Service for Profumo 'the hero'

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John Profumo, the minister whose affair in 1963 with the call girl Christine Keeler helped to bring down the Tory government, was remembered at his funeral yesterday as a practical joker, a hero - but no saint.

These facets of his life were outlined by his friend Lord Blakenham at the service in St Paul's in Knightsbridge, a church "beloved" by Mr Profumo, who died on 9 March, aged 91.

Baroness Thatcher was among the 250 mourners. The Queen sent a representative, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, to the service, which was followed by cremation at Mortlake. Lord Blakenham referred in passing only to Mr Profumo's "fall from grace". When Mr Profumo resigned from the Cabinet and the Commons, he went to Toynbee Hall, a charity which deals with the needs of the people of the East End of London, where he worked tirelessly and ceaselessly virtually for the rest of his life.

Lord Blakenham quoted a helper at Toynbee Hall once saying: "Everybody here worships him. We think he's a bloody saint."

But Lord Blakenham added: "Well, he wasn't a saint. But he was a hero. And when a balanced history of 20th-century Britain is finally written, I have no doubt he will be regarded as such."

Lord Blakenham spoke of Mr Profumo's "penchant for practical jokes", on one occasion posing for several days on the Trans-Siberian railway as Jack Pistachio, the illegitimate son of King Umberto of Italy.