Profumo Affair

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The Profumo Affair was a political scandal of 1963 in the United Kingdom. It is named after the then-Secretary of State for War (now an obsolete position), John Profumo.

Profumo was a well-educated and respected high-ranking Conservative cabinet minister. He was married to the actress Valerie Hobson. The scandal stemmed from his brief relationship with a showgirl named Christine Keeler. Profumo met her at a party at Cliveden in 1961 organised by the fashionable London osteopath Dr Stephen Ward. Their relationship lasted only a few weeks before Profumo ended it. Rumours about the affair became public in 1962, as did the apparently serious fact that Keeler had also had a relationship with Yevgeny "Eugene" Ivanov, an attaché at the Soviet Embassy.

Profumo's main mistake was to lie in the House of Commons. In March, 1963, he claimed that there was "no impropriety whatever" in his relationship with Keeler. Profumo confessed in June that he had misled the House; he resigned on the 5th. The government had an official report from Lord Denning on September 25, 1963. A month later the Conservative Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, resigned, his ill-health exacerbated by the scandal; he was replaced by Sir Alec Douglas-Home.

Ward was prosecuted for living on immoral earnings and committed suicide in August. Keeler was found guilty on unrelated perjury charges and sentenced to nine months in prison.

Some of the events of the Profumo Affair are depicted in the 1989 film Scandal, starring John Hurt, Joanne Whalley, and Bridget Fonda. The Profumo Affair is also refrenced in Billy Joel's song We Didn't Start The Fire with the lyric "British Politician Sex".

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