Belfast Telegraph

Shop girl-turned-dancer who rocked Westminster and coined famous phrase

By Chris Moncrieff

Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure alongside Christine Keeler in the Profumo scandal of 1963, played an unwitting part in the affair that contributed to the downfall of the Conservative Government the following year.

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, 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.

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," she said. "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 soon 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 received 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 Keeler, a fellow dancer, and with Ward. It was this which was to catapult her into the sleazy but exciting world of high society sex parties, particularly at Cliveden, the fairytale Berkshire mansion of the Astors.

This was the scenario that led to the disgrace and downfall of John Profumo, then 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 she 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 and a dress factory with him and acted in a Hebrew theatre.

They had a daughter, Dana, but after 10 years they divorced. She then 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, too, 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.

Belfast Telegraph


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