Anthony Blunt

Before being outed as a Soviet spy, an Englishman by the name of Anthony Blunt had a distinguished career in which position?

And the answer: art historian.

Sir Anthony Blunt was one of the Cambridge Five, a spy ring that operated for two decades, including during World War II. He was also a renowned art scholar, and worked in Buckingham Palace until the 1970s.    

Photo credit: fair use. 

Anthony Blunt was known for his clever ploy against the British government. While a university student in Cambridge in the 1930s, he befriended a group of other disaffected young men (among them was the future Cambridge Five leader Guy Burgess). After university, Blunt rose in the ranks of scholarly art historians, all the way to be appointed as surveyor of the king’s (later the queen’s) pictures in 1945. Then, two years later, he became director of The Courtauld Institute of Art, one of the world’s leading centers of training and research in art history.

Prior to these appointments, however, he was recruited as a spy by the Soviet Union, along with his university friends. In World War II he was a member of MI-5, the military intelligence operation, giving him access to sensitive information the Soviets wanted.

Even though Blunt's active espionage work ended in 1945, he maintained his Soviet connections into 1951, and even arranged the escape of several other British spies for the Soviet Union in that time. It wasn't until 1964 that the British government confronted Blunt on his espionage, and achieved a secret confession. Another 15 years would pass before the confession went public, receiving national outrage. Blunt was stripped of his knighthood. At his press conference in 1979, Blunt commented:

"This was a gradual process and I find it very difficult to analyze. It is, after all, more than 30 years ago. But it was the information that came out immediately after the war. During the war one was simply thinking of them as Allies et cetera, but then with the information about the camps... it was episodes of that kind."

Learn more about Anthony Blunt here.

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