I was asked, not too long ago, if there was any way I could prove that Christine was not a prostitute - if, for example, I had old tax returns showing her income from modelling or something like that. The very idea of the Christine doing a tax return makes me smile and I think the question was less about proving my mother wasn't working as a prostitute and more about finding a piece of evidence to show that Stephen Ward couldn’t have been living off her immoral earnings. No, I don't have her tax returns because of course she didn’t do tax returns, but equally it’s obvious Stephen Ward wasn't living off her immoral earnings.
I have spent a lot of time researching the events around Christine being assaulted in April 1963 and the follow up trials for her application for mercy and there is an amazing amount of hard information out there in press and court records and it’s quite easy to find.
Going through these court records you can trip over some interesting exchanges that add more colour to the wider story. For example Paul Mann, who was a bridge playing friend of Stephen Ward, was called by the prosecution to give evidence at Christine’s preliminary hearing at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court on 28 October 1963. He was questioned about a trip to Spain with Christine in March earlier that year, and he was asked whether he was trying to sell a photo of somebody famous pictured with Christine. The famous person in the picture remained unnamed, but Paul Mann was allegedly asking for £2000 to hand it over, a huge amount of money in 1963. We can only wonder who was the man in the picture. (Press record pictured)
I like this piece from the court case, because at one stage Paul Mann was asked what his business was that took him to Spain, he answered, “That is my business.” The barrister then asked, “Do you refuse to answer that question?” and he said, “I refuse to answer.” I have never been asked a question in court, so it never occurred to me you can tell the court to mind its own business!
I think back now and Christine had lots of sayings she would throw out and most of them would drive me crazy.
“Never listen to the words in a song, just listen to the music.” She used to say this one a lot and it used to drive me crazy.
“The words are part of the song” I would argue.
“Don’t listen to the words! It’s just somebody else’s story that mostly don’t make sense anyway, just feel the music.” We would argue about this often and she was convinced that she was absolutely right, the lyrics to songs were not necessary and she couldn’t understand why I couldn’t understand that.
One day after she had dropped that expression again I said, “What about opera? If you don't listen to the words you don't know what’s going on”
“Seems,” - she would call me Seems -”they are singing in a foreign language, so you won’t understand it anyway!” she replied. “Anyway, I’ve been to opera and you do understand it without the words.” She might have had a point about opera I didn’t actually know enough about it to argue with her.
She had another expression that used to get under my skin. “Whatever someone says, apply it to themselves.” Christine would throw this expression out when somebody had said something nasty about someone and every time I would ask, “What does that mean?” When I got older and I would put an ‘even’ in my question “What does that even mean,” because this expression drove me crazy.
She would explain, “If somebody says something horrible, then really they are talking about themselves. If someone calls you a liar, it’s because they are a liar”.
“That makes no sense,” I would argue. “If I called you a mad old woman, does that mean I am the mad old woman?”
She would laugh at that and say, “I may be mad, but I’m not old,” but she would say same expression the next time anyone had something nasty to say.
She also used to say, “What people say doesn't matter, it’s what people do that matters”. As a young man I didn't understand this either and I would argue, “What about all the beautiful things people have said or written? They matter”.
Lots of people have written books and opinion pieces on my mother’s life, some of which are better than others, but it does strike me that so many books and opinion pieces have been written by people who clearly didn’t do even the most basic research.
Christine would get really angry if people who told the story of her life and were wrong with any detail. For her it was an unforgivable act. You might think you are right, or you may even be mistaken but for Christine there was no excuse. For my mother, truth was real and tangible, it could be hard to find, it could take a lot of work to get at it, but it was something you could almost touch.
Christine made some scathing private notes about things people had got wrong when telling her story, in her eyes it was not about poor research or misremembered an event, in her eyes it was an unforgivable lie.
So Christine used to tell me, “What people say doesn't matter, it’s what people do that matters,” and for her I think she had a point. Maybe all of these little expressions meant the same thing, sometimes people lie and there are even some people that lie a lot and sometimes people tell stories they think are true.
So don't believe what one person says, if it’s important, do the research, find the proof.
Lastly a quick reminder about the campaign to pardon Christine, and why we are doing it.
In 1963 Christine Keeler famously went to prison
Not because she had made up an assault - because she didn’t
Not because somebody else had slapped her earlier that night
Not because a drunken conversation was recorded
But because she denied that two witnesses were there when she was assaulted
So why does it matter?
It is time to forgive my mother, so as to better understand our history, or for her family, or just because she was a human being.
It is time to free Christine Keeler
This week Christine got her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a record of national figures who have helped shape Great Britain. I think you get your mention a few years after your death, so I am again reminded of the story Christine would tell me about what Stanley Baker said to her. Stanley Baker, probably best known for his starring role in Zulu, said, “Christine, you are the most famous person here, we’re all actors and we will be forgotten, but you, Christine, you are in the history books forever.”
We have just finished another draft of the pardon document and are really pleased with how it is shaping up. So fingers crossed it won’t be too long, but these are strange times.
Some memories are much harder than others to write down and share but they are just as important as they paint a more rounded picture of our lives. This year I wanted to talk more about the price that Christine Keeler paid.
It wasn't long after Christine was released from prison she met James Levermore. She said he was sweet with a great personality, he was educated and chose to work as a labourer in the outdoors. They fell in love, a whirlwind romance, and in 1965 they were married at Reading Registry Office. It was a normal wedding, her family all came too. Her mother and step-father, her grandmother and one of her aunties, who being more or less the same age as Christine, was like a sister. Of course the press were there too, so maybe not an entirely normal wedding.
Christine wanted to start afresh, she would play the part of a wife and play the part of being happy and maybe even for a time she was. A few months later she was pregnant with my half-brother James and things started to come apart. At the hospital she went into a panic, in fact a complete meltdown. “You are trying to kill me,” she said to the doctors.
One of the team that night in the maternity ward was West Indian and maybe because of the drugs they gave her something snapped, maybe she thought Gordon was there or maybe she thought it was a friend of his, but that night going in for her Caesarean section she was terrified they were going to kill her.
Christine went home with her new baby and played the part of a new mother and housewife but something was wrong, she was desperately unhappy. She was struggling to bond with her son Jimmy. She said, “I didn't feel he was mine at all.”
Christine then became convinced that her husband was going off with other women, because, why would any man want to be with Christine Keeler! She was so insecure, she would secretly follow him to work to make sure he wasn’t seeing other women. Her suspicions and insecurity destroyed her marriage.
The marriage was over and her husband James left. Christine had a three month old baby who was a stranger to her. Her mother stepped in and offered to help, she would look after Jimmy until Christine felt better. They used to call it the baby blues but now we call it post-natal depression and it is surprisingly common. I don't know if it was linked to the bad experience when Jimmy was born or finding herself trapped or maybe it was everything, but Christine was very sick.
Jimmy never came to live with Chris, her mother would always find a reason to extend his stay. She would tell Christine, “You’re not settled enough to look after a child,” or, “The baby is holding my marriage together”. So days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months turned into years.
Five years later Christine remarried and Jimmy still wasn't with her, and then I was born. I had moved around so much inside Chris that my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, so it had to be an emergency C-section. Christine used to tell me that the doctors asked, “If it’s a choice, who do we save: the mother of the baby?” and Christine told me she said, “Save my baby,” and, no, I don’t really believe that story, but she never let me leave her side. So maybe it’s true!
I met her mother, my grandmother, only a few times. I stayed there for a week one summer when I was seven; according to Christine they didn't want me back again, I was too much hard work and it upset Jimmy.
The last time we saw either Jimmy or Christine’s mother was at the Worlds End Estate in 1988. I can’t remember how it came up, but Christine was saying, “At least tell him I bought your house for you.” I think Christine wanted to show Jimmy she had done something for him. She wanted to show him she wasn't “just a bum”.
Then we argued some more because Christine’s mother talked about all the “black faces” in London and how frightening she found it. I was only 16 or 17 and said, “That’s what Hitler would have said,” and they left and we never saw them again. I have sometimes wondered if I was the one who went too far that night.
Christine sent them birthday and Christmas cards and even tried to call them over the years, but it was done.
Looking back, strangely, I have no recollection of ever talking to my grandmother, of ever making eye contact or being hugged. I always thought she was a cold woman.
I once asked Christine if she had any regrets, she thought about it for a while and said, “My cat, Thomas, I took him to the vet too late. I think he suffered and I blame myself for that’
Now I am a parent and I think to myself, of course that’s what she would say to her son. Of course she had regrets, but what else could she say?
Jimmy was her one major regret.
I do hope that this year is better than last year for everyone, and I must admit I look forward with optimism. We have vaccines rolling out across the world, where I live in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice has passed and each day is longer than the last. 2020 saw many stories come to an end and chapters close and it is my hope that 2021 brings healing peace and a coming together.
I also want to see a pardon for my mother for her crime of being attacked by a man who had a history of violence against her, in fact just a history of violence. I am currently working on a family statement to be added to our application for pardon, it has been James Harbridge’s idea to talk a bit about the personal and family impact of my mother’s conviction in 1963, to write a victim impact statement type of thing. It’s been much harder and more emotional than I thought, but does focus the three reasons why what we are doing is so important: To correct the story that is our history about those events, for her family, and most importantly for her, because she was a human being.
When I was a child I had a toy gun, it was a Luger, or that was what was written down the side. It was painted black metal and quite a lot of the paint had chipped away so it looked mottled with silver. There was no grip - it had broken off on its travels, so it was awkward to hold and a very sorry looking toy. I remember the toy gun because on more than one occasion Chris held it in her hand and told me or told friends, “This is a real gun to protect me from Lucky Gordon, if he comes here I will shoot him”.
This story doesn't end with ‘and It was a real gun!’ It is not that type of story, but hopefully it illustrates how I grew up understanding that Gordon was a real threat. There is another thing the story illustrates that is harder to write, because I can’t tell you that my mother always knew herself that it was just a toy gun. Fear is a strange partner.
In these blogs I have talked a lot about my mother’s humanity, something that I always felt was missing from the story of Christine Keeler. It is harder to talk about the price that my mother paid for being Christine Keeler. All stories have context and Christine Keeler was quite damaged by what happened to her in 1963 - that much must be obvious to anyone, but it is also true that my mother always loved me and did all any mother could do to keep me safe. I plan to talk about this more on the blog.
I have been doing a lot of reading on perjury in the English courts, how it is used and what it means. I believe that the charge of perjury was used as weapon against my mother, a tool to punish her, and to mangle the words of Mandy Rice-Davies “I would say that, wouldn’t I?”
In 2015 Andy Coulson, the ex-editor of The News of the World, was charged with perjury, and he was acquitted. Mr Coulson had lied on oath but in Judge Lord Burns’ view, “Not every lie is perjury,” and the lie did not change the course of the trial. Link
There are not that many perjury cases, over the last 100 years they average out at 150 per year - Link
But I do wonder how many of those charged with perjury are women, women who have claimed they have been assaulted or raped. It’s interesting research and there seem to be a number of people doing the same research raising real concerns about how historically the courts have ‘aggressively’ prosecuted woman with perjury where their initial assault charges couldn’t be proved.
Katie Baker has written a few articles on the subject, here is one on buzzfeed - Link
Woman Against Rape have run a six year campaign with concerns about the use of perjury against the victims of abuse.
If rape, stalking and physical assault is really about power, as is often claimed, isn’t the ultimate show of power seeing your victim go to prison for what you did to them?I wonder how powerful Lucky Gordon felt when Christine went to prison.
I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think that perjury was used to punish my mother, In fact I don’t think she would be the only victim of this weapon, even now.
I will leave you with another story to show how Christine had power taken away from her and how that can impact those around her. A long time ago in the early 1990s I did some bookkeeping work for Freddie’s Model Agency, invoices and payments, things like that. One morning I went up to their stairs and in the hall as you entered their upstairs office was a huge three metre tall poster of a model sitting in that chair in that pose, made to look just like my mother. It was an advertising campaign for bread with the slogan, “It tastes great with nothing on”. It featured one of their models and putting the poster up was a deliberate gesture to embarrass me or maybe to embarrass my father, as the owners were friends.
As mortified as the young me was to be confronted by that massive poster at my place of work, it could still be taken as just good fun. I did know that Christine would not have received a penny from a campaign like this, and seeing her used always stung me a bit.
So I was mortified by the poster and I had a vague sense of injustice, but I wasn't going to let anyone else see that, The one thing I can’t remember was who tried to give me a lesson on that poster and about that campaign. knowing full well who my mother was, they told me with some pride about this wonderfully clever idea, how it get around copyright and how unimportant that original model was, “You are just piggy backing, riffing, off a cultural icon, the picture that is not Christine Keeler, she was only a model and not even a very good one I hear”
I swallowed a lot of pride, that poster was on the wall every time I went there. If I had been older and braver I would have pointed out the obvious: “She so unimportant and yet you are still using her to sell your bread”
Incidentally, the model from the campaign, Helena de Bondt, sent me a kind message when Christine passed. So while some people think models are unimportant, at least some have their humanity.