7 Most Interesting Facts About The Notorious Kray Twins That Ruled East London
Ronald “Ronnie”, and Reginald “Reggie” Kray were identical twin brothers, who were known as the British criminals, the leading perpetrators of London’s East End organized crime during the 1950s and 60s.
The Kray twins are known as some of the most feared and ruthless gangsters in London in the 20th century. The two of them set up a criminal empire that opened the doors for them to the rich, famous, and powerful. Thanks to their ties, they didn’t have to worry about the police. However, many residents of the capital feared them.
Their gang, called the Firm, was involved in numerous illegal activities such as arson, armed robbery, murder, protection rackets, and assaults. Kray brothers ran nightclubs in the West End of London, and some of their guests were politicians, and prominent stars such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Diana Dors.
The brothers eventually became celebrities themselves. However, their 20-year reign ended in 1968, when they were arrested and convicted. Both Reggie and Ronnie were sentenced to life imprisonment. Ronnie was transferred to Broadmoor Hospital in 1979 where he stayed for the next 16 years until he died from a heart attack in 1995. In 2000, Reggie was released from prison because of his health issues. Two months later, he died of bladder cancer.
The two brothers were famous even during their life, but their story was brought up once again in 2015 when the movie “Legend” was released. Starring Tom Hardy as both brothers, the movie once again told the story of the notorious duo who sowed fear and ruled the streets of East London 70 years ago. (1) (2) (3)
While you may heard some rumors about the brothers, there’s still a lot you probably never knew. In this article, we’ll go through some of the most interesting facts about the Kray twins. Buckle up, this is going to be a wild ride!
1. One thing about the twins inspired J.K. Rowling
During the twins’ reign in London, many feared them and refused to call them by their name. In one instance, one of the famed artists, Lucien Freud, decided to cancel a gallery showing because he believed that the brothers would show up to collect the £500,000 Lucien owed them in gambling debts.
J.K. Rowling found these fears fascinating, and this inspired her when she was creating Voldemort’s character. The idea to refer to Voldemort as “You-Know-Who” came from the refusal of many to mention the names of the twins. (4)
2. The twins were competitive boxers as teenagers
Both Reggie and Ronnie were successful boxers during their teenage years. By the time they were old enough to become professional fighters, they had never lost a fight. The problem was that their tempers outside of the ring got them into trouble with the police.
Reggie also had a signature move for those he didn’t like. He would offer someone a cigarette, and use the moment when their guard was dropped to accept a light. Then, he would hit them right in the jaw. (5)
3. The death of Reggie’s first wife remains a mystery
Reggie married Frances Shea in 1965. Frances was a daughter of Frank Shea Sr. who was running a gambling business at the Regency Club in Stoke Newington, which drew the attention of the twins. Frances’s brother was occasionally working as a driver for the brothers and The Firm.
The couple met in 1959 through Frances’s brother, but they didn’t start dating for a couple more years. Frances was a beautiful woman, and many claimed that she was Bridgitte Bardot’s lookalike. The couple got married in 1965 when she was only 22 years old, and Reggie was 31. The wedding drew large crowds to East London, where everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the city’s toughest criminals in one place.
One month after their honeymoon, Frances attempted suicide by taking a large number of barbiturates. However, she survived this attempt and one more. However, in 1967, she finally committed suicide in her brother’s flat.
Before Reggie was arrested, he visited her grave regularly, and sometimes even several times a day. He was once let out of prison to attend the funeral of his brother, Charlie, and was photographed kissing her tombstone.
Many years later, an ex-lover of Reggie Kray came out with some nasty details and alleged that Frances was actually murdered by Ronnie, who was jealous.
Bradley Allardyce, who spent 3 years in Maidstone Prison with Reggie said:
“I was sitting in my cell with Reg and it was one of those nights where we turned the lights down low and put some nice music on and sometimes he would reminisce. He would get really deep and open up to me. He suddenly broke down and said ‘I’m going to tell you something I’ve only ever told two people and something I’ve carried around with me’ – something that had been a black hole since the day he found out. He put his head on my shoulder and told me Ronnie killed Frances. He told Reggie what he had done two days after.”
However, there’s no evidence if this is actually true, and it will probably remain a mystery for good. (6)
4. The brothers loved poetry… and their mother
When you hear a couple of facts about the Kray brothers, it’s easy to think that they were heartless. However, some evidence says otherwise. While it might be difficult to believe, the brothers apparently loved reading and writing poetry. Laurie O’Leary, who wrote Ronnie’s biography claims they did just that and said that he owns many of their unpublished photos and poems. (7)
Besides having a knack for the words, the brothers were devoted to their mother, Violet. In fact, the only two times they were left out of prison was to attend her funeral, and the funeral of their brother, Charles. (8)
5. They were among the last prisoners to be held in the Tower of London
Long before the brothers were locked up for good, they were arrested for something completely irrelevant to their actual crimes. The Kray brothers failed to report for National Service. Here’s what happened.
The twins were supposed to report to the depot the Royal Fusiliers at the Tower of London for their National Service in 1952. The brothers showed up, but changed their minds a couple of minutes later, and attempted to escape. They punched a guard, which resulted in them being arrested, and handed over to the military police.
They were held as prisoners in the Tower of London and were among the last ones to do time there. (9)
6. They were openly homosexual and bisexual
Another interesting fact about the Kray twins is their sexuality. Ronnie Kray was very open and comfortable with his sexuality and was openly homosexual. During his most powerful years, he was having sexual relationships with several high-profile men, including a scandalous liaison with Lord Boothby.
Even though Ronnie was comfortable with being homosexual, his father and brother, Charlie, were reportedly disgusted.
His twin brother, Reggie, apparently also enjoyed the male company and was, in fact, bisexual. Reportedly, Ronnie was the one who revealed that Reggie was bisexual to his brother and father. When Charlie confronted Reggie about this, he didn’t deny, and asked him: “Don’t you think boys are nice, Charlie? I think I could fancy a few myself.”
Reggie publicly denied his bisexuality, but Laurie O’Leary claimed that Reggie enjoyed the company of young male teens during his marriage to Frances Shea. (10)
7. The brothers were photographed by David Bailey
One of the most interesting facts about the Kray twins is that they were celebrities themselves. The fashion photographer, David Bailey, photographed the brothers for a Box of Pin Ups, a collection of poster prints that was published in 197. 65. Besides the brothers, the collection featured stars such as Mick Jagger, The Beatles, and Jean Shrimpton.
In the same year, Bailey famously photographed Reggie and Frances Shea’s wedding, which was dubbed the “The East End wedding of the year”. This was the only wedding Bailey has ever photographed. (11)
The brothers even saw themselves as celebrities, and here’s what Ronnie wrote about the 60s in his autobiography: “They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world… and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable.” (1)
Facts About Kray Twins
When many people hear the names of the Kray twins, their crimes surely pop up in their thought. However, judging by these facts about the Kray brothers, they were, in fact, very interesting characters.
This list only scratches the surface of information you could find out about them. You can go on and explore a lot more about the brothers, and once you do – don’t forget to leave a comment below and let us know. Which one is your favorite fact about the Kray brothers? Which one surprised you the most?
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out some of our other stories. If you liked this one, make sure to read about Al Capone, too!