John Profumo
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John Profumo

John Profumo

John Profumo.jpg
Profumo in 1938
Secretary of State for War

27 July 1960 - 5 June 1963
MonarchElizabeth II
Harold Macmillan
Christopher Soames
Joseph Godber
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs

16 January 1959 - 27 July 1960
Harold Macmillan
Allan Noble
David Ormsby-Gore
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

28 November 1958 - 16 January 1959
Harold Macmillan
Ian Harvey
Robert Allan
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies

17 January 1957 - 28 November 1958
Harold Macmillan
Lord Lloyd
Julian Amery
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

24 November 1952 - 9 January 1957
Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Anthony Eden
Reginald Maudling
Richard Nugent
Airey Neave
Member of Parliament
for Stratford-on-Avon

23 February 1950 - 6 June 1963
New constituency
Angus Maude
Member of Parliament
for Kettering

6 March 1940 - 5 July 1945
John Eastwood
Dick Mitchison
Personal details
John Dennis Profumo

(1915-01-30)30 January 1915
Kensington, London
Died9 March 2006(2006-03-09) (aged 91)
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Chelsea, London
Political partyConservative
(m. 1954; died 1998)
ChildrenDavid Profumo
ParentsAlbert Profumo
Martha Thom Walker
Alma materBrasenose College, Oxford
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1939-1950
RankBritish Army OF-6.svg Brigadier
Battles/warsSecond World War

John Dennis Profumo, CBE, OBE (Mil.) ( pr?-FEW-moh; 30 January 1915 - 9 March 2006) was a British politician whose career ended in 1963 after a sexual relationship with the 19-year-old model Christine Keeler in 1961. The scandal, which became known as the Profumo affair, led to his resignation from the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan.

After his resignation, Profumo worked as a volunteer at Toynbee Hall, a charity in East London,[1] and became its chief fundraiser. These charitable activities helped to restore his reputation and he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975.

Early life and career

Profumo was born in Kensington, London,[2] the son of Albert Profumo, a diplomat and barrister of Italian ancestry, who died in 1940. He attended Harrow School and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he read law and was a member of the Bullingdon Club.[]

In the early 1930s, "Jack" Profumo had a relationship with a German model, Gisela Winegard, who subsequently worked for German intelligence in Paris. Secret Service papers state Profumo also wrote to Winegard while he was an MP.[3]

On 1 July 1939 , he was commissioned into the Royal Armoured Corps as a second lieutenant,.[4] He had previously been a member of the Officer Training Corps and a Cadet Sergeant while at Harrow.[4] He served in North Africa with the Northamptonshire Yeomanry as a Captain (acting major), where he was mentioned in dispatches.[5] He landed in Normandy on D-Day and was engaged in the subsequent fierce fighting to secure that region of France. His final rank in the British Army was brigadier.

On 21 December 1944, Major (temporary Lieutenant Colonel) Profumo was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE, Military Division) "in recognition of gallant and distinguished service in Italy",[6] specifically, for his service on Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander's staff commanding the 15th Army Group. In November 1947, Acting Colonel Profumo was awarded the Bronze Star Medal by the United States "in recognition of distinguished services in the cause of the Allies".[7]

Political career

In 1940, while still serving in the Army, Profumo was elected to the House of Commons as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Kettering in Northamptonshire at a by-election on 3 March.[8]

Shortly afterwards he voted against the Chamberlain government in the debate following the British defeat at Narvik in Norway. This defiance on Profumo's part enraged the Government Whip, David Margesson, who said to him, "I can tell you this, you utterly contemptible little shit. On every morning that you wake up for the rest of your life you will be ashamed of what you did last night." Profumo later remarked that Margesson "couldn't have been more wrong."[9]

Profumo was then the youngest MP, and by the time of his death he had become the last surviving former member of the 1940 House of Commons. At the 1945 election Profumo was defeated at Kettering by a Labour candidate, Dick Mitchison. Later in 1945 he was chief of staff to the British Mission to Japan. In 1950 he left the Army and at the general election in February 1950 he was elected for Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, a safe Conservative seat.[]

Profumo was a well-connected politician with a good war record, and (despite Margesson's above-mentioned outburst) was highly regarded in the Conservative Party. These qualities helped him to rise steadily through the ranks of the Conservative government that came to power in 1951. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in November 1952, Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation in November 1953, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in January 1957, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office in November 1958, and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in January 1959. In July 1960, he was appointed Secretary of State for War (outside of the Cabinet) and was sworn of the Privy Council.[10]

In 1954 he married the actress Valerie Hobson.[]

The Profumo affair

In July 1961, at a party at Cliveden, home of Viscount Astor, John Profumo met Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old model with whom he began a sexual relationship. The exact length of the affair between Profumo and Keeler is disputed, ending either in August 1961 after Profumo was warned by the security services of the possible dangers of mixing with the Ward circle, or continuing with decreasing fervour until December 1961. Since Keeler had also had sexual relations with Yevgeny Ivanov, the senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy, the matter took on a national security dimension.[]

In December 1962, a shooting incident in London involving two other men who were involved with Keeler led the press to investigate Keeler, and reporters soon learned of her affairs with Profumo and Ivanov. But the British tradition of respecting the private lives of British politicians, for fear of libel actions, was maintained until March 1963, when the Labour MP George Wigg, claiming to be motivated by the national security aspects of the case, taking advantage of Parliamentary privilege, which gave him immunity from any possible legal action, referred in the House of Commons to the rumours linking Profumo with Keeler. Profumo then made a personal statement in which he admitted he knew Keeler but denied there was any "impropriety" in their relationship and threatened to sue if newspapers asserted otherwise.[11]

Profumo's statement did not prevent newspapers publishing stories about Keeler, and it soon became apparent to Macmillan that Profumo's position was untenable. On 5 June 1963, Profumo was forced to admit that he had lied to the House in March when he denied an affair with Keeler, which at that time was an unforgivable offence in British politics. Profumo resigned from office, from the House, and from the Privy Council.[12] Before making his public confession, Profumo confessed the affair to his wife, who stood by him. It was never shown that his relationship with Keeler had led to any breach of national security.[13] The scandal rocked the Conservative government, and was generally held to have been among the causes of its defeat by Labour at the 1964 election. Macmillan had already gone by then, having resigned in October 1963 on health grounds to be succeeded by Alec Douglas-Home.[]

Profumo maintained complete public silence about the matter for the rest of his life, even when the 1989 film Scandal--in which he was played by Ian McKellen--and the publication of Keeler's memoirs revived public interest in the affair.[13][14][15]

Profumo was portrayed by Daniel Flynn in Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical Stephen Ward, which opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 19 December 2013.[]

Profumo was portrayed by Ben Miles in the BBC 2019/2020 TV drama The Trial of Christine Keeler.[]

Profumo was portrayed by Tim Steed in the Netflix series The Crown . The Profumo Affair is part of the plot for season 2, episode 10 - "Mystery Man".

Later life

Shortly after his resignation, Profumo was invited to work at Toynbee Hall as a volunteer by Walter Birmingham, who was a warden there.

Toynbee Hall is a charity based in the East End of London, and Profumo continued to work there for the rest of his life, becoming Toynbee Hall's chief fundraiser, and using his political skills and contacts to raise large sums of money.

All this work was done as a volunteer, since Profumo was able to live on his inherited wealth.

His wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, also devoted herself to charity until her death in 1998.

In the eyes of some, Profumo's charity work redeemed his reputation. His friend, social reform campaigner Lord Longford, said he "felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I've known in my lifetime".[16]

Profumo was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE, Civil Division) in the 1975 Birthday Honours,[17] and received the honour at a Buckingham Palace ceremony from Queen Elizabeth II, signalling his return to respectability. In 1995, former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher invited him to her 70th birthday dinner, where he sat next to the Queen. He appeared only occasionally in public, particularly in his last years when he used a wheelchair. His last appearance was at the memorial service for Sir Edward Heath on 8 November 2005.

Death and tributes

On 7 March 2006, Profumo suffered a stroke and was admitted to London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. He died two days later surrounded by his family, at the age of 91. In the immediate aftermath of his death, many commentators said that he should be remembered as much for his contribution to society after his fall from political grace as for the scandal of 1963 which caused that fall. He was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium,[18] his ashes were buried next to those of his wife at the family vault in Hersham.[19]


  1. ^ The Economist: The Profumo affair in context
  2. ^ GRO Register of Births: MAR 1915 1a 177 John D. Profumo, mmn = Walker
  3. ^ The BBC: John Profumo 'had relationship with Nazi spy'
  4. ^ a b "No. 34641". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 June 1939. p. 4441.
  5. ^ "No. 36180". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 September 1943. pp. 4221-4222.
  6. ^ "No. 36850". The London Gazette (Supplement). 19 December 1944. pp. 5843-5844.
  7. ^ "No. 38122". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 November 1947. pp. 5351-5353.
  8. ^ "No. 34810". The London Gazette. 12 March 1940. p. 1467.
  9. ^ Lynne Olson, Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England, Macmillan, 2008, p. 305
  10. ^ "No. 41909". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1959. p. 1.
  11. ^ Colin Wilson, Damon Wilson, Scandal!: An Explosive Exposé of the Affairs, Corruption and Power Struggles of the Rich and Famous, Virgin, 2003, p. 250
  12. ^ Staff reporter (1997). "Queen Accepts Aitken's Resignation". BBC. Retrieved 2008. Two former disgraced ministers, John Profumo and John Stonehouse, have also resigned from the Council...
  13. ^ a b "Dingy Quadrilaterals". London Review of Books. 19 October 2006.
  14. ^ Adams, Tim (24 September 2006). "There were four of them in this marriage". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2011.
  15. ^ Grice, Elizabeth (2 September 2006). "Son breaks family's 40-year silence on scandal of the Profumo Affair". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  16. ^ "Obituary: John Profumo". BBC News. 10 March 2006. Retrieved 2013.
  17. ^ "No. 46593". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 June 1975. p. 7377.
  18. ^ "Mortlake Crematorium" (PDF). On Kew. Spring 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 December 2013.
  19. ^ "Even if the heart bleeds almost to death, passionate love is worth it". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2013.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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