While the Petraeus Affair grows more alarming by the hour, it remains far from the worst military sex scandal in modern history.That honour may belong to the Profumo Affair in 1963, when British Secretary of War John Profumo had an affair with the reputed mistress of an alleged Soviet spy, lied about it in the House of Commons, and was forced to resign shortly thereafter.
Interested? Here’s more from Wikipedia:
Profumo’s relationship with Keeler
In the early 1960s, Profumo was the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan‘s Conservative government and was married to actress Valerie Hobson. In 1961, Profumo metChristine Keeler, a London good-time girl or hetaera or according to the newspapers call girl, at a house party at Cliveden, the Buckinghamshire mansion owned by Lord Astor. Many years later Profumo would claim, in discussion with his son, David, that he had met Keeler previously at a night club in London called Murray’s and “probably had a drink with her.”Also present at the Cliveden party were Profumo’s wife and the fashionable osteopath and party arranger for the aristocracy, Dr Stephen Ward, a long-standing acquaintance of Keeler. The relationship with Keeler lasted only a few weeks before Profumo ended it. However, rumours about the affair became public in 1962, as did the allegation that Keeler had also had a relationship with Yevgeny “Eugene” Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London. Given Profumo’s position in the government and with the Cold War at its height, the potential ramifications in terms of national security were grave, and this, along with the adulterous nature of Profumo’s relationship with Keeler, quickly elevated the affair into a public scandal.
Exposure of the affair
In 1962, Keeler became involved in an altercation with her former live-in lover Johnny Edgecombe. When she announced the end of their relationship, a confrontation followed 10 days before Christmas 1962. Edgecombe attempted to force his way into Stephen Ward’s flat where Keeler was staying and fired several shots at the doorlock. Meanwhile, Keeler had become involved with a Jamaican drug dealer named Aloysius “Lucky” Gordon. When that relationship ended Gordon attacked her with an axe and held her hostage for two days. Keeler turned to Edgecombe for help and in the ensuing fight between him and Gordon, the latter received a knife wound to his face. Fearful of reprisals from Gordon, Edgecombe asked Keeler to help him find a solicitor so that he could turn himself in. She refused and instead told him that she intended to give evidence against Edgecombe in court for wounding Gordon. As a result of her refusal, Edgecombe hatched a plot to murder Keeler. Three months later, when she failed to turn up in court for Edgecombe’s trial, previous press suspicions boiled over and the affair became front page news with headlines like “WAR MINISTER SHOCK”.
Announcement in Parliament
In March 1963, Profumo stated to the House of Commons that there was “no impropriety whatsoever” in his relationship with Keeler and that he would issue writs for libel and slander if the allegations were repeated outside the House. (Within the House, such allegations are protected by Parliamentary privilege.) However, in June, Profumo confessed that he hadmisled the House and lied in his testimony and on 5 June, he resigned his Cabinet position, as well as his Privy Council and Parliamentary membership.
Peter Wright, in his autobiography Spycatcher, relates that he was working at the British counter-intelligence agency MI5 at the time and was assigned to question Keeler on security matters. He conducted a fairly lengthy interview and found Keeler to be poorly educated and not well informed on current events, very much the “party girl” described in the press at the time. However, in the course of questioning her, the subject of nuclear missiles came up, and Keeler, on her own, used the term “nuclear payload” in relation to the missiles. This alerted Wright’s suspicions. According to Wright, in the very early 1960s in Britain, the term “nuclear payload” was not in general use by the public, and even among those who kept up with such things, the term was not commonly heard. For a young woman with such limited knowledge to casually use the term was more than suspicious. In fact, Wright came away convinced that at the very least there had been an attempt by the Soviet attaché (perhaps through Stephen Ward) to use Keeler to get classified information from Profumo.
Lord Denning released the government’s official report on 25 September 1963, and, one month later, the prime minister, Harold Macmillan, resigned on the grounds of ill health, which had apparently been exacerbated by the scandal. He was replaced by the Foreign Secretary, the Earl of Home, who renounced his title to become Sir Alec Douglas-Home. However, the change of leader failed to save the Conservative Party’s place in government; they lost the general election to Harold Wilson’s Labour a year later.
Stephen Ward was prosecuted in August for living off the immoral earnings of prostitution ( Miss Keeler had paid for the telephone calls she made whilst using Ward’s flat, using the money she got from her rich male ‘acquaintances’) but he was found dying in his flat before sentencing. The official verdict was that he committed suicide. However conspiracy theorists believe he was murdered by security services to prevent him disclosing information that may be damaging to prominent persons. He was defended by James Burge QC (who was later the basis for John Mortimer‘s character Rumpole of the Bailey). Keeler was found guilty on unrelated perjury charges and was sentenced to nine months in prison. Profumo died on 9 March 2006.
The Profumo Affair in film and theatre
The relationship between a senior politician and a prostitute caught the public imagination and led to the release of a number of films and documentaries detailing the event. The Danish film The Keeler Affair was released in 1963 followed in 1989 by the British film Scandal. The musical A Model Girl premiered at The Greenwich Theatre on 30 January 2007. In theatre Hugh Whitemore‘s play A Letter of Resignation, first staged at the Comedy Theatre in October 1997, dramatises the occasion when Harold Macmillan, staying with friends in Scotland, received a political bombshell, a letter of resignation from Profumo, his war minister. Edward Fox portrayed Macmillan. 
Composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has said that his next musical project will be about Dr.Stephen Ward who was stitched up in the Profumo Affair.
The Profumo Affair in popular music
- The Song “Christine” by “Miss X” (a pseudonym of Joyce Blair) in 1963 is said to be about Christine Keeler and the Profumo Affair.
- Adam Ant referenced the Profumo scandal in a song called “High Heels In High Places”.
- American folk singer Phil Ochs wrote and recorded a song about the affair, “Christine Keeler”, in 1963. It is available on The Broadside Tapes 1, released in 1989.
- The Jamaican band The Skatalites recorded an instrumental song called “Christine Keeler” in 1964.
- Billy Joel’s song We Didn’t Start the Fire depicts this affair in the line “British Politician Sex.”
- Christine Keeler is mentioned in the song “Post World War Two Blues” from the album Past, Present and Future (1973), written and performed by Al Stewart, and the Ray Davies song “Where Are They Now?” from the Kinks album Preservation: Act 1.
- The British post-punk group Glaxo Babies released a 7-inch single in 1979 entitled “Christine Keeler” that included a song of the same name.
- The affair is central to the hit songs “Nothing Has Been Proved” and “In Private”, performed by Dusty Springfield and written by Pet Shop Boys. These songs were used over the opening and closing titles of the 1989 film Scandal.
- The Lewis Morley image of Christine Keeler is used on the cover of The Charlatans 1997 single release “Telling Stories”.
- The Clash’s 1980 album Sandinista! references the events of the Profumo affair in the song The Leader.
Cultural references to the scandal
This section contains information of unclear or questionable importance or relevance to the article’s subject matter. Please help improve this article by clarifying or removing superfluous information. (February 2011)
In the 1963 comedy LP record “Fool Britannia”, subsequently re-released on CD, there are many references, direct and oblique, to the Profumo Scandal which is the integrating theme of the set of comedy sketches. The recording includes skits by Peter Sellers, Anthony Newley & Joan Collins. As the Lord Chamberlain’s office would not allow references to the Stephen Ward trial or the resignation of Profumo on the last track on the record a voice says (apropos of nothing): “There’s no smoke without fire” or as my old Latin master would put it “Non Combusto Profumo”.
The film Sweeney! (1977), a movie spin-off of the popular police drama The Sweeney, involved a plot loosely based on the Profumo Affair. British actor Barry Foster guest-starred as an Americanised, and more deadly, version of Stephen Ward.
The Alan Moore-scribed comic book Miracleman has a character mention Profumo in issue #2. The main character’s newspaper editor is irritated that the government has stepped in to suppress a story, and the editor replies, “It’s bloody Profumo all over a-bloody-gain.”
In Mad Men Season 3 Episode 6, “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency,” (broadcast September 2009) Joan Holloway comments that the British Prime Minister loves prostitutes and is corrected, being told “actually it was the Secretary of War.”
Harriet Evans’s 2011 novel Love Always, partially set in 1963, discusses the Profumo affair, and the character Cecily is fascinated by it.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.