- Category : Model
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sleeping Phoenix 1
Christine Margaret Keeler (born 22 February 1942) is an English former model and showgirl. Her sexual involvement with a British government minister discredited the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan in 1963, in what became known as the Profumo Affair.
Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, Keeler was brought up by her mother and stepfather in a house made from two converted railway carriages in the Berkshire village of Wraysbury. At the age of 15, she found work as a model at a dress shop in London's Soho. At 17, she gave birth to a son after an affair with an American sergeant from the Air Force base at Laleham. The child was born prematurely on 17 April 1959, and survived just six days.
That summer, Keeler left Wraysbury, staying briefly in Slough with a friend before heading for London. She initially worked as a waitress at a restaurant in Baker Street and there met Maureen O’Connor, a girl who worked at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho. She introduced Keeler to the owner, Percy Murray, who hired her almost immediately as a topless showgirl. While at Murray's she met Stephen Ward (19 October 1912 – 3 August 1963), an English osteopath and artist. His practice and his art brought considerable social success, and he made many important friends. Soon the two were living together with the outward appearance of being a couple, but according to her, it was a platonic non-sexual relationship.
In July 1961, Ward introduced Keeler to John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War, at a pool party at Cliveden, the Buckinghamshire mansion owned by Lord Astor. Profumo began a brief affair with Keeler, which ended after he was warned by the security services of the possible dangers of mixing with the Ward circle. Among Ward's other friends, whom Profumo briefly met, was the Russian naval attaché and GRU officer, Eugene Ivanov. According to Keeler, she and Ivanov enjoyed a short sexual relationship, but most commentators are sceptical.
After her relationship with Profumo ended, Keeler was sexually involved with several partners, including the two West Indians Aloysius "Lucky" Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe. There was considerable jealousy between the two men; in one quarrel, Edgecombe slashed Gordon's face with a knife. When Keeler ended the relationship with Edgecombe, in December 1962 he turned up at Ward's house in Wimpole Mews, where she was temporarily seeking refuge, and fired five shots at the building. His arrest and subsequent trial brought Keeler to public attention, and provided the impetus from which the scandal known as the "Profumo affair" developed. After initially denying any impropriety with Keeler, Profumo eventually confessed and resigned from the government and parliament, causing great embarrassment to his government colleagues who had previously supported him. These events, in the summer of 1963, brought Keeler fame and notoriety; The Economist gave the headline "The Prime Minister's Crisis" alongside a picture of Keeler, with no further explanation.
On 18 April 1963, Keeler was attacked at the home of a friend. She accused Gordon, who was arrested and charged. At his trial, which began on 5 June, he maintained that his innocence would be established by two witnesses who, the police told the court, could not be found. On 7 June, principally on the evidence of Keeler, Gordon was found guilty and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. By this time, Ward was facing trial on vice charges, and again Keeler was a main prosecution witness. Ward's trial, which ran from 22–31 July, has been characterised as "an act of political revenge", for the embarrassment caused to the government. He was accused of living on Keeler's immoral earnings, on the basis of the small contributions to household expenses or loan repayments she had made to Ward while living with him. Ward's professional earnings at the time had been around £5,500 a year, a large income at that time. After a hostile summing-up from the trial judge, Ward was convicted, but before the jury returned their verdict he had taken an overdose of barbiturates, and died before sentence could be passed. In the closing days of Ward's trial, Gordon's assault conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal, when his missing witnesses were found and testified that the evidence given by Keeler was substantially false. Keeler later pleaded guilty to charges of perjury, and in December 1963 was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment.
Since her release from prison in 1964, after two brief failed marriages which produced two children, Keeler has largely lived alone. Most of the considerable amount she made from newspaper stories was dissipated by lawyers; during the 1970s, she said, "I was not living, I was surviving." She has published several accounts of her life, in one of which she claims that Profumo impregnated her and that she subsequently underwent a painful abortion. Her portrait, by Ward, was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1984.
In the 1989 film about the Profumo Affair, entitled Scandal, actress Joanne Whalley portrayed Keeler. In Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical Stephen Ward the Musical, which opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 19 December 2013, Keeler is portrayed by Charlotte Spencer.
At the height of the Profumo Affair in 1963, Keeler sat for a photographic portrait that became famous. The photo shoot, at a studio on the first floor of Peter Cook's Establishment Club, with Lewis Morley was to promote a proposed film, The Keeler Affair, that was never made. Keeler was reluctant to pose in the nude, but the film producers insisted. Morley persuaded Keeler to sit astride an imitation of an iconic plywood chair, so that whilst technically she would be nude, the back of the chair would obscure most of her body.
At the time, Morley and Keeler were already famous, but the photo propelled Arne Jacobsen's model 3107 chair to stardom. However, the actual chair used was an imitation, with a hand-hold aperture cut out of the back to avoid copyright infringement. The chair used is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.