A story of love, betrayal and espionage that spans a continent. Moura was born to indulgence, pleasure and selfishness, but she sacrificed herself for love – and was betrayed.
'A Russian of the Russians, she had a lofty disregard for all the pettiness of life and a courage which was proof against all cowardice … Into my life something had entered which was stronger than any other tie, stronger than life itself. From then onwards she was never to leave … until we were parted by the armed force of the Bolsheviks.'
Robert Bruce Lockhart, Memoirs of a British Agent, 1932
In January 1918, the British adventurer, diplomat and secret agent Robert Bruce Lockhart arrived in Revolutionary Russia. His official mission: Britain’s envoy to the new Bolshevik government. His true mission: to create a network of agents, plot the assassination of Lenin and overthrow the Bolsheviks. A keen ladies’ man, he soon got to know the aristocratic socialite and notorious seductress Moura Benckendorff.* The two fell in love, and began a passionate affair.
What Lockhart didn’t know was that Moura was spying on him for the Bolsheviks. What the Bolsheviks didn’t know was that Moura had fallen utterly, helplessly in love with the romantic British agent. So in love that when the Lockhart Plot was uncovered and he was seized by the secret police, Moura sold herself to save him from the firing squad.
It was a love that would dominate the rest of Moura’s life. When Lockhart went back to England and resumed his career and his marriage, she was desolate. As the decades passed, she went into exile, taking new lovers – including Maxim Gorky and H. G. Wells – and spied for the Soviet regime. She settled in England, where she spied for both sides amidst the web surrounding Burgess, Maclean and Blunt. Moura was too clever and too seductively charming to ever be apprehended. All the while, she never stopped hoping that she would be reunited with her beloved Lockhart, the betrayer, but he remained forever out of her grasp, until they were finally parted by death.
*Moura later remarried and became Baroness Budberg.
Co-authored with Deborah McDonald and based on Moura’s own letters to Lockhart, extensive archive research and interviews with witnesses, A Very Dangerous Woman tells the complete true story of Moura’s incredible life for the first time.
Temptress, seductress, sexploiter, call her what you will, Moura had espionage running through her veins, and all is revealed in this fascinating account of her mysterious life.
Nigel West, author of Operation Garbo
A Very Dangerous Woman is an incredible, beautifully written story … an absorbing and colourful account of the individuals and events that changed the world in the first half of the twentieth century.
Susan Ottaway, author of Sisters, Secrets and Sacrifice