John Profumo, the son of Albert Profumo, was born on 30th January 1915. The Profumo family made their fortune in insurance and by the outbreak of the First World War held a controlling interest in Provident Life.
Profumo was educated at Harrow and Brasenose College, Oxford, he became a member of the Conservative Party and by the age of 21 he was chairman of the Fulham Conservative Association. In May 1939 he was adopted as Conservative candidate for Kettering, but on the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry.
In 1940 there was an unexpected by-election at Kettering, and at the age of 25 he became the youngest MP in the House of Commons. However, the result caused a sensation as a Workers and Pensioners Anti-War candidate polled 27 per cent of the vote. On 8th May 1940 Profumo, along with 30 Conservative MPs, joined forces with the Labour Party to vote against the government's handling of Nazi Germany. As a result of this vote Neville Chamberlain was forced to resign and was replaced by Winston Churchill as prime minister.
Profumo had a distinguished military career, being mentioned in dispatches during the North Africa campaign. He served with Field Marshal Harold Alexander in Italy. He was later appointed Brigadier and Chief of Staff to the British Liaison Mission to General Douglas MacArthur in Japan. Profumo also landed in Normandy on D-Day with an armoured brigade, and took part in the fighting at Caen.
Profumo lost his seat in the 1945 General Election. He obtained a post at Conservative Central Office as the party's broadcasting adviser. Profumo was returned to the House of Commons as MP for Stratford-on-Avon in the 1950 General Election. Two years later he was appointed a junior minister at the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.
In 1957 Profumo was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Colonies and subsequently Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. In 1960 Harold Macmillan appointed Profumo as his Secretary of State for War.
On 8th July 1961 Profumo met Christine Keeler, at a party at Cliveden. Profumo kept in contact with Keeler and they eventually began an affair. At the same time Keeler was also sleeping with Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet spy. According to Keeler: "Their (Ward and Hollis) plan was simple. I was to find out, through pillow talk, from Jack Profumo when nuclear warheads were being moved to Germany."
During this period she became involved with two black men, Lucky Gordon and John Edgecombe. The two men became jealous of each other and this resulted in Edgecombe slashing Gordon's face with a knife. On 14th December 1962, Edgecombe, fired a gun at Stephen Ward's Wimpole Mews flat, where Keeler had been visiting with Mandy Rice-Davies.
Two days after the shooting Christine Keeler contacted Michael Eddowes for legal advice about the Edgecombe case. During this meeting she told Eddowes "Stephen (Ward) asked me to ask Jack Profumo what date the Germans were to get the bomb." Eddowes then asked Ward about this matter. Keeler later recalled: "Stephen fed him the line he had prepared with Roger Hollis for such an eventuality: it was Eugene (Ivanov) who had asked me to find out about the bomb."
A few days later Keeler met John Lewis, a Labour Party MP and successful businessman at a Christmas party. Keeler later confessed: "I told him about Stephen asking me to get details about the bomb. I told him about Jack (Profumo). He told George Wigg, the powerful Labour MP with the ear of Harold Wilson. Wigg, who was Jack's opposite number in the Commons, started a Lewis-style dossier; it was the official start of the investigations and questions which would pull away the foundations of the Macmillan government."
A FBI document reveals that on 29th January, 1963, Thomas Corbally, an American businessman who was a close friend of Stephen Ward, told Alfred Wells, the secretary to David Bruce, the ambassador, that John Profumo was having a sexual relationship with Christine Keeler and Eugene Ivanov. The document also stated that Harold Macmillan had been informed about this scandal.
On 21st March, George Wigg asked Henry Brooke, the Home Secretary, in a debate on the John Vassall affair in the House of Commons, to deny rumours relating to Christine Keeler and the John Edgecombe case. Richard Crossman then commented that Paris Match magazine intended to publish a full account of Keeler's relationship with Profumo. Barbara Castle also asked questions if Keeler's disappearance had anything to do with Profumo.
The following day Profumo made a statement attacking the Labour Party MPs for making allegations about him under the protection of Parliamentary privilege, and after admitting that he knew Keeler he stated: "I have no connection with her disappearance. I have no idea where she is." He added that there was "no impropriety in their relationship" and that he would not hesitate to issue writs if anything to the contrary was written in the newspapers. As a result of this statement the newspapers decided not to print anything about Profumo and Keeler for fear of being sued for libel.
On 27th March, 1963, Henry Brooke summoned Roger Hollis, the head of MI5, and Joseph Simpson, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to a meeting in his office. Philip Knightley pointed out in An Affair of State (1987): "All these people are now dead and the only account of what took place is a semi-official one leaked in 1982 by MI5. According to this account, when Brooke tackled Hollis on the rumour that MI5 had been sending anonymous letters to Mrs Profumo, Hollis vigorously denied it."
Roger Hollis then told Henry Brooke that Christine Keeler had been having a sexual relationship with John Profumo. At the same time Keeler was believed to be having an affair with Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet spy. According to Keeler, Stephen Ward had asked her "to find out, through pillow talk, from Jack Profumo when nuclear warheads were being moved to Germany." Hollis added that "in any court case that might be brought against Ward over the accusation all the witnesses would be completely unreliable" and therefore he rejected the idea of using the Official Secrets Act against Ward.
Henry Brooke then asked the Police Commissioner's view on this. Joseph Simpson agreed with Roger Hollis about the unreliable witnesses but added that it might be possible to get a conviction against Ward with a charge of living off immoral earnings. However, he added, that given the evidence available, a conviction was unlikely. Despite this response, Brooke urged Simpson to carry out a full investigation into Ward's activities.
On 25th May, 1963, George Wigg once again raised the issue of Keeler, saying this was not an attack on Profumo's private life but a matter of national security. On 5th June, John Profumo resigned as War Minister. His statement said that he had lied to the House of Commons about his relationship with Christine Keeler. The next day the Daily Mirror said: "What the hell is going on in this country? All power corrupts and the Tories have been in power for nearly twelve years."
Some newspapers called for Harold Macmillan to resign as prime minister. This he refused to do but he did ask Lord Denning to investigate the security aspects of the Profumo affair. Some of the prostitutes who worked for Stephen Ward began to sell their stories to the national press. Mandy Rice-Davies told the Daily Sketch that Christine Keeler had sexual relationships with Profumo and Eugene Ivanov, an naval attaché at the Soviet embassy.
In 1995 he told a friend: "Since 1963, there have been unceasing publications, both written and spoken, relating to what you refer to in your letter as the Keeler interlude. The majority of these have increasingly contained deeply distressing inaccuracies, so I have resolved to refrain from any sort of personal comment, and I propose to continue thus."
John Profumo died on 9th March, 2006.