Mandy Rice-Davies dies after short battle with cancer
Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died aged 70 after a short battle with cancer, it emerged this morning. The former model was central to the furore which erupted after John Profumo, then Minister for War, lied in the Commons about his affair with her friend Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a suspected Russian spy. The scandal contributed to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in October 1963 and the toppling of his Conservative government the following year.
- News report 21.12.2014
Older Byters will remember the fuss that the Profumo affairl caused back in 1963. Mandy Rice-Davies was a key figure in that scandal.
The Affair. . .
John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in the MacMillan government, had a brief sexual relationship with 19 year old would-be model Christine Keeler in 1961. Keeler was also sleeping with Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, causing Profumo to be a security risk. Keeler had met Profumo and Ivanov through her friendship with osteopath and socialite Stephen Ward. Most of the meetings between Profumo and Keeler took place at Ward’s house, where model and showgirl Mandy Rice-Davies, who was also a friend of Keeler’s, was likewise living. Profumo discontinued the affair after being warned of the security risks by security agencies. Upheavals in Keeler’s personal life brought allegations about an association with Profumo into the public domain. In 1963 he denied the affair to Parliament, a dreadful no no in that lying to Parliament is one of the most grievous political offences A few weeks later he was forced to admit the truth of the allegations and was obliged to resign from both government and Parliament. The repercussions of the affair severely damaged Macmillan's self-confidence, and he resigned as Prime Minister on health grounds in October 1963. His Conservative Party was marked by the scandal, which may have contributed to its defeat by Labour in the 1964 general election.
The Players . . .
John Profumo at the War office in 1960
Profumo maintained silence about the matter for the rest of his life. His wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, stood by him. After his resignation he carried out voluntary charitable work for Toynbee Hall, originally cleaning toilets and mopping floors. Despite his unwillingness, he was eventually recruited into becoming a fundraiser for Toynbee hall, being highly successful through use of his contacts and his communication skills. According to Peter Hitchens, Profumo "vanished into London's East End for 40 years, doing quiet good works". He was able to live off his own wealth and took no money for his work. The award of a CBE in 1975 and an invitation to dine with Margaret Thatcher in 1995, where he sat next to the Queen, signalled that he had been forgiven by the Establishment. Profumo died in 2006, aged 91. Social refiorm campaigner Lord Longford said that he "felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I've known in my lifetime".
At the memorial service for Edward Heath in 2006
At the height of her notoriety in 1963, Keeler participated in a photo shoot with photographer Lewis Morley, who wanted to shoot her nude. Keeler would not agree. He then posed her in a plywood chair, a photograph which suggested more than it revealed and the image became an icon of the 1960’s. The chair used is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In 1963 she gave evidence against a person accused of assaulting her. Shown to have committed perjury, she was jailed for 9 months. She was released in 1964 and two failed marriages with two children followed. Living alone thereafter, she has published several accounts of her life. One account included an allegation that she had been made pregnant by Profumo and that she underwent a painful abortion.
Time has not been kind to 72 year old Christine Keeler. Once one of the most beautiful and most photographed women in the world, she now lives in a sheltered accommodation block in South London and is estranged from her two sons, commenting in 2012 that "My children don’t want to be associated with that bloody whore Christine Keeler. It’s awful but that’s the way it is."
Mandy Rice Davies:
After giving evidence at the trial of Stephen Ward, Davies converted to Judaism and married an Israeli businessman and settled in Tel Aviv, where she opened nightclubs and restaurants. She later remarried and lived happily with an English husband, published her autobiography, Mandy, and published a novel, The Scarlet Thread.
Appearances in TV productions including Absolutely Fabulous, her depiction in the 1989 film Scandal about the Profumo affair and her involvement with Andrew Lloyd Webber in the development of his musical Stephen Ward The Musical supported her comment that her life had been “one slow descent into respectability".
"The only reason I still want to talk about it is that I have to fight the misconception that I was a prostitute. I don't want that to be passed on to my grandchildren. There is still a stigma."
Lloyd Webber said that he was deeply sad” to hear of her death.
"Mandy was enormously well-read and intelligent, I will always remember discussing with her over dinner subjects as varied as Thomas Cromwell's dissolution of the monasteries and the influence of the artist Stanley Spencer on Lucian Freud. With a different throw of the dice, Mandy might have been head of the Royal Academy or even running the country. She became a dear friend and I will miss her."
An extract from:
Why women today owe a great debt to Mandy Rice-Davies
She was a trailblazer for sexual liberation, who refused to accept that it’s a man’s world
Mandy Rice-Davies was a pioneer of sexual liberation for young women, too. She was swinging in the early Sixties years before the Swinging Sixties started. In 1960 she met Christine Keeler. They shared flats together, and set out to have a good time. They liked being taken by men to smart restaurants and glitzy clubs, they liked a giggle, they liked sex and they didn’t think much of strait-laced morality. Mandy in particular didn’t see why men should have all the sexual choices and not women. She laughed at the way that men were admired for having sexual experiences, but women scorned for it.
Prudish old judges and tabloid journalists who liked to cheapen everything pilloried Christine and Mandy as prostitutes, and the rest of it. But they were never anything of the sort, and Mandy was dauntless. When she read An English Affair, my account of the Profumo scandal, there was only one serious point to which she objected. She didn’t want her granddaughter to read historic quotations that called her a call-girl or worse. A generation later, sexually independent young Englishwomen owe more of a debt than they realise to Mandy Rice-Davies for improving attitudes.
Richard Davenport-Hines is the author of 'An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo’ (Harper Press)
Two quick anecdotes:
- While giving evidence in Ward’s trial, Davies claimed that she had had an affair with Lord Astor. It was put to her by defence counsel John Burge that Lord Astor denied the allegation. Her reply – “He would, wouldn’t he?” (often misquoted as "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" or "Well he would say that, wouldn't he?") – has entered the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. It is today sometimes abbreviated to MRDA ("Mandy Rice-Davies applies") or referred to as the "Mandy Rice-Davies clause".
- At the height of the scandal, the first prime minister of independent Malaya (now Malaysia) Tunku Abdul Rahman arrived in London for a visit. At a reception at Heathrow Airport, when asked what he wanted to do first, he replied "I want Mandi" which shocked the reception party because they did not know that "Mandi” means "take a bath" in Malay.
Ward is another tragic figure in the Profumo affair. Following Profumo’s resignation and with rumours rife of sex scandals in government and high society, Ward was charged with several counts of living off the earnings of prostitution. Little matter that Keeler and Davies were not prostitutes, that their monetary payments to Ward were small contributions for living at the house and in repayments of a loan, and that he was in receipt of a considerable inccome as a leading oseopath, the Establishment went after Ward with a vengeance. According to author Richard Davenport-Hines, "The exorcism of scandal in high places required the façade of [Ward's] conviction on vice charges.” His friends were persuaded (on threats of being charged with criminal offenmces) not to give evidence, information about his assistance to MI5 in seeking to have Ivanov and others defect or roll over was suppressed and both the prosecution and the trial judge, Archie Marshall, were hostile and inflammatory. It was evident to Ward from the judge’s summing up and the portrayal of him as a depraved lecher that he would be convicted and jailed. He overdosed on sleeping tablets and was taken to hospital. Judge Marshall completed his summing-up the next day without him present and the jury found Ward guilty in absentia on the charges of living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and Rice-Davies. Sentence was postponed until Ward was fit to appear but he died without regaining consciousness. He left behind a note with the words "I'm sorry to disappoint the vulture [...] I feel the day is lost. The ritual sacrifice is demanded and I cannot face it."
Famous judge Lord Denning was appointed to carry out an investigation into the whole affair in 1963 and found no security breach. He laid most of the blame for the affair on Ward, an "utterly immoral" man.
Campaigning for the Ward case to be reopened by persons such as Geoffrey Robertson resulted in the case being referred, in January 2014, for consideration by the Criminal Cases Review Commission with a view to allowing an appeal.
Ward was an amateur artist and persons of note sought to be sketched by him. Here are some of his works:
Christine Keeler, portrait in pastels, 1961
Portrait of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Charcoal, pastel and watercolour, 1961
Katharine, Duchess of Kent
charcoal on buff paper heightened with white
H.R.H. Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood
Portrait of Yevgeny Ivanov
Portrait of Lord Eccles
Portrait said to be of Mandy Rice-Davies
Also believed to be Mandy Rice-Davies
Stephen Ward at work