In preparing my talks about the Profumo Affair, I became something of an admirer of Marilyn (Mandy) Rice-Davies. Her intelligence, tenacity and wit shone through a rather tawdry story of rich men and their excesses. Her response in the trial of Stephen Ward to the assertion that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her was ‘he would, wouldn’t he?’ This pithy, priceless retort became and remains part of British popular culture and appears in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
So it was interesting to read in a letter from a once eminent Conservative, Sir Ivan Lawrence Q.C., in the Times( 19th January, 2013) that claimed Mandy never said these words. According to his hand-written notes, (he was a pupil to Stephen Ward’s barrister), she said something much more mundane. He claims she said,’ Of course it’s not untrue that I have had relations with Lord Astor. I’m not going to perjure myself in court’.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the famous quote was first reported by The Observer newspaper on June 30th, 1963 which, at the time, was owned by the Astor family! The next day both the Guardian and the Times quoted Mandy as saying,’ he would, wouldn’t he?’
The court report appears to show that Sir Ivan’s quote is indeed accurate but that particular answer comes earlier in her cross examination and later on in response to the prosecuting counsel, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, she uses the immortal ‘he would, wouldn’t he’ line.
On January 30th, 2013, the lady herself is quoted in the Guardian as correcting Sir Ivan. Mandy said, ’I too was present at Stephen Ward’s hearing...and most certainly did say ‘he would, wouldn’t he?’ Once again, Mandy should have the last word and her advice to the eminent lawyer was ‘The palest ink is not always better than the best of memory, Sir Ivan-besides I have before me the court transcript’.
Well done, Mandy!