02:00PM, Sunday 19 January 2020
Image: BBC / Ecosse Films / James Pardon
A television adaptation of a scandal which has its origins at Cliveden House has been hooking BBC One viewers on Sunday nights.
The Trial of Christine Keeler chronicles one of the biggest political stories of the 20th century and visitors to Cliveden, now a five-star hotel on National Trust grounds, can learn all about the murky details of this scandalous part of British history.
The stately home's ‘most heinous of scandals’ began in the summer of 1961, when Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old aspiring model, attended a private party at Cliveden’s Spring Cottage.
This party would lead to the fateful meeting between Keeler and John Profumo.
Profumo, the then War Secretary, began an affair with Keeler soon aferwards.
In 1962, the gossip column of the society magazine Queen hinted that Keeler may have been simultaneously involved with a Soviet naval attaché and suspected Russian spy. The resulting scandal shook the British parliament to its core.
Its origin close to home was, according to Richard Poad, chairman of Maidenhead Heritage Centre, ‘in a way, no surprise’.
“Maidenhead had a reputation,” said Mr Poad.
“There was a saying at the time: ‘Are you married, or do you live in Maidenhead?’”
Cliveden House has embraced its shady side, boasting on its website that that it has ‘a history of unapologetic debauchery’.
The property started life as the site of scandal.
In 1666, the Duke of Buckingham built the first great house for his mistress, then killed her husband in a duel.
Angela Day works at Cliveden House, and was keen to highlight that the Profumo affair is just one of a number of colourful events for the home with a rich cultural history.
“This is a hugely important property for the National Trust,” she said.
“The view of the house from the Grand Drive is very imposing.
“It’s a privilege to able to enjoy the house and grounds, for the many thousands of people who visit.”
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