Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Was Chanel a spy?

This snippet of news that was sent to me yesterday could hardly be more timely for the launch of Naughty in Nice:

A new book suggests that Coco Chanel was used as a German spy during WWII (code name Westminster , after the Duke of Westminster, who was her pre-war lover)
Several friends sent me the link and asked if I knew about this.
Absolutely, and what's more I'm dying to write about it.  It's too bad my series is only up to 1934 and I can't really skip ahead to the war yet.
But what I already knew was that Coco became the mistress of a German officer during the war. He had her write to her old business partner, Vera Bate Lombardi, who was living in Italy, having married Lombardi and wanting to be with him. The letter said that Chanel was reviving her fashion house and wanted Vera to come and help her. In fact the letter was to lure Vera to Paris any way she could. Once there she would be threatened and intimidated by the Gestapo until she agreed to be sent to England to work on Winston Churchill, who was a friend. There was even some hint that they wanted her to assassinate him.

Now you can see why I'm dying to use the story some time.  Chanel was the ultimate survivor. She came from nothing, an orphanage after being abandoned by her parents, and used one rich man after another to achieve what she wanted. The fact that she was prepared to use her dearest friend in this way showed how little regard she had for people.

A more cheerful subject tomorrow, I hope.
It's Dayd 12 of my month of French Fun and Facts, leading up to the release of Naughty in Nice on September 6th.


  1. If you won't write about her, I might be forced to. So go for it, Rhys!

  2. Does she deserve even more fame?

    Disagreed (mildly) with your post "Why I love Coco Chanel". There are lots of resistance heroes more deserving of ink.

  3. I had never heard this about Chanel. I knew there were some downsides, shall we say, to her character, but being willing to use her old friend that way is shocking to me. I guess I have lots to learn about her. Carry on writing about her!