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Christine Keeler

Englishwoman Christine Keeler became notorious in 1963 after revelations of affairs with both a Soviet attaché and the war minister John Profumo, who resigned after admitting lying to the House of Commons about their relationship.

christinekeeler6Her patron, the osteopath Stephen Ward, was convicted of living on immoral earnings and committed suicide. Keeler was subsequently imprisoned for related offences.

Born in Uxbridge, Middlesex in 1942, Christine Keeler was raised by her mother and stepfather in two converted railway carriages in the Berkshire village of Wraysbury.

At the age of 15 she found work as a model at a dress shop in London’s Soho, and at 17 she gave birth to a son after an affair with an African-American sergeant from Lakenheath Air Force base. The child was born prematurely on 17 April 1959 and survived just six days.

Keeler left Wraysbury for London, where she found work as a waitress at a restaurant on Baker Street. Here she met Maureen O’Connor, who worked at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho.

O’Connor introduced Keeler to the owner, Percy Murray, who hired her as a topless showgirl. While at Murray’s she met Stephen Ward. Soon the two were living together.

In July 1961 Ward introduced her to John Profumo (then British Secretary of State for War) at a pool party at ”Cliveden”, the Buckinghamshire mansion owned by Lord Astor.

Profumo entered into an affair with Keeler, not realising that she was also sleeping with Yevgeni Ivanov, a naval attaché at the embassy of the Soviet Union.

The affair was terminated by the government’s Cabinet Secretary, Sir Norman Brook, who spoke to Profumo on the advice of Sir Roger Hollis, the head of MI5.

On 9 August 1961 Profumo wrote to Keeler advising her he could no longer see her.

At the height of the Profumo Affair in 1963, Keeler sat for a portrait that became world famous.

The photo session – at a studio on the first floor of Peter Cook’s Establishment Club – with Lewis Morley was to promote a proposed film, The Keeler Affair, that was only distributed outside Britain.

Keeler had previously signed a contract which required her to pose nude for publicity photos and was reluctant to continue, but the film producers insisted, so Morley persuaded Keeler to sit astride a plywood chair so that she would be nude but the back of the chair would obscure most of her body.

The photograph propelled the Arne Jacobsen model 3107 chair to stardom (although the actual chair used was an imitation with a hand-hold aperture cut out of the back).