How Christine Keeler and Torquay vicar's son Stephen Ward brought down the Government
The death of Christine Keeler revives memories of the Torquay osteopath who found himself at the centre of the Profumo scandal in the early 1960s. Keeler died yesterday at the age of 75.
Stephen Ward, dubbed a 'thoroughly filthy fellow' in court, died after taking an overdose of sleeping tablets. He was the son of Arthur Evelyn Ward, Canon of Rochester Cathedral, writes Torquay local historian Kevin Dixon.
Stephen Ward was educated at Londonâs Highgate School, and in 1920 the family moved to Torquay when his father became Vicar of St Matthias on Babbacombe Road.
After studying osteopathy in Missouri, Stephen returned to Torquay in 1940 to set-up as an osteopath. Having joined the Army, in 1944 he was posted to India and treated Gandhi for headaches and a stiff neck. After the war, Stephen worked in London, became affluent and had a stream of famous patients, including Winston Churchill and Ava Gardner.
He was also a portrait painter and h ad, among others, the Duke of Edinburgh sit for him. This link to the Royal Family has long produced gossip and a veiled reference in the movie Scandal ie âthe man in the maskâ.
However, Stephen had a fondness for attractive young women and he introduced his female friends to the rich and famous. Thus, he became one of the central figures in the 1963 Profumo affair, a public scandal which profoundly embarrassed the Conservative government of the day.
In 1961, Stephen had introduced the married cabinet minister John Profumo to a showgirl called Christine Keeler at a party held at Lord Astorâs country home Cliveden. The British public were fascinated by the affair which involved a cabinet minister, a showgirl and a Soviet naval attachÃ©. John Profumoâs relationship with Christine and his false statement to the Commons led to Profumoâs resignation.
Foll owing the scandal, Stephen was charged with living off âimmoral earningsâ and described in court as âa thoroughly filthy fellowâ. Tragically, he committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping tablets on the last day of his trial. Rumours that this was more than a suicide persist.
The strain of the scandal contributed to the breakdown of health of Harold Macmillan, who resigned as Prime Minister in October 1963. His successor, Alec Douglas-Home, faced a general election a year later which was won by Harold Wilsonâs Labour Party with a majority of four seats.
Stephen Ward was played by John Hurt in the 1989 film Scandal. The filmâs theme song by Dusty Springfield and the Pet Shop Boys, âNothing has bee n provedâ, became a Top 20 hit.Source: Google News