Robert Kennedy intervened to stop revelations a leading Liberal MP was gay in order to save the British establishment from another sex scandal, a secret memo has revealed.
Jeremy Thorpe, an up and coming Liberal MP who later became party leader, wrote a secret letter to his American lover Bruno in 1961 – when homosexuality was still illegal.
In the passionate love letter he wrote: ‘If I’m ever driven out of public life in Britain for a gay scandal then I shall settle in San Francisco.’
The letter fell into the hands of Robert Kennedy – the US attorney general and brother of the President JFK – in 1963.
At the time Britain was in the grip of the Profumo affair – where War Secretary John Profumo was revealed to be having an affair Christine Keeler – so Mr Kennedy tried to suppress the letter in a bid to save the nation from another damaging scandal.
An FBI memo, obtained along with the letter by the BBC via a Freedom of Information request, states: ‘The Attorney General said he learned of this letter during a visit to New York last week.
Jeremy Thorpe (pictured in 1977) an up and coming Liberal MP who later became party leader, wrote a secret letter to his American lover Bruno in 1961 – when homosexuality was still illegal
‘The letter makes reference to a possible homosexual relationship between [redacted] and Jeremy Thorpe.
‘The letter was written by Thorpe and bore a return address of the House of Commons, London.
‘The Attorney General stated that he wanted to inform [redacted] of this matter on a personal basis ‘as the British can’t afford another disclosure of this kind’.’
In the letter, which had a return address of the House of Commons, Mr Thorpe talked of his longing to see his lover again.
He wrote: ‘It was an unkind stroke of fate that we should only have met at the very end of my stay in San Francisco… I don’t know how you feel, but although we only met so briefly, I miss you desperately.’
He said: ‘How I adored San Francisco… the one city where a gay person can let down his defences and feel free and unhunted.’
After offering to use his contacts to help Bruno find a job, he said: ‘Somehow we must meet again, either I must get on to San Francisco on some mission, which the British or American taxpayer will pay for!! – or one summer we must get you to Europe for a really good holiday.’
Robert Kennedy (pictured) intervened to stop revelations a leading Liberal MP was gay in order to save the British establishment from another sex scandal, a secret memo has revealed
He asked Bruno to write to him at his home or at the House of Commons, but warned that ‘the latter should be marked personal!’
Mr Thorpe also asked for a photograph of his lover – and enclosed one of himself, explaining: ‘I have a spare passport one which I send along.
‘I’m afraid it’s a bit smudged at the back. But it will remind you of my front!’ He signed off by saying: ‘I can’t tell you how happy I am to have met you.
‘Yours most affectionately, Jeremy.’
Less than 20 years later Mr Thorpe found his political career in tatters after his sexuality was finally revealed in a shocking trial at the Old Bailey.
In 1979 Mr Thorpe was accused of conspiracy to murder his former male lover in what was dubbed ‘the trial of the century’.
Norman Josiffe, also known as Norman Scott, said he and Mr Thorpe had a gay affair in the early 1960s.
Mr Thorpe managed to keep a lid on the claims for about a decade but they exploded into the limelight in 1979 when Mr Scott accused the Liberal MP of conspiring to murder him.
Attempts to frighten Mr Scott or buy his silence had failed and in 1975 his dog was shot in a possible murder attempt.
As the claims were made public Mr Thorpe was forced to quit as Liberal leader and embroiled in the court case ‘ dubbed the ‘trial of the century’.
Mr Thorpe was acquitted but the scandal left his political reputation in tatters.