Jack' Profumo.
In 1963, Mandy was arrested at Heathrow Airport for possessing a fraudulent driving licence. While in custody she was pressurised by police into helping them with an investigation into Stephen Ward. Unable to face being imprisoned she agreed, believing her evidence could not harm Stephen. She was asked by police to draw up a list of men with whom she had sex or who had given her money during the time she knew Stephen Ward.
When giving evidence at the trial of Stephen, who had been charged with living off the immoral earnings of Christine and Mandy, she famously responded to the suggestion that Lord Astor had denied having had an affair with her by saying, “He would, wouldn’t he?”
Image courtesy of Mandy Rice-Davies
John Profumo CBE, known as ‘Jack’ to his friends, was a pillar of the British establishment. Married to the actress Valerie Hobson, he was appointed Minister of War in the Harold Macmillan government in 1961.
Profumo was introduced to Christine Keeler by Stephen Ward at a pool party at Cliveden, the Buckinghamshire estate of Lord Astor in 1961. He soon began an affair with Christine, although this only lasted a few weeks before Profumo called a halt to the relationship.
Rumours of the affair became public in 1962. However, what really captured the press and public’s imagination was the allegation that Christine had also been sleeping with another friend of Stephen Ward – a ‘senior naval attaché’ at the Soviet embassy, Yevgeny ‘Eugene’ Ivanov. At the height of the Cold War, the idea of the British Minister of War sharing a mistress with a Russian spy was a huge scandal and a serious threat to national security.
Under pressure, Profumo initially told the House of Commons that there was "no impropriety whatsoever" in his relationship with Christine and threatened to sue for libel. However, three months later he was forced to confess that he had misled the House and resigned from the Cabinet. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan himself resigned as Prime Minister a few months later, citing ill health.
Bill Astor (William Waldorf Astor II, the 3rd Viscount Astor) was a wealthy British businessman and Conservative Party politician, who owned the Cliveden estate in Buckinghamshire
Educated at Eton and Oxford, Astor was a patient and friend of Stephen Ward and let Stephen use a cottage at Cliveden. Stephen was a regular guest at parties at Cliveden and was present at Astor’s pool party in 1961 when Christine Keeler was introduced to politician John 'Jack' Profumo.
At the time of the scandal, Astor was on his third marriage, each of his previous two attempts having ended in divorce. He also owned a newspaper, which was edited by his brother David. During Stephen Ward’s trial, Astor came to visit Stephen. To Stephen’s dismay, the purpose of Astor’s visit was to ask him to vacate the cottage to avoid damage to Astor’s reputation. As ‘compensation’ he gave Stephen £200, leaving him friendless and with no one to support him at the time of his trial.
Johnny Edgecombe was a London jazz promoter whose relationship with Christine Keeler inadvertently led to the British public finding out about the ‘Profumo Affair’.
Edgecombe met Christine in September 1962, soon moving into her flat. However, Christine had also been seeing another man, Aloysius ‘Lucky’ Gordon – a Jamaican jazz pianist and singer. Stung by Christine’s tale of how Gordon had assaulted her after she had ended their relationship, Edgecombe confronted Gordon, leaving the singer with a face wound that required 17 stitches. Edgecombe asked Christine to help him find a solicitor but she refused saying she would give evidence against him.
Learning that Christine was visiting Mandy Rice-Davies at Stephen Ward’s flat in Marleybone, Edgecombe demanded to speak to her. When Christine refused to come out, Edgecombe fired shots at the door. Edgecombe was arrested and when Christine failed to appear to give evidence at his trial in March 1963, the press had the excuse they needed to break the story about Christine’s relationships with John 'Jack' Profumo and Eugene Ivanov..
Edgecombe was cleared of assaulting ‘Lucky’ Gordon, but jailed for seven years for possession of a firearm with the intent to endanger life.
Aloysius ‘Lucky’ Gordon arrived in London in 1940 from Jamaica. A pianist and singer, he performed on the London jazz scene with his brother ‘Psycho’.
Gordon was a lover of Christine Keeler but the relationship ended badly, with Christine claiming that Gordon assaulted her in the street and held her hostage for two days. In retaliation, another of Christine’s lovers, Johnny Edgecombe, slit Gordon’s face with a knife in the Flamingo Club. When Gordon had the stitches removed, he was reputed to have posted them to Christine warning her that for every stitch he sent she would get two in her face in return.
Edgecombe’s frustrations led to him firing shots at Stephen Ward’s flat, resulting in the glare of publicity falling on Stephen and Christine. Once in the spotlight, it was inevitable that the public would learn the full story of Christine’s relationships with John 'Jack' Profumo and Eugene Ivanov.
Lucky Gordon was jailed for three years for assaulting Christine. However, she subsequently withdrew her accusations and was convicted for perjury in December 1963.
Born in Northern Ireland, Valerie Hobson was the daughter of a naval captain educated in London.
She was a popular film actress in the 1930s and 1940s, appearing most notably as Estella in David Lean’s Great Expectations.
Hobson divorced her first husband, a film producer, in 1952, marrying Conservative politician John 'Jack' Profumo two years later. In 1953, at the age of 37, she starred on the London stage as the governess in The King and I, opposite Herbert Lom. Hobson reasoned that she would never again be offered such a good part and decided it was the perfect time to retire.
Throughout the revelations of John Profumo’s affair with Christine Keeler, and after his forced resignation as Minister for War, Valerie Hobson stood by her husband. In the years that followed the scandal that came to be known as ‘The Profumo Affair’, Hobson and her husband carried out work for a charity for the poor in East London. In 1975 she accompanied John Profumo to Buckingham Palace where he received a CBE for his charity work.
Captain Yevgeny ‘Eugene’ Ivanov worked at the Soviet embassy in London as a senior naval attaché but was a suspected Soviet spy.
A high flier in the Soviet navy, Eugene had received special intelligence training from the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence service, before arriving in London in 1960. Described by Christine Keeler’s friend Mandy Rice-Davies as “one of the most charming people I have ever met”, Eugene was a keen party goer and was soon introduced to Stephen Ward.
With the Cold War at its height, just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, these simultaneous relationships posed a serious risk to national security. When news of Christine’s affairs with Profumo and Eugene became public, London solicitor Michael Eddowes claimed that he’d been told by Christine that Eugene had asked her to get information about nuclear weapons from Profumo. Christine later told the News of the World:"I'm no spy, I just couldn't ask [John] for secrets.”
Cliveden had been a country seat favoured by the rich and the privileged for many centuries before the immensely wealthy William Waldorf Astor bought it for $1.25 million in 1893.
In 1905, Waldorf Astor was given the Buckingham estate by his father as a wedding present on the occasion of his marriage to his wife, Nancy. Following the death of his father in 1919 Waldorf became the 2nd Viscount Astor, returning Cliveden to its accustomed place as a haven for the rich and famous and entertained a host of distinguished guests such as President Franklin Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin.
On Waldorf’s death in 1952, his son Bill became the 3rd Viscount Astor. In 1961, Bill Astor continued the tradition of lavish parties and installed an outdoor swimming pool on the estate – a location that was to become infamous later that year as the venue for the first meeting between Christine Keeler and John 'Jack' Profumo. Stephen Ward and Profumo’s wife Valerie Hobson were also guests at Astor’s house.
Image courtesy of Cliveden House Hotel
Murray’s Cabaret Club was opened in Soho in 1933 by entrepreneur Percy ‘Pops’ Murray and swiftly earned a reputation as one of the most discreet, but risqué, nightspots in the Capital.
By the 1950s, it was renowned as a venue where wealthy guests including members of the Royal Family, actors and London's political elite rubbed shoulders with a selection of more ‘earthy’ London characters.
On the cusp of the Swinging 60s, Murray’s, situated just round the corner from Carnaby Street, became a regular meeting place for many of the ‘players’ of the time. The teenage Christine Keeler, not long in London and working as a waitress, was introduced by a friend to Murray, who immediately hired the sultry looking teenager as a showgirl.
It was here that Christine Keeler first met Murray’s friend Stephen Ward. In later years, John 'Jack' Profumo was reported to have told his son that he thought he first met Christine at Murray’s and “probably had a drink with her”.