The sexually explicit Polaroid snaps proved central in the divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, and became part of a government investigation. The duchess's reputation was ruined, but her lover escaped blameless, his identity preserved for almost 40 years by the camera cutting him off at the neck.
Tonight, the mystery of the "headless man" - or rather headless men - is resolved for the first time, with new evidence identifying not one, but two, lovers.
The man in the more notorious shot is unveiled as Duncan Sandys, then a cabinet minister, and his masturbating rival as Douglas Fairbanks Jr, the Hollywood legend who dallied with Marlene Dietrich and married Joan Crawford.
The two men's identities are revealed in a Channel 4 documentary to be shown tonight, Secret History: The Duchess and the Headless Man, which draws on the memories of the duchess's confidante, who identifies Sandys, and previously unpublished evidence gathered by the nation's then most senior law lord, Lord Denning. This formed part of his inquiry into security risks following the resignation of the then secretary of state for war, John Profumo.
Sandys's identity is "conclusively proved", the documentary makers believe, by the duchess's claim that the only Polaroid camera in the country at the time had been lent to the Ministry of Defence, where Sandys was a minister.
Fairbanks is nailed by his handwriting. The Argyll case, heard in March - the same month John Profumo lied to the Commons about his relationship Christine Keeler - was the longest and most sensational divorce to occur in Britain.
Margaret Argyll, the only child of a self-made Scottish millionaire, was a society beauty who her husband alleged had slept with 88 men, including two cabinet ministers and three royals. Profumo resigned in early June but, before the month was out, the precarious Macmillan government was rocked by another threat, and looked in danger of being toppled.
At a stormy cabinet meeting on June 20, Sandys, the son-in-law of Winston Churchill, confessed he was rumoured to be the person in the erotic shots, which, at that time, were presumed to be of one man. He offered to resign but Macmillan managed to dissuade him by ensuring Lord Denning, who had been commissioned to investigate the Profumo scandal, also investigated the identity of the headless lover.
For this Denning, the master of the rolls, had a plan. On the four shots of the man in different states of arousal were handwritten captions: "before", "thinking of you", "during - oh", and "finished". If he could match the handwriting, he would find his man. He invited the five key suspects - Sandys, Fairbanks, American businessman John Cohane, Peter Combe, an ex-press officer at the Savoy, and Sigismund von Braun, the diplomat brother of the Nazi scientist Werner von Braun - to the Treasury and asked for their help in a "very delicate matter".
As they arrived, each signed the visitor's register. Their handwriting was analysed by a graphologist, and the results proved conclusive.
As the broadcaster Peter Jay, then a young Treasury official, tells the documentary: "The headless man identified by the handwriting expert and therefore identified by Lord Denning, though he didn't write this down in his report, was, in fact, the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Duncan Sandys, who in was given a peerage, appeared to be in the clear - a fact confirmed by a Harley Street doctor who concluded his pubic hair did not correspond with that in the masturbation photos.
The Crown links Prince Philip to the Profumo Affair
But tonight's documentary confirms the other photograph clearly showed a different man whose identity the duchess hinted at to her close friend Paul Vaughan just before her death. She wanted someone to know. The duchess died in a Pimlico nursing home in Julywithout even hinting at the identity of her other lover. But despite this discretion, she never recovered from her reputation being so besmirched during her divorce.
Summing up, the judge, Lord Wheatley, said: "She was a highly sexed woman who had ceased to be satisfied with normal relations and had started to indulge in disgusting sexual activities.By Mark Duell. Secret documents about the inquiry into the Profumo Affair could eventually be released - but possibly not for another 50 years, it emerged today. One major element of interest is whether the files - which were declared too sensitive for even the head of MI5 to read - hold the names of any other ministers in Harold Macmillan's government.
Scandal: The papers examine ex-war minister John Profumo's left affair with Christine Keeler right in Top judge Lord Denning looked at whether Britain's Cold War security had been compromised when he carried out the Government's inquiry into the scandal, reported The Daily Telegraph. The Denning Inquiry was a bestseller upon its publication inalthough critics lamented it as a cover-up designed to protect the Establishment.
Background files - including notes from Lord Denning's interviews with witnesses - have been kept secret in the Cabinet Office for more than half a century. Cold War era: Keeler was in a relationship with Russian military attache Yevgeny Ivanov leftand she was introduced to Profumo by Stephen Ward righta high-society osteopath and portrait-painter.
Inquiry: Top judge Lord Denning looked at whether Britain's Cold War security had been compromised when he carried out the Government's inquiry into the scandal. But I wouldn't be surprised at all if they put years on it, making it January 1, The scandal happened at the height of the Cold War when it was discovered that Keeler had been sleeping with both Profumo and Ivanov, a naval attache based at the Russian Embassy in London.
Keeler, a model, and Profumo began their affair after being introduced at a party at the Cliveden estate in by their mutual friend Stephen Ward, a high-society osteopath and portrait-painter. Profumo, who was married to actress Valerie Hobson, had no idea that Keeler was also sleeping with Ivanov. In March he told the House of Commons that rumours of his affair were untrue.
But he was forced to resign three months later after admitting lying. Ward, who was prosecuted for living off immoral earnings, took an overdose the day before his trial ended and died in August Keeler was found guilty of unrelated perjury charges and was sentenced to nine months in prison. Argos AO. Share this article Share. Share or comment on this article: Profumo Affair secret papers too sensitive for head of MI5 to read could be released e-mail.
More top stories. Bing Site Web Enter search term: Search.The Profumo affair was a British political scandal that originated with a sexual relationship inbetween John Profumothe Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan 's Conservative government, and Christine Keelera year-old would-be model.
In MarchProfumo's denial of any impropriety, in a personal statement [n 1] to the House of Commonswas refuted a few months later with his admission of the truth. He resigned from the government and from Parliament.
The repercussions of the affair severely damaged Macmillan's self-confidence, and he resigned as Prime Minister on health grounds in October The reputation of the Conservative Party was damaged by the scandal, which may have contributed to its defeat by the Labour Party in the general election. Keeler knew both Profumo and Ivanov through her friendship with Stephen Wardan osteopath and socialite who had taken her under his wing.
The exposure of the affair generated rumours of other scandals and drew official attention to the activities of Ward, who was charged with a series of immorality offences.
What Was The Profumo Affair? 'The Crown' Implies Prince Philip & Stephen Ward Were Connected
Perceiving himself as a scapegoat for the misdeeds of others, Ward took a fatal overdose during the final stages of his trial, which found him guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies. An inquiry into the affair by a senior judge, Lord Denningindicated that there had been no breaches of security arising from the Ivanov connection, although Denning's report was later condemned as superficial and unsatisfactory.
Profumo subsequently sought private atonement as a volunteer worker at Toynbee Hallan East London charitable trust. Keeler found it difficult to escape the negative image attached to her by press, law, and Parliament throughout the Profumo affair. In various, sometimes contradictory accounts, she challenged Denning's conclusions relating to security issues.
Ward's conviction has been described by analysts as an act of Establishment revenge, rather than service of justice. In Januaryhis case was under review by the Criminal Cases Review Commissionwith the possibility of a later reference to the Court of Appeal.
Dramatisations of the Profumo affair have been shown on stage and screen. Profumo died in ; Keeler in In the early s British news media were dominated by several high-profile spying stories: the breaking of the Portland spy ring inthe capture and sentencing of George Blake in the same year and, inthe case of the Admiralty clerk, John Vassallblackmailed into spying by the Soviets who threatened to expose his homosexuality.
After suggestions in the press that Vassall had been shielded by his political masters, the responsible minister, Thomas Galbraithresigned from the government pending inquiries.
Galbraith was later exonerated by the Radcliffe inquirywhich sent two newspaper journalists to prison for refusing to reveal their sources for sensational and uncorroborated stories about Vassall's private life. John Profumo —was born inof Italian descent. His family, on his father's side, were minor Italian aristocracy, and were awarded a low-ranking Italian peerage by the Kingdom of Sardinia in He first entered Parliament in as the Conservative member for Ketteringwhile serving with the Northamptonshire Yeomanryand combined his political and military duties through the Second World War.
He lost his seat in the general electionbut was elected in for Stratford-on-Avon. From he held junior ministerial office in successive Conservative administrations. InMacmillan promoted him to Secretary of State for Wara senior post outside the cabinet. His performance was watched with a critical eye by his opposition counterpart George Wigga former regular soldier.
She aspired to be a model, and at 16 had a photograph published in Tit-Bits magazine. This long-established club attracted a distinguished clientele who, Keeler wrote, "could look but could not touch". Captivated by his charm, she agreed to move into his flat, in a relationship she has described as "like brother and sister"—affectionate but not sexual. Unlike Keeler, Rice-Davies also had a sexual relationship with Ward. The two girls left Murray's, and attempted without success to pursue careers as freelance models.
Stephen Ward, born in Hertfordshire inqualified as an osteopath in the United States. After the Second World War he began practising in Cavendish SquareLondon,  where he rapidly established a reputation and attracted many distinguished patients. These connections, together with his personal charm, brought him considerable social success.
In his spare time Ward attended art classes at the Slade school and developed a profitable sideline in portrait sketches.The story about his childhood tragedy was downright chilling. It was a beautifully constructed episode. And more important for The Crownunderstanding the damage Philip has done to Charles will surely be an big element of the coming seasons.
In other words, the Philip mania of episode nine is excused. Episode ten? Not so much.
The general outline of the scandal is that Stephen Ward, osteopath and partier, arranged meetings between powerful men and young, vulnerable women. Stephen Ward was a member of the Thursday Club. As far as this show is concerned, Philip did it. The second season of The Crown has framed Elizabeth as someone with almost no agency. We know tons more about Philip than we do about Elizabeth. Prime ministers keep leaving her.
It feels inevitable that the story would be presented this way. Obviously Margaret and Tony would get a beautiful, striking, sexy story while Elizabeth is left in massive, empty rooms, her arm crossed over her midsection, her purse strap tucked primly into one elbow. The show needed to devote a lot of time to whether Philip betrayed her, and if so, how. But still, The Crown seems to insist on giving other characters all the active verbs, while Elizabeth sits and watches.
Philip betrays her. Prime ministers abandon her. Margaret annoys her. Her uncle pesters her.
She is never the one pestering, or abandoning, or betraying.The new series of The Crown has provoked uproar by implicating Prince Philip in the Profumo Affair which scandalised Britain in the early s. The Profumo scandal of was sparked by the revelation that John Profumo, the then Minister of War, had had an affair with nightclub hostess Christine Keeler while she was also dating the Russian military attache, Yevgeny Ivanov. Profumo resigned in disgrace and Ward, who had befriended Profumo, Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies, killed himself before he was sentenced for living off immoral earnings.
It is known that Ward, who was a gifted artist, painted a picture of the Prince.
'Headless men' in sex scandal finally named
Ward suggests the Prince joins them for a weekend party. Philip is drawn towards a portrait on a mantelpiece. Pictured: The drawing. The episode then leaps forward to and the breaking scandal in the news. When the Queen confronts Philip, he insists he never attended any of the parties.
But she said the episode had clearly gone beyond what was a matter of public record. Christine Keeler was unavailable for comment. But a friend of Keeler said he was unaware that she had ever met Prince Philip.
Pictured: Keeler in Cannes in Profumo pictured resigned in disgrace and Ward, who had befriended Profumo, Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies, killed himself before he was sentenced for living off immoral earnings. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Argos AO. Share this article Share. Comments Share what you think. View all. More top stories.Most people would surely remember the weekend even if it was more than 50 years ago: you're standing innocently at a west London bus stop, get picked up by a mystery couple and are driven to a cottage in the grounds of an impossibly grand mansion where the main activity seems to be drinking and hedonistic pool parties.
If that was you, the National Portrait Gallery would love to hear from you. The gallery announced on Tuesday it had discovered the most remarkable thing on the reverse of a pastel drawing by Stephen Ward of Christine Keeler — they found a similar drawing of an unknown young woman with a Helen Shapiro haircut and beautifully large lips. The discovery was made by associate curator Clare Freestone while she was preparing for a new display marking the 50th anniversary of the Profumo affair.
It was in that John Profumothe then war minister, was forced to resign and admit his affair with a woman who was also involved with a Russian spy. It was a scandal that had everything: sex, espionage, crime and politics and it gripped Britain, causing irreparable damage to Harold Macmillan's government. Freestone discovered a note from Keeler about the Ward drawing which said: "This is me, but I don't know who the girl on the back is — she is somebody we just picked up at a bus-stop.
They took it out from its frame and looked at the reverse and saw, for the first time, the second woman. Curators read up on it, finding references in one book by Keeler into her and Ward picking up a girl at a bus-stop near London airport.
The cottage was on the estate of Lord Astor's stately home Cliveden and was a place Ward used regularly for, by any standards, rather debauched and hedonistic parties. The gallery thinks it was also the time of what turned out to be a notorious weekend, when a naked Keeler was startled by Lord Astor and his chums, including Profumo. It is a real mystery and that's why we need some help. The pastel drawings form part of a display telling the story of a scandal that people still find fascinating 50 years on although many have questioned whether it was quite as scandalous as was made out at the time.
Nevertheless, Profumo did resign after his affair with good-time girl Keeler and it helped bring down Macmillan. It also led to the suicide of the man in the middle, the loose-moraled osteopath and party organiser Ward who brought Keeler and Profumo together. The display includes a print of one of the best known images of Keeler: Lewis Morley's photograph of her naked, sat in a back-to-front chair.
It ends with a photograph of a lost painting that the NPG would also love any information on, a Pop Art work by Pauline Boty that features the Lewis Morley photograph and four of the key players in the affair - Profumo, Ward, and another of Keeler's lovers, the jazz promoter and drug dealer Johnny Edgecombe and his rival, the jazz musician "Lucky" Gordon.
There are also press photographs of Keeler's friends Mandy Rice-Davies and Paula Hamilton-Marshall, which help illustrate the story's lurid unravelling in the press which, understandably, could not get enough of a story that involved politicians, pimps, spies and call girls.
The scandal was made into a film called The Keeler Affair, which was banned in the UK but became extremely popular in Denmark for some reason. It was remade into the film Scandal with Joanne Whalley, which introduced the story to a new generation. Andrew Lloyd Webber is hoping to bring it to the west end in a new musical called Stephen Ward that he has created with Don Black and Christopher Hampton.
The NPG free display, in room 32, officially opens on Wednesday but was on Tuesday already up and drawing large numbers of people — testament to the enduring interest. Email mark. Topics John Profumo. Christine Keeler National Portrait Gallery news.
Reuse this content. Order by newest oldest recommendations. Show 25 25 50 All. Threads collapsed expanded unthreaded. Loading comments… Trouble loading?Desire not to upset the Royal Family may be behind the Government's continued refusal to release key documents relating to the Profumo affair ofaccording to a leading British historian.
Speaking to The Independent on Sunday last night, Richard Davenport-Hines, author of An English Affair, published last year, said he believes unfounded allegations made against the Duke of Edinburgh at the time of the scandal may continue to give rise to jitteriness in high places. Last week, it was confirmed that the papers, mostly of interviews with around witnesses, will not be destroyed, as some had feared, but will remain under lock and key for up to a further 50 years.
Speaking in the House of Lords last year, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, the Lords spokesman for the Cabinet Office, said there were "some sensational personal items" in the files, although he does not know what they are. He added: "At the time, Lord Denning [who conducted the Government's inquiry into the affair] refused to allow the head of the Security Services access to the papers.
Emphasising that he is "only guessing", Davenport-Hines told The IoS that he believes it was significant that the Prince Philip had been sketched by Stephen Ward, the society osteopath at the centre of the story. In fact, and I am very emphatic about this, the duke had no such involvement, but I imagine Denning would have interviewed courtiers and others about the duke, and that suspicion would be enough to embarrass the Royal Family.
The headline in question, "Prince Philip and the Profumo scandal — rumour utterly unfounded" was, writes Davenport-Hines in his book, part of "the raucous period when authority figures were denied respect even when they deserved it".
An invitation by Denning to members of the Buckingham Palace staff to unburden themselves of any rumours — unchecked and unsourced — they may have heard, substantiated or otherwise, may have encouraged tongues to wag in a manner that did not reflect well on the Prince Philip.
Denning's report was considered by some to have been a whitewash, but he did have extensive access to those involved. Davenport-Hines says the judge was "something of a dirty-minded nosy parker who rather got off on asking prurient questions — he did the same with the Duchess of Argyll over her divorce case, when it had no relevance to the Profumo case.
Had he discovered anything, I'm sure he would have sat on it absolutely. He was one of the judges who thought he could hold back and repress and punish all the new sexual freedom that was about at the time. They were terribly keen to damage the Conservative government and crank up the class war, so they wrote stories about how the Tories were having a better time, better sex and so on, than most people.
This sort of stuff helped Labour win the election. The constitutional expert Lord Hennessy told The IoS : "I don't know, and wouldn't want to speculate as to who this relates to, but I suspect it has to do with the sensitivity of surviving family members, whoever they are, royal or otherwise. That was the summer of credulity, when anything was believed for a while and every conceivable rumour took on a life of its own. The Cabinet Secretary has what I call the 'too-hot-to-handle' archive, which is off the Richter scale of 'need to know', and the number of people with access to that is tiny.
My instinct is we'll have a year wait, until Januarywhen the children are no longer around, before we are told.
Profumo affair: 50 years on, sketch of mystery woman is discovered
Stephen Ward wasn't murdered. I was there. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today. Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. Long reads. UK Politics. Lib Dems. Green Party. Boris Johnson. Jeremy Corbyn. US Politics. Help The Hungry. Shappi Khorsandi. Mary Dejevsky. Robert Fisk. Mark Steel. Janet Street-Porter.