My dad and Christine Keeler
The BBC TV series ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’ has again raised the profile of The Profumo Affair which continues to capture people’s imagination even though it happened nearly 6o years ago. Publisher and Editor of My Sevenoaks Community Frank Baldwin has a special interest in the scandal – as his father was Christine Keeler’s solicitor
In 1963 the scandal surrounding the Profumo Affair had everything. Top government officials in the form of John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, lying to parliament, Russian ‘spies’, well-heeled aristocrats, good time girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, – and sex!
Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government was eventually toppled by this political crisis after the spicy details were revealed in court and laid bare in the media. These details have been revived over the years through various books, films such as Scandal, and in Stephen Ward, a West End musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber about the society osteopath who was one of the main characters caught up in the drama. It was staged in 2013 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of The Profumo Affair.
The story dominated the headlines at the time and the massive coverage included an iconic photo of Keeler posing nude on a replica of an Arne Jacobsen chair. The recent BBC TV series, The Trial of Christine Keeler, and journalist Tom Mangold’s documentary Keeler, Profumo, Ward and Me, have again put the scandal back in the public eye. But have all the secrets surrounding the Profumo Affair been told?
I think probably not – and the likelihood of them being revealed are now even slimmer following the deaths of my mother and father a few years ago – plus the fact the government ruled that the paperwork behind the scandal should be sealed for 100 years until 2063.
During the 60s, my dad, Freddie Baldwin, was fast becoming one of the best-known criminal lawyers in London and he worked on several high-profile cases including Keeler’s trial and when the World Cup was stolen and found by Pickles the dog in 1966.
I was only about six years old when the Profumo scandal broke in the early 60s, so did not have any concept of the magnitude of what was happening, but dad was thrust into the limelight when he was taken on by Christine Keeler to act for her in the court cases that followed.
One of dad’s former secretaries tells me she remembers Christine’s visits to his office in Jamaica Road, Bermondsey, often with a scarf covering rollers in her hair, a look that was in stark contrast to the ‘glamour’ photos of her that regularly appeared in newspapers and magazines.
As Christine’s own trial was held at the The Old Bailey, my dad in turn instructed a Queen’s Counsel, Jeremy Hutchinson, to defend Keeler in court. The story goes that dad and Jeremy persuaded Christine to plead guilty to the charge of obstruction of justice and perjury following her false allegations of assault by Lucky Gordon – another character who played a central role in the Profumo Affair coming to light.
Jeremy’s summing up in the trial was described at the time as one of the most brilliant, and one of the longest, and his speech would have been based on the notes dad prepared for him.
I am also told that Sir Anthony Hawke, The Recorder of London – the senior Circuit Judge at the Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) – said to Jeremy and Freddie after the trial that it was their efforts to get Christine to admit to the crime and the summing up that persuaded him to give her the much shorter sentence of nine months, of which she only served four and a half months.
Dad was always a great storyteller but for some reason he and my mum never talked much about the background to Keeler and the Profumo scandal. I suspect it was out of some deep-rooted sense of duty.
I do remember dad being very upset several years ago when he went to dig out some of his own personal paperwork and notes from the Keeler case which he had stored at our family home in the village of Eynsford. He found that mice had attacked the files and what remained had disintegrated with age.
When dad died a few years ago, so did many of his personal memories of Christine’s story and The Profumo Affair, but I did manage to get my mother to talk about it a little before her own passing.
She remembered that shortly after Freddie was taken on by Christine, their phones at home and at work started making all sorts of funny noises when they picked them up. They suspected they were being tapped, probably by government spooks.
So, Freddie would organise ‘on the spur’ meetings with Christine in random places where their conversations could not be recorded, or they would jump into London taxis to avoid being followed.
Freddie also had to visit Christine’s London flat on occasions and often found her still in bed, which my mum was NOT very happy about.
For some reason Freddie also had control over Christine’s finances for a while and she would call him at odd times asking him to release some cash so she could buy something.
It is easy to forget how young and naïve Christine was at the time of the scandal and she did get a massive pay out from a national newspaper for her story. Therefore, I suspect once the enormity of what she was involved with began to hit home she may have been worried that this money could somehow be taken away from her and so gave it to my dad to look after. Plus, the recent TV series hinted that she did not actually have a bank account.
I wonder what other details my mother and father have taken to the grave with them?
Christine died in December 2017 at the age of 75 in the Princess Royal University Hospital in Locksbottom, just up the road from Sevenoaks. While she was still alive, I tried to contact her to ask for a meeting as I thought it would be interesting to hear what she remembered of my father.
My requests were met with silence. Although I suspect even if Christine had agreed to meet me, she would still have kept those other untold secrets to herself.
Plus, from what happened at the time, it just shows you that phone hacking and lying politicians are nothing new!”