What were ‘Profumo affair’ model Christine Keeler’s links to Thanet?

Sophie Cookson plays Christine Keeler in The Trial of Christine Keeler Credit BBC

With the airing of BBC One mini series The Trial of Christine Keeler the question of whether the infamous show girl ever stayed in Thanet comes to the fore once more.

The English model and topless showgirl had met society osteopath and artist Stephen Ward at a dance club and soon found herself in fashionable circles. At the height of the Cold War, she had an affair with married Secretary of State for War John Profumo, as well as Soviet diplomat Yevgeny “Eugene” Ivanov.

A shooting incident between two of her other lovers caused the press to investigate her, revealing that her affairs could be a threat to national security.

In the House of Commons, Profumo denied any improper conduct but later admitted that he had lied. This incident discredited the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan in 1963 in what became known as the Profumo affair.

In the aftermath of the revelations Ward was found guilty at trial of being Keeler’s pimp. She was never charged with prostitution but was jailed for nine months on perjury charges following a separate incident.

It is rumoured Keeler may have hidden out in Thanet during the Ward trial. Last year two friends who were ‘trolly dollies’ with Air Ferry airlines at Manston Airport in 1963 appealed for information about the Keeler rumours for a book they were writing.

Yoland Brown and Angie Castle shared a flat in Birchington during the Summer of ’63 while working for the independent airline.

Yoland and Angie in uniform, 1963

Angie, who now lives in Somerset with husband Jerry, a former Manston customs officer, said at the time: “We remember that the papers were full of the Christine Keeler and the Profumo affair and that the lady took refuge somewhere in the Isle of Thanet while Steven Ward’s trial was going on.”

Some residents say Keeler stayed in Holly Lane in Cliftonville while others think this may infact have been her friend and fellow showgirl Mandy Rice Davies.

There is a second link to Thanet, Keeler was given legal advice after the scandal hit by barrister William Rupert Rees-Davies QC who was a friend of Stephen Ward.

Rees-Davies was  Member of Parliament for Thanet from a 1953 by-election to 1974, then for Thanet West from 1974 to 1983 when his seat was abolished in boundary changes.

It is said Rees-Davies recommended solicitor Gerald Black to Keeler after she expressed concern at using legal representation from someone picked by ‘the Profumo side.’ Black was involved in the wrangle over a failed pay off to persuade Keeler not to take part in a newspaper feature. The feature went ahead.

Christine Keeler in 1988 By Open Media Ltd (Open Media Ltd)  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Christine Keeler died in December 2017 at the age of 75.

Image credit BBC

The Trial of Christine Keeler screened on December 29 and 30. Those episodes are available to watch on iplayer. Episode 3 airs on Sunday, January 5 at 9pm.

The six part series takes a fresh look at the chain of events in the Profumo Affair with then 19 year-old Christine Keeler, whom the powerful, male-dominated establishment sought to silence and exploit, refusing to play by their rules. The drama goes behind the headlines to tell a human story about the sexual and cultural politics of one of the most revealing and iconic stories of modern times.

Sophie Cookson plays Christine Keeler, James Norton takes on the role of Stephen Ward, with Ellie Bamber as Mandy Rice-Davies. Ben Miles plays John Profumo and Emilia Fox stars as Valerie Profumo. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett plays Johnny Edgecombe and Anthony Welsh plays Aloysius ‘Lucky’ Gordon.

Read here: Two former Air Ferry stewardesses at Manston try to uncover the truth about Christine Keeler in Thanet for a new book


  1. I remember when the scandal broke-it was a sensation and brought down the MacMillan government in 1964.

    The first most people knew of the whole story was via a late Saturday evening satire programme, That Was The Week That Was, starring a young David Frost. At one point one of the cast came on yelling out’Calling Christine Keeler, calling Christine Keeper!’like you would have at a court.
    That broke the story that had presumably been kept under wraps apart from the case when Johnny Edgecombe shot at her. I think it was not just the link with Profumo and the Soviet attache but how these two young women were used by much older men who were a part of the Establishment.

  2. How things change. I, too, recall the Keeler affair as a kind of “shock,horror” story in the Daily Mirror.
    No doubt, it was a severe blow to the Conservative government at the time.
    But , nowadays, I wonder if it would have the same impact. We have a Tory Prime Minister who was sacked twice for lying. Allegedly, he does not know how many children he has and may not have played any role in their lives.He has called Muslim women “letterboxes” and Black people “picanninies” with “watermelon smiles” and working class people as “feckless” and “usually drunk”. And , with less votes than his predecessor, Theresa May, he gets elected with a huge majority(of seats, though not votes).

    So , it seems that the moral standards of the Tory politicians have not improved since the days of Christine Keeler but those of Tory voters have definitely declined.

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