Keeler returns to where Profumo scandal began

THE FACE is lined; her hair is in a prim bun; she wears a cheap acrylic jumper and an old pair of jeans and she looks bedraggled. She is a middle-aged woman consumed with sadness and anger.

THE FACE is lined; her hair is in a prim bun; she wears a cheap acrylic jumper and an old pair of jeans and she looks bedraggled. She is a middle-aged woman consumed with sadness and anger.

Christine Keeler has returned to Cliveden where she frolicked in 1961 as a 19-year-old with John Profumo, War Minister at the time, in a scandal that fatally damaged the Macmillan government.

The liaison between the cabinet minister and a prostitute who was also seeing a Russian official ended the late Mr Profumo's career and eventually brought down the Conservative administration. It also resulted in the suicide of a Harley Street doctor, Stephen Ward, who introduced the couple, and saw the imprisonment of Ms Keeler. She is 57 now. When she first went to Cliveden it was the family home of the Astors. Now it is a luxury hotel.

She made her return visit for a BBC2 series starting on Saturday called The River . Narrated by the cultural historian Patrick Wright, it looks at the history of the Thames and the places it passes through.

In 1961, Ms Keeler stayed in a cottage in the grounds of Cliveden and met Mr Profumo when she stripped naked by the swimming pool. Walking round the grounds with Mr Wright, Ms Keeler said: "It feels sad. I'm pleased to see it again. But it's sad really, sad that things ended the way they did ... The person they still keep writing about isn't me."

Referring to her nine months in prison for obstructing the course of justice, she added: "Freedom never came, never, never, never, never. I am called a prostitute and I wasn't a prostitute and I don't know anyone in the world who could live with that. It's just not my character. The name Christine Keeler has become a sullied dishcloth. I hope that by coming here I can clear my name."

She added: "I do think that I did things that might have endangered national security. But I was set up. I went to prison. I suffered dearly for the wrong I had done. I must admit I wasn't interested in Jack Profumo, but Stephen had other plans. He could do anything with me. I trusted him. I was scared. I was just a kid. Betrayal was Stephen's life."

Revisiting the pool, Ms Keeler recalled: "Stephen dared me to take off my swim-suit and I did. Then all of a sudden Bill Astor and Jack Profumo came out and Jack started chasing me and Bill put the floodlights on."

Mr Wright puts the episode in the context of cultural history. He said: "This was where the English came to transgress and indulge repressed urges."

This is a story one would have thought Ms Keeler would like to forget. But then she does have a book coming out shortly.

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