19 October 2014

Sex, Lies and Cliveden Berks

Profumo di Scandalo....

The Rape of Proserpina
(without a trace of irony)

What could be more English?  A stately building of harmonious proportions.  

(in sunnier times)

A fountain-full of nude naiads.

The Fountain of Love
(with not a trace of irony)

A Parterre reaching out to hanging woods and the Thames valley.  

The Parterre from the Borghese Balustrade

An Italianate 30 metre high clock with its gilded face disguising its real business as a water tower.

The 1861 Clock Tower
(no symbolism intended)

An octagonal temple perched on the hillside, which falls away to a bend in the river. Deciduous woodland sheltering walks for miles. 

The Cockerell Pavilion

What could be more English?  A riverside house, rented from a rich landlord by a suave and well-connected osteopath (and painter). 

Summer weekend parties with girls from the club.  Frivolous chat and laughter.  Gardeners competing for duties which allowed an eyeful of the Sunday morning beauties.  

The Water Garden

What could be more English?  A Cabinet Minister (Secretary of State for War in 1961) entertained by the titled lord of the manor.  A victory in the Oaks in 1953 and a little too much champagne to toast the filly (named Ambiguity) had led to the Lord having a swimming pool constructed.  How very English!  A swimming pool!   What fun.

What could be more English?  Chance encounters by the poolside.  The Lord and a pretty young woman. The Cabinet Minister and a pretty young woman.  A Russian and a pretty young woman.  The same pretty young woman......  So English.......

Then the moments stolen behind curtains, in dark recesses. Stolen moments.  Secrets.  

How wonderfully English that these kind people were also kind to a Russian.  And how wonderfully English that the secret passions were so secret.  Secret like The Secret Garden. Treasures that could not be shared.  So deliciously private and personal and no one would ever know....

And how happy they were.  The osteopath and the young woman. 

Stephen Ward and Christine Keeler at Cliveden
Getty Images

The Cabinet Minister and the young woman.

John Dennis Profumo, Baron Albert Profumo,
politician and social worker,
born January 30 1915; died March 9 2006

Jimmy Sime/Getty Images

The Russian Attache and the young woman.....

Yevgeny Ivanov, Russian attaché and Keeler's friend/lover

The Lord, so smiley.....

William Waldorf "Bill" Astor II, 3rd Viscount Astor
13 August 1907 – 7 March 1966

Who, when the balloon went up, denied all knowledge of his little friend, Mandy....

Marilyn "Mandy" Rice-Davies
21 October 1944 - 18 December 2014

Who then cried out in court, Well, he would, wouldn’t he?  

But none of them, in their secret pleasures, thought of the possible consequences for an ageing prime minister....

Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC, FRS,
10 February 1894 – 29 December 1986

Jane Bown

Nor the effect this very English affair might have on the Conservative Government.  How would this have gone down in garlic-scented, olive oily countries, one wonders.  Who would have batted an eyebrow or raised and eyelid?

A little over fifty years ago, Secretary of State for War John Profumo told a packed House of Commons there was no impropriety whatever in my acquaintance with Miss Keeler.


That was, of course, a lie.  

And as the truth unravelled, the various liaisons of Miss Keeler came to light, which, in time of Cold War, tarnished the government (that had strenuously tried to cover up the story) and led to its fall, bringing with it in one way or another, a prison sentence for Christine Keeler (for perjury), the death of Stephen Ward (by suicide),

the death of Lord Astor (heart attack), the resignation of John Profumo, both as Cabinet Minister and as MP, 

and the resignation of the Prime Minister.

How very English!  A story of fun and games and coincidences and accidents and philanderers and liars and show-girls and tabloids.  

And all the players, victims.  No heroes.  No heroines.  No happy outcomes (though Mandy Rice-Davies did appear in Absolutely Fabulous.....)

The House and estate were donated by 2nd Viscount Astor to the National Trust in 1942 on the condition that the Astors could continue to live at Cliveden for as long as they wished.  

Things fall apart
The centre cannot hold

In 1951, Cliveden was the birthplace of David Cameron's father-in-law, William Waldorf Astor III, Fourth Viscount Astor, but the family left after the death in 1966, of the Third Viscount.  It was initially leased to Stamford University and then in 1985 it became a hotel.

If you go down to the woods today.....

Funny really how the story still fascinates......  

So very English.....

Christine Margaret Keeler
born 22 February 1942
photo taken in 2013

1 comment:

  1. How very British that after all they could leave the house to the national trust but still live there in perpetuity (and, gosh, avoid some taxes); how very british that the connections still linger on; and how very british that it's still standing and we in awe of it all. How did they come to have the land in the first place and, aside from the scandal, the situation, the strings and the views, what makes it special?