Two days ago I blogged about Frances Shea and the truth behind the Myth. I spoke about her niece Frances who s story could shatter all the illusions we’ve been given during the past fifty years.
Can you believe in all this time, despite having such a central role in the Krays story – only one book has been released regarding Frances herself ?
The book in question is entitled The Tragic Bride by Jacky Hyams.
Here is my honest opinion on the book and the stories it contains
With the resurgence of interest in The Kray Twins and more specifically Reggies wife Frances, hot on the heels of the movie Legend, comes the reissue of Jackie Hyams book detailing the relationship between Reg and his beautiful wife and her sad, untimely end by suicide.
This being the only book on Frances and therefore having the opportunity to reveal the woman behind the myth, I found myself strangely dissapointed.
Hyams paints a vivid picture of an post war east end childhood , similar to her own , that she believes Frances would have experienced. She rather vocally writes of Frances mothers dreams and aspirations for herself, her children and her family yet is rather bizarrely, for one writing such personal details, is sadly lacking in evidence to support her claims in this respect.
It is worth noting at this point that no members of the Shea family were contacted in research of this book apart from Frances brother, who had sadly passed away at this point and his former wife , who declined to comment on the past. However, they aren’t the only members of the Shea family who could and would provide details in the respect of Frances, what she was exactly like, and what truly happened.
Instead, Hyams relies on some fantastic resources research wise such as diary entries , birth records , school records , Home office notes, personal letters and a number of suicide notes in order to piece together a portrait of Frances.
Some are used successfully , through Frances school records we are told she was very intelligent, her diaries quoting Tennyson – a complete contrast to the gangsters moll portayed in other books, good looking arm candy with little brains.
Records such as birth and the home office ones tell us actual factual evidence of specifics at the time – where the family were living, the fact that Frances mother applied to have either Frances body moved from the infamous Kray Corner or at least Frances headstone changed to Frances Shea not Kray as expressly wished by Frances herself.
All good stuff. However, the rest of the resources she uses to try and prove what feels like an already established belief on her part.
In the introduction alone , she expressly states that through her research she has found out that Reggie was an obsessive, possessive , abuser and Frances was a tragic bride , an abused wife who took her own life in order to escape him.
She uses prison letters written to Frances to collaborate her statement but not fully transcribed and what is given is basically Reggie worrying she isnt taking slimming pills or going dancing with other men whilst he s in prison , showing concern for her well being and praising her for advice previously given. Hyams has taken this and described it as Reggie going insane whilst inside unable to control her rather than the more obvious a man worrying he may lose his girl to another.
Other examples of his control extend to statements from various sources of the Kray s – their cousin , their mothers hairdresser to various gangster associates who all turned against the Krays and gave evidence against them at their trial. But even those are contadictory.
Statements such as “ he wouldn’t allow her to have any friends” are followed in the same breath as “he paid for her and her friends to go to spain on holiday”
Confusing. As well as one minute a source claiming she couldn’t have an opinion on anything until Reggie did to if she liked something, reggie would like it to please her.
But the “evidence” that really is bizarre is that of Kray associate that claims Frances was a virgin bride based on her telling someone he didn’t lay a finger on her on honeymoon. Despite the fact that the source previously states that Frances never really spoke to Reggies men other than hello as it wasnt the done thing.
But for some reason Hyams runs with it , despite it being rather a disrespectful subject. Even using the phrase in Frances diary “ honeymoon sex 3 ” ( again quite a breach) and twisting it to her interpretation as honeymoon sex attempts. Even later when another diary entry detailing some abuses in regards to s (sex?) , she still runs with the Virgin Bride theory.
In fact she looks very closely into Frances lovelife , tracking down a former boyfriend who rather disrepectfully gives some colourful information and a inpatient at a special hospital for people with mental health issues speaks of innocent kisses and cuddles. Again, not really appropriate.
Frances struggle with mental health is brushed aside and not really considered despite interviews with a Psychiatrist on the krays payroll who conviently didnt have records going that far back …and opinions from modern day experts , Hyams didnt acknowledge the effect her medication let alone her illness would have had on her and her actions instead preferring to use sources “evidence” of a nervous shaky girl as being a result of Reggies treatment of her.
Instead of creating a book which gives a full insight into a beautiful woman who suffered a sad end, Frances isnt portrayed as a full person- just fragments of other peoples opinions.
What Hyams had missed is that Frances was a person – a daughter, a sister, an aunt not just the sensational tragic bride.
And that was the Frances I wanted to read about.
I’m not the only one either , over 2.5k members of Frances Kray (shea) group wish to know the real story of Frances , isn’t it time it was told ?!?