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The fall-out from the Montagu trial had a direct influence on the British legal system and, in 1957, a government committee recommended that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private be legalised. Lord Montagu, now 80, is only now recalling the unhappy chapter of his life as Channel 4 prepares to broadcast a dramatic reconstruction of the trial.The programme – A Very British Sex Scandal – has been produced to mark the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.I could have done, I got offers of money from the Press to speak at the time. I never said anything.'I didn't want to be a professional convict, like Lord Brocket or Lord Archer or [Jonathan] Aitken, who write about their experiences in prison as soon as they're let out. If you ever want to recover yourself in the public's eye, you've got to do something else, you've got to achieve something.'Indeed, for more than 50 years, Lord Montagu has been better known as the founder of the National Motor Museum, set up in the grounds of his stately home, Palace House in Beaulieu, Hampshire.He was also chairman of English Heritage from 1984 to 1992 and spends much of his time taking part in vintage-car rallies or organising jazz festivals.Nonetheless it will be a decade before homosexuality is decriminalized.As with Channel 4's treatment of the same case in 2007, 'A Very British Sex Scandal', the drama is intercut with interviews with elderly gay men, who, like Peter, suffered discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s.Over half a century Rupert Murdoch’s business audacity and political shrewdness built one of the world’s most powerful media empires.Now his dynasty is under threat — not from outside competition, but from shocking accounts of bribery, blackmail, and invasion of privacy.
Undercover officers acting as 'agents provocateurs' would pose as gay men soliciting in public places. 'There were all-male dancing clubs and I would go to the theatre, to films. 'I would have four days in London and three days a week in Beaulieu, where I would have weekend parties. There would be shooting, fishing – all those sorts of activities.' But one of these weekend parties would prove to be his undoing.
The scandal has prompted criminal investigations on both sides of the Atlantic.
It has also cracked open the insular world of the Murdoch family, its news executives, and the political elite who court their favor.
The prevailing mood was one of barely concealed paranoia.'People can't understand it now,' says Lord Montagu. As someone said at the time, the skies over Chelsea were black with people burning their love letters.'London, with its lively post-war social scene, provided an exotic demi-monde of underground gay clubs where telephone numbers could be exchanged discreetly between like-minded men. In the summer of 1953, Lord Montagu offered Wildeblood the use of a beach hut near his country estate.
Wildeblood brought with him two young RAF servicemen, Edward Mc Nally and John Reynolds.
Although his background had been unremittingly conventional for a man with his aristocratic standing – Eton, then Oxford and a spell in the Grenadier Guards – he became a self-confessed bohemian who enjoyed affairs with both men and women.'I am bisexual,' he says. I remember feeling that I didn't have to apologise to anybody.