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The Trial of Christine Keeler: everything you need to know about the BBC’s retelling of the Profumo affair

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Lauren Geall
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The Trial Of Christine Keeler: Sophie Cookson in the BBC's latest drama about the Profumo Affair of 1963.

The latest BBC drama The Trial Of Christine Keeler will take us “behind the headlines” of the 1963 Profumo affair, one of Britain’s most infamous news stories. 

The BBC is turning to a notorious true story for the next in its long list of fantastic dramas.

The Trial Of Christine Keeler, starring Sophie Cookson in the titular role, will explore the fallout from the Profumo affair, the scandal which rocked 1960s Britain – and it’s coming this Christmas.

Also featuring the likes of James Norton, Emilia Fox and Ben Miles, the drama promises to take “a fresh look at one of the most infamous British stories,” giving us new insight into the chain of events which came to be known as the Profumo affair.

According to the BBC, The Trial of Christine Keeler will take us “behind the headlines to tell a human story about the sexual and cultural politics of one of the most revealing and iconic stories of modern times”.

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Here is everything we know so far about The Trial of Christine Keeler.

What is The Trial Of Christine Keeler about?

The Trial Of Christine Keeler: Christine Keeler in London during the height of the Profumo scandal in March 1963.
The Trial Of Christine Keeler: Christine Keeler in London during the height of the Profumo scandal in March 1963.

The Trial Of Christine Keeler is based on the story behind the Profumo affair of 1963, a scandal involving Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old model, and the then secretary of state for war, John Profumo.

The six-part drama will follow Keeler, who at the time was working as a topless showgirl at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho. There, she met the English osteopath and artist Stephen Ward, who later introduced her to the then secretary of state for war John Profumo. Although Profumo was married to Valerie Jobson, he and Keeler began a brief sexual relationship.

However, there was one detail which stayed underwraps until the scandal came out later: Ward had also introduced Keeler to Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, and there were rumours that Keeler had simultaneously been involved with both Ivanov and Profumo. When reports releasing this information came out, the public had one central fear: had any secure information been passed on to the country’s Cold War rival? 

The Trial Of Christine Keeler: Keeler arriving at court in July 1963.
The Trial Of Christine Keeler: Keeler arriving at court in July 1963.

While initially Profumo denied any wrongdoing in the case (with the backing of the then prime minister Harold Macmillan), a few weeks later he admitted the truth of his affair and resigned as an MP. The fallout was massive: Macmillan resigned as PM and the Conservative government lost its majority in the general election of 1964.

The impact on Keeler’s life was, unsurprisingly, huge; she was subject to harsh and intense scrutiny as the Profumo affair was revealed. And while the powerful, patriarchal establishment sought to silence Keeler, she refused to play by its rules. 

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Sophie Cookson, who is playing Keeler, said: “I am delighted to be playing Christine Keeler in this new drama. Amanda Coe has written an illuminating script about a vivid, complex woman who has previously, it seems, been reduced and misunderstood. Now feels like the perfect time to reconsider her life, and redress the balance.”

Who stars in The Trial Of Christine Keeler?

Sophie Cookson will play Christine Keeler in The Trial Of Christine Keeler
The Trial Of Christine Keeler: Sophie Cookson will star in the titular role.

Sophie Cookson will star as Christine Keeler in the six-part drama. The actor has previously been seen in the 2014 film Kingsman: The Secret Service and the 2017 sequel, The Golden Circle. Her most recent TV appearance was in the Netflix original Gypsy, in which Cookson played one of the main roles, Sidney Pierce.

Alongside Cookson, James Norton of Grantchester fame will play Stephen Ward, while Ben Miles will play John Profumo. Emilia Fox will also appear as Valerie Profumo, with Ellie Bamber joining the cast as Keeler’s close friend and fellow showgirl Mandy Rice-Davies.

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Who is behind The Trial Of Christine Keeler?

The script for The Trial Of Christine Keeler is being written by BAFTA award-winning novelist and screenwriter Amanda Coe. Coe’s recent work includes her adaptation of Louise Doughty’s best-selling novel Apple Tree Yard for BBC One.

The six-part series will be directed by Andrea Harkin.

Is there a trailer for The Trial Of Christine Keeler?

Not yet, but we’ll make sure to update this story as soon as one is released.

When will The Trial Of Christine Keeler be released?

The first episode of The Trial Of Christine Keeler will be released on 29 December at 9pm on BBC One, so add the date to your diary to make sure it doesn’t get lost among all the Christmas specials.

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Images: BBC/Getty

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Lauren Geall

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