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Unseen pictures and prison letters from Christine Keeler shed new light on the former model

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The full lips are pouting but the pose is awkward with none of the calculating glamour that would later come to define her.

Former model and topless showgirl Christine Keeler, who famously brought down a government, has rarely been portrayed as an ingénue.

Looking into her wide-eyed gaze at the age of just 15, however, it is impossible to imagine that only four years later she would become sexually involved with two powerful men, Secretary of War John Profumo and Soviet naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov – so setting in motion one of the most dramatic political scandals of post-war Britain.

Looking into her wide-eyed gaze at the age of just 15, however, it is impossible to imagine that only four years later she would become sexually involved with two powerful men

Looking into her wide-eyed gaze at the age of just 15, however, it is impossible to imagine that only four years later she would become sexually involved with two powerful men

Looking into her wide-eyed gaze at the age of just 15, however, it is impossible to imagine that only four years later she would become sexually involved with two powerful men

The 1963 Profumo affair caused a security furore at the height of the Cold War and led to the downfall of everyone involved, including society osteopath Stephen Ward, who killed himself after being convicted of living off immoral earnings.

Keeler herself was denounced as a ‘tart’ and moral deviant in a Britain yet to undergo the sexual revolution, and this reputation would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Yet these pictures from her personal archive – published today for the first time – reveal a very different side to Christine Keeler. 

There is no sophistication, just a glossy-haired girl-next-door with a sullen, teenage gaze. 

The Mail on Sunday has also been given access to some of Keeler’s letters which, written from jail, serve only to strengthen the sense that she was childish and naive.

These pictures from her personal archive ¿ published today for the first time ¿ reveal a very different side to Christine Keeler. Six-year-old Christine is pictured above in a family snap

These pictures from her personal archive ¿ published today for the first time ¿ reveal a very different side to Christine Keeler. Six-year-old Christine is pictured above in a family snap

These pictures from her personal archive – published today for the first time – reveal a very different side to Christine Keeler. Six-year-old Christine is pictured above in a family snap





The case against her is admittedly strong. Working the Soho club scene by the age of 17, Keeler admitted to having ‘sugar daddies’ alongside her regular boyfriends, and took part in orgies with the wealthy and powerful.

But a new six-part BBC drama, The Trial of Christine Keeler, advances the theory that she was herself a victim, a girl from a difficult background who had been brought up in a converted railway carriage – a young woman swept up in a world she didn’t understand. Predatory men simply took advantage of her vulnerability, it suggests.

Keeler, who died aged 75 in 2017, had always insisted she was a victim of ‘the Establishment’. 

Fishing expedition: Christine with two aunts, Betty and Pam. Keeler had always insisted she was a victim of ¿the Establishment¿

Fishing expedition: Christine with two aunts, Betty and Pam. Keeler had always insisted she was a victim of ¿the Establishment¿

Fishing expedition: Christine with two aunts, Betty and Pam. Keeler had always insisted she was a victim of ‘the Establishment’

Amanda Coe, the screenwriter for the BBC series, said: ‘When I looked into the story, I was surprised that most people knew about Stephen Ward’s trial, but not a lot was known about Christine’s.

‘Her trial didn’t end as dramatically as Stephen Ward’s, but it had a huge impact on her life. It seemed such a crucial part of the story that the criminal justice system turned against her.

‘Christine not only endured a criminal trial but also a trial of public opinion: she was vilified in the court of public opinion. There’s some restitution in seeing her side of the story, despite the consequences, which for Christine, were pretty horrific.’

The drama, the first episode of which airs next Sunday, stars Ben Miles, James Norton and Ellie Bamber and its opening sequence sees Keeler, played by actress Sophie Cookson, disrobing at the edge of the swimming pool at Cliveden, Lord Astor’s Buckinghamshire mansion. 

‘I’m an ordinary sort of person,’ she says breathlessly. ‘Maybe hard to believe but I’ve never longed for the spotlight. But somehow the spotlight found me. How can you know when your story begins?

‘Like any girl my age, I had always dreamt of meeting Prince Charming. Then I met John Profumo. John was never Prince Charming.

A new six-part BBC drama, The Trial of Christine Keeler, advances the theory that she was herself a victim, a girl from a difficult background who had been brought up in a converted railway carriage ¿ a young woman swept up in a world she didn¿t understand

A new six-part BBC drama, The Trial of Christine Keeler, advances the theory that she was herself a victim, a girl from a difficult background who had been brought up in a converted railway carriage ¿ a young woman swept up in a world she didn¿t understand

A new six-part BBC drama, The Trial of Christine Keeler, advances the theory that she was herself a victim, a girl from a difficult background who had been brought up in a converted railway carriage – a young woman swept up in a world she didn’t understand

‘I knew that from the very beginning. You are 19 years old – innocent, guilty. How can one girl have the power to bring the whole world tumbling down?’

How indeed. Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1942, Keeler has always been portrayed as the product of a troubled childhood.

It certainly had its share of tragedy. Her father, Colin, abandoned her as a toddler and she was brought up in Wraysbury, Berkshire, by her mother Julie.

She was sexually abused as a teenager, ran away from home at 15 to work as a model in a dress shop in London, and gave birth at 17 to an illegitimate baby, who was born prematurely and survived just six days.

Shortly after this no doubt devastating experience, she began working at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho and it was here she met socialite Dr Ward, who recruited her as one of many ‘girls’ he introduced to his well-connected friends.

One such man was Lord Profumo, 27 years her senior, who she met at a Cliveden pool party in 1961. By the time they embarked on their affair, she was already sleeping with Ivanov, reportedly a Soviet spy.

Her father, Colin, abandoned her as a toddler and she was brought up in Wraysbury, Berkshire, by her mother Julie

Her father, Colin, abandoned her as a toddler and she was brought up in Wraysbury, Berkshire, by her mother Julie

Her father, Colin, abandoned her as a toddler and she was brought up in Wraysbury, Berkshire, by her mother Julie

The scandal, when it finally emerged in 1963, provoked a firestorm: Profumo resigned in disgrace – and would spend the rest of his life raising money for charity – while Ivanov was disowned by the Kremlin.

Ward was convicted for living off the proceeds of vice, with Keeler a star witness for the prosecution. 

But he committed suicide before he could be jailed, and it was Keeler who found herself behind bars later that year for perjury – after admitting she had lied about an alleged assault by another lover, jazz singer Aloysius ‘Lucky’ Gordon.

At the time of the scandal, Keeler was backed by her friend, the artist Catherine Coon, who said: ‘Is what she did really so awful? She was 19, she had no idea what she was getting herself into. [The men] knew what they were doing, and yet Profumo is now regarded as some kind of saint.’

Keeler was, as Coon recalls, ‘the most beautiful woman I had ever seen… every man who met her wanted her and those who couldn’t have her wanted to punish her.’

Keeler later sold her archive to her friend James Birch, who has now put the collection up for sale.

While the photographs show her captivating natural beauty and exuberance, they also provide a glimpse into her rural childhood and normal, domestic life away from the attention of the press.

The letters prove, too, how close she was to her family, her love of animals, and her concern for her the health of her step-father.

Birch said: ‘She was always portrayed as a call girl, when really she was no more than a party girl who wanted to have fun.’

Keeler herself said she could hardly have been a call girl as she didn’t have a telephone. 

‘You can see from her letters that she was totally naïve and innocent, and adored her parents,’ continued Birch. 

Happy: Smiling for the camera as a young girl. Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1942, Keeler has always been portrayed as the product of a troubled childhood

Happy: Smiling for the camera as a young girl. Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1942, Keeler has always been portrayed as the product of a troubled childhood

Happy: Smiling for the camera as a young girl. Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1942, Keeler has always been portrayed as the product of a troubled childhood

‘The Profumo scandal ruined her life. She never really got over it.’

Keeler’s family stuck devotedly by her after she was jailed. Letters from inmate number 7904 to her parents from Holloway Prison are littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. 

But they reveal she was trying to ‘improve’ herself by taking Italian and French lessons as well as literature classes. 

‘Well, I’ve read most of John Steinbeck’s books and Emile Zola,’ she wrote. ‘I’m just trying to find another good author, you don’t know any, do you? But it must be a heavy book, novel.’ 

She talks about her dog Bruce and the family cat, Blacky, and explains how she is feeding the prison’s birds and goldfish. But most striking is the obvious affection for her mother and stepfather, who she calls ‘dad’.

‘Anyway dad I hope you are getting better and putting on a little weight,’ she wrote. 

‘Funny it was always mum who made me cry before, yet every time I read what you write, I cry because I love you more than any other person in the world (except Mum I, love her the same) and wouldn’t change you for the world.’

Birch first met Keeler in 1993, when she asked him to sell a 30th-anniversary limited-edition print from the iconic naked photoshoot she did with Lewis Morley on an Arne Jacobsen chair, and the pair became friends.

Keeler herself was denounced as a ¿tart¿ and moral deviant in a Britain yet to undergo the sexual revolution, and this reputation would haunt her for the rest of her life. She is pictured above later in life

Keeler herself was denounced as a ¿tart¿ and moral deviant in a Britain yet to undergo the sexual revolution, and this reputation would haunt her for the rest of her life. She is pictured above later in life

Keeler herself was denounced as a ‘tart’ and moral deviant in a Britain yet to undergo the sexual revolution, and this reputation would haunt her for the rest of her life. She is pictured above later in life

‘I used to see her quite often,’ he recalls. 

‘I think she was quite lonely. She had an extremely sad life and was fairly impoverished, living on a pension. She once told me she would buy a pig’s hock – a cheap joint of pork – and live on it all week. She used to cook me meals but then she discovered she could take a bus literally to my front door and we would go for lunch at a gastro-pub around the corner. But she had to walk quite slowly because she was suffering from emphysema.’

After the sale, and a London exhibition of the archive in 2010, the friendship dissolved. 

The collection is now being sold for £75,000 through antiquarian book dealers Maggs Bros.

‘The last time I saw her was when I handed the money over for the photographs,’ he adds. 

‘I think she probably felt it was time to move on. I did find it odd, but she never really trusted anybody. She much preferred animals to humans.

‘The trial totally ruined her. It devastated her for life, without a doubt. She couldn’t really think about anything else. She was a wonderful woman who got destroyed.’

The Christine Keeler archive is for sale at maggs.com.

Credit: Dailymail.co.uk




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