Kim Philby – lying to those who loved him

“Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.”  Arthur Miller.

  The treachery at the heart of a lifelong friendship which brought together two men who in reality were enemies but only one knew it, is the theme of a new drama about Cold War Soviet spy Kim Philby and his MI6 buddy Nicholas Elliott. Starring Damien Lewis as Elliott.

  They met during the Blitz in London in the early 1940s and their MI6 intelligence careers progressed in tandem. Except that Philby, recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1934, passed secrets to Moscow that sent hundreds — perhaps thousands — to their deaths. For nearly three decades he deceived colleagues, family, friends, wives, lovers and his country. When he came under suspicion Elliott leapt to his defence, convinced it was a witch hunt. After being cleared the first time, Elliott helped him to find work as a journalist in Beirut, where he resumed working for MI6 and the KGB.

   Philby is described as duplicitous but also generous, funny and intelligent. When Elliott finally faced the truth he insisted on going to Beirut to confront Philby in early 1963. A few days later Philby left a message for his wife saying he would be late for dinner and fled to Moscow. She had no inkling of her adored husband’s double life.

A lethal charmer, ‘he was also a ruthless dissembler, one of the greatest liars this country has ever produced. He started out as a committed communist but became addicted to the drug of secrecy, the thrill of infidelity, political and personal.’

  Philby was born 1 January 1912 2.30pm Ambala, India with an Arabist explorer father, was educated in England ending up at Cambridge University. He had a deeply-buried 8th house Capricorn Sun and secretive 8th house Mercury in Sagittarius in a opposition Pluto which would make him a convincing speaker but also capable of fraudulent misrepresentation. He had an ultra-charming Venus in Scorpio close to expansive Jupiter in his 7th so he would be extremely personable. And it opposed a dynamic Moon Mars on his Ascendant. Plus he had a highly-strung, can-be-fanatical Uranus opposition Neptune squaring a 12th house Aries North Node.

  What is striking is the juxtaposition of that ramped up, sugary charm sitting alongside (and covering up) his hidden depths from his 8th.

 George Blake another MI6 Soviet agent who fled in 1961 also had strong hidden house emphasis in his chart – Scorpio Sun in the 8th, Uranus in 12th and Pluto in 4th. See post 26 December 2020. Like Philby his early roots were not British – born in the Netherlands, part childhood in Egypt and eventually landed in Cambridge University. (Where else? – it really is a cess pit that place or was for a variety of reasons.)

  Nicholas Elliott, 15 November 1916, was a Sun Scorpio with his Sun conjunct Philby’s seductive Venus and his Jupiter was conjunct Philby’s North Node and square his Uranus opposition Neptune, arguably offering him enthusiastic cover. Elliott’s Pluto opposed Philby’s 8th house Sun, with the 8th house clearly having the upper hand, dangling Elliott on a string.  What may have been Elliott’s Achilles heel was his Saturn Venus conjunction in Leo, maybe close to his Moon square his Jupiter which might have given him an over-rosy view of certain situations – not helpful in a spy. And his South Node was conjunct Philby’s slippery Neptune

  Their relationship chart had a business-like composite Sun opposition Saturn and an adventurous Uranus Jupiter square Venus. With underlying hostility creeping in from the composite Mars conjunct North Node trine Pluto – though that would also have been soaked up in their respective clandestine careers. But it was that aspect which exploded when Elliott finally faced the truth as tr Pluto was conjunct the composite South Node and opposition Mars, with tr Uranus moving along behind. Tr Saturn also then in Aquarius was about to cast a chill as it squared the composite Venus and crossed the adventurous Uranus Jupiter.  

 Philby’s third wife Eleanor, 15 September 1913, was a Sun Virgo which fell in Philby’s sociable 5th house with her Jupiter conjunct his Sun. Their relationship chart had tr Neptune conjunct the composite Sun when he walked out leaving her to face the truth of his betrayal. Tr Saturn was also conjunct the composite Uranus for a major shake up and tr Pluto was moving in square to the composite Mars for a devastating blow. She had a Mars Pluto conjunction in Cancer in her natal chart which would attract her to dramatic and damaging situations and relationships.

  It’s difficult to imagine the kind of energy that would have to go into leading such a double life and lying to everyone close.  

A Spy Among Friends is on ITVX from December 8 based on the novel by Ben McIntyre.

See also post November 2 2021

8 thoughts on “Kim Philby – lying to those who loved him

  1. I look for simple, obvious things in a chart. Mars in the 12th, a secretive life. I’ve experienced this with a family member who keeps his life hidden, and a former friend who presents as a spiritual guide and leader, when in fact she’s a secret compulsive gambler, and has an otherwise well-hidden life of duplicity.

    Kim Philby obviously lacked a conscience, an apex predator.

    • @Judicee, yes, Moon/Mars in the 12th is what undoubtably drove Philby. I would not say he lacked concience, though. Signs ans aspects matter, too, and I doubt your 12th house Marsers have the stunning combination Philby had. Taurus Moon tends to have incredibly deeply set values they act upon. Just because Philby’s aren’t or haven’t been popular in 30 or so years, doesn’t mean he didn’t, genuinely, believe in “Communist International”. Having had grandparents who were communists, I remember my grandmother (a Virgo Moon) in particular believing strongly in class over country aspect. Philby did state, later in his life, that he was successful for such a long period because MI6 was such an upper class bubble of “good old boys” they never even could imagine one of theirs being a communist.

    • There were quite a few intellectuals who dreamt of moving to Russia to retire in the 60/70’s. I knew a Professor who told me over a meal, with my then researcher boyfriend, that he was going to live in Russia. Even back then, he struck me as a dreamer, never married and idolised the perfection of communism. I suspect Philby’s 3rd house Neptune may have been confronted with the stark reality of everyday life when he arrived there. Most of our spies in that era were recruited whilst at Cambridge University. Philby’s Venus on a Scorpio Descendant, opposite a 12th Moon in Taurus, with 3rd house Neptune, clouded his judgement in my view, as he was in love with a perfect dream. His ultimate lover. As today, he could have googled Russia and saw reality, back then he was charmed.

      • @Helen, as stated by Elliott, addiction to secrecy must have been a factor here, and he found relatively comfortable life granted by Soviet Union to high ranking officers and intellectuals boring. The “Breznev Boom” years of the 1960’s and very early 1970’s are being remembered with nostalgia by many Russians, though. Difficulties started later, towards the late 1970’s, when it became clear the inefficient system could not keep up in the arms race with the West. Moscow Olympics were also a huge financial endeavor in a planned economy. Also, the class structure within Soviet Union – between Russians and “brotherly” nations, but also party establishment and commoners – became more evident in those yearsm

        • Also, Philby abhorred unprofessionalism at MI6. Imagine him being fronted by what went on within KGB. While Philby attributed much of his success to MI6 being an elitist organisation, Gordievsky seems to attribute his to his perpetually drunken colleagues paying more attention to looking good in the eyes of their superiors than their work. Reports and even contacts were made up. I think Philby had more respect for Stasi, ran with Prussian precision, but this might not have been mutual. I seem to recall Markus Wolff, who was the head of HVA, Stasi foreign intelligence branch, didn’t have a high opinion on Philby.

  2. Quite fitting then that in his final years he got to live in the world that he betrayed so many for. I always had the feeling that to these ‘chaps’ it was all just a game. How far could they go. Never a thought for the consequences. I heard the story about him telling his wife he would “be late for dinner” (so droll) back in the 70s when my then partner told me his father was a ‘mole catcher’. I envisioned a man in boots, tweeds and a flat cap striding about country estates looking for mounds of earth. But no, he worked for MI5 looking for the next double agent in MI6. It was a strange time with the Cold War and much mistrust between government agencies after the many scandals.

  3. Ever heard of the Bona-fides Bond? Ever heard of a real spy called Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington. To date there aren’t any films made about him but there is one hell of an espionage thriller novel released so far about his real life exploits.

    Beyond Enkription (intentionally misspelt) is a must read for espionage cognoscenti and the first stand-alone spy thriller in The Burlington Files autobiographical series by Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ, aka Edward Burlington). It’s a raw and noir matter of fact pacy novel. Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote it. Coincidentally, a few critics have nicknamed its protagonist “a posh Harry Palmer.”

    This elusive and enigmatic novel is a true story about a maverick accountant (Edward Burlington in Porter Williams International aka Bill Fairclough in Coopers & Lybrand now PwC in real life). In 1974 in London he began infiltrating organised crime gangs, unwittingly working for MI6. After some frenetic attempts on his life he was relocated to the Caribbean where, “eyes wide open” he was recruited by the CIA and headed for shark infested waters off Haiti.

    If you’re an espionage cognoscente you’ll love this monumental book. In real life Bill was recruited by MI6’s unorthodox Colonel Alan Brooke Pemberton CVO MBE and thereafter they worked together on and off into the 1990s. Pemberton’s People included Roy Astley Richards (Winston Churchill’s bodyguard), one eccentric British Brigadier (Peter ‘Scrubber’ Stewart-Richardson) who tried to join the Afghan Mujahideen, Peter Goss an SAS Colonel and JIC member involved in the Clockwork Orange Plot concerning Prime Minister Harold Wilson and even the infamous rogue Major Freddy Mace, who highlighted his cat burgling and silent killing skills in his CV.

    This epic is so real it made us wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more exhilarating. Atmospherically it’s reminiscent of Ted Lewis’ Get Carter of Michael Caine fame. If anyone ever makes a film based on Beyond Enkription they’ll only have themselves to blame if it doesn’t go down in history as a classic thriller … it’s the stuff memorable films are made of.

    Whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder, odds on once you are immersed in it you’ll read this titanic production twice. For more detailed reviews visit the Reviews page on TheBurlingtonFiles website or see other independent reviews on your local Amazon website and check out Bill Fairclough’s background on the web.

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