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Anthony Blunt, the third and youngest son of the Revd Stanley Vaughan Blunt (1870–1929) and his wife, Hilda Master (1880–1969), was born at Holy Trinity vicarage, Bournemouth, Hampshire, on 26th September 1907. As a child he spent time in Paris, where his father was the British embassy chaplain.
Blunt was educated at Marlborough School where he developed a strong interest in art. According to his biographer, Michael Kitson: "Blunt was part of a group of rebellious young aesthetes), he was producing precociously fluent defences of modern art, much to the infuriation of the deeply conservative art teacher - an early indication of his academic talent and his instinctive contrariness." (1)
Blunt's best friend, Louis MacNeice, claimed that he suffered a great deal from bullying because he was an individualist and non-conformer: "Boys of that age are especially sadistic... They would seize him, tear off most of his clothes and cover him with house paint, then put him in the basket and push him round and round the hall... Government of the mob, by the mob, and for the mob... a perfect exhibition of mass sadism." (2)
In 1926 Blunt won a scholarship to Trinity College. He arrived at Cambridge University during the General Strike. Like many students he felt sympathy for the miners. Maurice Dobb was a major influence on Blunt. A lecturer in economics, he had joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1922, and was open with his students about his communist beliefs. Dobb's friend, Eric Hobsbawm, has pointed out: "He (Dobb) joined the small band of Cambridge socialists as soon as he went up and... the Communist Party. Neither body was then used to such notably well-dressed recruits of such impeccably bourgeois comportment. He remained quietly loyal to his cause and party for the remainder of his life, pursuing a course, at times rather lonely, as a communist academic." (3) Blunt admitted that "Cambridge had literally been transformed overnight by the wave of Marxism... the undergraduates and graduate students were swept away by Marxism" and that "during the next three of four years almost every intelligent undergraduate who came up to Cambridge joined the Communist party some time during his first year." (4)
Blunt later claimed the two most important Marxists he came into contact with at university were John Cornford and James Klugmann. Blunt described Klugmann as "an extremely good political theorist" who "ran the administration of the Party with great skill and energy and it was primarily he who decided what organizations and societies in Cambridge were worth penetrating." (5) John Costello has argued that this suggests that Blunt was already a member of the communist underground cell: "How did Blunt know this if he was not deeply implicated in the cell? Blunt's statement reveals a familiarity with the inside workings of the Cambridge Communist party that is significant. To know how decisions were taken about penetration suggests that he and Klugmann must have been on very close terms." (6)
Blunt also joined the Cambridge Apostles. Other members over the years had included Guy Burgess, Michael Straight, Alister Watson, Julian Bell, Leo Long and Peter Ashby. It has been pointed out by Michael Kitson that the values of the group included the cult of the intellect for its own sake, belief in freedom of thought and expression irrespective of the conclusions to which this freedom might lead, and the denial of all moral restraints other than loyalty to friends. "An influential minority of the society's members were, moreover, like Blunt himself, homosexual at a time when homosexual acts were still illegal in Britain." (7)
According to John Costello, the author of Mask of Treachery (1988), Blunt became very close to Guy Burgess: "Blunt was intensely fond of Burgess, and his personal loyalty never wavered... Burgess and Blunt did not share a lifelong sexual passion for each other, according to other bedmates... Such evidence as there is confirms that their intimacy quickly outgrew the bedroom. This was in keeping with the character of Burgess and his insatiable sexual appetite... Burgess had a peculiar talent for transforming his former lovers into close friends. To many of them, including Blunt, he became both father confessor and pimp who could be relied on to procure partners. Burgess devoured sex as he did alcohol - an over-indulgence that suggests he was drowning a deep sense of sexual inadequacy." (8)
Anthony Blunt impressed his fellow students by his intellectual abilities. Victor Rothschild commented: "Like many others I was impressed by his outstanding intellectual abilities, both artistic and mathematical, and by what for want of a better word, I must call his high moral or ethical principles." (9) In 1932 he was elected a fellow of Trinity College on the strength of a dissertation on artistic theory in Italy and France during the Renaissance and seventeenth century. Blunt also wrote on art for the Cambridge Review.
In 1933 he became the art critic of The Spectator. He caused great controversy when he took a Marxist approach to criticise the annual summer show at the Royal Academy: "I found almost as little skill as soul". He showed contempt for modern painters who portrayed "the pleasures of contemporary bourgeois life in a technique which aims, I imagine, principally at a tone of simple badinage." He condemned the institution of only "satisfying the demands of a particular class." (10)
In January 1934 Arnold Deutsch, one of NKVD's agents, was sent to London. As a cover for his spying activities he did post-graduate work at London University. In May he made contact with Litzi Friedmann and Edith Tudor Hart. They discussed the recruitment of Soviet spies. Litzi suggested her husband, Kim Philby. "According to her report on Philby's file, through her own contacts with the Austrian underground Tudor Hart ran a swift check and, when this proved positive, Deutsch immediately recommended... that he pre-empt the standard operating procedure by authorizing a preliminary personal sounding out of Philby." (11)
Kim Philby later recalled that in June 1934. "Lizzy came home one evening and told me that she had arranged for me to meet a 'man of decisive importance'. I questioned her about it but she would give me no details. The rendezvous took place in Regents Park. The man described himself as Otto. I discovered much later from a photograph in MI5 files that the name he went by was Arnold Deutsch. I think that he was of Czech origin; about 5ft 7in, stout, with blue eyes and light curly hair. Though a convinced Communist, he had a strong humanistic streak. He hated London, adored Paris, and spoke of it with deeply loving affection. He was a man of considerable cultural background." (12)
Deutsch asked Philby if he was willing to spy for the Soviet Union: "Otto spoke at great length, arguing that a person with my family background and possibilities could do far more for Communism than the run-of-the-mill Party member or sympathiser... I accepted. His first instructions were that both Lizzy and I should break off as quickly as possible all personal contact with our Communist friends." It is claimed by Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) that Philby became the first of "the ablest group of British agents ever recruited by a foreign intelligence service." (13)
Arnold Deutsch asked Kim Philby to make a list of potential recruits. The first person he approached was his friend, Donald Maclean, who had been a fellow member of the Cambridge University Socialist Society (CUSS) and now working in the Foreign Office. Philby invited him to dinner, and hinted that there was important clandestine work to be done on behalf of the Soviet Union. He told him that "the people I could introduce you to are very serious." Maclean agreed to met Deutsch. He was told to carry a book with a bright yellow cover into a particular café at a certain time. Deutsch was impressed with Maclean who he described as being "very serious and aloof" with "good connections". Maclean was given the codename "Orphan". (14) Maclean was also ordered to give up his communist friends.
In May 1934 Philby arranged for Deutsch to meet Guy Burgess. At first Deutsch rejected Burgess as a potential spy. He reported to headquarters that Burgess was "very smart... but a bit superficial and could let slip in some circumstances." Burgess began to suspect that his friend Maclean was working for the Soviets. He told Maclean: "Do you think that I believe for even one jot that you have stopped being a communist? You're simply up to something." (15) When Maclean told Deutsch about the conversation, he reluctantly signed him up. Burgess went around telling anyone who would listen that he had swapped Karl Marx for Benito Mussolini and was now a devotee of Italian fascism. (16) Burgess along with Philby joined the also joined the Anglo-German Fellowship, a pro-fascist society formed in 1935 to foster closer understanding with Adolf Hitler.
Guy Burgess now suggested the recruitment of one of his friends, Anthony Blunt. Later, he claimed that he could not remember the date when he became a Soviet spy. John Costello, the author of Mask of Treachery (1988), has carried out a special study of the subject: "Since the consensus of American intelligence opinion is that the actual closing would have taken place outside England, it is likely to have occurred in the spring of 1934, when Blunt was traveling through France and Austria en route to Italy." (17)
Other friends, John Cairncross and Michael Straight were also recruited during this period. Arnold Deutsch handled recruitment but much of the day-to-day management of the spies were carried out by another agent, Theodore Maly. Born in Timişoara, Romania, he studied theology and became a priest but on the outbreak of the First World War he joined the Austro-Hungarian Army. He told Elsa Poretsky, the wife of Ignaz Reiss: "During the war I was a chaplain, I had just been ordained as a priest. I was taken prisoner in the Carpathians. I saw all the horrors, young men with frozen limbs dying in the trenches. I was moved from one camp to another and starved along with other prisoners. We were all covered with vermin and many were dying of typhus. I lost my faith in God and when the revolution broke out I joined the Bolsheviks. I broke with my past completely. I was no longer a Hungarian, a priest, a Christian, even anyone's son. I became a Communist and have always remained one." (18)
As Ben Macintyre, the author of A Spy Among Friends (2014), has pointed out: "For a spy, Maly was conspicuous, standing six feet four inches tall, with a shiny grey complexion", and gold fillings in his front teeth. But he was a most subtle controller, who shared Deutsch's admiration for Philby." (19) Maly described Philby as "an inspirational figure, a true comrade and idealist." (20) According to Deutsch: "Both of them (Philby and Maly) were intelligent and experienced professionals, as well as genuinely very good people." (21)
Christopher Andrew has argued in his book, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009): "KGB files credit Deutsch with the recruitment of twenty agents during his time in Britain. The most successful, however, were the Cambridge Five: Philby, Maclean, Burgess, Blunt and Cairncross.... All were committed ideological spies inspired by the myth-image of Stalin's Russia as a worker-peasant state with social justice for all rather than by the reality of a brutal dictatorship with the largest peacetime gulag in European history. Deutsch shared the same visionary faith as his Cambridge recruits in the future of a human race freed from the exploitation and alienation of the capitalist system. His message of liberation had all the greater appeal for the Five because it had a sexual as well as a political dimension. All were rebels against the strict sexual mores as well as the antiquated class system of inter war Britain. Burgess and Blunt were gay and Maclean bisexual at a time when homosexual relations, even between consenting adults, were illegal. Cairncross, like Philby a committed heterosexual, later wrote a history of polygamy." (22)
On the outbreak of the Second World War Blunt joined the British Army. In 1939 he was sent to France where he served with the Army Intelligence Corps. When the German Army invaded in May 1940 he returned to England. Soon afterwards he was recruited by MI5. Blunt was placed in charge of the section that dealt with examining the communications of foreign embassies. This enabled him to pass valuable information to the Soviet Union. He later became the personal assistant to Guy Liddell, Deputy Director-General of MI5.
In early 1941 managed to help Tomás Harris, possibly another Soviet spy, to join MI5. (23) Later that year Harris established a social group of younger Secret and Security Service officers in both intelligence and special intelligence that met at his home at 6 Chesterfield Gardens. Other members included Blunt, Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Victor Rothschild, Guy Liddell,Richard Brooman-White, Tim Milne and Peter Wilson. "They were known among themselves simply as the Group, and they met in a magnificent house at 6 Chesterfield Gardens, the home of one Tomas Harris... Tomas had inherited much of his father's artistic talent, as he had inherited the house and his father's fortune." (24)
Philby later explained he was a regular visitor to 6 Chesterfield Gardens and asked his friend if he could get him a job with British intelligence: "It was now more than ever necessary for me to get away from the rhododendrons of Beaulieu. I had to find a better hole with all speed. A promising chance soon presented itself. During my occasional visits to London, I had made a point of calling at Tomás Harris's house in Chesterfield Gardens, where he lived surrounded by his art treasures in an atmosphere of haute cuisine and grand vin. He maintained that no really good table could be spoiled by wine-stains. I have already explained that Harris had joined M15 after the break-up of the training-school at Brickendonbury." (25)
In 1944 Blunt was responsible for liaison between MI5 and Allied Supreme Headquarters concerning the invasion of Europe. Blunt became involved in what became known as the Double-Cross System. Created by John Masterman, it attempted to "influence enemy plans by the answers sent to the enemy (by the double agents)" and to "deceive the enemy about our plans and intentions". (26) Blunt also played a part in the deception plans for the D-Day landings. The key aims of the deception were: "(a) To induce the German Command to believe that the main assault and follow up will be in or east of the Pas de Calais area, thereby encouraging the enemy to maintain or increase the strength of his air and ground forces and his fortifications there at the expense of other areas, particularly of the Caen area in Normandy. (b) To keep the enemy in doubt as to the date and time of the actual assault. (c) During and after the main assault, to contain the largest possible German land and air forces in or east of the Pas de Calais for at least fourteen days." (27)
John Costello, the author of Mask of Treachery (1988) has explained that Blunt worked with Tomás Harris and Juan Pujol García (Garbo) in this operation: "To reinforce this deception, Blunt and Harris had Garbo invent a subsidiary agent who supposedly operated in the Dover area. This agent was a disaffected Welsh nationalist seaman, code-named Donny. He provided a steady stream of sightings of American and Canadian troops assembling in the vicinity of England's principal channel port. His reports continued even after Allied troops had landed on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. This contributed to the German High Command's decision to recall divisions already on their way south, in anticipation of a second and bigger operation taking place in the Pas de Calais." (28)
At the end of the war Anthony Blunt went on a secret mission for the Royal family. According to Hugh Trevor-Roper, Blunt had been sent to retrieve documents that were believed to be in the hands of the royal family's many German relations. It was feared that the contents of these letters would be published in American newspapers. Blunt told Trevor-Roper that his mission had been successful and gave him some of the details of what was in the letters. It was clear that Blunt had made himself familiar with the contents of these papers. (29)
It has been claimed that these documents included letters from the Duke of Windsor to Adolf Hitler. It has even been suggested that there was evidence in these documents that Windsor might have provided information about Britain's war plans: "This plan required the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to advance northward in the event of a German invasion of Belgium... The Ardennes was precisely the sector where General Guderian's XIX Panzer Group burst through on May 10, when Hitler unleashed his offensive in the West. This fact raises the possibility of a connection between the Duke of Windsor's activities at Allied GCHQ and the German decision of February 1940 to scrap their original attack plan in favor of a bold drive through the Ardennes to the Belgian coast so as to cut off the British forces." (30)
These documents also showed that Windsor was close to breaking with his brother, King George VI, and moving to Nazi Germany. However, according to a telegram from Eberhard von Stohrer to Berlin, Windsor changed his mind the British media would "let loose upon himself the propaganda of his British enemies which would rob him of all prestige for the moment of possible intervention". (31) Donald Cameron Watt, who has examined the Duke of Windsor section of the German Foreign Ministry files and says that important documents that refer to the Windsors' meeting with Hitler at Berchtesgaden are missing. (32)
A few months later Blunt retired from MI5 to become Surveyor of the King's Pictures. This seemed to be a strange decision as it now meant that he could no longer be much use to his Soviet masters. Blunt later argued that "from 1945 I ceased to pass information to the Russians". The reason he gave was that he began to doubt that the Soviet regime "was following the true principles of Marxism." (33) John Costello has argued that the Soviets would only have sanctioned Blunt's move from MI5 only if two conditions were satisfied: "(i) Moscow already had in MI5 another agent - or agents - of equivalent seniority and access. (ii) Blunt convinced Moscow that he would continue providing high-level intelligence about the British government."
Costello goes on to suggest that the KGB gave permission for Blunt to work for the royal family because it was in their interest to do so. "Once Blunt gained knowledge of the explosive royal secret, it became his gold-plated insurance policy. Even if his espionage was uncovered, Blunt would argue, his crime paled before the enormity of Windsor's wartime activities. And given the lengths to which the British government was willing to go to cover up these activities, Blunt would have been able to make a convincing case that he had a cast-iron guarantee against ever being publicly exposed. The Kremlin must also have appreciated that, in the Palace, Blunt could also provide a safety net for the other Cambridge agents. No one Blunt had recruited could ever be brought to public trial in Britain without implicating Blunt. Again, to expose Blunt would threaten the Windsor secret." (34)
He continued to be a member of the spy ring led by Kim Philby and in May 1951 helped Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean to defect to the Soviet Union. The KGB feared that this would lead to the arrests of other members of the network. Blunt was ordered to go through Burgess's flat, searching for and destroying incriminating documents. He failed, however, to notice a series of unsigned notes describing confidential discussions in Whitehall in 1939. During this investigation, MI5, they interviewed Sir John Colville, one of those mentioned in the notes. He was able to identify the author as John Cairncross. (35)
MI5 began surveillance of Cairncross and followed him to a meeting with Yuri Modin. Just in time, Modin noticed the surveillance and returned home without meeting Cairncross. (36) Anthony Simkins was in charge of the operation and when he read the report that said Cairncross lit a cigarette, he exclaimed, "He's a non-smoker! He was smoking to warn his Soviet contact." Modin later told Cairncross how to handle the inevitable interrogation. "I told him to admit his Communist sympathies and an innocent friendship with Burgess and deny any link with espionage." (37)
Cairncross was eventually interviewed by Arthur Martin and Jim Skardon, two senior MI5 officers. Cairncross denied being a spy but admitted to supplying information to Burgess. It was agreed that he should resign his post in the Treasury. (38) Modin paid Cairncross "a large sum of money" and was encouraged to live abroad. Modin later recalled: "I liked Cairncross best of all our London agents. He wasn't an easy man to deal with, but he was a profoundly decent one"
Blunt, who had been seen in the company of Burgess and Maclean just before they disappeared. He was interviewed by MI5. Blunt admitted that his friendship with Burgess and Maclean meant he "was going to be a prime suspect". Moscow suggested he should "go to Russia". (39) However, he refused, convinced that his "royal insurance policy" would protect him.
Blunt was interviewed eleven times by Arthur Martin and Jim Skardon but was eventually cleared of any involvement in their spying activities. When George VI died in 1953 Queen Elizabeth II asked Blunt to become Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures. He was also the author of several books including Art and Architecture in France, 1500–1700 (1953), Nicolas Poussin (1967), Sicilian Baroque (1968), Picasso's Guernica (1969) and Neapolitan Baroque and Rococo Architecture (1975).
Ever since Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Moscow, Kim Philby was suspected of being a Soviet agent. An old friend of Philby's, Flora Solomon, disapproved of what she considered were Philby's pro-Arab articles in The Observer. It has been argued that "her love for Israel proved greater than her old socialist loyalties." (40) In August 1962, during a reception at the Weizmann Institute, she told Victor Rothschild, who had worked with MI6 during the Second World War and enjoyed close connections with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service: "How is it that The Observer uses a man like Kim? Don't the know he's a Communist?" She then went on to tell Rothschild that she suspected that Philby and his friend, Tomas Harris, had been Soviet agents since the 1930s. "Those two were so close as to give me an intuitive feeling that Harris was more than a friend."
It was expected that Arthur Martin would be sent out to interview Kim Philby in Beirut at the beginning of 1963. However, it was decided to send Philby's friend and former SIS colleague Nicholas Elliott instead. According to Philby's later version of events given to the KGB after he escaped to Moscow, Elliott told him: "You stopped working for them (the Russians) in 1949, I'm absolutely certain of that... I can understand people who worked for the Soviet Union, say before or during the war. But by 1949 a man of your intellect and your spirit had to see that all the rumours about Stalin's monstrous behaviour were not rumours, they were the truth... You decided to break with the USSR... Therefore I can give you my word and that of Dick White that you will get full immunity, you will be pardoned, but only if you tell it yourself. We need your collaboration, your help." (41)
Roger Hollis wrote to J. Edgar Hoover on 18th January 1963, about Elliott's discussions with Kim Philby: "In our judgment Philby's statement of the association with the RIS is substantially true. It accords with all the available evidence in our possession and we have no evidence pointing to a continuation of his activities on behalf of the RIS after 1946, save in the isolated instance of Maclean. If this is so, it follows that damage to United States interests will have been confined to the period of the Second World War." (42) This statement was undermined by the decision of Philby to flee to the Soviet Union a week later.
It later emerged that Philby met Yuri Modin in Beirut just before he defected. Modin had been the KGB controller for Blunt, Philby, Burgess and Maclean. Modin later wrote: "To my mind the whole business was politically engineered. The British government had nothing to gain by prosecuting Philby. A major trial, to the inevitable accompaniment of spectacular revelation and scandal, would have shaken the British establishment to its foundations... the secret service had actively encouraged him to slip away... spiriting Philby out of Lebanon was child's play." (43)
Anthony Blunt was also in the Lebanon when Philby defected. He stayed with his old friend, Moore Crosthwaite, the British ambassador in Beirut. "The possibility therefore exists that Modin met Blunt to tell him of the immunity deal offered to Philby. Blunt would have returned to London fortified by the knowledge that with Philby in Moscow, if MI5 ever obtained hard evidence against him, it would offer him the same secret immunity deal. The thought would have reassured him. He would never need to flee to Moscow or spend the rest of his life in prison." (44)
On 4th June 1963, Michael Straight was offered the post of the chairmanship of the Advisory Council on the Arts by President John F. Kennedy. Aware that he would be vetted - and his background investigated - he approached Arthur Schlesinger, one of Kennedy's advisers, and told him that Anthony Blunt had recruited him as a spy while an undergraduate at Trinity College. Schlesinger suggested that he told his story to the FBI. He spent the next couple of days being interviewed by William Sullivan. (45)
Straight's information was passed on to MI5 and Arthur Martin, the intelligence agency's principal molehunter, went to America to interview him. Michael Straight confirmed the story, and agreed to testify in a British court if necessary. Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) has argued that Straight's information was "the decisive breakthrough in MI5's investigation of Anthony Blunt". (46)
Peter Wright, who took part in the meetings about Anthony Blunt, argues in his book, Spycatcher (1987) that Roger Hollis decided to give Blunt immunity from prosecution because of his hostility towards the Labour Party and the damage it would do to the Conservative Party: "Hollis and many of his senior staff were acutely aware of the damage any public revelation of Blunt's activities might do themselves, to MI5, and to the incumbent Conservative Government. Harold Macmillan had finally resigned after a succession of security scandals, culminating in the Profumo affair. Hollis made little secret of his hostility to the Labour Party, then riding high in public opinion, and realized only too well that a scandal on the scale that would be provoked by Blunt's prosecution would surely bring the tottering Government down." (47)
Anthony Blunt was interviewed by Arthur Martin at the Courtauld Institute on 23rd April 1964. Martin later wrote that when he mentioned Straight's name he "noticed that by this time Blunt's right cheek was twitching a good deal". Martin offered Blunt "an absolute assurance that no action would be taken against him if he now told the truth". Martin recalled: "He went out of the room, got himself a drink, came back and stood at the tall window looking out on Portman Square. I gave him several minutes of silence and then appealed to him to get it off his chest. He came back to his chair and confessed." He admitted being a Soviet agent and named twelve other associates as spies including Michael Straight, John Cairncross, Bernard Floud, Jenifer Hart, Phoebe Pool, Leo Long and Peter Ashby. (48) They were also given immunity from prosecution.
Arthur Martin was disappointed about the way Roger Hollis and the British government had decided not to put Anthony Blunt on trial. Martin once again began to argue that there was still a Soviet spy working at the centre of MI5 and that pressure should be put on Blunt to make a full confession. Hollis thought Martin's suggestion was highly damaging to the organization and ordered Martin to be suspended from duty for a fortnight. Martin offered to carry on with the questioning of Blunt from his home, but Hollis forbade it. As a result, Blunt was left alone for two weeks, and nobody knows what he did... Soon afterward, Hollis picked another quarrel with Martin, and though he was very senior, summarily sacked him. Martin believes that Hollis sacked him because he feared him, but his action did Hollis little good, whatever his motive." (49)
Peter Wright now took over the questioning of Blunt. He later recalled: "although Blunt under pressure expanded his information, it always pointed at those who were either dead, long since retired, or else comfortably out of secret access and danger". Wright asked him about Alister Watson, who he was convinced was a spy. Watson was still engaged in secret scientific work for the Admiralty. Blunt told Wright he could never be a Whittaker Chambers. "It's so McCarthyite, naming names, informing witch-hunts." Wright told him that his acceptance of the immunity deal obligated him to play the role of Chambers. (50)
Wright arranged a joint meeting with Blunt. Wright tried to persuade Blunt to name Watson as a spy. He refused to do that, but when Wright suggested that he would be given immunity if he confessed, Watson turned to Blunt and said: "You've been such a success, Anthony, and yet it was I who was the great hope at Cambridge. Cambridge was my whole life, but I had to go into secret work, and now it has ruined my life."
Wright claims in his book, Spycatcher (1987): "No one who listened to the interrogation or studied the transcripts was in any doubt that Watson had been a spy, probably since 1938. Given his access to antisubmarine-detection research, he was, in my view, in particular, clinched the case. Watson told a long story about Kondrashev. He had met him, but did not care for him. He described Kondrashev in great detail. He was too bourgeois, claimed Watson. He wore flannel trousers and a blue blazer, and walked a poodle. They had a row and they stopped meeting."
Wright claims that this fits in with what the Soviet defector, Anatoli Golitsin, had told MI5. "He (Golitsin) said Kondrashev was sent to Britain to run two very important spies - one in the Navy and one in MI6. The MI6 spy was definitely George Blake... Golitsin said Kondrashev fell out with the Naval spy. The spy objected to his bourgeois habits, and refused to meet him. Golitsin recalled that as a result Korovin, the former London KGB resident, was forced to return to London to replace Kondrashev as the Naval spy's controller. It was obviously Watson." (51)
As John Costello, the author of Mask of Treachery (1988), has pointed out: "The immunity deal was a convenient but flawed solution for all concerned. It was predicated on the assumption by MI5 that Blunt would live up to his side of the bargain. That he would provide the full and detailed confession that they needed. Once Blunt had been given the guarantee against prosecution, it would be impossible to bring him or any of those he implicated to justice. The price of uncovering the Cambridge network was that none of its members could ever be called to account." (52)
Dick White, the head of MI6, agreed with Martin that suspicions remained about the loyalty of Hollis and Mitchell. In November, 1964, White recruited him and immediately nominated Martin as his representative on the Fluency Committee, that was investigating the possibility of Soviet spies in British intelligence. The committee initially examined some 270 claims of Soviet penetration, which were later whittled down to twenty. It was claimed that these cases supported the claims made by Konstantin Volkov and Igor Gouzenko that there was a high-level agent in MI5. (53)
The people who Blunt named were interviewed by MI5. Jenifer Hart admitted being a member of the Communist underground but denied being a Soviet spy. Bernard Floud was interviewed by Peter Wright. After being interrogated he returned home and committed suicide on 10th October, 1967. Phoebe Pool, threw herself under a subway train, after being interviewed by Wright. Martin Furnival Jones, the director-general of MI5, was concerned that the suicides would "ruin our image" and brought and end to the investigation of Soviet spies named by Blunt. (54)
Blunt continued as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures in 1972. He also taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Eight years after confessing to being a Soviet spy he was appointed Adviser of the Queens's Pictures and Drawings. A post he held until his retirement in 1978.
Blunt's role as a Soviet agent was exposed in Andrew Boyle's book, The Climate of Treason in 1979. This resulted in his knighthood, awarded in 1956, being annulled. Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons that: "It was considered important to gain Blunt's cooperation in the continuing investigations by the security authorities, following the defections of Burgess, Maclean and Philby, into Soviet penetration of the security and intelligence services and other public services during and after the war. Accordingly the Attorney-General authorized the offer of immunity to Blunt if he confessed. The Queen's Private Secretary was informed both of Blunt's confession and of the immunity from prosecution, on the basis of which it had been made. Blunt was not required to resign his appointment in the Royal Household, which was unpaid. It carried with it no access to classified information and no risk to security and the security authorities thought it desirable not to put at risk his cooperation." (55)
MK believes that Blunt was badly treated after the government statement: "The press, radio, and television began a campaign of vilification. Wild rumours accused him of spying for the Germans, of authenticating fakes, of salting away a fortune abroad; he was caricatured as snobbish, imperious, sexually predatory... Undoubtedly some of the agitation was motivated by Blunt's intellectuality and homosexuality as well as by class hatred. It is a striking fact that both Blunt's own actions and the treatment of him not only by the public but also by officials were pervaded at every turn by the class divisions in British society." (56)
Anthony Blunt died of a heart attack at his home, 45 Portsea Hall, Westminster, London, on 26th March 1983.
Blunt was one of the most damaging spies ever to operate in Britain, contrary to the common belief that, compared with Philby or Maclean, he was in the second division. His crimes against his country, dragged out of him during hundreds of hours of taped interrogations, are such an indictment of wartime security that every effort has been made to cover them from public knowledge.
He (Anthony Blunt) was greatly distressed and said he would like to see me. On Monday May 28th he came to my house in the country, and on an almost ideally beautiful English summer day we sat by the river and I gave him my reasons for thinking that Guy had gone to the Soviet Union: his violent anti-Americanism, his certainty that America would involve us all in a Third World War, most of all the fact that he had been and perhaps still was a Soviet agent. He pointed out, very convincingly as it seemed to me, that these were really not very good reasons for denouncing Guy to MI;. His anti-Americanism was an attitude which was shared by many liberal-minded people and if this alone were sufficient reason to drive him to the Soviet Union, Moscow at that moment would be besieged by defectors seeking asylum. On the other hand, my belief that he might be a Soviet agent rested simply on one single remark made by him years ago and apparently never repeated to anyone else; in any case Guy's public professions of anti-Americanism were hardly what one would expect from a professional Soviet agent. Most of all he pointed out that Guy was after all one of my, as of his, oldest friends and to make the kind of allegations I apparently proposed to make about him was not, to say the least of it, the act of a friend. He was the Cambridge liberal conscience at its very best, reasonable, sensible, and firm in the faith that personal relations are the highest of all human values.
I said Forster's antithesis was a false one. One's country was not some abstract conception which it might be relatively easy to sacrifice for the sake of an individual; it was itself made up of a dense network of individual and social relationships in which loyalty to one particular person formed only a single strand. In that case, he said, I was being rather irrational because after all Guy had told me he was a spy a very long time ago and I had not thought it necessary to tell anyone. I said that perhaps I was a very irrational person; but until then I had not really been convinced that Guy had been telling the truth.
Blunt was one of the most elegant, charming, and cultivated men I have met. He could speak five languages, and the range and depth of his knowledge was profoundly impressive. It was not limited solely to the arts; in fact, as he was proud of telling me, his first degree at Cambridge was in mathematics, and he retained a lifelong fascination with the philosophy of science.
The most striking thing about Blunt was the contradiction between his evident strength of character and his curious vulnerability. It was this contradiction which caused people of both sexes to fall in love with him. He was obviously homosexual, but in fact, as I learned from him, he had had at least two love affairs with women, who remained close to him throughout his life. Blunt was capable of slipping from art historian and scholar one minute, to intelligence bureaucrat the next, to spy, to waspish homosexual, to languid establishmentarian. But the roles took their toll on him as a man. I realized soon after we began meeting that Blunt, far from being liberated by the immunity offer, continued to carry a heavy burden. It was not a burden of guilt, for he felt none. He felt pain for deceiving Tess Rothschild, and other close friends like Dick White and Guy Liddell (he was in tears at Guy's funeral), but it was the pain of what had to be done, rather than the pain of what might have been avoided. His burden was the weight of obligation placed on him by those friends, accomplices, and lovers whose secrets he knew, and which he felt himself bound to keep.
It was considered important to gain Blunt's cooperation in the continuing investigations by the security authorities, following the defections of Burgess, Maclean and Philby, into Soviet penetration of the security and intelligence services and other public services during and after the war. It carried with it no access to classified information and no risk to security and the security authorities thought it desirable not to put at risk his cooperation.
(1) Michael Kitson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(2) Louis MacNeice, The Strings are False: An Unfinished Autobiography (1996) page 246
(3) Eric Hobsbawm, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(4) Anthony Blunt, lecture at the Courtauld Institute (1972)
(5) Anthony Blunt, press conference, The Times (21st November, 1979)
(6) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 233
(7) Michael Kitson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(8) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 206
(9) Victor Rothschild, Meditations on a Broomstick (1977) page 16
(10) Anthony Blunt, The Spectator (5th May 1933)
(11) John Costello and Oleg Tsarev, Deadly Illusions (1993) page 134
(12) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 171
(13) Arnold Deutsch File 32826 (KGB Archives)
(14) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) page 44
(15) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) page 48
(16) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 45
(17) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 233
(18) Elsa Poretsky, Our Own People: A Memoir of Ignace Reiss and His Friends (1969) page 214
(19) Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends (2014) page 45
(20) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 194
(21) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) page 174
(22) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009)
(23) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 284
(24) Anthony Cave Brown, Treason of Blood (1995) page 249
(25) Kim Philby, My Secret War (1968) page 35-37
(26) John Masterman, The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939-45 (1972)
(27) Michael Howard, British Intelligence in the Second World War (1990) pages 106-107
(28) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 233
(29) Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Sunday Times (25th November, 1979)
(30) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 452
(31) Eberhard von Stohrer , telegram to Berlin (3rd August, 1940)
(32) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 457
(33) Anthony Blunt, press conference, The Times (21st November, 1979)
(34) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 469
(35) Christopher Andrew & Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive (1999) page 210
(36) Yuri Modin, My Five Cambridge Friends (1994) page 107
(37) Tom Bower, The Independent (10th October, 1995)
(38) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 222
(39) Anthony Blunt, press conference, The Times (21st November, 1979)
(40) Flora Solomon, Baku to Baker Street (1984) page 226
(41) Genrikh Borovik, The Philby Files: The Secret Life of the Master Spy - KGB Archives Revealed (1995) pages 344-345
(42) Roger Hollis, letter to J. Edgar Hoover (18th January 1963)
(43) Yuri Modin, My Five Cambridge Friends (1995) page 236
(44) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 586
(45) Roland Perry, Last of the Cold War Spies (2005) page 291
(46) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 436
(47) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 214
(48) Christopher Andrew, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009) page 437
(49) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 590-594
(50) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 257 (47)
(51) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) pages 251-259
(52) John Costello, Mask of Treachery (1988) page 590
(53) Chapman Pincher, Their Trade is Treachery (1981) page 34
(54) Peter Wright, Spycatcher (1987) page 266
(55) Margaret Thatcher, statement in the House of Commons (15th November 1979)
(56) Michael Kitson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
ANTHONY BLUNT, FOURTH MAN IN BRITISH SPYING SCANDAL, IS DEAD AT 75
Anthony Blunt, a former curator of Queen Elizabeth II's art collection who in 1979 was exposed as having been the mysterious fourth man in a Soviet spying ring, collapsed and died at breakfast in his London home today. He was 75 years old.
Mr. Blunt, who had a history of heart trouble, died in his elegant sixth-floor apartment near Marble Arch, according to his brother. His exposure as the mysterious fourth man sought in the celebrated Burgess-Maclean-Philby spying scandal that rocked Britain in the 1950's and 1960's caused a sensation when it was brought to light by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1979.
He was immediately stripped of a knighthood that had been conferred on him in 1956 and which he had retained even after the British authorities had heard him confess in 1964 to subversive activities that had reached back to his days as a brilliant young don at Cambridge University. Recruited Spies for Soviet
In his confession Mr. Blunt acknowledged that he had recruited spies for the Soviet Union from among young radical students at Cambridge, passed information to the Russians while he served as a high-ranking British intelligence officer during World War II, and had helped two of his former Cambridge students who had become Soviet ''moles'' inside the British Foreign Service, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, escape to the Soviet Union in 1951 just as their activities were about to be exposed.
Mr. Burgess died in the Soviet Union in 1963 and the death of Mr. Maclean was announced just three weeks ago by Moscow. The other Soviet mole in the spy scandal, Harold (Kim) Philby, who also fled to the Soviet Union after his part in the espionage ring became known in 1963, is now the only surviving member of the spying ring that had its roots in the elite circle of Cambridge University radicals in the 1930's.
Mr. Blunt resigned from the British Academy, where he was recognized as a distinguished and much-honored art historian, but he was never directly punished by the British Government because he had been granted immunity from prosecution at the time he made his secret confession in 1964.
The revelation that he had maintained his reputation and standing in the upper reaches of social and art circles for 15 years after his role as a spy had become known to the authorities was denounced in Parliament as an example of how individuals with powerful friends could be protected in British society. Retained as Queen's Curator
There were also questions raised about why Mr. Blunt had been kept on after 1964 as curator of the Queen's art collection - formally known as Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures - when the Government learned of his spying. It was regarded as almost certain that the Queen herself had been informed of Mr. Blunt's confession. The explanation given was that his role at Buckingham Palace carried with it no access to classified information, and it was also decided not to embarrass him in any way that would end his continuing cooperation with the authorities on matters of intelligence.
Mr. Blunt served from 1947 to 1974 as director of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, and is credited with training a generation of art historians in England and winning the institute recognition as one of the best in the world for the study of art history.
But all his professional accomplishments were ultimately overshadowed by his early devotion to Communism and the betrayal of his country.
At Cambridge he was a central and influential figure in a university club called the Apostles, whose members, most of whom came from the ranks of the privileged, saw themselves as the leading intellectuals of revolution. Tried to Recruit American
One American member of this circle, Michael Straight, in a book recently published, described how Mr. Blunt, then a young don, invited him in 1937 to become a Soviet agent in the United States. Mr. Straight said he declined the offer.
Later, during the Kennedy Administration, Mr. Straight revealed his contacts with Mr. Blunt and also Guy gess to the F.B.I. He was subsequently interrogated by the British authorities, who told him that his information was the first substantive account of the espionage of Mr. Blunt, who at the time was Sir Anthony Blunt with personal connections at Buckingham Palace. It was this information that led to the questioning of Sir Anthony, his confession and acceptence of immunity in return for continued cooperation.
He had been under suspicion for many years but had always maintained his innocence. But confronted with Mr. Straight's allegations, he at last acknowledged his crimes. Sir Michael Havers, the British Attorney General, later described the moment.
''He maintained his denial,'' he said. ''He was offered immunity from prosecution. He sat in silence for a while. He got up, looked out of the window, poured himself a drink and after a few minutes confessed.'' Defended His Behavior
After his public unmasking nearly four years ago, Mr. Blunt said he had made 'ɺn appalling mistake'' that he came to 'ɻitterly regret,'' but he defended his past behavior in a brief statement:
''In the mid-1930's it seemed to me and to many of my contemporaries that the Communist Party and Russia constituted the only firm bulwark against Fascism, since the Western democracies were taking an uncertain, compromising attitude towards Germany.''
Details of the nature of the espionage carried out by Mr. Blunt for the Russians have never been revealed, although it is believed that they did not directly cause loss of life or compromise military operations.
Profumo met Keeler through Stephen Ward.
Ward was a colorful character: by trade, an osteopath, but also a socialite, artist, and&mdashmost unfortunate for Profumo&mdasha Soviet ally. He worked alongside Yevgeni Mikhailovitch Ivanov, a Soviet spy working undercover at his country's embassy in London, to extract information from Profumo. (In addition to being a friend of Ward's, Ivanov was also romantically involved with Keeler at the time.)
Later, Ivanov would claim that he managed to photograph some of Profumo's secret documents, among other acts of espionage. But it was Ward's prodding of Keeler to procure secrets from Profumo that would prove the most scandalous.
According to the Times , a spy inside the KGB wrote at the time that "the Russians had in fact received a lot of useful information from Profumo from Christine Keeler, with whom Ivanov had established contact, and in whose apartment Ivanov had even been able to lay on eavesdropping operations at appropriate times."
Anthony Blunt - History
Born in Bournemouth, England in 1907, the son of an English clergyman.
Moved to Paris with his family in 1911. Returned to England where he graduated from Cambridge University in 1932. Became a Fellow at Trinity College and recruited numerous students into his espionage activities, including Kim Philby, David MacLean and Guy Burgess, with whom Blunt was sexually involved (Blunt, Philby, MacLean and Burgess were four members of the Cambridge Five, England’s most notorious spy ring).
Is believed by many to have tipped off Kim Philby about the impending arrest of Donald MacLean which lead MacLean and Burgess to flee to the Soviet Union. Was accused of being a spy for the Soviet Union in 1964 by Arthur Martin. Evidence was supplied by an American, Michael Whitney, who claimed that Blunt had recruited him as a KGB agent in the 1930’s. Admitted to being the “Fourth Man.” Bargained for his freedom by promising to reveal all of his activities and knowledge about espionage activities by the Soviet Union. British officials decided to keep his involvement quiet in order to prevent a scandal from erupted regarding a knight of Britain.
Publicly exposed after the British press investigated his possible involvement in espionage. After the book “The Climate of Treason” by Andrew Boyle was published, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was questioned as to the identity of the “Fourth Man.” Thatcher identified Blunt by name, during a session of Parliament. Was stripped of his knighthood, titles and prestigious positions. Lived out the rest of his life quietly in disgrace and died in 1983.
Double Agent Anthony Blunt Press Conference
Most Wanted Spies
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History of Spies journeys through time to look at the spies and events that secretly shaped the world. The site looks at individual spies, spy rings, agencies, scandals and missions that often altered wars and often guaranteed peace.
Enjoy a look at 300 years of espionage… Now declassified.
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Anthony Blunt was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire, in 1907. Anthony Blunt found post-war fame as the Royal Family’s advisor on art. However, Blunt held a secret, as he was the fourth man in a quartet (known as the ‘Cambridge Four’) who betrayed their country. Anthony Blunt was publicly exposed as a Soviet spy when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named him as the ‘Fourth Man’ at the start of her first term in office in 1979.
The Security Service recognised Blunt’s communist sympathies while he was at Cambridge University. Blunt went to Trinity College in 1926 with a reputation for being a brilliant mathematician. In 1932, he was made a Fellow of Trinity College. However, by this year Blunt had already been recruited to spy for the Soviet Union. In particular, Blunt was challenged with finding other potential recruits at Cambridge University. The driving force behind Blunt was Guy Burgess who was a double agent ostensibly working for MI6 while actually working for the KGB. Burgess himself had been recruited by Kim Philby who, along with Donald Maclean, formed a team of four that was to do serious damage to the British intelligence machine especially as two of them, Burgess and Philby, worked for British intelligence.
In 1939, Blunt joined the British Army and a year later was recruited by MI5. Blunt was known to be a communist sympathiser but he was never seen as a real threat especially as it was felt that his energy would be targeted against Nazi Germany – Blunt had developed a real loathing of fascism and MI5 considered this to be a more telling factor as opposed to what they believed to be his fashionable dalliance with communism.
Blunt ended the war with the rank of major. However, during his time in MI5 he had started to be suspected by some. Their suspicions were correct, as Blunt had passed on secrets from Enigma to the KGB. In his mind, as the USSR was an ally in the crusade against Nazism, helping them to Enigma secrets was simply helping an ally and therefore the war effort.
However, the major change in European power politics following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 saw a change in the way British intelligence viewed Blunt. With Eastern Europe dominated by the USSR and with the attempts by Stalin to undermine West European governments, the post-war USSR was a far more formidable opponent than it had been deemed pre-war.
After World War Two, King George VI also appointed Blunt Surveyor of the King’s Art in 1945. Blunt also became director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. He turned the Institute into a highly renowned organisation with a worldwide reputation. Blunt was also interviewed eleven times by MI5 officers during this time during “Operation Post Report” but on no occasion could they break him. Whether George VI knew of MI5’s suspicions regarding Blunt’s loyalty is unknown but it is thought – though not proven – that MI5 believed that Blunt would be a Soviet sympathiser if the Soviets invaded the UK.
Blunt’s elevated position in society remained throughout the 1950’s and into the early 1960’s. This all changed on April 23 rd 1964. On this day an intelligence officer called Arthur Martin went to Blunt’s apartment near Oxford Street and told him that MI5 now had the proof they needed that he was indeed the ‘Fourth Man’. The source of information came from the FBI. A man called Michael Straight had confessed to the FBI his treachery and he had also named Blunt. The FBI passed on this information to MI5. Blunt, now Sir Anthony Blunt as he had been knighted in 1956, denied all of Martin’s charges. However, when Martin told Blunt that he had immunity from prosecution, Blunt confessed with the simple statement: “It’s true”.
His confession was kept secret. Blunt kept his knighthood. He continued to have access to the Royal Family even after the Queen had been briefed about his treachery. Outwardly, he kept his place in society and his reputation as an art expert continued to grow.
However, his world fell apart in November 1979 when Margaret Thatcher, when answering a question in the House, admitted that Blunt had been a Soviet spy. Many in MI5 privately applauded the Prime Minister’s openness as they had loathed the fact that a traitor had seemingly got away with treason. Blunt resigned his knighthood in fear that he might have faced the indignity of having it stripped from him. He also resigned from his gentlemen’s clubs and from the numerous academic posts he held.
Blunt became a recluse. Outwardly he remained a calm and dignified person. This ended one day when he went to the cinema in Notting Hill by himself incognito. However, he was recognised by another cinemagoer, who loudly announced his presence. The whole cinema turned on him and he left amidst a crescendo of booing. After this experience, Blunt became a withdrawn figure.
In July 2009, Blunt’s memoirs were released. These had been held unopened for 25 years having been handed to the British Library in 1984. Prior to their release some feared that Blunt would name even more to the ‘Cambridge Five’ – those who had escaped detection. There were even fears that he would name those who had effectively covered for him while he worked for the Queen. In fact, for many the memoirs of Blunt were a disappointment. Blunt referred to his treachery as his “greatest mistake” but Professor Anthony Glees, as an example, believes that the memoirs are nothing more than a sham – that Blunt was only truly sorry that he had been found out and that he had lost his privileged position in society. The memoirs also fail to solve the question as to how Blunt escaped prosecution after admitting his treason in 1964. Blunt was not prosecuted having been given immunity from this – but the memoirs throw no light as to how this happened in the sense of who authorised it and who managed to launder Blunt from 1964 until 1979 when Margaret Thatcher exposed him.
A KGB Spy Worked in Buckingham Palace For Decades. The Crown Only Tells Part of the Story.
Anthony Blunt remained in the Queen's service long after confessing to being a Soviet operative.
The long-anticipated third season of Netflix&rsquos The Crown opens on the eve of Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson&rsquos election following 13 years of conservative rule in Britain. It&rsquos 1964, and the air in Buckingham Palace is rife with fear of communism as frustration with the tax-guzzling monarchy swells outside the palace gates.
As it turns out, it had already been lurking inside the palace for years.
The first episode introduces us to Surveyor of the Queen&rsquos Pictures, Sir Anthony Blunt (played by Samuel West), who held the position for 27 years . For the first 19 of those years, he operated undetected as a spy for the Soviet Union. Then he confessed in exchange for immunity from prosecution, and remained in the palace for eight more years. But there's much more to the story than what the episode shows.
Who Was Anthony Blunt?
Blunt was born in Hampshire country in the south of England and was educated at Cambridge. He visited the Soviet Union in 1933 while he was in university, but it is believed he was recruited as a spy for the KGB in 1934, and spent his remaining years at Cambridge recruiting his peers. Blunt served in the British Army in WWII, often passing British intelligence on the Germans off to the Soviet Union. In that time he also successfully retrieved from Germany sensitive letters between the Duke of Windsor (the Queen&rsquos uncle who abdicated the throne) and Hitler, which we saw in The Crown season two. You&rsquoll recall that the palace worked tirelessly to bury those.
Blunt was also a third cousin of the Queen mother, and he was knighted in 1956 for his work with the royal art collection.
How Did Blunt Get Identified As a Soviet Agent?
Sir Anthony Blunt was one of the Cambridge Five, a spy ring that operated from the early '30&rsquos throughout WWII, up until at least the mid-'50&rsquos. The ring of Cambridge-educated spies came to the public&rsquos attention when Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, both British diplomats, suddenly fled to the Soviet Union in 1951. Kim Philby, the third member outed, was a British intelligence officer who managed to keep his cover until 1963 despite serious suspicion.
The following year, Blunt was the fourth member of the Cambridge Five to be identified. Michael Straight, an American whom Blunt had attempted to recruit at Cambridge, informed British intelligence of Blunt&rsquos espionage after years of wrestling with the knowledge. Blunt, who had been suspected and previously interrogated more than eleven times without breaking, confessed this time in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
What Happened to Blunt After Blunt Confessed?
Blunt received far more than immunity from prosecution. The Crown accurately portrays how the royal family swallowed the secret and kept Blunt in his role for nearly a decade following his confession. The episode implies that this was to protect the reputation of Britain&rsquos intelligence forces. It also suggests that Blunt blackmailed Prince Philip with a portrait of him done by osteopath Stephen Ward, referencing the scandal that rocked the royal marriage in season two. But it&rsquos more likely that the Mountbatten-Windsor clan kept their lips tight to protect their own honor. As we know, Anthony Blunt had insider knowledge of the Duke of Windsor&rsquos correspondence with the Nazis, which the Queen was determined to keep secret from the world.
Blunt remained in his prestigious palace role until 1972. He continued to write books and give lectures at institutions across London. But when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, she was furious at the leniency which with the country treated Blunt&rsquos treason. She publicly outed him in the House of Commons in November of that year and a media storm followed. The Queen stripped Anthony Blunt of his knighthood immediately after the news broke, and though he remained in London, Blunt lived as a recluse until he died of a heart attack in 1983 at age 75.
Anthony Blunt&rsquos memoirs were only released to the public in July of 2009. In them, Blunt confesses that spying was &ldquothe biggest mistake of my life.&rdquo Perhaps we&rsquoll meet him again in season four of The Crown to watch his public fall from grace.
Anthony Blunt was one of the royal family's most trusted employees. He was also a Soviet spy.
In 1979, a British solicitor made desperate attempts to stop the release of an upcoming book by a little known Scottish journalist. The Climate of Treason: Five Who Spied For Russia, told the sensational true story of a group of British elite at the centre of a Soviet spy-ring. Among them was the so-called 𠆏ourth Man’, referred to in the book by the pseudonym ‘Maurice’.
That solicitor, it was later revealed, had been hired by a former employee of the Royal family: art historian Sir Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures.
This man, who𠆝 lived and worked within the palace walls, who𠆝 be a trusted Royal advisor for decades, was the true 𠆏ourth Man’ a former KGB spy involved in one of the biggest security breaches of the 20th century.
Watch: The Crown S3 shines a light on some of the palace’s biggest secrets.
Sir Anthony’s extraordinary story is the hook of the opening episode of season three of The Crown, in which the academic is played by Samuel West. But the Netflix series only reveals part of the story…
How Anthony Blunt became part of the Cambridge 5 spy ring.
It was a friendship that led Anthony Blunt astray.
During his time at Cambridge University in the 1930s, he struck up a bond with undergraduate Guy Burgess, a flamboyant, charismatic young man, and enthusiastic Marxist. Like many students of the era, Blunt embraced extreme left-wing politics as a reaction to the rise of fascism and Hitler: he later wrote, “largely owing to the influence of Guy Burgess… I realised that one could no longer stand aside”.
It turned out that Burgess had been secretly recruited by another Trinity College student, Kim Philby, alongside Donald Maclean, to “go underground” for the Comintern, Stalin’s international Communist organisation. Blunt became the group’s ‘talent spotter’, and in turn recruited their 𠆏ifth Man’, John Cairncross, and later an American named Michael Straight.
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At their height, the so-called Cambridge Five infiltrated intelligence services, the Foreign Office, and the War Ministry, and passed some of Britain’s most sensitive secrets to the Soviet Union. Blunt himself worked for MI5 during WWII and handed over hundreds of documents, before starting a new career as an art historian that saw him appointed to the palace.
As well as curating the Royal collection, Anthony Blunt served as an art advisor to the Queen. Image: Getty.
When Burgess and Maclean defected to Moscow in 1951 to avoid imminent exposure, other Cambridge academics — including Blunt — came under suspicion. But it wasn&apost until 1963, when Michael Straight volunteered information to US authorities about his involvement in the spy ring, that Blunt&aposs role was confirmed.
The Queen learned the secret but kept quiet.
In exchange for a confession, Anthony Blunt was offered a secret deal that would grant him immunity from prosecution and keep him under wraps. He agreed and confessed to MI5 on April 23, 1964. The Queen was told shortly afterward.
Sir Anthony Blunt was allowed to carry on his privileged life as an art historian, and continued in his royal role until 1972 his colleagues and many within the palace remained blissfully ignorant about his past.
It wasn&apost until his attempts to demand a typescript of The Climate of Treason that the truth went public.
The unmasking of the fourth man.
Magazine Private Eye ran with the details of Blunt&aposs attempts to quash the book, thereby publicly linking him to the Cambridge Five scandal.
Ten days after the book hit the shelves, Britain&aposs new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, told the House of Commons — and the world — what the Queen and British intelligence had kept secret for years: Anthony Blunt was the Fourth Man, a traitor.
Minutes later, Buckingham Palace announced Blunt would be stripped of his knighthood.
Anthony Blunt at a 1979 press conference following his outing as a former spy. Image: Getty.
Four years later, in 1983, Anthony Blunt died of a heart attack.
Before his death, he penned his own version of the extraordinary events in a 30,000-word autobiographical manuscript his history, through his eyes.
The text was bequeathed to a friend who, a year later, passed it to the British Library along with strict instructions that it was not to be released for another 25 years.
True to their word, the library made the document public in July 2009. Within it, Blunt seemed to express his guilt for being involved in what he called the "Russian nightmare", and the traitorous actions that would come to define his legacy.
"What I did not realise is that I was so naïve politically that I was not justified in committing myself to any political action of this kind," he wrote. "The atmosphere in Cambridge was so intense, the enthusiasm for any anti-fascist activity was so great, that I made the biggest mistake of my life.”
Who were the Cambridge Five?
In addition to Blunt the other four spies—Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, and John Cairncross—were recruited by Soviet operatives while studying at Cambridge in the 1930s to gather intelligence in the United Kingdom. “I found that Cambridge had been hit by Marxism and that most of my friends among my junior contemporaries—including Guy Burgess—had either joined the Communist Party or were at least very close to it politically,” Blunt wrote in his last testimony. Documents from the Mitrohkin Archive that were made public for the first time in 2014 depict the Cambridge Five as hopeless drunks who struggled with sobriety even while dealing with highly sensitive information.
Who was Sir Anthony Blunt and the Cambridge Five? Plus 4 others who spied for the Soviets
German scientist Klaus Fuchs was far from the only westerner passing highly classified information to the USSR during the mid-20th century. Michael Goodman tells the stories of others who, whether for ideological or financial reasons, betrayed their own governments – including the Queen's surveyor of pictures, Sir Anthony Blunt…
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Published: November 18, 2019 at 9:17 am
The Cambridge Five
The brightest British minds who swapped the biggest state secrets
The Cambridge Five were the most notorious of all the spies who worked for the Soviet Union. This British quintet were exceptional for a number of reasons: while they worked independently, they knew the identities of one another they spied at a critical time (during the Second World War and the early Cold War) the content of their espionage complemented each other, as each worked in different parts of the government. And the amount of information they provided was unsurpassed.
The five were recruited while students at the University of Cambridge in the 1930s and each would go on to have successful dual careers as British civil servants and Soviet spies. Kim Philby (1912–88) spent most of his career working for the British intelligence agency MI6, including a period as head of Soviet counterespionage and as MI6 liaison officer to the CIA in Washington DC. Donald Maclean (1913–83) had a successful career in the Foreign Office, working on atomic and military matters. Guy Burgess (1911–63) worked briefly for MI6, but also spent some time in the Foreign Office, working in London on propaganda, and then in the British Embassy in Washington.
Anthony Blunt (1907–83) spent most of the Second World War in MI5, where he passed on details of the interception of German Enigma codes and of German spying activities in the UK. The last member was John Cairncross (1913–95), who spent a year during the war at the famous codebreaking facility Bletchley Park, also working on German codes.
The five passed across a staggering amount of material, primarily in the form of actual documents or photographs of documents. So good was their information that the Soviets initially did not believe they were genuine. Maclean and Burgess ended up defecting to the Soviet Union in 1951, as did Philby in 1963. Blunt, a third cousin of Elizabeth II’s mother, was knighted in 1956. He secretly confessed to MI5 in the early 1960s and was publicly revealed in 1979 by then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher and stripped of his knighthood. Cairncross left the civil service after the war and spent his career outside government. He finally revealed his role in 1979, before retiring and publishing his memoirs.
The married couple caught out by a close relative’s testimony
The Rosenbergs were a married couple, Julius (1918–53) and Ethel (1915–53). They gained notoriety not so much for the value or quantity of the intelligence they provided to the USSR, but because they were executed in the United States for committing espionage.
Julius Rosenberg joined the US army in 1940, but was discharged a few years later when his membership of the Communist party became known. In the meantime, he had been recruited by Soviet intelligence. His handler, Alexander Feklisov, claimed that Rosenberg had passed across several thousand pages of documents, but that these did not warrant execution. The high point of the Rosenbergs’ career was yet to come.
Ethel’s brother was a technician called David Greenglass. In 1943 he was posted to the Manhattan Project, the super-secret wartime atomic bomb programme. Also a member of the Communist party, Greenglass was recruited by the Rosenbergs and used his new position to pass detailed designs to the Soviets. Greenglass recruited another individual, Harry Gold, who would act as a courier for the infamous atomic spy Klaus Fuchs.
In 1950 Fuchs confessed to British authorities and, in the ensuing investigation, the FBI discovered the identities of Gold, Greenglass and the Rosenbergs. As part of a deal to reduce his own sentence (he served under 10 years), Greenglass provided details on his sister and brother-in-law’s activities. As a result, both were convicted and subsequently executed in 1953.
The case continued to cause interest because Greenglass’s testimony was concealed from the public and the evidence that Ethel had spied was debatable at best.
It was also not proven that Julius had been involved with atomic espionage. When Greenglass’s witness testimony from 1951 was finally released in July 2015, it revealed that he never mentioned Ethel Rosenberg’s involvement in the delivery of atomic secrets to Soviet operatives.
The civil servant blackmailed into working for the KGB
John Vassall spent much of the Second World War as a photographer in Britain’s Royal Air Force. After the war, he joined the Admiralty as a clerk, an administrative position that enabled access to a range of documentation. In 1952, he was given a position at the British embassy in Moscow, responsible to the naval attaché. Vassall found his position difficult, objecting to what he considered the snobbish culture of the diplomatic circuit.
He had a greater problem though: Vassall was a homosexual at a time when it was illegal, both in Britain and the Soviet Union. Had this fact become known, he would have lost not only his security clearance but also his job. In his memoir, published many years later, Vassall wrote about the loneliness he felt in Moscow. Soviet intelligence recruiters, skilled in spotting vulnerable targets, saw an opportunity. In 1954, Vassall was invited to a party, given copious amounts of alcohol and voluntarily engaged in sexual activities with a number of men. Unknown to him, he was the victim of a classic Soviet honeytrap: shortly afterwards, Vassall was shown incriminating photographs and blackmailed into working for Soviet intelligence.
He was not an ideological convert and had no love for the Soviet Union but, backed into a corner, he began to provide the Soviets with a variety of intelligence on British military matters. He returned to London in 1956 and continued to pass intelligence to the KGB. He was unmasked in 1961, with the defection of the KGB’s Anatoliy Golitsyn to the west, and was arrested the following year. He confessed and eventually served 10 years of an 18-year sentence. He worked in London after his release and died in 1996 after suffering a heart attack on a bus.
The math prodigy who turned Soviet collaborator
Ted Hall (1925–99) was a child prodigy in mathematics, graduating from Harvard University in 1944 at the tender age of 18. He had already accepted a position at Los Alamos and began work on the designs of the two atomic bombs that would be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is some debate as to quite why Hall decided to volunteer for Soviet intelligence: shortly before his death in 1999, he conceded that he did it out of a desire for the US not to have a monopoly on atomic weapons, but this does not satisfactorily explain why he chose the Soviets to be his confessor.
Hall worked on the Manhattan Project for just two years, but in that time provided a wealth of data on the atomic bomb and, perhaps more importantly, details on the early scientific investigations into the far more destructive hydrogen bomb.
As part of the FBI investigation into Klaus Fuchs, Hall was questioned, but no further action was taken. His precise role did not become public until 1995 when the British and US governments released details of the Venona Project, the code name given to the breaking of wartime Soviet ciphers. In these documents, Hall’s espionage was revealed, as was the decision in the early 1950s not to prosecute him as the necessity to keep the Venona Project secret was greater. He spent most of his subsequent career working on non-secret matters at the University of Cambridge.
The careless CIA operative who aroused much suspicion
While the first batch of Soviet spies worked for ideological reasons, that motivation became less convincing as the Cold War progressed. Instead the Soviets turned towards other human frailties for motivation and none would be more appealing than cold, hard cash. Aldrich Ames (born in 1941) did a number of odd jobs for the CIA (including painter and clerical worker) before he joined the agency proper in the late 1960s as an operational officer. One of his first postings was to Turkey, where he worked on recruiting Soviet intelligence officers. This experience led to a career-long involvement with Soviet espionage, working mainly at headquarters in Langley, Virginia, but with a further posting to Mexico City and New York.
Despite reports of excess drinking and adultery, Ames continued to be promoted within the CIA. In 1983 he was given an exceptionally sensitive role working on Soviet counterespionage, a task that provided him with details of all CIA operations and spies working against the USSR. That year he filed for divorce, a process that would be extremely costly. His position in the CIA legitimately enabled him to meet Soviet intelligence officers and, during one of these meetings in 1985,
Ames volunteered to spy in exchange for money. Before long, US spies working against the Soviet Union began to vanish, yet despite a number of internal investigations and lie detector tests, Ames remained above suspicion. His role in the CIA meant that he could continue to meet Soviet intelligence officers. For each encounter, he was paid handsomely by the Soviets. Ames’ treachery was eventually uncovered in 1994, a feat that had begun with the simple fact that Ames’ spending far outweighed his income. He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to life in prison. The intelligence provided by Ames did irrevocable damage to US (and allied) intelligence efforts and led to many deaths.