Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Christine Granville - WWII Spy by Nancy J. Farrier

Who was Christine Granville and why are we looking at her this month? Her story was so fascinating I had to share.

Christine was born Maria Krystyna Janina Skarbek in 1908, a Polish countess on her father’s side and a Jewish banking heiress on her mother’s side. She grew up on a large estate in Poland, riding horses, shooting guns, and enjoying the outdoors and adventure. She loved skiing and as a young woman would ski over the mountains to smuggle in cigarettes. She didn’t smoke, but she loved doing something exciting and smuggling fit that need.

Krystyna Skarbek, by vanthomas.salon24
Wikimedia Commons


From what I’ve learned, I believe Krystyna changed her name to Christine Granvile when she became a spy. I will refer to her as Christine in this article to save confusion on the name.


Christine received the news that Poland had been invaded by the Nazis in 1939 when she was in Africa with her second husband, a Polish diplomat. They boarded a ship for Britain to offer their services to the war effort. 


Carpathian Mountains by kallerna
Wikimedian Commons

While Christine’s husband was immediately able to join the Allied forces, Christine had a different skill set to offer. She made her way to a secret MI6 headquarters and pretty much demanded to join in the spy efforts by skiing across the Carpathian Mountains into Poland to spy on the Nazi occupation. She also wanted to take in Allied material to spread around.


MI6 and the Allied forces had little to no intelligence in Poland or Eastern Europe. Christine was signed up as the first woman to join MI6. Her skill set would include knowledge of the country and language, plus her ease of interacting with people of import. 


She had many adventures, some of them breathtakingly scary. From being smuggled in places, to being shot at while skiing down a mountain slope, Christine continued her fight for her native country, a country she loved and wanted to see free. 

Invasion of Poland by Ai6z83xl3g
Wikimedia Commons


At one point she was captured by the Nazis. During her interrogation, she bit her tongue, coughed hard, and claimed the blood was from her struggle with tuberculosis. She was released.


Winston Churchill’s daughter said her father claimed Christine was his favorite spy. This came after she discovered a microfilm of Nazi forces lining up to invade the Soviets and passed that information on to Churchill. 


George Medal late 1940's
By Hsq7278
Wikimedia Commons
Toward the latter part of the war, at a strategic pass in the Alps, Christine climbed to a German garrison. There were 63 Polish officers there who had been conscripted into the German army. Christine convinced them to sabotage the garrison and desert. The commander, a German officer, surrendered.


Christine accomplished much more during the war, saving many people and furthering the cause of the Allies. When the war ended, Poland would not acknowledge her and she was not welcome to return to the country. Britain also did not want her and she was forced to leave. 


She was later asked to return to Britain to receive medals for her war efforts—a George Medal and OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). She returned but refused the medals. The government offered her citizenship and she then accepted the medals and had a home.


After the war, Christine ended up working several different odd jobs. She ended up on a cruise ship where she met with derision for her claim to having won medals for her war efforts. One man stood up for her—Dennis Muldowney, a steward. They had a short-lived affair before she returned to England.


Kensington Hotel
by Spudgun67
Wikimedia Commons

In England, Christine lived at the Kensington Hotel. She returned there and one day, coming downstairs, there was Muldowney. He leaped toward her as if to embrace her, but instead drove a knife into her heart. She was dead within minutes. He was arrested for the murder, declared he did it for love, and was hanged a few weeks later.


Plaque at Kensington
By Spudgun67
Wikimedia Commons
Christine’s story isn’t well known but is very fascinating. Clare Mulley wrote a book about Christine Granville, The Spy Who Loved. Mulley also fought for Christina's story to become know and was instrumental in getting a plaque placed at the Kensington Hotel in her memory. The book sounds like a good read, but I would caution you that Christine was also known for her numerous affairs.


Have you ever heard of Christine Granville? I am amazed at all she did for her country and saddened that she could never go back to Poland when she loved it so much. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning, best-selling author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats and dog, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.


  1. Thank you for posting today about this amazing woman. I had not heard of her, but somehow have heard of that book about her, though I have not read it.

  2. Never heard about her till now. She was a amazing woman.

  3. WOW, what a fascinating woman! The fake tuberculosis was genius!