For your reading pleasure we present you with www.eastendtours.com’s tale of the Krays; Life in short and the differences between them. The East End of London was home to two of the most notorious gangsters modern Britain has produced. Reggie and Ronnie Kray were born in the late half of 1933 and were as close as twins could be growing up. Throughout their youth they were surrounded by the squalid lives that Hoxton (now Shoreditch) harboured, which included drunkenness, immorality, crime and violence. Some said it was this that led to violence being the only answer the Krays knew. However, their mother, Violet, openly accepted everything they did, regardless of morals, consequently disabling their ability to discern right from wrong.
As the years went by and the Krays reign began to spread and word was on the street of their behaviour, their differences began to shine through. At a young age both the twins fell very ill with diphtheria. While Reggie recovered quickly, Ronnie came close to dying. Some said this could be the reason for his social awkwardness and his apparently ‘slower’ demeanour.
When the Kray family moved during WW2, they took up residence in Bethnal Green, Vallance Road. A seedy environment surrounded the twins once again, with gambling dens and brothels occupying much of the street. It was around this time, together with the passing of their aunt Rose that the distinction in the twin’s behaviour became apparent for all to see.
Ronnie was more of a loner than his brother and would prefer to be alone than in company. He was incredibly close with his Aunt, and her passing tipped him over the edge. He would goad his older brother into fights so vicious it appeared they might kill each other.
While both the twins were seemingly immune to violence, it would appear that they took pride in their different methods of inflicting pain and death. Reggie appeared to have a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ style relationship with his wife, Frances Shea, who tragically took her own life at 24. Recent discoveries in her diary depicted Reggie Kray as a drunk and violent man around his wife. She had written an account detailing the endless weapons he would keep beside his bed, including a loaded gun, a sword and a flick knife beneath his pillow. Click here to discover parts of the East End that regular London walking tours do not show you!
While Reggie openly married, Ronnie remained at home with his mother Violet. He was often seen walking around in his underwear while his brother was present. Frances noted this and was aware of her husband’s bisexual nature however, through fear of her safety and ultimately her life; she was silenced.
An interview shortly after Ronnie’s death with his brother showed there was no regret for either of the twin’s actions, and Reggie even followed this by stating that he felt blessed in prison. Many twins comment they have a special bond, and the Krays were no different. Reggie said having seen Ron’s body; he believed his sibling was at rest and in peace.
While the twins should not be viewed as celebrities, their mother made one final show of them that transported them into a ‘legendary’ status. At her funeral, they were permitted to attend while cuffed to wardens. Upon arriving at the procession, the East Enders in attendance applauded them; once their territory, ruled by fear and violence, their return was welcomed for one day.
The Krays, for all they were, offer an interesting tale of gangland reign within our capital’s very own streets. If you wish to view their stomping ground and find out more, get in touch or browse our site for details on The Krays tour.