Christine Keeler was born in Uxbridge on 22nd February, 1942. Her father deserted the family during the Second World War. Her mother, Julie Payne, later lived with Edward Huish and the couple set-up home in a converted railway carriage in Wraysbury. Christine later recalled: "The railway carriage was on wheels and I felt like a character from the American television series about the legendary Wild West train-driver Casey Jones."
Keeler left school without qualifications: "At fifteen, on my birthday, Mum took me to the employment agency and they found me an office typing job. After that, I had another five jobs, one after the other, and I hated them all."
In 1958 she found work as a model in a showroom in London. An affair with a local boy, Jeff Perry, resulted in her getting pregnant. The child was born prematurely and survived just six days. "I was just seventeen, I did not have many illusions left and the ones that did remain were soon to vanish... After the abortion, I began my search for a guardian angel - someone to love and someone to guide me."
Keeler found work as a waitress at a restaurant on Baker Street before finding employment as a showgirl at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho. "There was a pervasive atmosphere of sex, with beautiful young girls all over the place, but customers would always say, if asked, that they only came for the floor show and the food and drink... When we weren't onstage, we were allowed to sit out with the audience for a hostess fee of five pounds. That way I was soon making about thirty pounds a week."
Soon after starting this new job at Murray’s Cabaret Club she met Stephen Ward. It was not long before she decided to go and live with him at his flat in Orme Court in Bayswater. "His flat was tiny and on the top floor but there was a lift. There was a bed-sitting room with two single beds pushed close together, and an adjoining bathroom. we would share the bed but only as brother and sister; there were never to be any sexual goings-on between us."
Stephen Ward was an osteopath and one of his patients was Lord Astor. He allowed him the use of a cottage on his Cliveden Estate. War also introduced Keeler to his friends. This included Peter Rachman, the famous slum landlord and the actor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Ward's patients included Colin Coote, the editor of the Daily Telegraph, Roger Hollis, the head of MI5, Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures and Geoffrey Nicholson, the Conservative MP.
Ward was also an artist and he had a reputation for producing fine portraits of his friends. This included the Duke of Edinburgh. Afterwards he told Keeler: "Philip's a snob, not like the man he used to be - I used to know him before he was married to Elizabeth". He also sketched Madame Furtseva, the Soviet Minister of Culture. Colin Coote arranged for the drawing to appear in the Daily Telegraph.
During this period Keeler also got to know Mandy Rice-Davies, Suzy Chang and Maria Novotny, who ran sex parties in London. So many senior politicians attended that she began referring to herself as the "government's Chief Whip". As well as British politicians such as John Profumo and Ernest Marples, foreign leaders such as Willy Brandt and Ayub Khan, attended these parties.
On 21st January 1961, Colin Coote invited Stephen Ward to have lunch with Eugene Ivanov, an naval attaché at the Soviet embassy. The following month Ward and Keeler moved to 17 Wimpole Mews in Marylebone. According to Keeler's autobiography, The Truth at Last (2001), Roger Hollis and Anthony Blunt were regular visitors to the flat. "He (Lord Denning) knew that Stephen was a spy and that I knew too much. During my two sessions with him I told him all about Hollis and Blunt: how Stephen had politely introduced me and how I had said 'hello' and nodded when they visited. I told him all about Sir Godfrey's visit and how I had seen Sir Godfrey with Eugene. He asked me very precisely who had met Eugene and about the visitors to Wimpole Mews. He showed me a photograph of Hollis - it wasn't a sharp shot of him - and asked me to identify him. I told Denning this was the man who had visited Stephen. He showed me a photograph of Sir Godfrey and I also identified him. He did not show me a picture of Blunt for, I suspect, they already knew more than they wanted to know about Blunt. Denning was very gentle about it and I told him everything. This was the nice gentleman who was going to look after me. But I was ignored, side-lined - disparaged as a liar so that he could claim that there had been no security risk. It was the ultimate whitewash."
Stephen Ward also got to know Keith Wagstaffe of MI5. On 8th June 1961, the two men went out to dinner before going back to the Wimpole Mews flat. Keeler made the two men coffee: "Stephen was on the couch and Wagstaffe sat on the sofa chair. He wanted to know about Stephen's friendship with Eugene. We knew that MI5 were monitoring embassy personnel so this was quite a normal interview in the circumstances." Wagstaffe asked Ward: "He's never asked you to put him in touch with anyone you know? Or for information of any kind." Ward replied: "No, he hasn't. But if he did, naturally I would get in touch with you straight away. If there's anything I can do I'd be only too pleased to."
Keith Wagstaffe reported back to MI5: "Ward asked me if it was all right for him to continue to see Ivanov. I replied that there was no reason why he should not. He then said if there was any way in which he could help he would be very ready to do so. I thanked him for his offer and asked him to get in touch with me should Ivanov at any time in the future make any propositions to him... Ward was completely open about his association with Ivanov... I do not think that he (Ward) is of security interest."
On 8th July 1961 Keeler met John Profumo, the Minister of War, at a party at Cliveden. Profumo kept in contact with Keeler and they eventually began an affair. At the same time Keeler was sleeping with Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet spy. According to Keeler: "Their (Ward and Hollis) plan was simple. I was to find out, through pillow talk, from Jack Profumo when nuclear warheads were being moved to Germany."
Keeler was also invited to sex parties. In December 1961 Mariella Novotny held a party that became known as the "Feast of Peacocks". According to Christine Keeler, there was "a lavish dinner in which this man wearing only... a black mask with slits for eyes and laces up the back... and a tiny apron - one like the waitresses wore in 1950s tearooms - asked to be whipped if people were not happy with his services."
In her autobiography, Mandy (1980) Mandy Rice-Davies described what happened when she arrived at Novotny's party in Bayswater: "The door was opened by Stephen (Ward) - naked except for his socks... All the men were naked, the women naked except for wisps of clothing like suspender belts and stockings. I recognised our host and hostess, Mariella Novotny and her husband Horace Dibbins, and unfortunately I recognised too a fair number of other faces as belonging to people so famous you could not fail to recognise them: a Harley Street gynaecologist, several politicians, including a Cabinet minister of the day, now dead, who, Stephen told us with great glee, had served dinner of roast peacock wearing nothing but a mask and a bow tie instead of a fig leaf."
After the Cuban Missile Crisis Ward told Keeler that he believed John F. Kennedy would be assassinated. He told her and Eugene Ivanov: "A man like John Kennedy will not be allowed to stay in such an important position of power in the world, I assure you of that."
On 28th October, 1962, Stephen Ward introduced Keeler to Michael Eddowes, a lawyer who had become a rich businessman. This included owning Bistro Vino, a chain of restaurants. As Keeler later revealed: "I kept my date with Michael Eddowes but he was far too old for me. He was nearly sixty but her certainly was interested and wanted to set me up in a flat in Regent's Park."
During this period she became involved with two black men, Lucky Gordon and John Edgecombe. The two men became jealous of each other and this resulted in Edgecombe slashing Gordon's face with a knife. On 14th December 1962, Edgecombe, fired a gun at Stephen Ward's Wimpole Mews flat, where Keeler had been visiting with Mandy Rice-Davies.
Keeler and Rice-Davies were interviewed by the police about the incident. According to Rice-Davies, as they left the police station, Keeler was approached by a reporter from the Daily Mirror. "He told her his paper knew 'the lot'. They were interested in buying the letters Profumo had written her. He offered her £2,000."
Two days after the shooting Keeler contacted Michael Eddowes for legal advice about the Edgecombe case. During this meeting she told Eddowes: "Stephen (Ward) asked me to ask Jack Profumo what date the Germans were to get the bomb." However, she later claimed that she knew Ward was joking when he said this. Eddowes then asked Ward about this matter. Keeler later recalled: "Stephen fed him the line he had prepared with Roger Hollis for such an eventuality: it was Eugene (Ivanov) who had asked me to find out about the bomb."
A few days later Keeler met John Lewis, a Labour Party MP and successful businessman at a Christmas party. Keeler later confessed: "I told him about Stephen asking me to get details about the bomb. I told him about Jack. He told George Wigg, the powerful Labour MP with the ear of Harold Wilson. Wigg, who was Jack's opposite number in the Commons, started a Lewis-style dossier; it was the official start of the investigations and questions which would pull away the foundations of the Macmillan government."
Keeler met Earl Felton, a CIA agent, at a New Year party. According to Mandy Rice-Davies, Fenton was a screen-writer who introduced her to Robert Mitchum. The following month Felton contacted Keeler. According to her account: "Stephen had been telling him lies, feeding him false information and indicating that I was spying for the Russians because of my love for Eugene. The message was to leave the country, say nothing about anything I might have seen or heard." Keeler was also told at this time that Eugene Ivanov had fled back to Moscow.
A FBI document reveals that on 29th January, 1963, Thomas Corbally, an American businessman who was a close friend of Stephen Ward, told Alfred Wells, the secretary to David Bruce, the ambassador, that Christine Keeler was having a sexual relationship with John Profumo and Eugene Ivanov. The document also stated that Harold Macmillan had been informed about this scandal.
On 21st March, George Wigg asked the Home Secretary in a debate on the John Vassall affair in the House of Commons, to deny rumours relating to Christine Keeler and the John Edgecombe case. Richard Crossman then commented that Paris Match magazine intended to publish a full account of Keeler's relationship with John Profumo, the Minister of War, in the government. Barbara Castle also asked questions if Keeler's disappearance had anything to do with Profumo.
The following day Profumo made a statement attacking the Labour Party MPs for making allegations about him under the protection of Parliamentary privilege, and after admitting that he knew Keeler he stated: "I have no connection with her disappearance. I have no idea where she is." He added that there was "no impropriety in their relationship" and that he would not hesitate to issue writs if anything to the contrary was written in the newspapers.
Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert interviewed Christine Keeler at her home on 1st April 1963. Four days later she was taken to Marylebone Police Station. Herbert told her that the police would need a complete list of men with whom she had sex or who had given her money during the time she knew Ward. This list included the names of John Profumo, Charles Clore and Jim Eynan.
As a result of his earlier statement the newspapers decided not to print anything about John Profumo and Christine Keeler for fear of being sued for libel. However, George Wigg refused to let the matter drop and on 25th May, 1963, once again raised the issue of Keeler, saying this was not an attack on Profumo's private life but a matter of national security.
On 5th June, John Profumo resigned as War Minister. His statement said that he had lied to the House of Commons about his relationship with Christine Keeler. The next day the Daily Mirror said: "What the hell is going on in this country? All power corrupts and the Tories have been in power for nearly twelve years."
Some newspapers called for Harold Macmillan to resign as prime minister. This he refused to do but he did ask Lord Denning to investigate the security aspects of the Profumo affair. Some of the prostitutes who worked for Stephen Ward began to sell their stories to the national press. Mandy Rice-Davies told the Daily Sketch that Christine Keeler had sexual relationships with John Profumo and Eugene Ivanov, an naval attaché at the Soviet embassy.
On 7th June, Keeler told the Daily Express of her secret "dates" with Profumo. She also admitted that she had been seeing Eugene Ivanov at the same time, sometimes on the same day, as Profumo. In a television interview Stephen Ward told Desmond Wilcox that he had warned the security services about Keeler's relationship with Profumo. The following day Ward was arrested and charged with living off immoral earnings between 1961 and 1963. He was initially refused bail because it was feared that he might try to influence witnesses. Another concern was that he might provide information on the case to the media.
Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert personally interviewed Christine Keeler twenty-four times during the investigation. Other senior detectives had interrogated her on fourteen other occasions. Herbert told Keeler that unless her evidence in court matched her statements "you might well find yourself standing beside Stephen Ward in the dock."
On 14th June, the London solicitor, Michael Eddowes, claimed that Christine Keeler told him that Eugene Ivanov had asked her to get information about nuclear weapons from Profumo. Eddowes added that he had written to Harold Macmillan to ask why no action had been taken on information he had given to Special Branch about this on 29th March. Soon afterwards Keeler told the News of the World that "I'm no spy, I just couldn't ask Jack for secrets."
In a FBI classified memo dated 20th June, 1963, from Alan Belmont to Clyde Tolson referred to the concerns of Defence Secretary Robert McNamara about the John Profumo case. It stated "Mr. McNamara referred to a memorandum from the FBI dated June 14, 1963, advising that Air Force personnel may have had relationships with Christine Keeler." The next section is blacked out but it goes onto say: "McNamara said he felt like he was sitting on a bomb in this matter as he could not tell what would come out of it and he wanted to be sure that every effort was being made to get information from the British particularly as it affected U.S. personnel."
The trial of Stephen Ward began at the Old Bailey on July 1963. Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, were both called as witnesses. In their autobiographies, both women rejected this charge. As Rice-Davies pointed out: "Stephen was never a blue-and-white diamond, but a pimp? Ridiculous. And taking money off us! I've already described my finances. As for Christine, she was always borrowing money (from Stephen Ward).
Ronna Ricardo had said that she had sex for money and then gave it to Ward at a preliminary hearing. However, she retracted this information at the trial and claimed that Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert had forced the statement from her by threats against the Ricardo family. According to Philip Knightley: "Ricardo said that Herbert told her that if she did not agree to help them then the police would take action against her family. Her younger sister, on probation and living with her, would be taken into care. They might even make application to take her baby away from her because she had been an unfit mother."
The main evidence against Stephen Ward came from Vickie Barrett. She claimed that Ward had picked her up in Oxford Street and had taken her home to have sex with his friends. Barrett was unable to name any of these men. She added that Ward was paid by these friends and he kept some of the money for her in a little drawer. Christine Keeler claims that she had never seen Barrett before: "She (Barrett) described Stephen handing out horsewhips, canes, contraceptives and coffee and how, having collected her weapons, she had treated the waiting clients. It sounded, and was, nonsense. I had lived with Stephen and never seen any evidence of anything like that... She has never to my knowledge been seen again. I suspect she was spirited out of the country, given a new identity, a new life."
Ward told his defence counsel, James Burge: "One of my great perils is that at least half a dozen of the (witnesses) are lying and their motives vary from malice to cupidity and fear... In the case of both Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies there is absolutely no doubt that they are committed to stories which are already sold or could be sold to newspapers and that my conviction would free these newspapers to print stories which they would otherwise be quite unable to print (for libel reasons)."
Stephen Ward was very upset by the judge's summing-up that included the following: "If Stephen Ward was telling the truth in the witness box, there are in this city many witnesses of high estate and low who could have come and testified in support of his evidence." Several people present in the court claimed that Judge Archie Pellow Marshall was clearly biased against Ward. France Soir reported: "However impartial he tried to appear, Judge Marshall was betrayed by his voice."
That night Ward wrote to his friend, Noel Howard-Jones: "It is really more than I can stand - the horror, day after day at the court and in the streets. It is not only fear, it is a wish not to let them get me. I would rather get myself. I do hope I have not let people down too much. I tried to do my stuff but after Marshall's summing-up, I've given up all hope." Ward then took an overdose of sleeping tablets. He was in a coma when the jury reached their verdict of guilty of the charge of living on the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies on Wednesday 31st July. Three days later, Ward died in St Stephen's Hospital.
In his book, The Trial of Stephen Ward (1964), Ludovic Kennedy considers the guilty verdict of Ward to be a miscarriage of justice. In An Affair of State (1987), the journalist, Philip Knightley argues: "Witnesses were pressured by the police into giving false evidence. Those who had anything favourable to say were silenced. And when it looked as though Ward might still survive, the Lord Chief Justice shocked the legal profession with an unprecedented intervention to ensure Ward would be found guilty."
At the end of the Ward trial, Newspapers began reporting on the sex parties attended by Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. The Washington Star quoted Rice-Davies as saying "there was a dinner party where a naked man wearing a mask waited on table like a slave." Dorothy Kilgallen wrote an article where she stated: "The authorities searching the apartment of one of the principals in the case came upon a photograph showing a key figure disporting with a bevy of ladies. All were nude except for the gentleman in the picture who was wearing an apron. And this is a man who has been on extremely friendly terms with the very proper Queen and members of her immediate family!"
The News of the World immediately identified the hostess at the dinner party as being Mariella Novotny. Various rumours began to circulate about the name of the man who wore the mask and apron. This included John Profumo and another member of the government, Ernest Marples. Whereas another minister, Lord Hailsham, the leader of the House of Lords at the time, issued a statement saying it was not him.
Novotny refused to comment on her activities and the man in the mask remained unidentified. However, Time Magazine speculated that it was film director, Anthony Asquith, the son of former prime minister, Herbert Asquith.
Christine Keeler pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice and to perjury and was sentenced to nine months in prison. After she was released she used the money from the News of the World to buy a house for £13,000 in Linhope Street in Marylebone.
In her memoirs Keeler claimed that she was in great demand after all the publicity she had received and had sexual relationships with George Peppard, Maximilian Schell, Warren Beatty and Victor Lownes. She eventually married James Levermore but the relationship did not last.
Mariella Novotny was found dead in her bed in February 1983. It was claimed by the police that she had died of a drug overdose. Christine Keeler later wrote: "The Westminster Coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, called it misadventure. Along with People in Moscow, I still think it was murder. A central figure in the strangest days of my life always believed Mariella would be killed by American or British agents, most probably by the CIA."
In 1983 Keeler published an autobiography, Nothing But. At the time she worked in telephone sales in Fulham. Later she worked for a dry-cleaning business in Battersea. In the early 1990s she moved to the south coast and was employed as a dinner lady at Norton School. A second autobiography, The Truth at Last, appeared in 2001.