The Crown: Who was spy Anthony Blunt? Was there really a cover-up?

Fans of The Crown can now watch the new series of the drama after it dropped on Netflix today (Sunday, November 17). All 10 episodes were released in one go to allow viewers to binge the series in one sitting. The new series also features a brand-new cast and covers events from 1964 to 1977.

WARNING: This article contains spoilers from The Crown season 3

Episode one is titled Olding in reference to prime minister Harold Wilson’s (Jason Watkins) reported spy name.

In the opening instalment, rumours are flying around with Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) being led to believe her new prime minister could be a Soviet Spy.

These rumours get more intense as it emerges there is indeed a spy at Buckingham Palace – but it’s not Wilson.

Instead, the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures Anthony Blunt (Samuel West) is unmasked as the operative.

However, in a bid to protect the Royal Family, the revelation is kept under wraps and Blunt is allowed to maintain his position.


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Who was spy Anthony Blunt?

Blunt was an art historian but also a Soviet Spy as depicted in The Crown.

The historian was a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge during the 1930s when he became involved in Soviet espionage.

He was appointed to the position of the King’s and later the Surveyor of the Queen’s Picture in 1945, according to online encyclopaedia Britannica.

During his life published numerous papers and books on the history of art including Art and Architecture in France 1500–1700 (1953) and Nicolas Poussin (1966–67).

His specialist area was 17th Century paintings and artist Nicolas Poussin.

World War Two saw Blunt really coming into his own as a Russian spy. The historian joined MI-5 working in military intelligence and passing on information to the enemy as well as alerting them to secret British operatives.

After the war, he returned to his career as an art historian. He is said to have stopped working for the Soviet in 1945 after World War Two but kept in touch with his contacts.

Blunt’s operations were exposed in 1964 but were kept private with Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home kept in the dark.


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He confessed to being a spy after being approached by the authorities when he was identified by Michael Straight, who was at Cambridge at a similar time to Blunt.

He retired in 1972 and seven years after this, his past was finally revealed and he was the fourth member of the Cambridge Spy Ring.

The truth came out in 1979 after Margaret Thatcher spoke about it in the House of Commons under Parliamentary Privilege. Afterwards, Blunt was stripped of his knighthood from 1956.

In his memoir, released by the British Library in 2009, he said being a spy was the “biggest mistake” of his life.


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Was there really a cover-up?

According to the Guardian, the Queen was discreetly told about Blunt being a Soviet spy.

To make matters even more sensitive, Blunt was the third cousin to the Queen Mother.

Diaries from the former deputy head of MI5 Guy Liddell released in 2012 reveal the British intelligence agency worked with courtiers to protect the Royal Family from the Blunt revelation.

However, British government papers released in 2018 reveal home secretary at the time Henry Brooke and attorney general Sir John Hobson knew the truth about Blunt in 1964.

The Crown season 3 is streaming on Netflix now

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