A Very Dangerous Woman
The Lives, Loves and Lies of Russia's Most Seductive Spy
Moura Budberg: spy, adventurer, charismatic seductress and mistress of two of the century’s greatest writers, the Russian aristocrat Baroness Moura Budberg was born in 1892 to indulgence, pleasure and selfishness. But after she met the British diplomat and secret agent Robert Bruce Lockhart, she sacrificed everything for love, only to be betrayed.
When Lockhart arrived in Revolutionary Russia in 1918, his official mission was Britain’s envoy to the new Bolshevik government, yet his real assignment was to create a network of agents and plot the downfall of Lenin. Lockhart soon got to know Moura and they began a passionate affair, even though Moura was spying on him for the Bolsheviks. But when Lockhart’s plot unravelled, she would forsake everything in an attempt to protect him from Lenin’s secret police. Fleeing to a life of exile in England and taking a string of new lovers, including Maxim Gorky and H. G. Wells, Moura later spied for Stalin and for Britain amidst the web of scandal surrounding the Cambridge spies. Through all this she clung to the hope that Lockhart would finally return to her.
Grippingly narrated, this is the first biography of Moura Budberg to use the full range of previously unexamined letters, diaries and documents. An incredible true story of passion, espionage and double crossing that encircled the globe, A Very Dangerous Woman brings her extraordinary world vividly to life with dramatic resonances to rival the most sensational novel.
Maria Ignatievna Zakrevskaya, called Moura by friends and family, led a life as turbulent as the Russian revolution she cunningly managed to survive. Biographer McDonald (Clara Collet 1860 1948) and novelist Dronfield (The Locust Farm) explore that life in a fast-paced story of European intrigue, featuring an enigmatic, strong-willed woman who married twice and whose lovers included Alexander Kerensky, Maxim Gorky, and H.G. Wells. Moura was raised in a wealthy Ukrainian family with connections to the Russian czar, and her first husband, Djon Alexandrovich von Benckendorff, was from an equally upper-class Estonian family. The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 disrupted this life of privilege; von Benckendorff resigned his diplomatic post in Berlin and joined the Russian army. Once the revolution started, Moura didn't hesitate to cultivate sexual connections as a means of protecting herself. In 1918, she met Robert Lockhart, head of the British diplomatic mission in Petrograd, and they embarked on an affair that got her embroiled in a plot to overthrow the Bolsheviks, turned her into a spy for the Soviet secret police, and eventually drove her into exile in England. Moura's survival story is fascinating on its own; unfortunately, the authors overcommit to the unnecessary love story angle. Illus.