Friday, April 16

Review of Queen Elizabeth and the spy in the palace: a pretty hard-hitting documentary | TV

CHannel 4’s three-part series, Royals Declassified, uses never-before-seen documents, including journal entries and letters, to tell the story of the queen’s reign. The second episode, Queen Elizabeth and the Spy in the Palace, is of course about Anthony Blunt, knight of the kingdom, MI5 employee in times of war, renowned art historian, surveyor of the king’s photographs (and later of the queen) and … in 1979, a Soviet spy almost from the start.

The question posed at the top of the show is whether the secrets he learned during his time with the Windsors could harm the royal family.

The answer is: who cares? Yes, he was sent by royalty to retrieve certain pro-appeasement and pro-Nazi correspondence between the former Saxe-Coburg-Gothas and their German relatives (particularly letters from the Duke of Windsor considering the possibility of being restored to the throne if Hitler succeeded in invading Great Brittany). And yes, the copies of these may be among the 18,000 documents that Blunt is believed to have handed over to his fellow Russians. But the fascist sympathies of Edward and his relatives are not news. Furthermore, there is a risk that its reissue will now be a shot in the arm for monarchism, not republicanism.

Also, when you have Blunt as the central figure on your show, whatever the main theme of the show is, any questions other than the one surrounding the why and motives for the sustained betrayal and betrayal fall by the wayside. .

Queen Elizabeth and the spy in the palace go over the basics. Born in the heart of the establishment in 1907; best friends of Louis MacNeice and John Betjeman in Marlborough; Then to Trinity College, Cambridge, at a time when the Russian Revolution was a recent memory and England’s elite were choosing whether they were in the mood for European fascism or the Soviet Union’s promise of a workers’ paradise.

People like the royal family generally chose the former. Those who imagined themselves as intellectuals opted for the latter. Glorious dictatorship of the masses for victory! As Dr. Piers Brendan puts it, tremendously furious: “He abdicated his intellectual responsibilities by refusing to face what was obvious, not to everyone, but it should have been obvious to him, namely that Stalin was a murderer in mass of a completely new society. kind.”

But Blunt was also a slave to his fellow Stalin fan, Guy Burgess: more handsome, more glamorous, more at ease with his homosexuality than most could hope to be at the time. Many are convinced that Blunt would not have become a spy without Burgess’s seductive influence. By the late 1930s, they and the rest of what would become known as the Cambridge Five had been recruited by Russian agents.

They all went to work for British intelligence during the war, with little more than breeding and the network of old men to recommend them. Among the 18,000 documents transmitted by Blunt were the plans for the D-day landing in Normandy. After the war, Blunt, whose mother had been friends with Mary of Teck, the queen consort, and whose family was dressed in their discarded clothes, took over as inspector of the king’s pictures and continued his work against the king and the king. country. For what it’s worth, he convinced himself that he was only betraying the latter.

When her betrayal was discovered in the 1960s, she suffered no consequences: she had the support of the Queen Mother, possibly due to everything she knew about the family, and she persuaded the Queen to maintain the relationship for the next 15 years. . It was – hold on to your muesli, fellow leftists – Margaret Thatcher who blew the public whistle, as the embodiment of cronyism. A stopped clock and all that …

The psychology of all of this is fascinating, but beyond a claim that Blunt had “a mania for betrayal,” it remains largely unbroken here. He believed that passionately in communism? Or in Burgess? Feel like burning some cultural capital when you have so much to spare? Did your conscience ever speak?

Contradictory as it may be, there seems to be a constitutional requirement that documentaries, generally long and turgid, be produced whenever the smallest piece of paper about the royal family is opened to public scrutiny. This one is neither better nor worse than most. But Blunt focuses wherever he goes. We will never know enough about the man who knew too much.

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