BREAKING NEWS: Christine Keeler, the former model at the heart of the Profumo affair that rocked British politics in the 1960s, dies aged 75
- Ms Keeler died on Monday at Princess Royal university hospital in Farnborough
- She had been ill for several months and suffering from the lung disease COPD
- She enjoyed affair with minister John Profumo at height of Cold War in the 1960s
The former model at the heart of the Profumo affair Christine Keeler has died aged 75 after a long illness.
She was thrust into the spotlight after enjoying a secret romance with Cabinet minister John Profumo in 1961 at the height of the Cold War.
Scandal engulfed the Government after later it emerged that the then 19-year-old Keeler had also been sleeping with Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché at the Russian Embassy in London.
Ms Keeler, who had been battling an obstructive lung disease for several months, died on Monday night at the Princess Royal university hospital in Farnborough, Hampshire.
Her son Seymour Pratt, who now lives in Ireland with his family, said the Profumo affair had a long-lasting effect on his mother’s life.
Former showgirl and model Christine Keeler (pictured in 1963) has died at the age of 75
She died on Monday night, at the Princess Royal university hospital in Farnborough
He told the Guardian: ‘There was a lot of good around Chris’s rather tragic life, because there was a family around her that loved her.
‘I think what happened to her back in the day was quite damaging.’
Ms Keeler met Conservative minister Profumo – 27 years her senior – after leaving her home in Middlesex and working at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho.
Dr Stephen Ward, a London osteopath, introduced the young dancer to Profumo, while at a party thrown by Lord and Lady Astor.
The scandal hit the headlines after seven shots were fired at Ward’s house in a quiet Marylebone mews by a jilted boyfriend of Keeler a year later in December 1962.
Keeler had an affair with married Conservative Minister John Profumo (pictured) and a Soviet diplomat. Her affairs sparked an investigation over fears she could be threatening national security. Profumo denied any improper conduct but it then transpired he lied
It emerged the then 19-year-old Keeler had been sleeping with former Secretary of State for War John Profumo, then 48, and at the same time a handsome Russian spy Evgeny Ivanov.
But when the news broke, Profumo lied to the House of Commons about his affair. He was soon found out and Keeler sold her story to the News of The World for £23,000.
In June 1963, he quit in disgrace, amid allegations Keeler had been asked by Ivanov to discover from the War Minister when the West Germans might receive U.S. nuclear missiles to be stationed on their soil.
Profumo had been a rising star of the Tory Party, close to Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, a favoured visitor at Buckingham Palace, a war hero and the dashing husband of actress Valerie Hobson, one of the great beauties of her day.
Keeler is pictured with a friend Mandy Rice-Davies leaving the Old Bailey in London after the first day of Stephen Ward’s trial
But Keeler, whose other lovers have included A-Team actor George Peppard, legendary womaniser Warren Beatty and Prisoner of Zenda star Douglas Fairbanks Jr, said in an interview years later that the Establishment was far more interested in painting it as a sex scandal and chose to ignore whispered claims of a widespread spying network.
She said: ‘I know the truth and it is far more shocking than what the public has been fed by the British Establishment. Sex was a game – spying was a serious business.
‘Far better that the Establishment be caught with its pants down than involved in stealing secrets. That was the thinking.’
The consequences for the Tory party were catastrophic and Macmillan’s Cabinet was shaken by the revelations.
The former glamour girl is pictured dressed down in jeans and a jumper in March 1989
Dr Stephen Ward is pictured leaving court in 1963 after he introduced Keeler to Profum
Tales of organised orgies followed, including whipping parties at a house in Mayfair where, it was said, one of the guests became over-excited and died of a heart attack.
Lord Denning released the government’s official report on September 25, 1963, and the Prime Minister stepped down due to ill-health not long after. The Tories were then voted out the following year.
In December 1962, the police were called to Ward’s home when another of Christine’s ex-lovers, Johnny Edgecombe, fired shots at the lock while she and showgirl pal Mandy Rice-Davies cowered inside.
The police investigation led to Ward’s arrest and charges for living off immoral earnings and the revelation of Christine’s affair with Profumo.
Christine Keeler was hounded by the media when the Profumo Affair began, she is pictured being photographed outside her home in Linhope Street, central London
From show girl to criminal: Keeler admitted perjury after lying in Steven Ward’s trial and was sent to prison for nine months
The Profumo affair
The Profumo affair had it all – sex, lies and espionage. It broke at the height of the Cold War, when spying was rife and the threat of war was imminent with the outbreak of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Here we look back at how the scandal unfolded:
April 1960: At the height of the Cold War, Christine Keeler, having left her home in Wraysbury, Berks, heads for London and begins working at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho. It is there that she meets Dr Stephen Ward, a London osteopath. Within weeks she had moved into his Bayswater flat. She soon meets Mandy Rice-Davies at Murray’s and the pair become party companions.
July 1961: Ward introduces 19-year-old Keeler to Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, while at a party thrown by Lord and Lady Astor at their stately home in Cliveden at Taplow, Bucks. Keeler and Profumo embark on an affair lasting only a few weeks. At the same time, she becomes involved in an affair with Commander Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché at the Russian Embassy in London.
March 1963: After months of speculation among MPs, Profumo is forced to face the Commons, where he says: ‘There was no impropriety whatever in my acquaintance with Miss Keeler and I have made the statement because of what was said yesterday in the House by three honourable members whose remarks were protected by privilege.’
June 1963: Ward is arrested in Watford and taken to Marylebone Police Station where he is charged with living off immoral earnings. His trial soon begins at the Old Bailey.
June 5, 1963: Profumo resigns his Cabinet post after admitting lying to the House of Commons about the nature of his relationship with Keeler.
August 1963: On the last day of his trial, Ward is found dead at his London home having taken an overdose of sleeping pills.
December 1963: Keeler is found guilty of perjury in a related trial and imprisoned for nine months.
1989: The Profumo affair is made into a film called Scandal, starring John Hurt, Ian McKellen and Joanne Whalley.