“Were they both gay?” was the question put to Jackie Hyams in reference to the Krays.
A long pause ensued. Hesitantly she replied with a simple “yes”.
Ronnie and Reggie Kray were both immensely charismatic, even charming men. They dressed impeccably, a three-piece suit, suave haircuts and private drivers. They modelled themselves on gangsters.
The Krays had quite a following. Even though it has been fifteen since the last twin passed the enigma of the Krays has never really wavered. Books, letters, personal firsthand accounts, anything and everything to do with the Krays have somehow made its way to the auction house.
And yet little is known about Reggie’s first wife, Frances O’ Shea.
Jackie Hymans has recently released her book ‘The Tragic Bride’, a detailed and heart-rending account of Frances Shea, Reggie’s beautiful first wife who killed herself at the tender age of 24.
The marriage ended after 8 weeks, Frances leaving on the grounds that it was ‘never consummated’. Hyams reasoning behind this is due to the fact that both brothers were gay, one openly so and the other not.
“Reggie saw Frances as his rescue into normal life”, she tells her student audience.
But Reggie’s courtship of the beautiful Frances may have been laced with other motives. Hyams tells her audience that before Frances, Reggie made a pass at her brother Frankie O’Shea.
“That guy went after my sister because he couldn’t have me” she quotes directly from her conversation with Frankie O’ Shea.
It certainly is quite a theory, and one that has never really been made public. Although there have been various theories as to whether Reggie was also like his brother ‘omosexual’ (Ronnie’s words), it never has been proven.
Jackie Hyams has certainly done her research when it comes to the mysterious character of Frances O’Shea. She is quick to defend her prodigy, and although Reggie’s first wife committed suicide in 1967 Hyams has certainly developed a relationship with the enigma of Frances.
She tells her audience that she was always sympathetic of Reggie Kray until she learnt of the truth behind why Frances was, and still is currently buried between her nemesis’s, Reggie and Ronnie Kray.
“Even in death they got her”, Hyams says.
After years of neglect and a turbulent alcoholic and violence fuelled relationship with one of Britain’s most notorious gangsters, Frances famously wrote in her suicide letter, “at least I can be buried with my name Frances Shea”.
But Reggie was clever and it seemed that when you made a bond with a Kray there was certainly no release. Despite their separation before her death Reggie took over all the funeral arrangements, including producing order of service booklets in the name of Francis Elsie Kray. He purchased a plot in his family grave. Francis Shea’s mother fought for her to be removed from the showpiece” Kray family plot in Chingford cemetery and rebury her in a different grave under her maiden name.
Her request was denied and henceforth Frances Shea remains buried in the Kray family plot with Reggie and Ronnie at her side.
You can purchase Jackie Hyams book at,http://www.amazon.co.uk/Frances-Kray-The-Tragic-Bride/dp/1784183741
Words: Catherine McMaster
Images: Catherine McMaster and Creative Commons, https://sh.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bra%C4%87a_Kray