18 January 2018

A Good Read

Secrets And Lies

Christine Keeler's name is as synonymous with the sixties sexual revolution as is the pill. An English former model and showgirl, little did she know when she walked into a dance-club and met society osteopath Stephen Ward she was also walking into the history books. And what a history. She could never escape being Christine Keeler, she will be a headline forever.

Having found fame and success as a model - the portrait of her astride a chair is iconic - she then had a short affair with the then Minister of War, John Profumo, which led to the downfall of Harold Macmillan's government, and was at the epicentre of the social and political earthquake that followed. She was the subject of scandal, intrigue and gossip and was tried for perjury and briefly jailed following the death of Stephen Ward, who had introduced her to Profumo.

After those directly involved were no longer alive, Keeler wanted to tell the full story of that extraordinary time. Set against a backdrop of political turmoil and Cold War espionage it is a fascinating story of her unstinting resolve and, given the people she came into contact with, her almost miraculous survival.

It was the early 1960’s, the days when most British people believed the ruling classes were in monogamous marital relationships and good girls remained virgins until they married. So when the story broke about her relationship with Profumo the public couldn't get enough of the scandal. They also learned about orgies attended by high court judges and members of parliament, as the various court cases and public enquiry relating to the story were reported in the newspapers. The scandal tarnished the reputation of the ruling classes almost overnight and brought down the government of the time. 

Add to this melting pot of scandal Keeler's friend Mandy Rice-Davis, the two beautiful and wild teenagers had associations with gangsters and racketeers and sexual relationships with black men (frowned upon in those days). The events turned out to be one of the biggest scandals of all time and is still being talked about today. There is even a musical about Stephen Ward. 

It is generally recognised that Ward should not have been convicted of living off immoral earnings. Keeler states that Ward was spying for the Russians and that she and Ward were the victims of a cover up. Not everyone agrees with that. However it's interesting that such was the climate at the time that it was more important for the establishment to pursue the immoral earnings charge rather than the political problems of spies right under their noses, some of whom were the establishment.

Profumo was eventually forgiven for his wrongdoings, Keeler has been alternately patronised and ridiculed - confirmation of hypocrisy and privilige and how the established elite will close ranks and say anything to protect their interests. 

It's a very interesting read. I have mixed feelings towards Keeler. On the one hand I felt sympathy for the young teenager drawn into a glamorous and exiting world, but totally out of her depth, and could be seen as a victim of circumstance. And on the other hand feeling frustrated as she continued hanging around with the same people and repeating the same mistakes. 

But then who's to say how any of us would react if we found ourselves in the same situation in the potent "anything goes" swinging sixties.

~Be warm and well ~

Polly x 


  1. Since you haven't had any comments yet, perhaps I should set the ball rolling. I well remember the furore over Christine Keeler and John Profumo when I was 16. It was an early lesson in how even Cabinet Ministers can't control their sexual appetites and indulge in unwise behaviour that destroys their careers. Not a lot has changed in the meantime, as we can see from all the senior politicians who're in trouble for blatant sexual misconduct.

    1. I think I was about the same age and can briefly remember my parents outrage at 'Such goings on'. Yes nothing changes with those who hold the power, they still think they are above the law.


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