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Mandy Rice Davies, model, 1944-2014
From the Financial Times of Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:01:12 GMT
File photo 29/06/63 of Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the 1963 Profumo affair, who has died after a short battle with cancer, a spokesman for publicist Hackford Jones said today. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday December 19, 2014. See PA story DEATH RiceDavies. Photo credit should read: PA Wire©PA

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the Profumo affair that rocked Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government and the British establishment in the 1960s, has died at the age of 70 after a short battle with cancer.

As a young child, Rice-Davies decided she would be a missionary. “I wanted to hug lepers, hug trees,” she recalled. “But then I did some research and changed my mind.”

Instead, her career followed a very different path, taking her via the clubs of Soho to an ill-fated entanglement with the British elite.

In the course of the Profumo scandal she came to embody the newfound irreverence towards the British ruling classes in the 1960s: a chirpy blonde woman laughing at the discomfort of her wealthy associates.

Rice-Davies will forever be remembered for a single quote — not actually noted in the court records — during the trial of Stephen Ward, who was charged with living off immoral earnings.

When asked by a barrister why Lord Astor denied having an affair with her, she replied: “He would, wouldn’t he?” In her memoirs Rice-Davies said the essence of the quote was correct.

Marilyn Rice-Davies was born in 1944 in Solihull in the West Midlands to Welsh parents. She left school with no qualifications and took a job in a Birmingham department store before deciding to head to London for a new life.

As a Soho nightclub dancer, she became involved with the wealthy and powerful. She claimed to have had a marriage proposal from the Earl of Dudley at the age of 17: “I could have become a dowager duchess by the time I was 22,” she recalled.

Rice-Davies lived with Christine Keeler, another dancer, and came to know and have an affair with Stephen Ward, an osteopath who was later charged with living off immoral earnings from the two women.

It was Ms Keeler’s affair with John Profumo, the war minister, that propelled her into the national spotlight, even though Rice-Davies never met the Tory politician who was forced to resign in disgrace in 1963.

Rice-Davies testified at the Ward trial, an event that exposed a web of intrigue, sex parties and espionage, and is sometimes seen as one of the key moments in the end of deference in British society.

She later said that she wished the events of 1963 had never happened, but she appeared to relish the notoriety. Asked later whether she had seduced Lord Astor, she said: “I didn’t even flutter an eyelash at him. I wasn’t a temptress — he seduced me.”

Rice-Davies added: “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 passed on to my grandchildren. There is still a stigma.”

Towards the end of her life she revealed that she had not spoken to Ms Keeler for decades: “I don’t think she likes me,” she said.

She collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on a musical about the life of Stephen Ward, wrote her autobiography and a novel, and appeared in television programmes including BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous.

She married three times, lastly to Ken Foreman, the chairman of Attwoods waste disposal group. She led a life of luxury between homes in Surrey, Miami and the Bahamas.

Reflecting on her scandalous past in later life, she remarked: “I have never been sorry for myself. I’m of the existential school. I did it and that’s it.” She is survived by her husband and her daughter, Dana.

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