Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex on 22 February 1942, Christine Margaret Keeler was born to Julie Ellen Payne and her husband Colin Keeler, who abandoned the family in 1945. Christine was brought up by her mother and her stepfather or her mother’s partner Edward Huish, in two discarded train carriages in the Berkshire village of Wraybury. She was frail girl and at the age of nine, the Health Inspector of her school, as she was suffering from malnutrition. In her teens, the poor girl was sexually abused in her teens by her step father and his friends. She started her life at 15, when she found a job as a model at a dress shop in London’s Soho area and after a brief relationship with a US Air Force Sergeant, gave birth to a premature son on 17 April 1959, who survived only six days.
After that, she started working as a waitress at a restaurant in Baker Street, where she met Maureen O'Connor, working at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho. With her help, Christine got the opportunity to join the Cabaret Cub as a topless showgirl, which was largely frequented by the aristocrats, celebrities and politicians, where sexy was never sordid and nude never naked.
At Murray's she met Stephen Ward, an English osteopath, practitioner of a type of alternative medicine, who in his early life, served in the British Army from 1941 to 1945. Besides being an Osteopath, he was also a good photographer and a famous artist, commissioned in 1960 to make a series of portraits of members of the Royal Family. Soon after their meeting the two started to live together as a couple, though according to Christina, it was a non-sexual relationship.
Stephen Ward was the man, who in July 1961 introduced Christine to John Profumo, the then Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government. The incident took place at a pool party at Cliveden at the mansion of Lord Astor, where Keeler had been swimming naked. Despite being married to the actress Valerie Hobson, Profumo was lured by the alluring appeal of Christine and immediately became involved in a stormy affair with her.
However, the Security Service MI5 did not like Profumo’s interest in Keeler, as they intended to use her as the honey trap against the Soviet naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov. As a result, Profumo-Keeler relationship did not last long, as Profumo was warned by the security services of the possible dangers of mixing with the people in Ward’s circle. In fact, Pofumo was also introduced to Ivanov by Ward, with whom Christine Keeler had a short sexual relationship.
After the end of the Profumo episode, Christine had relationship with many other lovers, which included Jamaican jazz singer Lucky Gordon and jazz promoter Johnny Edgecombe. After an altercation between the two jealous lovers on 27 October 1962, Edgecombe slashed Gordon's face with a knife and the incident induced Keeler to end her relationship with Edgecombe in December 1962. The matter took a more nasty turn on 14 December, when Edgecombe turned up at Ward's house in Wimpole Mews, where Keeler was reportedly took refuge with the Jamaican jazz singer and fired five shots at the door of the building. Edgecombe’s arrest and subsequent police investigations soon led to the uncovering of John Profumo’s forbidden affair with Christine Keeler and the scandal came to be known as Profumo affair.
Those were the days of Cold War and as the Security Service MI5 was aware about the Soviet naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov, the possibility of a Profumo-Keeler-Ivanov love triangle, gave birth to the vital question of a security risk. Sensing a possible political scandal mixed with sex, the Soviet Government called back Ivanov on 22 January 1963 and in March 1963 Profumo denied any impropriety with Keeler in a public statement to the House of Commons. But the growing media uproar and the publication of stories took a broad brush to the MPs, civil servants and military personnel’s morals. Eventually, on 4 June, Profumo confessed to a crowded House that he had lied in the Commons regarding his friendship with Keeler and resigned from the government and parliament, causing great embarrassment to his government colleagues who had so long supported him.
However, the scandal reigned throughout the summer of 1963, and on the eve of the annual conference of the Conservative Party in October 1963, Harold Macmillan resigned abruptly as prime minister, convinced he had cancer. In the following year the Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson, narrowly defeated the Conservative Party, with many commentators pointing out that the scandal had shaken the base of the Conservative party.
Stephen Ward, the osteopath, who introduced Christine to John Profumo, was branded by the press as a likely Soviet agent due to his closeness with Ivanov, was arrested subsequently and was charged with living off immoral earnings, which was probably an act of political revenge, for the embarrassment caused to the government. His trial ran from 22 to 31 July 1963, but before the announcement of the verdict, he took an overdose of sleeping pills and died three days later.
In the meantime, Keeler was attacked at the home of a friend on 18 April 1963 for which, she accused the jazz singer Lucky Gordon. At his trial, which began on 5 June, Gordon maintained that his innocence could be established by two witnesses, who were reported to be missing by the police. In the absence of his witnesses and principally on the evidence of Keeler, Gordon was found guilty and sentenced to three years' imprisonment on 7 June. However, his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal when his missing witnesses were found and they testified that the evidence given by Keeler was substantially false. Keeler pleaded guilty to charges of perjury in December 1963 and was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, serving four and a half months in prison.
Christine Keeler had two brief marriages after her release from prison in 1964 and had a child from each union. In the last couple of decades of her life, she mainly lived alone and died on 5 December 2017, at the age of 75. Though she was at the centre of the sex and spying scandal that dominated the headlines in 1963 and she rocked the government for her simultaneous relationship with a high government official and a Soviet naval attaché, she was not involved in spying. While Mata Hari was a courtesan, Keeler was simply a model turned prostitute. She described her relationship with John Profumo as totally unromantic and a screw of convenience, as Profumo hoped for a longer-term commitment and offered to set her up in a flat. She also claimed that she had been impregnated by Profumo and was forced into an abortion. Much later, Profumo described her as someone, who seemed to like and enjoy sex, but completely uneducated and unable to carry on a conversation beyond make-up, hair and gramophone records.