Mandy Rice-Davies, the Solihull woman at the centre of one of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century, has died at the age of 70.

Ms Rice-Davies, who was known by her married name of Marilyn Foreman, died following a short battle with cancer.

Along with Christine Keeler and society osteopath Stephen Ward, she was a key figure in the 1963 John Profumo sex scandal, which almost brought down the Conservative government of the time.

A nightclub dancer, she gained notoriety when in the witness box of the Old Bailey she dismissed a denial by Lord Astor that he had slept with her, saying: "Well, he would, wouldn't he?"

Her response seemed to encapsulate a new lack of deference to the old order as the country emerged from the austerity of the immediate post-war years.

The lurid disclosures of high-society sex parties and claims that the Secretary of State for War John Profumo had shared a mistress, Keeler, with a Russian defence attaché enthralled and scandalised early 1960s Britain.

Mr Profumo, who was subsequently forced to resign in disgrace, was said to have been introduced to showgirl Keeler through Ward during a party at Lord Astor's mansion at Cliveden.

When the scandal, erupted Ward was charged with living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and Rice-Davies - a move seen by many as an attempt by the Establishment to make him the scapegoat for the whole affair.

It was at his trial at the Old Bailey that Rice-Davies made her famous remark.

 

Many years later, Lord Astor's wife denied that there had been any affair, but Rice-Davies always stuck to her story.

"What was Bill (Lord Astor) doing? I didn't seduce Bill. I didn't even flutter an eyelash at him. I wasn't a temptress. He seduced me. In those days, women did not leap upon men," she said.

In the years that followed the trial, she continued to live the high life, dancing, acting, writing and marrying three times.

She later said she wished the events of 1963, which established her reputation so vividly, had never happened.

"The only reason I still want to talk about it is that I have to fight the misconception that I was a prostitute. I don't want that to be passed on to my grandchildren. There is still a stigma," she said.

Last year, she attended a press conference supporting the launch of a book claiming Mr Ward, who took an overdose of sleeping tablets on the last day of his trial and was found guilty while in a coma, was innocent.

Geoffrey Robertson QC claimed the trial was unfair and was a cover-up by the legal establishment.

A spokesman for the Hackford Jones PR agency said: "It is with deep sadness that the family of Marilyn Foreman, also known as Mandy Rice-Davies, have confirmed that she passed away yesterday evening after a short battle with cancer.

"They have asked for their privacy to be respected and no further comment will be made."