To call Christine Keeler a spy is probably inaccurate, for she just had happened to be a guest at the Cliveden House when the clandestine activity took place. Some say, she had been used as a decoy (whether she how much knew at the time is not certain.) As an attractive young woman who had surrounded herself with politically powerful men during the Swinging Sixties and the time of Cold War somehow, Keeler had inadvertently changed the course of history.
Her story is one that reflects the unfair social hierarchy between men and women in the 60s, and Keeler’s ultimate fate uncovers a period in history when women were only allowed to play acquiescent roles in a world dominated by men.
At the age of 17, Keeler had left home and became a showgirl in Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho, London. There, she had met Stephan Ward who ran an osteopathic practice. He had later introduced her to John Profumo, a British conservative MP. In 1962, their brief relationship that had lasted less than a month (and she was just 19 years old) eventually ended the MP’s career and exposed Ward as a traitor against his own country.
Keeler had met Profumo at the Cliveden House when it belonged to Bill Astor, the 3rd Viscount Astor. At the time of her affair with Profumo, Keeler also had been courting Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché at the Russian Embassy in London.
Though it was not uncommon for free-spirited young women to practice sexual liberation in the 60s, but her intimate relationships with both the Russian and the British high officials became a huge political scandal.
When Profumo denied any involvement with Keeler, she was accused of being a prostitute, even though she had never slept with men for money and a “vice queen.” According to Economist and where I first learned about her story, it’s highly probable that Ward had used her as a decoy, while he stole papers and documents from the MP’s briefcase.
After Ward had committed suicide before his trial, Profumo had resigned from his office, and Keeler was to serve a nine-month prison term for perjury. Later, she had tried to gain a new life by selling books of her story, modeling, acting and even marriage. Unfortunately, when all ended in failure she had resorted to a solitary existence during her remaining years.
Christine Keeler passed away on December 4th of 2017.
If you are interested in further reading, please click here for her book published in 2014.