5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Kray Twins

They were the most (in)famous mobsters ever to stalk the streets of London, but here are a few things you might not know about Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

Ronnie Kray and the Pervert Peer


The Kray twins were among the last people ever to be locked up at the Tower of London. This wasn't because of their mobster antics, though. In fact, their stay in the Tower took place long before they began their reign of fear, back when Ronnie and Reggie were just a couple of young, erratic hoodlums. It was all to do with their National Service, when the twins were ordered to join the Royal Fusiliers. Unsurprisingly, the lads didn't take kindly to being told what to do.

According to a well-known story, one of the Krays literally punched out a corporal who dared give him an order. This began a near-farcical pattern of misbehaviour in the army, with the Krays being frequently punished for brazenly disobeying commands and going AWOL. It's for this reason they were banged for a few days in the Tower of London - not because of any particular notoriety, but simply because the Fusiliers happened to be based there at the time.


It's well known the Krays were fixtures on London's celebrity scene, hobnobbing with the likes of Judy Garland and Barbara Windsor, and getting their photos taken by David Bailey. But things escalated a little too far with one of their famous pals: renowned painter Lucien Freud. The artist was no shrinking violet himself - according to eyewitness reports, furious Freud had a penchant for attacking people both verbally and with his fists. He also had a weakness for gambling, relishing the danger aspect of playing with big amounts of money.

This led to Freud getting into debt with the Krays. According to a story by Lord Rothschild, Freud once told him that "if I don't give them £1,000, they'll cut my hand off". Indeed, Freud reportedly rang up a debt of £500,000 to the Krays, forcing him to cancel one exhibition of paintings for fear the Krays would come knocking to confiscate his earnings.


As well as mixing with film stars and artists, Ronnie Kray had an unlikely friendship with Lord Boothby, a Conservative politician who was as much a part of the genteel British establishment as Ronnie was a part of the murky underworld. At the time he struck up his bizarre friendship with Kray, Robert Boothby had an illustrious career spanning decades - he'd even served as a close advisor to Winston Churchill.

Yet Boothby was also an unashamedly decadent playboy, openly bisexual in a time when such a thing could get you banged up. As well as being fond of reckless affairs with other men's wives (including the spouse of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan), Boothby had an apparent fondness for much younger men, which may have been why he and Ronnie Kray would reportedly go to certain secret parties together. It got so worrying for the establishment that MI5 monitored Boothby and Kray, with one agent reporting that "Boothby is a kinky fellow and likes to meet odd people" - such as Ronnie Kray.


Being put away for murder certainly didn't curb Ronnie and Reggie's entrepreneurial zeal. While cooped up, they set up and ran a business called "Krayleigh Enterprises", which supplied bodyguards and protection services to some very famous people. According to a business card confiscated at Broadmoor hospital, where Ronnie was being held, their company provided "Personal aides to the Hollywood stars and Arab Noblemen".

It seemed to work - one client was Frank Sinatra, who hired an entourage of Krayleigh bodyguards when he attended Wimbledon in 1985. Some of the Krays' other business ideas - such as manufacturing a gadget to slice the tops of boiled eggs - weren't quite so successful.


The twins may have hogged the limelight, but there was a third Kray who's often forgotten. He was Charlie Kray, the older sibling, and there's still a bit of controversy about just how embroiled he was in the twins' dirty deeds. Charlie himself claimed he was little more than a hanger-on, a "human punchbag" for Ronnie and Reggie. But others weren't having it, with one detective declaring Charlie to be "well and truly part of the Firm".

A jury clearly agreed. Convicted of helping the twins dispose of the body of a murdered mobster, Charlie was sent to prison for a long stretch. After his release, he tried to go straight by cashing in on the family name - he earnt a good deal of money as a "consultant" on The Krays movie starring Gary and Martin Kemp. But old habits couldn't be shaken off, and at the age of 70 he was imprisoned again - this time for his part in a massive cocaine smuggling plot. Charlie Kray, the "quiet" brother, would die a few years later while still serving his sentence.