Keeler had affairs with a British cabinet minister and a Russian diplomat at the height of the Cold War
Profumo's cover-up of their relationship is said to have contributed to the fall of the Conservative government
Christine Keeler, a former model whose relations during the 1960s Cold War with a British cabinet minister and a Russian diplomat contributed to the downfall of a Conservative government, has died, her son announced.
Keeler’s son Seymour Platt posted on Facebook late Tuesday that his mother died the night before, saying she had suffered in recent years from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Keeler was 75.
“As many of you know my mother, Christine Keeler, fought many fights in her eventful life, some fights she lost but some she won,” he wrote. “She earned her place in British history but at a huge personal price. We are all very proud of who she was.”
Platt told the Guardian that Keeler died in a hospital in Farnborough, a town east of London.
The Profumo Affair
In 1961, Keeler was a 19-year-old cabaret dancer in London when she was introduced to John Profumo. He was the secretary of war, in his mid-40s, and a rising star in Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s government.
Keeler and Profumo began an affair while she was seeing Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet military attache.
Profumo’s relationship with Keeler came to light after police investigated an incident involving Keeler.
A former lover of hers fired a gun into a home where she had sought refuge, according to The New York Times. A subsequent police investigation and court proceedings drew out details of her liaison with Profumo.
Initially, Profumo tried to tamp down rumors of an affair. He told members of Parliament in 1963 that there had been no impropriety in his relationship with Keeler.
As rumors spread, and more details were revealed, particularly the possibility that state secrets might have been exposed through Keeler’s relationship with the Russian, Profumo confessed to his wife and then to the Cabinet. He resigned that year.
Unable to contain the fallout of the scandal, MacMillan resigned months later. In the national election that followed in 1964 the Tories were defeated by the opposition Labour Party, and its leader Harold Wilson became the next prime minister of the country.
As the scandal filled newspapers and captivated the country, Keeler posed for photographer Lewis Morley. He created an iconic portrait of the doe-eyed brunette sitting, apparently naked, astride a chair. The photo became the defining image of the scandal.
A private life
While Profumo continued to live in the public eye, and was eventually named a Commander of the British Empire for his philanthropy, Keeler was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for making false statements about a different relationship caught up in the Profumo Affair scandal. She served six months in prison.
Keeler later published several books, including a memoir called The Truth at Last, with journalist Douglas Thompson. The book was updated in 2012, after Profumo’s death.
The Guardian reported that Keeler lived under the name of Sloane for many years and married twice, both ending in divorce. She had two children.