15 Nov:
The Queen’s Soviet Spy

Sir Anthony Blunt, esteemed art historian and a favourite of the Royal family, was publicly revealed as a Soviet spy on 15th November, 1979, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher confirmed he had been part of the “Cambridge Five”, a group of double agents who secretly passed sensitive information to the Soviet Union.

Despite his confession to MI5 in 1964, Blunt continued his association with the royal household, working as a surveyor of the Queen’s pictures until his retirement in 1972. The response in Parliament included disbelief and accusations of deliberate cover-ups to protect Blunt, leading, eventually, to his knighthood being rescinded.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how Blunt’s privilege facilitated his double-dealing at the very highest levels of British society; ask whether his homosexuality influenced his relationship with Guy Burgess and his willingness to betray the British establishment; and explain how a fictional work – and some trigger-happy lawyers – led to his downfall…

Further Reading:

• ‘Art historian who spied for the Soviet Union’ (The Guardian, 1979): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/17/anthony-blunt-spy-sentenced-1979

• ‘Anthony Blunt: confessions of spy who passed secrets to Russia during the war’ (The Telegraph, 2009): https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5889879/Anthony-Blunt-confessions-of-spy-who-passed-secrets-to-Russia-during-the-war.html

• ‘Art historian, professor, writer, spy – the extraordinary story of Anthony Blunt’ (The British Academy, 2020):