Nancy Astor was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons.
She was viewed by some as Adolf Hitler’s woman in Britain, and after the war became known as the ‘Member for Berlin’.
Some went so far as to claim that she had hypnotic powers.
After marrying Waldorf Astor she moved into the Buckinghamshire pile of Cliveden.
A right-wing, upper class group of intellectuals that came to be known as the ‘Cliveden Set’ formed around her and developed their own form of fascism whilst supporting the appeasement campaign of Neville Chamberlain. Although Nancy herself said she supported German rearmament there is some dispute as to how deep the Nazi affiliations went with her and her Cliveden coterie.
Nancy and Waldorf used Cliveden for entertaining on a lavish scale. The combination of the house, its setting and leisure facilities offered on the estate—boating on the Thames, horse riding, tennis, swimming, croquet and fishing—made Cliveden a destination for film stars, politicians, world-leaders, writers and artists. The heyday of entertaining at Cliveden was between the two World Wars when the Astors held regular weekend house parties. Guests at the time included: Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Amy Johnson, F.D. Roosevelt, H.H. Asquith, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), A.J. Balfour and the writers Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Edith Wharton. The tradition of high-profile guests visiting the house continues to this day, largely due to the house’s conversion into a hotel.
The Astors ceased to live at Cliveden in 1968, shortly after the Profumo Affair and Bill Astor’s death.
In the early 1960s, Profumo was the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government and was married to actress Valerie Hobson. In 1961, Profumo met Christine Keeler, a London good-time girl or, according to the newspapers, a call girl,at a house party at Cliveden. Many years later Profumo would claim, in discussion with his son, David, that he had met Keeler previously at a night club in London called Murray’s and “probably had a drink with her.” Also present at the Cliveden party were Profumo’s wife and the fashionable osteopath and party arranger for the aristocracy, Dr Stephen Ward, a long-standing acquaintance of Keeler.