Warning: this article contains spoilers for episode six of The Trial Of Christine Keeler. Read on at your own peril…
Christine Keeler was just 19 when she had an affair with John Profumo, who was decades her senior at the time.
Keeler had already survived the death of her premature son, when she was 17, and a childhood marred by abuse. It’s this background that comes to the fore in the final episode of the BBC’s The Trial Of Christine Keeler, as it’s finally acknowledged that Christine (Sophie Cookson) had barely left childhood when she was embroiled in the Profumo affair, and that she does not deserve the blame for everything that has happened to her.
The penultimate episode of the show focused on the trial of Stephen Ward (James Norton), who was accused of living off immoral earnings, and ended with Stephen taking an overdose of barbiturates.
The final episode picks up moments later. Here, Stylist contributor Sarah Shaffi takes a look at what happened in episode six of The Trial Of Christine Keeler…
What happens to Stephen?
Stephen is rapidly taken to hospital where he remains in a coma. The judge chooses to forge ahead with his trial, and although the jury clear Stephen of a number of charges, they find him guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Christine and Mandy Rices-Davies (Ellie Bamber).
The judge agrees to postpone sentencing until Stephen is well enough to attend court, but it’s never to be; Stephen dies having never woken up from his coma.
How do people react to the news of Stephen’s death?
Christine receives a phone call to tell her Stephen has died, and she and Mandy are both devastated. Christine spirals, spending much of her time drinking, and eventually gets into a fight at a pub with a man she overhears talking badly about Stephen.
Injured and depressed, Christine doesn’t go to Stephen’s funeral, as the doctor has advised her to rest.
Only a handful of people attend the funeral, and none of them are the previous high-profile friends Stephen spent time with. In the wake of his death, Lord Astor makes a statement praising his friend, although he’d conveniently disappeared during Stephen’s trial.
The press also ask Profumo (Ben Miles) for a statement, but standing on the doorstep of his house with his wife Valerie (Emilia Fox), he says he has nothing to say about Stephen or his death. Instead, he takes the opportunity to say he’s full of remorse for the circumstances of his resignation.
At Stephen’s funeral, we see a card on a bunch of flowers calling Stephen a “victim of hypocrisy”.
Why is Christine arrested?
Christine goes to see her mum and stepdad – she’s paying for them to move into their own house, even though her mum has until recently been admonishing Christine for the way she’s made her money. While there, Christine is arrested on suspicion of perjury, conspiracy and attempting to obstruct the course of justice.
Even though the police worked with her to cover up the truth about Lucky’s attack on her, Christine is left to fend for herself, and threatened by police to not to bring up their involvement.
How are Profumo and Valerie navigating their marriage?
Although Valerie has stood by Profumo, she’s clearly angry, and that anger properly comes out when Christine’s arrest is reported. Profumo is happy that the attention is now on someone else, but Valerie disagrees, thinking it’s unfair that Christine is facing jail.
Having had enough, she lets rip with a series of truths about the behaviour of Profumo and men like him. “Are we endlessly to blame women for the weaknesses and wickedness of men?” she asks Profumo.
When he tries to laugh it off and say that women have power because they can use sex, she tells him that the “real power, authority and status” lies with men, and that he’s kidding himself if he thinks that younger women having sex with older men is anything but a transaction.
And it’s when Profumo dares to imply that Valerie used her gender to get roles that she reminds him she was just a teenager – like Christine – when she began acting. “Being a teenage girl is like being invited to a picnic, then you discover you’re one of the sandwiches,” she says.
It’s a tense encounter, but the first to really acknowledge how young Christine really is.
What happens during Christine’s trial?
Christine initially wants to plead not guilty to all charges, but her lawyer persuades her that pleading guilty to some of them will give him a better chance of arguing that she shouldn’t serve any jail time.
When Christine’s dad Colin (Neil Morrissey) reappears after years away, Christine’s lawyer Jeremy Hutchinson sees an opportunity to talk about Christine’s childhood and her search for a father figure.
Hutchinson tells the court that Christine became “the plaything of assorted men”.
“This girl has been condemned on all sides,” he says. “Held accountable for the downfall of a great minister. No one seems to have taken into account that Christine Keeler has barely left childhood.
“Any wrong she has done pales into insignificance tallied against the many wrongs committed against her.”
Hutchinson goes on to argue that Stephen corrupted Christine, and was able to do so because of her vulnerability because of the life she lived.
The judge sentences Christine to nine months in jail, and Hutchinson tells her that with good behaviour she’ll be out in six, but Christine seems more upset about the way Hutchinson used Stephen than she is about the jail time.
What’s going on while Christine is in jail?
While Christine scrubs floors and tries to get through her time in prison, on the outside her friends and acquaintances are moving on with their lives.
Profumo tries to find a job at Toynbee Hall in east London, but ends up becoming a volunteer for the charity, scrubbing floors (the irony!) and looking after elderly people.
Mandy releases a single, which she sends to Christine, but Christine promptly throws the record in the bin.
A worse betrayal comes from Christine’s father, who ends up speaking to reporters about his daughter.
What does Christine do after she’s released?
Prison has seen Christine forge a better relationship with her mum, who meets her on release and tells her that she’s got a room for Christine in her house if she wants it.
After the pair eat together, Christine heads to Stephen’s flat, where she sees a for rent sign in the window. She then moves on to a nightclub, where a man offers to buy her a drink. She turns him down, and instead heads to the dance floor, where she finds freedom in dancing by herself.
“Christine Keeler,” she says in a voiceover. “Wherever I go I’ll never be able to escape her. But there is the story I know, and there is me. And they’re not the same. They’ve just got the same name.”
What happened in real life?
Stephen’s descendants applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission to appeal against his conviction, but in 2017 the board rejected the appeal.
Profumo and Valerie never spoke publicly about Christine, and Profumo continued to work as a volunteer at Toynbee Hall for more than 30 years. He was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1975, and died aged 91 in 2006.
Mandy moved to Israel and opened a number of nightclubs before returning to the UK with her third husband.
Christine, who died in 2017, wrote three versions of her autobiography. According to The Trial of Christine Keeler, towards the end of her life she “became reconciled with Jeremy Hutchinson’s account of her as a vulnerable teenager subjected to domestic violence and grooming”, but she never wanted to be seen as a victim.
Images: BBC/Ecosse Films