She looks familiar.
You might recognise the now 71-year-old from the photos of her youth. In the 1960s, Christine Keeler helped cause the first full-blown government sex-scandal – something as common these days as night following day. Her eventful younger years are now being dramatised in a new West End musical called Stephen Ward by Andrew Lloyd Webber, beginning this December.
Wait, start from the beginning, who is Stephen Ward?
To cut a long story short, Keeler was a key player in the Profumo affair, which ended in the resignation of the then Secretary of State for War, John Profumo. She met Dr Stephen Ward, an osteopath to the stars, when she worked as a waitress at Murray’s Cabaret Club. The venue was frequented by everyone from the Kray twins to Princess Margaret. Before long, she was living in Ward’s flat. The fling began after Ward introduced the married Secretary for War to Keeler, who was only nineteen at the time, at a do in a stately home.
This is all very glamorous, but why the fuss?
Although their relationship only lasted a few weeks, Keeler was seeing Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet spy in London, at the same time. This was bad news in 1961 at the height of the Cold War. After months of whispering among MPs, Profumo was forced in 1963 to answer questions in Parliament to assure the government that his relationships with Keeler hadn’t jeopardised national security. He denied that there was any “impropriety” in his “acquaintance”. That didn’t stick for long and soon Profumo was forced to resign his Cabinet post after he admitted to lying.
It’s like something from the pages of a racy, political thriller.
Indeed, but there are no slick, Hollywood endings here. Ward was arrested for accepting money from Keeler, who was deemed a prostitute under the Sexual Offences Act 1956 that has since been replaced. On the last day of his trial, he was found dead after overdosing on sleeping pills. Keeler was found guilty of perjury and imprisoned for nine months.
Quite a story. What has Keeler been doing since?
She’s spent her time releasing novels all linked in some way to the debacle, as well as her autobiography in 2001. Somehow she managed to find enough material to release another earlier this year. It revealed how she was a spy, with Ward as the ring-master, before she had even met Profumo.