The Trial of Christine Keeler: Everything you need to know about the true political scandal series

One of the most famous stories in British politics makes its way to the BBC with James Norton.

By Katie Archer Published: 29 January 2020 - 4.55pm
BBC The Trial of Christine Keeler Sophie Cookson

In these days of political turmoil, a drama about the infamous Profumo affair counts as light relief from endless news about Brexit and elections.

The story of Christine Keeler is one of the most notorious in British political history, and the true events make for a perfect drama series starring Sophie Cookson, James Norton, Ellie Bamber and Emilia Fox.

Here’s all you need to know about The Trial of Christine Keeler and the case it is based on.

When is The Trial of Christine Keeler on TV?

The series is confirmed to be premiering on BBC over the 2019 festive period but so far, no air date has been announced.

It is set to run for six episodes.

Who stars in it?

Look out for some big names in British TV taking part in the period drama.

The lead character of Christine Keeler is played by Sophie Cookson, who has previously starred in the Kingsman: The Secret Service films and in the TV series Gypsy.

James Norton Rex

James Norton (Happy Valley, McMafia, War and Peace) appears opposite her as Stephen Ward, and is joined by Ellie Bamber (Les Miserables, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms) as Mandy Rice-Davies.

Also starring are Ben Miles (The Crown, The Last Post) as John Profumo, Emilia Fox (Silent Witness) as Valerie Profumo, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (Angels in America) as Johnny Edgecombe, and Anthony Welsh (Journeyman) as Aloysius “Lucky” Gordon.

What was the Profumo affair?

The Trial of Christine Keeler, penned by Apple Tree Yard screenwriter Amanda Coe, is based on the true events of the 1960s that prompted the downfall of a government.

In 1961, Christine Keeler was a 19-year-old model and topless dancer who met well-connected osteopath and artist Stephen Ward while working at a club in Soho.

Christine Keeler with her lawyer Rex

He put her in touch with some of his most famous contacts, including married Secretary of State for War John Profumo who she had an affair with.

But Ward also introduced Keeler to Soviet naval attache Captain Yevgeny Ivanov who became another of her lovers, something that could potentially cause a huge security breach as this was at the time of the Cold War – and thought to be at the same time she was linked with Profumo.

The British politician made a statement in the House of Commons in 1963 denying any wrongdoing and was even backed by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, but when he admitted the truth and went back on his statement a few weeks later, it kicked off one of the biggest political scandals in British history.

Not only did Profumo have to resign as an MP, it also prompted Macmillan’s resignation and the Conservatives then lost the 1964 general election.

As for Ward, he was convicted of vice charges relating to Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies, but killed himself before he could be sentenced.

The series is a timely look at the sexual exploitation of women in political scandals, especially as Keeler’s life was scrutinised by the media, in court, and in Westminster.

Cookson said of her role: “I'm 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.”

The Trial of Christine Keeler is coming soon to BBC One.