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