The sixties were an interesting and testing time for all who were there and remembered them. The Cuban missile crisis was the scariest, the assassination of President Kennedy the most tragic, the student protest in Chicago in 1968 over America’s continued participation in the Vietnam war the most effective, and then, perhaps minor in comparison but still memorable, the Profumo affair was the most salacious.
As well as the Profumo affair, more later, there was also the absurdity of the prosecution of Lady Chatterley and her erstwhile companion Oliver Mellors. Lady Chatterley’s lover was regarded in some quarters as an obscene publication, I kid you not. The fact that it was written by D.H. Lawrence, one of the finest writers of the twentieth century, cut no ice at all with the twerps who decided to prosecute, and there was actually a trial. All this because the words ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’ were in the text, making judges swoon who were more comfortable with flogging, hanging and transportation. The case is also best remembered by the remark made by prosecution counsel to the jury, a robust group of horny handed sons and daughters of toil: “Is this the sort of book you would even wish your wife or servants to read?” Mercifully, the jury threw out the case, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Profumo scandal has been well documented, and nobody came out of it smelling of roses. It had all the ingredients of a Barbara Cartland pulp fiction novel, only this was for real. I remember it for two reasons: I was there at the time; and one of the star players died the other day. Christine Keeler has followed her friend Many Rice-Davies, who died 3 years ago, into immortality, and I shall miss them.
Their main claim to fame was as star performers in the sex romps at Lord Astor’s country pile at Cleveden in Buckinghamshire in the early sixties, where John Profumo was a guest. Profumo at the time was Secretary of State for War, in the days when you made war, not love, so he was pretty high up in government and had ready access to secret documents.
Christine had a sweet innocence, and was only 19 years old when she was introduced to Profumo. She was boobing around naked in the Astor pool when Profumo joined her at a canter, in he plunged, and in no time at all he was giving a whole new meaning to the breaststroke.
After the affair was exposed, Christine was treated abominably by the legal system, and especially the judiciary. Profumo was rehabilitated and became a ‘good egg’, but Christine was treated like a common tart, to use the words of the sanctimonious Harold Macmillan, the then Prime Minister. As one obituary writer put it, she was the woman, and the woman bears the guilt. The English legal system has little to be proud of.