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Romance and intrigue in England's hotels

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Some of the romance that perfumed young Sheridan’s days and nights in Bath seems to linger in the hotel suite named for him, to judge from comments in the room’s guest book. More than one visitor has written, "Loved the bed. We didn’t see Bath at all."

ACCESS

For more information on the Royal Crescent Hotel visit its website at www.royalcrescent.co.uk .

For information on travel in Britain go to the Visit Britain website at www.visitbritain.com .

PHOTO CAPTION: A woman emerging topless from this pool at Cliveden House in 1961 toppled a British government.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mitchell Smyth/Meridian Writers’ Group

Posh country hotel has quite a past

By Mitchell Smyth

Meridian Writers’ Group

MAIDENHEAD, England–Step off the driveway of an elegant country house on the leafy banks of the River Thames, go through a doorway into a walled garden and you’re amid the ghosts of a scandal that rocked a nation and felled a government.

There’s a little pool in the garden. Close your eyes and imagine the scene from a hot July night in 1961. A beautiful young woman emerges, topless, from the pool; she’s chased along the deck by a friend and she runs right into the arms of a balding, middle-aged man.

The woman was Christine Keeler, 19; the man was John Profumo, Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for War. He had been at a party in the "big house," Cliveden, and, glass in hand, had strolled down to the pool.

Cliveden, then owned by Profumo’s friend Lord Astor, is now a sumptuous hotel, set in 152 hectares of gardens, woods and meadows.

And, surprisingly, it doesn’t attempt to bury its brush with the great sex scandal of the 1960s, the scandal that started that night by the pool when Profumo became infatuated with Keeler and began an affair with her.

But at the same time she was sleeping with a Russian "attaché" (read "spy") and the rumour mill said she might be passing along state secrets. Profumo made the mistake of denying the affair and when it broke into the open in 1963 he was disgraced. The scandal helped bring down the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan.