Christine Keeler, the model who helped bring down a British government as a key player in the notorious Profumo Affaire of the 1960s, has died aged 75, according to reports.
Keeler had been ill for several months with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), her son Seymour Platt said on Facebook.
“She earned her place in British history but at a huge personal price,” Platt wrote. “We are all very proud of who she was.”
Keeler’s story, the subject of the 1989 hit movie Scandal, was a fascinating but sad one – an abused child, by 17 she was a hostess at a London nightclub, dancing on stage, serving drinks, and having relationships with the club’s clientele.
It was at the club that Keeler and fellow dancer Mandy Rice-Davies met an osteopath called Stephen Ward, who introduced them to many influential and wealthy Londoners, including John Profumo, who in 1961 was the secretary of state for war in the Brutish government.
Profumo had an affair with 19-year-old Keeler, but at the same time Keeler was sleeping with Eugene Ivanov, an assistant naval attache at the Soviet Embassy. When reporters found out about the affairs in 1963, Profumo was forced to resign, amid fears national security had been compromised by Keeler passing secrets between the two men.
In the same year, Ward was charged by police with living on the earnings of prostitution – a reference to his role as a ‘fixer’ in introducing Keeler and other young women to rich men – and was found guilty, but committed suicide before the verdict could be announced.
Keeler, meanwhile, was found guilty of perjury for the evidence she gave to an unrelated trial involving another boyfriend, and served nine months in prison.
The most memorable moment of the whole scandal, however, came from Rice-Davies. At another trial, the young dancer, when told that Lord Astor had denied having an affair with her, famously answered, “He would, wouldn’t he?”, a phrase that became engrained in British consciousness.
The following year, Labour ousted the Conservative government from power at a general election, having used the so-called Profumo Affair to argue that the party was unfit to govern Britain.
After the scandal blew over, Keeler only rarely spoke of the events that toppled a government, living largely a reclusive life, although she went on to publish five books about her life. She married twice but both marriages ended in divorce. She had two children.