Women make the best spies. Our sweet, unassuming manner is often overlooked by patrolling soldiers, or we can bat our lashes and get away with murder. Literally. Christine Granville employed every trick in her book while inventing a few new ones. Considered Churchill’s favorite spy, this brave and tough woman is thought to be the inspiration for Vesper Lynd in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.
Born to a Polish aristocrat and Jewish heiress, Christine was a beauty queen who lived for the fast life, and what better way to chase adventure than sign up with the Special Operations Executive. Volunteering to ski into her beloved homeland of Poland now occupied by Nazis, she brought along armfuls of British propaganda to given the trodden upon Pols hope and to bolster their spirit of resistance. It was the first daring move in a lifetime of crazy exploits. Once on her way to Warsaw, Nazis patrolled her train doing random checks of people’s identification papers. She beguiled one of the soldiers into helping carry her black market tea thereby saving her illicit documents from discovery. Another time, she used her satin map of the region (paper made too much noise and that’s bad in the spy game) as a headscarf and pretended to be a local about her errands when approached by French soldiers.
Sure, sure. That’s all impressive enough, but her best exploit is one for the ages. With her
beautiful face plastered all over ‘Dead or Alive’ wanted posters, Christine posed as another woman and strolled into a Gestapo controlled French prison to have a charming chat with a less than reputable gendarme. She managed to bust out three of her friends who were waiting to be executed.
Unfortunately, after the war this brave woman fell into obscurity. The government no longer needed her and her beloved Poland was under Stalin’s thumb, so she took up little jobs where she could find them. Waitressing and cruise ship stewardess. This last proved to be fatal. Christine wasn’t exactly a steadfast woman with an eye for only one man. She’d had many lovers over the years, and Dennis Muldowney was just another notch on her lipstick case. A fact he didn’t like, and so he stabbed Christine in the Shelbourne Hotel lobbey. “To kill is the final possession,” were his last words before he was hanged. A very sad ending to a very colorful life. Without her efforts and gutsy charm, the war may have gone very differently.