You might recall on 17th June I blogged about painting a famous secret location? It was somewhere that had had quite a scandalous history, with a series of shocking events taking place in the 60s. The location I painted is Spring Cottage at Cliveden House in Taplow, Berkshire.
Spring Cottage is known as one of the most beautiful cottages along the Thames. It was built in 1813 as a summerhouse and tearoom for the Countess of Orkney. It was designed to offer a peaceful and secluded retreat away from the hustle and bustle of London. There’s a nearby spring that trickles down from some cliffs – it’s after this spring that the cottage was named.
In the 1870s the Duchess of Sutherland had the cottage extended into what it is today. The cottage was known as a beautiful haven where many rowdy parties and high society events were held. Then in the 1960s it became known in a different light thanks to the role it played in a political scandal.
It was 1961 and the Cold War was having a heavy impact on British politics. Christine Keeler, a wannabe model, was attending a high-society party at Cliveden House. She was 19 years old and was the lover of Eugene Ivanov, a Russian military attaché. The party was being held by Lord Astor, who at that time was the owner of Cliveden House. Also at the party was John Profumo, who was the Conservative Secretary of State for War. His wife, Valerie Hobson, was a popular actress. Keeler and Profumo met and embarked on a secret affair, which was influenced by Stephen Ward, who maintained contacts both in the underworld and the aristocracy. This affair would eventually result in Profumo having to resign and Prime Minister Macmillan’s reputation being damaged. It was partly to blame for the Prime Minister’s downfall and the following year, the Labour Party defeated the Conservatives in the National Election.
Despite all the scandal, it was never confirmed or denied by the authorities whether Ivanov was trying to entrap Profumo by influencing his affair with Keeler.