David Profumo had rather more facts of life to learn than most adolescent boys, and he learned them the brutal way, on his first day at Eton, when a "ginger-haired ****weasel of a boy" in the year above him decided to tell him a story that would end his innocence for good. "Well," began the boy known as The Butcher, "there were these two tarts . . ."
Until that moment, the 12-year-old David had had no idea of his dark inheritance. He had been sheltered by his parents, not just from the basic facts of human reproduction, but from any hint that his name might be associated with one of the 20th Century's most infamous sex scandals.
It was fifty years ago today that The Profumo Affair ended with the resignation of John Profumo from the Macmillan government. Profumo was never again to return to public life, although he lived another forty-three years.
Profumo’s wife remained steadfastly loyal to him after his fall, devoting herself to her husband and three sons for the rest of her life (she died in 1998).
Profumo’s wife was the stage and screen actress, Valerie Hobson, one of the great beauties of the 20th Century. Hobson had given up a brilliant acting career in order to marry Profumo in 1954. (Her final role had been Anna Leonowens in the first London production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The King And I”, a production that opened in the West End in 1953.)
When Profumo’s dalliances were brought to the attention of British intelligence, the intelligence community initially thought it was dealing with little more than a standard sex scandal. Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies (both still alive) appeared to be nothing more than good-time girls, a couple of half-witted, mindless pleasure-seekers, hoping to trade off their good looks for a little coin and a little fun as long as their looks held up.
Then, to its horror, British intelligence discovered that Keeler, a totally uneducated woman, knew all about “nuclear payloads”.
At the time, the term “nuclear payload” was known only to scientists and defense experts.
The investigation had suddenly taken a new turn . . .