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The Wedding Day: Reggie and Frances Kray

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Photo: Daily Mail/REX Shutterstock
WHEN: 19th April 1965.

WHERE: St James’ Church, Bethnal Green

WHAT HAPPENED: It was a cold, damp drizzly day when Reggie Kray, the gangster who terrorised London as one half of the infamous Kray twins, married his twenty year old girlfriend Frances Shea. Frances had been courted by Reggie since she was a schoolgirl and was fast seduced by his world of high rolling, nightclub glamour and abundance of celebrity friends. Described as “The East End wedding of the year”, the nuptials, despite the weather, drew large crowds, all eager to catch a glimpse of the capital’s toughest criminal and his Bardot-esque bride.

THE DRESS: Pretty, petite and doe-eyed, local girl Frances was the picture of '60s perfection, wearing a demure ivory satin and guipure lace gown with a short veil and perfectly coiffed beehive.

THE GUESTS: David Bailey was the official photographer (the only wedding he has ever worked at) and celebrity guests, including actress Diana Dors, arrived at the church in Rolls Royces. Twin brother Ronnie was best man, natch, and to help with the media frenzy, the place was surrounded by steely looking men called ‘Big Pat’ and ‘The Dodger’. During the ceremony, some lacklustre hymn singing from guests was dealt with swiftly by minders venturing down the aisles and whispering firmly: “Reggie wants you to sing.” Frances’ mother Elsie, who was fiercely opposed to the match, wore black to the ceremony in protest.

THE PARTY: A lavish reception followed at a Finsbury Park hotel where a snap of a petite Frances squished between the towering Reggie and Ronnie became one of the most iconic photos of the age.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER? Despite the glitz, the marriage soon floundered under the weight of the Krays’ criminal activities and just months after the wedding, Frances left the man who she confessed slept with a flick knife under his pillow. Struggling with depression, Frances tragically took her own life in 1967, aged just twenty three. Reggie demanded she be buried wearing her wedding dress in the Kray family plot. He died from cancer in 2000 after spending over three decades in prison for murder. The doomed marriage was recently the subject of the 2015 film Legend starring Tom Hardy and Emily Browning.
Photo: Express Newspapers/Getty
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