Meghan Markle stayed at the exclusive Cliveden House before her wedding to Prince Harry. But the classic English country house hides a shady past. Early owner William Waldorf Astor—known as America’s richest man in 1890—gifted Cliveden to his son Waldorf and Waldorf’s wife, Nancy. Their house parties were legendary, and the aristocratic, politically influential attendees were known as the “Cliveden Set.”
In July 1961, Secretary of State for War John Profumo was a guest. Stephen Ward, Cliveden’s resident osteopath, was staying nearby with model and showgirl Christine Keeler and Yevgeny Ivanov, a Russian intelligence officer.
The trio joined the party. Keeler and Profumo began an affair, but Keeler was also sleeping with Ivanov. At the height of the Cold War, this was a major security breach.
Profumo denied any wrongdoing. But Keeler sold her story to the press, and Profumo was forced to resign. The government was put under increasing pressure, and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan also resigned. Stephen Ward was arrested for living off immoral earnings and committed suicide. Bill Astor suffered ill health due to stress and died in 1966.
The Astors abandoned Cliveden, and it was gifted to the National Trust. Today, it is a five-star hotel and spa where you can leave your worries behind for around £1,000 a night.