Pictured: 27th July 1963: Mandy Rice-Davies who rose to fame for her part in the 'Profumo Affair' sits in a car with Christine Keeler who is also a model and show girl after the first day's hearing at the Old Bailey in the trial of Stephen Ward. (Photo Copyright by Keystone/Getty Images).
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Lord Lloyd Webber: “To those in government, Ward was a highly convenient scapegoat. A man who could be portrayed as a pleasure-seeking troublemaker who entrapped Profumo in his seedy lifestyle.”
In 1963 John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, was forced to resign after admitting an affair with a 19-year-old model called Christine Keeler.
The affair took place during the height of the Cold War when America and Russia were threatening each other with nuclear weapons and whilst Christine was sleeping with Profumo, she was also seeing a known Russian Spy.
Now, in this exclusive documentary for ITV, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber tells the story of the affair and reveals a secret hedonistic world of luxury, passion and parties.
Featuring interviews with those who knew and socialised with Christine Keeler and Profumo at the time, Lord Lloyd Webber tells the documentary how the scandal began and about the man who introduced the couple and was eventually made the scapegoat for the affair – Dr Stephen Ward.
Lord Lloyd Webber says of Ward: “I find him a fascinating character. So fascinating that he is the key figure in my latest musical. He was the pivotal figure of the scandal that erupted in the summer of 1963. To those in government, Ward was a highly convenient scapegoat. A man who could be portrayed as a pleasure-seeking troublemaker who entrapped Profumo in his seedy lifestyle. But, when the scandal cost Stephen Ward his life, others, especially the young began to consider Ward as the victim of establishment hypocrisy.”
Lord Lloyd Webber visits Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire where Lord Bill Astor and his wife Bronwyn were known for throwing high-society parties. In 1956, the couple let a cottage in the grounds of their home to Stephen Ward, a famous osteopath from London whose clients included Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner.
Mandy Rice-Davies was a dancer at the time and became friends with Dr Ward.
She tells Lord Lloyd Webber: “He was a good friend. He was a great friend to people. He had a very, very easy charm. He was the most wonderful raconteur, he could keep you entertained for hours.”
Lord Lloyd Webber tells the programme that Bill Astor introduced Dr Ward to upper-class society and the pair even mixed in circles with Prince Phillip before he was married to the Queen. Dr Ward was also a talented sketch artist and did a portrait of Prince Phillip, which is featured in the documentary.
Lord Lloyd Webber explains that Dr Ward had unconventional sexual tastes, and
Tom Mangold, a former Daily Express reporter who was friends with Dr Ward at the time confirms that Dr Ward enjoyed the idea of other people taking part in group sex.
He says: “I think he was essentially a voyeur. I don’t think he was that active a participant. He was certainly heterosexual. He was not homosexual. He liked group sex, but I don’t think he took part. And I think, for him, the watching and the gossip and the chat and all that, that seemed to me to be the thing that turned him on.”
Lord Lloyd Webber explains that Dr Ward used to enjoy going out for nights out in London and meeting girls on the streets or in nightclubs that he would invite to stay with him at the cottage.
He adds: “Back in 1956 the chicest thing you could own was the American cast album of My Fair Lady. Did Stephen Ward think of himself as some kind of Professor Higgins? Was he creating his Eliza Doolittle’s to launch out onto the London social scene?”
Mandy Rice-Davies tells Lord Lloyd Webber that Dr Ward liked introducing people to each other. On the 8th of July, 1963 he met Christine Keeler and invited her to stay with him at Spring Cottage.
At the time Christine worked in Murray’s Cabaret Bar in Soho, where she met and became friends with Mandy.
Mandy says: “She was a very beautiful girl. Good fun to be with. She was a free spirit and I never met anybody like Christine before. Christine was a showgirl, which meant that the showgirl stood at the back of the stage. They were topless but couldn’t show their nipples and they couldn’t move at all. Hardly breath, I might add. Anything that might give a slight bounce to the breasts was absolutely forbidden.”
In the evening of the 8th of July, Bill Astor and his wife threw a dinner party and invited Profumo and his wife, the actress Valerie Hobson. The party was disturbed by an alternative soirée being thrown at Cliveden’s swimming pool.
Lord Lloyd Webber visits the scene and retells the story of a naked Christine Keeler playing in the pool with Dr Ward and his friends. Bill Astor, Profumo and their wives went to see what was going on.
Lord Lloyd Webber says someone spoke to Christine. He adds: “One of them says, we don’t know which one it was, ‘I think you need a towel, darling.’ And that’s where it all began.”
Lord Lloyd Webber tells the programme that the next day, Profumo asked for Christine’s number and she told him he could contact her through Dr Ward.
That same day, Yevgeny Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy but also a known Russian spy, was at the pool as well.
Mandy Rice-Davies says: “Yevgeny was a very nice guy. It was very unusual, at that time, for Russians to mingle in society. He was an absolutely dedicated communist, he really was. There was no show about that.”
After spending time at the pool together, Christine went back to London with Ivanov and the pair had sex.
Mandy adds: “I know that there was a lot of talk that she might not have slept with him, but Christine told me she slept with him and this was long before Fleet Street was involved and money was waved around. And I believe her. It was a one night stand.”
Just a week later, Profumo took Christine on a date and they also started to have sex.
Lord Lloyd Webber explains that, feeling anxious about the connection between Profumo and Ivanov, Ward went to MI5 and told them about the affair. Profumo was warned that Ivanov might get information about him, so he ended the relationship with Christine – by writing her a note on War Cabinet paper.
The next year Christine decided to take her story to the papers. Lord Lloyd Webber explains that the tabloid journalists were keen to sex up the story and alleged that Dr Ward had asked Christine to find out from Profumo when America was giving nuclear weapons to West Germany.
Dr Ward told the Sunday Mirror that he would sue them if they ran the story, so they spiked it, but by then rumours were already circulating around London. It wasn’t long before a newsletter, The Westminster Confidential, published details of the scandal.
The rumours were brought up in parliament and Profumo was woken from his bed at three o’clock in the morning and taken to parliament to be asked if he had slept with Christine.
Profumo denied the accusations and, in astonishing footage which is featured in the documentary, Dr Ward went on television to back him up and express his horror at Profumo being put in a position where he had to defend himself.
This sparked a police investigation into Dr Ward. Mandy Rice-Davies tells the programme that she was questioned about Dr Ward, who he had introduced her to and what gifts she had received from him.
Under pressure, Dr Ward and Profumo admitted that they had lied and that Profumo had had an affair with Christine and he was forced to resign.
Dr Ward was then arrested and charged with living on the earnings of prostitution, attempting to procure a girl under the age of 21 to have sex with a third party and inciting Christine Keeler to do the same.
A Very British Sex Scandal looks back at the newspapers from the time, which went mad for the story once they realised they could no longer be sued.
Featuring footage from outside the court, the documentary tells how when Dr Ward’s trial began, very few of his friends were prepared to give evidence in his defence.
Tom Mangold says: “They all got together…the important friends of Ward and they decided not one of them would step forward and give evidence on his behalf. I think it was probably a despicable thing to do, but you need to understand from their point of view that they really did not want to be tainted by this grubby, dirty, sexy, spy-filled scandal.”
Noel Howard-Jones, who was Christine’s lover in 1961, recalls giving evidence about sleeping with her.
He says: “He [the prosecutor] said, ‘ The fact is, that you, being a man, attended the apartment of Mr Ward for the purpose of having sexual relations with Miss Keeler.’ So I thought, ‘My God, when you put it like that, yes.’ And he said, ‘That will be all.’ And I was so over-awed by this, I was only 23 at the time, I didn’t say, ‘No, that won’t be all. Ask me how much I paid for it? This is supposed to be about prostitution, not about a 21-year-old law student and his 19-year-old girlfriend.’ Anyway, I didn’t, and I’ve been kicking myself for 50 years about that.”
Lord Lloyd Webber speaks to Mandy Rice-Davies about the trial and she says that Dr Ward was definitely not making money through immoral means and that the accusations were ridiculous.
During the trial, Dr Ward was staying with Noel Howard-Jones. He tells Lord Lloyd-Webber about the morning after the summing up of the case, where he woke to find Dr Ward in a coma after taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
The documentary shows the press photos of Dr Ward being carried into an ambulance and details the letters that he had written to his friends and family.
Lord Lloyd Webber explains that Dr Ward died later that day, before the guilty verdict was returned in his absence.
Following the scandal, Lord Denning brought out a report which was aimed at looking into the security aspect of the affair. Lord Lloyd Webber explains that Lord Denning was sucked into the lurid details and that the notes he made during interviews were classified under the Official Secrets Act for 83 years.
Lord Lloyd Webber says: “I have been reliably told that the content of the file is explosive. Sadly I won’t be around to know the truth.”
The programme features footage of Lord Lloyd Webber raising the issue of the papers in the House of Lords, but being batted away.
He says: “The scandal wasn’t quite the beginning of the swinging sixties, frankly too many of those involved had their lives blighted for it to be that. But it did perhaps mark the moment when people stopped looking towards their elders and betters for moral leadership, and began to set their own standards of behaviour.”
Sex, Lies and a Very British Scapegoat is made by Shiver for ITV. The producer is Jamie Muir and the executive producer is Jonathan Levi.