June 5, 1963: John Profumo resigns. Profumo was born in Kensington, London, England in 1915 but the family was of Italian origin and he was the 5th Baron Profumo in the Kingdom of Sardinia. He was a commissioned officer during World War II and served with some distinction. In 1940, while still in the Army, he was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative Member of Parliament. He was ousted in the 1945 elections but continued in politics. In 1954 he married actress Valerie Hobson. In July 1961, 49-year-old Profumo began a brief sexual relationship with 19-year-old model Christine Keeler. At the time of his affair, he was Secretary of State for War under Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
In March 1963, he was before the House of Commons and denied any wrongdoing or impropriety in a personal statement. A few weeks later, he was forced to recant and admit the truth. Public interest was piqued not just by the affair, but also by the rumors that Keeler was simultaneously involved with Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché. Keeler had met both men through her relationship with osteopath and socialite Stephen Ward who had mentored her. Each detail led to more scandal and Ward was brought to trial after being accused of living off the earnings of Keeler and her friend’s income received from prostitution. Ward took an overdose and died before the end of his trial.
Senior Judge Lord Denning found that no breaches of security had taken place while Keeler was associated with Profumo and Ivanov. Profumo resigned in disgrace on this date and never recovered from the scandal. He tried to make amends via volunteer work at Toynbee Hall where he cleaned toilets. Toynbee Hall is in London’s East End that ministers to the poor through a range of programs designed to bring relief to those in need while working toward a future without poverty. He lived quietly and remained married to his wife until her death in 1998. Profumo died in 2006 after suffering a stroke. Ivanov, who had been working as a spy, had already been recalled to Moscow in December 1962 and continued to work for the navy. He died in Moscow in 1994.
Keeler had left school unprepared to support herself at the age of 15. She was hoping to become a model but found employment in a variety of jobs including working as a topless showgirl. It was there she met Ward. In December 1962, two men were fighting over the young girl and when one of them fired shots at Ward’s house, where Keeler was staying, she became a person of interest and her prior affair with Profumo came to light. The affair brought her fame and her some money. By December of 1963, she was convicted of perjury and sentenced to nine months in prison. Her life after her release was less exciting. She lives in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England.
There is a kind of intellectual provincialism in the dogma that life is just one damned thing after another. Human affairs do not become intelligible until they are seen as a whole. – Arnold J. Toynbee
Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. – Ambrose Bierce
An affair now and then is good for a marriage. It adds spice, stops it from getting boring…. I ought to know. – Bette Davis
I can understand companionship. I can understand bought sex in the afternoon, but I cannot understand the love affair. – Gore Vidal
Also on this day: Simon Legree is Exposed – In 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin began to see print.
World War II – In 1941, Chongqing was bombed killing thousands.
Bobby – In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was shot.
Hound Dog – In 1956, Elvis performed on The Milton Berle Show.
Location, Location, Location – In 1817, the PS Frontenac was launched.
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