On This Day - June 5th

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profumo-scandal

On 5th June 1963 Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, resigned from government, admitting he had lied to Parliament about his relationship with a call girl.

Profumo, then a rising 46-year-old Conservative Party politician, met 19-year-old London dancer Christine Keeler at a party at the country estate of Lord Astor on July 8th 1961. The pair were intruduced by Stephen Ward, an osteopath with contacts in both the aristocracy and the underworld. 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.

The Times called Profumo's lies "a great tragedy for the probity of public life in Britain" whilst The Mirror hinted that not all the truth had been told, and referred to "skeletons in many cupboards".

In the aftermath 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. He 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. His marriage to Valerie Hobson endured until her death in 1998; Profumo died, aged 90, on 9th March 2006.

After serving six months in prison for perjury, Keeler had two. brief failed marriages which produced two children; she largely lived alone until she died in December 2017 aged 75. Most of the considerable amount she had made from newspaper stories was dissipated by legal fees — during the 1970s, she was said she "...was not living, I was surviving".

Various dramatisations of the events have been produced, most notably the 1989 film Scandal. Roger Ebert of the awarded it four stars out of four and said the film was "surprisingly wise about the complexities of the human heart".

Which future screen wizard played the part of John Profumo in the film?

Here's the answer...

Ian McKellen, perhaps best known these days for his role as Gandalf in Peter Jackson's Tolkein films, played Profumo.

mckellen-scandal