John Profumo, centre of 1963 British scandal, dies at 91

Former British cabinet minister John Profumo, whose affair with a high-class prostitute linked to a Soviet naval attaché was one of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century, has died at the age of 91.

Former British cabinet minister John Profumo, whose affair with a high-class prostitute linked to a Soviet naval attaché was one of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century, has died at the age of 91.

His death Thursday night was due to a stroke he suffered two days earlier, a London hospital official said.

"He was a politician with a glittering career who made a serious mistake, but then went on a journey of redemption which gave support and help to many, many people," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday.

Profumo's political career ended in 1963, when the Conservative politician was 48, after British newspapers reported that he was seeing Christine Keeler.

Keeler, 19, was a party-loving socialite who occasionally worked as a prostitute. Profumo was married to actress Valerie Hobson at the time his relationship with Keeler began.

The scandal turned toxic for the British government when it was revealed that at the same time she was dating Profumo, then the country's secretary of state for war, Keeler was seeing Soviet intelligence agent Yevgeny Ivanov.

Given that the Cold War was at its height, the ensuing public uproar nearly brought down the British government in 1963.

A year later, though a judge had found there was no security breach in the Profumo affair, the Conservative Party went down to defeat in the 1964 national elections.

After his resignation, Profumo spent the rest of his professional life working for charitable organizations serving London's poor.

Though accustomed to wealth from his childhood, he began volunteering as a dishwasher at an East End charity called Toynbee Hall, going on to become its president.

In recognition of his charity work, Queen Elizabeth II made him a Commander of the Order of British Empire in 1975.

Profumo's wife stood by him through the 1963 scandal and the decades that followed. Hobson died in 1998.