Christine Keeler, former model at heart of Profumo affair, dies at 75
Christine Keeler Christine Keeler, former model at heart of Profumo affair, dies at 75
Showgirlâs affairs with Russian diplomat and British MP John Profumo caused one of UKâs biggest scandals of 20th century
- Christine Keeler: a life in pictures
Christine Keeler, the former model at the centre of the Profumo affair that shook British politics in the 1960s, has died aged 75, her family and a close friend have said.
Keeler, then a teenage model and showgirl, became famous for her role in the 1963 scandal that rocked the establishment when she had an affair with the Tory cabinet minister John Profumo and a Russian diplomat at the same time at the height of the cold war. Profumo was eventually forced to resign after lying to parliament about the affair.Profumo affair model Christine Keeler: a life in pictures Read more
Keelerâs son, Seymour Platt, 46, told the Guardian she died on Monday at the Princess Royal university hospital in Farnborough: âMy mother passed away last night at about 11.30pm.â
She had been ill for several months, and suffered from the lung disease COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
A major BBC series revisiting the scandal is due to start filming next year.
Keeler, who had been living under the name of Sloane for many years, was briefly married twice, both ending in divorce. She had two sons, James from her first marriage, and Seymour from her second, and a granddaughter.
Platt, who lives in Ireland, said he, his wife and their daughter had last seen his mother a week ago. âThere was a lot of good around Chrisâs rather tragic life, because there was a family around her that loved her.â he said.
âI think what happened to her back in the day was quite damaging.â
Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, and raised by her mother and stepfather, Keeler was working as a cabaret dancer in Londonâs Soho when she met Stephen Ward, an osteopath, artist and âman about townâ. He introduced her to a party scene attended by aristocrats and VIPs, and through him, in 1961, she met both Profumo, 46, then secretary of state for war, and the Russian military attache Yevgeny Ivanov, having affairs with both men.
When the relationships came to light in 1963, amid fears of a cold war security leak, the scandal rocked the Harold Macmillan government. Profumo told the House of Commons there was no âimproprietyâ in their relationship after being asked about it by opposition MPs who voiced concerns about national security implications.
Eventually, after more newspaper stories emerged, he admitted lying to the house, and resigned from the cabinet and the Commons.
His fall from grace was deemed a contributory factor in the fall of the Macmillan government, with Labour winning under Harold Wilson in 1964.
Keeler met Mandy Rice-Davies when they worked as dancers in Soho and both women were involved with Wardâs social set. Ward would later be convicted of living off immoral earnings, with Keeler and Rice-Davies as the main witnesses, but he took a fatal overdose before the jury returned their guilty verdict.
At the height of the Profumo affair, Keeler gave newspaper interviews and also posed for the now famous photograph of her sitting naked on a chair.
The affair only came to light after an incident with Aloysius âLuckyâ Gordon, a man whom Keelerâs family and friends said abused and stalked her. Gordon fired shots into the home of Ward, where Keeler was temporarily seeking refuge. When she was questioned during the subsequent police investigation and prosecution of Gordon, details of the affair became public.
At the end of 1963, Keeler was sentenced to nine months in prison for perjury in the case brought against Gordon, and served six months in Holloway prison.
Platt, a business analyst, said of Go rdon: âShe was stalked and didnât really have anywhere to turn to. It made her very vulnerable and extremely mistrusting of men. There werenât a lot of male figures as I grew up because she wanted to protect me from men.â
Platt said his mother was from a generation where there was âgreat shameâ and she had felt it when she recalled her past. âBut she shouldnât have because, looking back, there was real good that came out of what happened. It did pull the curtain back, and there were changes in society that were needed.â
He said she was a devoted, loving mother.
âShe was a good, decent person, and she got a very unfair label that was hard for her to live with.â
The press vilified her, he said.
âShe was just a young girl having fun during the burgeoning of sexual liberation. She picked up labels, which I think were quite unfair.â
She found her ânotorietyâ difficult, he said, and changed her name to Sloane in an attempt to gain anonymity.
âChris was feisty. And she would never shy away from a fight. She had a terrific sense of fairness. She would stand up against anybody she thought was doing the wrong thing. And that is something I am very proud of. And hopefully, if there is one lesson I can learn from her, it would be that.â
Desmond Banks, who had known Keeler since her 20s, and was her solicitor, said: âShe was an extraordinary woman, much misunderstood, who deserves redemption.â
The scandal had âovershadowedâ her life, in particular the behaviour she suffered at the hands of Gordon, he said.
âHad it not been for âLuckyâ Gordon, Christine and indeed, Profumoâs affair with her, would never have been known.â
He added: âI canât think of anyone else who has had three musicals written about her, and several plays, and is seldom out of the news, for one reason or another.
âShe was the last surv ivor of a story that gripped Great Britain and the world more than 50 years ago.âTopics
- Christine Keeler
- John Profumo
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