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H.R.H. Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester by Stephen Ward

Charcoal on paper. Head and shoulders study of Princess Alice. Signed lower right ‘Stephen Ward / York House’. Image: 38cm (15in) x 26.5cm (10.5in). Princess Alice was the third daughter of the 7th Duke of Buccleuh and married Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in 1935. As such she was daughter-in-law of George V. The present portrait was commissioned by the Illustrated London News and was drawn from life at York House. The portrait was reproduced in the I.L.N. in August 1961.

Stephen Ward (1912-63), the society osteopath and central figure in the Profumo scandal of 1963, studied at the Slade School and developed a talent for sketching portraits which provided a profitable sideline. He first exhibited sketches of his eminent patients in 1960, and contributed drawings to the Illustrated London News and Daily Telegraph. His practice and his art brought considerable social success, and he made many important friends. Among these was Lord Astor, at whose country house, Cliveden, in the summer of 1961, Ward introduced Profumo to  19-year-old Christine Keeler. Profumo embarked on a brief affair with Keeler. Most of their assignations took place in Ward's home in Wimpole Mews. Through the Telegraph editor, Sir Colin Coote, Ward was introduced to the Russian naval attach√©, Yevgeny Ivanov in 1961. Ward's friendship with Ivanov, known by MI5 to be an intelligence officer, drew him to the attention of British intelligence, who sought to use him in an attempt to secure Ivanov's defection. The matter became complicated when, through Ward, Ivanov met Keeler, raising the possibility of a Profumo-Keeler-Ivanov triangle. Profumo ended his relationship with Keeler, which remained largely unsuspected until early in 1963, when the disintegration of Keeler's private life brought matters to public and press attention. Profumo denied any impropriety in a statement to the House of Commons but a few weeks later admitted his affair. He resigned from his ministerial office, parliamentary seat, and membership in the Privy Council. Amid a range of rumours of widespread sex scandals in government and high society, the police began to investigate Ward. In June 1963, he was charged with immorality offences and committed to trial. In the ensuing trial, in July 1963, Ward was abandoned by his society friends and exposed to the contempt and hostility of the prosecuting counsel and judge. Despite the relative paucity of evidence and the dismissal of most of the charges against him, he was convicted on two counts of living off immoral earnings. However, before the verdict was announced, Ward took an overdose of sleeping pills and died three days later.


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