Wartime spy who scandalised establishment with her 'nymphomaniac' behaviour
The story of Stella Lonsdale, a smouldering, sexually charged socialite and alleged wartime spy, is the stuff of steamy paperback novels.
It is packed with so many near unbelievable twists and turns, so many aliases, so many larger-than-life characters – from aristocrat jewel thieves, to Russian royalty to British blue-blood fascists – that the tale would be dismissed as preposterous if played out on the big screen.
Yet the rollercoaster ride that is the life of Stella Lonsdale, a woman who climbed from humble West Midlands beginnings to enjoy a champagne drenched carnival of candid, at times carnal, adventures with the pampered posh – happened. It really happened.
The daughter of a travelling salesman and born plain Stella Clive, history has depicted her as a Mata Hari figure...with fewer moral scruples.
Stella was dubbed a nymphomaniac by MI5 agents, who suspected her of working for the Nazis. Appalled by the no-nonsense suspect’s own revelations, they described her as “a woman whose loose living would make her an object of shame on any farmyard”.
Now declassified files refer to Stella as “utterly unscrupulous” and add: “Much of Mrs Lonsdale’s conversation cannot possibly be submitted in a report owing to its indescribably filthy nature”.
The popular press were hooked by Stella’s story, their descriptions of the sex-bomb spy ranging from “quite ravishing” to a “champagne-loving brunette with a cesspool mind”.
She died in July, 1994, aged 81, a very rich woman, having spent her post war years with George Pitt-Rivers, an extremely wealthy landowner and former supporter of English fascist leader Oswald Mosley. When he died in 1966, Stella – described in Pitt-Rivers’ will as “my beloved” – received a large slice of the fortune.
It now appears our secret service may have got it wrong about Stella, the espionage bit, anyway.
In his book 'Agent Provocateur for Hitler or Churchill?', author David Tremain claims she was not spying for them, she was spying for us while pretending to spy for them. Both sides incarcerated her under the same suspicion.
Stella was a heroine who lay down and thought of England. The three times married undercover operative is alleged to have done a lot of thinking – and a lot of lying down.
From early adulthood, Stella’s antics flew in the face of codes and conventions.
Born on January 9, 1913, to “commercial traveller” Ernest Clive and wife Stella, she was raised in Olton, Warwickshire, and dreamed of a more glamorous existence. She craved it.
At the age of 21 she raised eyebrows by moving in with financier Paul Christian Bog Holme who was 45.
In the extraordinary world of Miss Lonsdale that would become very small beer.
Three years later, Stella was hanging from the arm of oligarch Nicolas Sidoroff, son of a White Russian prince. They even tied the knot in a Monte Carlo church, but the ceremony was not legally recognised in France or Britain, the marriage declared void.