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A thorough and deep look at this former agent
on 28 July 2014
The Spy Who Loved is the story of Christine Glanville born Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek, reputedly Churchill's favourite spy from WW2; she was also sometimes dubbed Britain's most beautiful spy, possibly as she had once taken part in a 1930 Polish beauty contest. There are several recently published books on the same subject and their almost simultaneous appearance is a curious coincidence. However, as she was later employed by SOE after it was established in 1940, the title 'spy' is not one that they would accept - agent was the accepted description.
Christine Glanville was originally a nom de guerre, although she formally adopted the name post-War when she opted to remain in Britain, used by the daughter of a Polish Count and a Jewish mother. Not truly accepted by relatives on either side of her family, she sought more from life than she had been served. A family relationship with the Polish composer, Chopin, gave her no advantages. Once Poland was invaded, and with her Jewish connections likely to make life more complex had she stayed, she was later able to escape to Britain where she underwent extensive training. She had initially worked as a spy in Poland and then moved to France where her knowledge of the language served her well, all within the first months of the War. On escape to Britain, she was recruited by the newly born SOE and continued under their umbrella until War's end, becoming their longest-serving female agent. She returned to Poland several times in order to act as a courier, physically transporting information that could not be sent via radio.
As a spy she was highly capable and successful operating within Europe and North Africa. She was able to gain information and sometimes hid slips of paper within her gloves where they went unfound. When colleagues were captured she was able to use her charm to secure their release. For her exploits, she was awarded the George Medal and later made an OBE by a grateful Britain and also received the French Croix de Guerre. Monetary rewards did not follow and Christine's life was not an easy one as she was effectively stateless and unemployed.
It is possible that, had she not been murdered in 1952 in a London hotel room by a stalker with claimed romantic intentions which she did not welcome, her name and story could have been more widely known than it is. The story of her death as published in the newspapers of the day may have helped stop the publication of her wartime acticities for many years. She was then only 44 years old and could have had a long and happy life ahead of her had circumstances been different.
This book tells her story in some detail. Christine had a complex personality and the author has done well to 'get inside her head', which may explain why others had written rather little in the past. Her name had been mentioned by earlier authors but with very little detail of her exploits; those omissions and oversights are now corrected.