Beginning in early 1961, British Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, aged forty-six, had an affair with a nineteen year old named Christine Keeler. She was also seeing thirty-seven year old Captain Yergeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attache in London but also an officer in the Soviet military intelligence.
Dr. Stephen Ward had introduced Keeler, a showgirl in a London nightclub, to Profumo in July. It was also through Ward that she became acquainted with the Soviet agent. Keller's relationship came to light in early 1963 and in June of that year Profumo resigned. Ward's role was investigated and in mid-July went on trial, charged with living on immoral earning (acting as a pimp). By the time the guilty verdict came down, Ward was in the hospital from an overdose of barbiturates and would subsequently die.
There was speculation at the time that many others were involved and Ward was a scapegoat and his trial a diversion. The authors of this book have done extensive research in an attempt to answer as many questions as possible surrounding the Profumo Affair. They found that facts were obscured at the time and the public deliberately misled. Documents are missing, have been destroyed or remain closed.
This is an exhaustive exploration of the events and the people involved. They range from Lord Astor to the then president elect John F. Kennedy. I was appalled at the sex orgies of the upper class people that were a part of that era. There was the involvement of M15 that has been verified. And it was not just a problem for the British. Some U.S. airmen were involved with Keeler. Another of Ward's women claimed to have sex with Kennedy. There is the possible involvement of Robert Kennedy as he ruthlessly guarded his brother's reputation. And material added in this later edition of the book brings into question the “suicide” of Ward.
I remember the early 1960s. It was at time of fear of the Soviets and the Bomb. People were building bomb shelters. It was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the construction of the Berlin Wall and secret agents. That a woman would be seeing a Soviet agent and the Secretary of State for War was very serious. That the circle of women involved reached to president elect Kennedy is amazing.
The authors have done an excellent job of unveiling much of the mystery surrounding The Profumo Affair. I highly recommend this book to those interested in the era.
Anthony Summers is the bestselling author of eight nonfiction books including Not in Your Lifetime, the investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His book on the 9/11 attacks, The Eleventh Day, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for History.
Stephen Dorril is the author of several books on intelligence.
Open Road Integrated Media, 349 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this independent and honest review.