It has been a very busy week.
We now have a first draft of Christine Keeler’s “Petition for Mercy”. When looking at the transcripts from the original trial, police records, and newspaper reports from her later trial, I think there is a powerful argument that Christine should not have gone to prison on 1963. Pulling all the different stands together has needed a talented legal mind and I must say I would not be here without the humbling help I continue to receive. People can indeed overwhelm you with their kindness.
I am still asked why am I bothering to do this, “Isn’t it not enough that the BBC drama was nice about your Mum?” people have asked. In truth I have lots of reasons, like the grandiose: I believe it’s important for history to understand Christine’s motivation through much of the Profumo scandal. My closest friend told me this week that he thinks I am actually doing all this for me, as a last act of love.
My daughter, Christine’s granddaughter, told me about a boy who this week said to her, “Everyone knows boys are more important than girls. Girls don't matter, my Dad told me”
Nearly 60 years later, it’s like 1963, girls don't matter. That was Christine Keeler’s story in 1963. Lucky Gordon thought he owned her. The two witnesses to her assault felt no obligation after seeing a woman attacked in the street. John Hamilton-Marshall thought it was perfectly acceptable to talk about beating a woman. Stephen Ward posted bail for Lucky Gordon on the morning of her attack and he knew the danger Gordon posed to Christine.
All the men in that 1963 story thought woman were not important - they all thought boys were more important than girls. I have lots of reasons for doing all of this.
Back In January 2019 I wrote a foreword for the touring exhibition Dear Christine - A tribute to Christine Keeler. The exhibition was curated by the quite amazing Fionn Wilson and there is a page on the website dedicated to its art, music and poetry.
I like the idea of Christine Keeler being an inspiration for art and creativity, In fact I can’t think of a greater tribute than that.
When I wrote this forword I was in a different place - my mother’s death was still quite raw, articles and stories threw pity at her and not understanding. I was still mourning. It was the first time I had sat down to write anything about Christine. It was all too personal, even the flowers in this story were part of a silly argument we had had.
And here I find myself writing about my mother. It’s been over a year since she passed, and in that time she has never been far from my thoughts.
Like it or not, my mother is a sixties icon. She was terrifically famous in the early sixties, in fact, world famous. It’s not easy to appreciate just how big a story the scandal was, now that we look back. There’s a famous picture of her sitting on a chair, a chair that people now call a “Keeler chair” and she sits back to front on it in what is now called the “Keeler pose”. It is very strange to me that a picture of my mother sitting on a chair could be so famous.
She changed her name to Christine Sloane, so I never even met Christine Keeler. I grew up in the seventies where it was mostly just me and my mother, a single parent. I remember there being a lot of love, she was a warm and devoted mother who made a point of making sure I always knew I was loved. I’m not sure you can say a better thing about a parent. There were very few men in her life while I was growing up, and I’m sure she was probably lonely. We were poor, crushingly poor. I think we were wealthy when I was very, very young, but in the early 1970s something changed and that all went away - I think a lot of her friends did as well. We stayed in squats, the odd friend’s house and eventually a council flat. Being as poor as we were made the idea that my mum was famous frankly ridiculous, so I think it was only when the film Scandal hit the screen that I began to understand how massive the events of the early 1960s had been.
There was a cost in so many ways and she paid a price for all that fame. She could be sad, she could be angry or frustrated, but in all my life I never saw her afraid, even when she was sick. She was no coward.
All of that was more than 50 years ago and today there is an art exhibition and, honestly, I’m not sure what she would make of it all. Like all of us, she was still a bit vain and didn’t like pictures where she wasn’t young and beautiful. She could be dismissive of art when she didn’t like it or didn’t understand it, but she could always appreciate beauty in nature and life.
I have a painting up in the hall of three sunflowers - she brought it as a gift from a thrift shop ten years ago. I think a proud parent probably put it in the shop, because it is terrible, but there was something about it that she liked. For her, the three sunflowers meant family (Me, my wife and our daughter) and family meant something beautiful. So, as terrible as it is, I have it on my wall to remember her.
I think she probably understood art better than me.
I’d like to thank everyone who is paying tribute to my mother. She was a very brave woman.