Spying and the Crown uncovers for the first time the remarkable relationship between the Royal Family and the intelligence community, from the reign of Queen Victoria to the death of Princess Diana.
In an enthralling narrative, Richard J. Aldrich and Rory Cormac show how the British secret services grew out of persistent attempts to assassinate Victoria and then operated on a private and informal basis, drawing on close personal relationships between senior spies, the aristocracy, and the monarchy. This reached its zenith after the murder of the Romanovs and the Russian revolution when, fearing a similar revolt in Britain, King George V considered using private networks to provide intelligence on the loyalty of the armed forces – and of the broader population.
In 1936, the dramatic abdication of Edward VIII formed a turning point in this relationship. What originally started as family feuding over a romantic liaison with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, escalated into a national security crisis. Fearing the couple’s Nazi sympathies as well as domestic instability, British spies turned their attention to the King. During the Second World War, his successor, King George VI gradually restored trust between the secret world and House of Windsor. Thereafter, Queen Elizabeth II regularly enacted her constitutional right to advise and warn, raising her eyebrow knowingly at prime ministers and spymasters alike.
Based on original research and new evidence, Spying and the Crown presents the British monarchy in an entirely new light and reveals how far their majesties still call the shots in a hidden world.