Mandy Rice-Davies, woman who helped bring down Tory government, dead at 70

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died after a short battle with cancer
Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died after a short battle with cancer
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MANDY RICE-DAVIES, Mandy Rice-Davies - one of the women at the centre of the Profumo affair which rocked Harold Macmillan’s Tory government in 1963 - has died aged 70.

A spokesman for the Hackford Jones PR agency said: “It is with deep sadness that the family of Marilyn Foreman, also known as Mandy Rice-Davies, have confirmed that she passed away yesterday evening after a short battle with cancer.

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died after a short battle with cancer

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died after a short battle with cancer

“They have asked for their privacy to be respected and no further comment will be made.”

The lurid disclosures of high-society sex parties and claims that the Secretary of State for War John Profumo had shared a mistress with a Russian defence attache enthralled and scandalised early 1960s Britain and contributed to the downfall of the Conservative Government in 1964.

Her insouciant response seemed to encapsulate a new lack of deference to the old order as the country emerged from the austerity of the immediate post war years.

Her claim to have had an affair with Lord Astor - whose mansion at Cliveden was the setting for the scandal - was denied many years later by his wife, but she always stuck to her story.

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died after a short battle with cancer

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died after a short battle with cancer

Rice-Davies was a key figure in the scandal, alongside Christine Keeler. But unlike Keeler, who afterwards slid into relative poverty and near obscurity, Rice-Davies, a vivacious and bubbly character, continued to enjoy the high life, dancing, writing and acting, and marrying wealthy men.

However, she remained famous throughout her life for a comment she made in the witness box during the Old Bailey trial of society osteopath and procurer of women Dr Stephen Ward. He was charged with living off the immoral earnings of both Rice-Davies and Keeler.

When she was told that Lord Astor had denied her claims that he had slept with her, Rice-Davies astonished the court by famously saying: “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

It was a phrase which found its way into many dictionaries of quotations.

Some 30 years later, Bronwen Pugh, who had married Lord Astor in 1960, was to accuse Rice-Davies of having lied, and insisting that her husband was telling the truth.

When Rice-Davies was told about this, she replied: “Me? Excuse me? What was Bill (Lord Astor) doing? I didn’t seduce Bill. I didn’t even flutter an eyelash at him. I wasn’t a temptress. He seduced me. In those days women did not leap upon men.”

Dr Ward, who was found guilty, committed suicide at the Chelsea flat of a friend, on the eve of the jury returning its verdict.

Mandy Rice-Davies was born in 1944 in Solihull to Welsh parents, who plainly found her something of a trial. She said that at school she won so many prizes that she had to give some of them back to give the other children a chance.

Her twin loves as a child were her Welsh mountain pony, Laddie (doing paper rounds to support him), and the medical missionary Albert Schweitzer. At the age of 12 she wanted to become a missionary. “I wanted to hug lepers, hug trees and to join him if I could. But then I did some research and changed my mind.”

She left school without qualifications and took a £3-a-week job in the china department at Marshall & Snelgrove in Birmingham, starting to model during tea-time at the store. But bored with this, she packed a suitcase and went to London.

Within a week, she secured a job as a dancer at Murray’s Cabaret Club in London’s Soho district, where she began mixing with the rich and famous - something she continued to do throughout her life.

The Earl of Dudley, one of Murray’s oldest clients, took such a shine to Rice-Davies that by 17 she had had her first offer of marriage. “I could have been a dowager duchess by the time I was 22,” she said.

She also began her association with Christine Keeler, a fellow dancer, and with Stephen Ward. It was this which was to catapult her into the sleazy but exciting world of high society sex parties, particularly at Cliveden, the fairy-tale Berkshire mansion of the Astors.

This was the scenario which led to the disgrace and downfall of John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, who falsely denied in the Commons that he had slept with Christine Keeler.

The Ward trial was to make Rice-Davies a household name.

She said later: “As soon as I realised that the whole thing was about to blow up, I went and told my parents absolutely everything that could possibly come out, and they were very supportive. Looking back on it, I was remarkably naive.”

Later, she was to move in with notorious landlord Peter Rachman, and stayed with him for two years. Rachman died soon after they split up.

Afterwards, as the years rolled by, Rice-Davies was to appear in a Tom Stoppard play and in films. After the Ward trial, she accepted an offer to sing in a cabaret in Germany, and found solace with a half-French, half-Italian baron named Pierre Cevello.

From Germany, she moved on to Spain and then to Israel, still singing in cabaret. She married an Israeli businessman, Rafael Shaul, ran a chain of restaurants with him, a dress factory and acted in a Hebrew theatre.

They had a daughter, Dana, but after ten years they divorced. Then she married a Frenchman called Jean Charles - but only for about a week, she claimed.

Soon afterwards she met her third husband, British businessman Ken Foreman and they married on a private island and lived on Grove Isle, a salubrious part of Miami. They had other homes, in the Bahamas and Virginia Water, Surrey.

In 1999 they saw Edward Fox starring as Harold Macmillan in the play Letter of Resignation, which focused on the Profumo scandal.

“We left in frustration at the end of the first act, because I couldn’t understand a word he was saying,” she said.

She was to say later: “If I could live my life over, I would wish 1963 had not existed. The only reason I still want to talk about it is that I have to fight the misconception that I was a prostitute. I don’t want that to be passed on to my grandchildren. There is still a stigma.”

She also insisted there were no secrets which she would take to the grave. “Everything is out. That is why I have no concerns whatsoever about anything.