John Profumo Biography

(Former British Secretary of State for War (1960 - 1963))

Birthday: January 30, 1915 (Aquarius)

Born In: London, United Kingdom

John Profumo was a British politician who served as the Secretary of State for War under Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, from July 1960 to June 1963. Known for his suave and charming personality, Profumo also had a successful military career during World War II and rose to the rank of Brigadier. He was married to British actor Valerie Hobson. Starting his political career as an MP for Kettering and Stratford-on-Avon, he later also served as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Colonies, and Ministry of Transport, and as the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. However, a public scandal involving a sexual relationship with a teenage showgirl named Christine Keeler, who also had an affair with Soviet spy Yevgeny Ivanov at the same time, led to his resignation in 1963. Profumo spent his later years in charitable pursuits.

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Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In January

Also Known As: John Dennis Profumo

Died At Age: 91

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Valerie Hobson (m. 1954–1998)

father: Albert Profumo

mother: Martha Thom Walker

children: David Profumo

Born Country: England

Political Leaders British Men

Died on: March 9, 2006

place of death: London, United Kingdom

Cause of Death: Stroke

Early Life & Military Career

John Dennis Profumo was born on January 30, 1915, in Kensington, London, England, to Albert Profumo, an Italian-origin diplomat and barrister. His family had made a fortune in insurance.

By the time World War I began, the family also held a controlling interest in Provident Life. Profumo initially attended Harrow School and later studied at the Brasenose College, University of Oxford.

In 1940, Profumo succeeded his father as the fifth Baron Profumo of Italy. Profumo had a successful military career during World War II. While at Harrow, he had been part of the Officer Training Corps and had served as a Cadet Sergeant, too.

In July 1939, he was named a Second Lieutenant for the Royal Armoured Corps. He then became part of the North Africa campaign of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry and was named a Captain (acting major).

He was also part of the D-Day operations in Normandy and had worked with Field Marshal Harold Alexander in Italy. His final appointment was as the Brigadier and Chief of Staff of the British Liaison Mission under General Douglas MacArthur in Japan.

In December 1944, Profumo was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE, Military Division) for his military service in Italy. In November 1947, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal of the US.

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Political Career

Profumo had become a Conservative Party member quite early in life. By 21, he had started chairing the Fulham Conservative Association.

In May 1939, Profumo was named the Conservative candidate for Kettering. However, with the onset of World War II, he joined the army.

In 1940, while still part of the army, he was elected as a Member of Parliament from Kettering. Thus, at age 25, he became the youngest MP of the House of Commons.

On May 8, 1940, John Profumo and 30 Conservative MPs joined hands with the Labour Party to vote against the then-government's handling of Nazi Germany. Following this vote, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigned, and Winston Churchill took over as the new prime minister.

In the 1945 election, Profumo lost his seat. He later worked as a party broadcasting advisor at the Conservative Central Office. In the 1950 election, he won the seat for Stratford-on-Avon and thus returned as an MP to the House of Commons.

In 1952, he was named the Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The following year, he became the Joint Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.

In 1957, he became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. The following year, he was appointed as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs.

In January 1959, he was named the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. In July, the following year, he was appointed as the Secretary of State for War in Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s administration.

Personal Life

In 1933, "Jack" Profumo, as he was known back then, started a long-term relationship with a German student named Gisela Klein. Gisela, a model, later joined the German intelligence in Paris.

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John Profumo was later considered one of Britain’s most handsome and glamorous politicians. He was close to Queen Elizabeth II.

He was married to popular British actor Valerie Hobson from 1954 till her death in 1998. The couple had a son, English novelist David Profumo.

Profumo was Hobson’s second husband. Hobson was previously married to British producer and screenwriter Anthony Havelock-Allan, with whom she had two children.

The Profumo Affair & its Aftermath

In early 1963, there were rumors that John Profumo had had an affair with a 19-year-old model, showgirl, and prostitute named Christine Keeler. It was alleged that Keeler had also been close to Soviet spy Yevgeny Ivanov.

Profumo initially denied any involvement with Keeler. It was later revealed that Profumo had met Keeler at a party at Cliveden on July 8, 1961. They had been in touch and had an affair later.

Keeler was apparently in the relationship with Profumo to extract sensitive information regarding the movement of nuclear warheads to Germany. Keeler later stated that his close associate Stephen Ward had asked her gather the information.

In December 1962, a shooting incident that involved two of Keeler’s other lovers, Lucky Gordon and John Edgecombe, led the press to investigate Keeler. Subsequently, they found out about Keeler’s affair with both Profumo and Ivanov.

An FBI document later revealed that in January 1963, an American businessman named Thomas Corbally (a friend of Stephen Ward) had revealed to a diplomat that Profumo had had a sexual relationship with Keeler. The document stated that Harold Macmillan was aware of the scandal.

The affair remained hidden from the public until March 1963, when Labour MP George Wigg asked Home Secretary Henry Brooke about Profumo’s affair with Keeler, during a debate in the House of Commons. Soon, John Profumo made a personal statement, in which he admitted to knowing Keeler but denied having any “impropriety” in their relationship.

Following this, Henry Brooke summoned MI5 head Roger Hollis and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Joseph Simpson for a meeting regarding this whole fiasco. It was rumored that MI5 had been sending anonymous notes to Profumo’s wife, though Hollis denied it.

Hollis then told Brooke that Keeler had indeed had a sexual relationship with Profumo, while she was having an affair with Ivanov. Brooke, Hollis, and Simpson considered the possibility of bringing a conviction against Ward, but believed the witnesses in the case were not reliable enough.

In May 1963, George Wigg again raised the issue of the Profumo affair, stating the relationship was a concern of national security. On June 5, 1963, Profumo admitted he had lied to the House about his and Keeler’s relationship and resigned from the position of War Secretary.

However, there was no proof that the relationship had led to any threat to national security. The scandal became one of the main causes of the Labour’s win at the 1964 election. Profumo never spoke about his affair with Keeler again.

Later Life & Death

Following his resignation, John Profumo tried rebuilding his life. He initially washed dishes at Toynbee Hall, a charitable organization in London’s East End, which worked for the benefit of the poor.

He also helped with the playgroup and collected rents. He later worked with the charity’s council, too.

In the eyes of the general public, he had achieved redemption. His charity work earned him the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975.

He later continued to work for Toynbee Hall as a volunteer. He died on March 9, 2006, in London, England, at age 91. Till his death, he refrained from speaking publicly about the Profumo affair.

See the events in life of John Profumo in Chronological Order

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