Cynthia, the spy

The Brilliant MI6 Spy Who Perfected the Art of the ‘Honey Trap’

During WWII, Betty Pack used seduction to acquire enemy naval codes.

Betty Pack on her wedding day. (Photo: Churchill Archives Center, Papers of Harford Montgomery Hyde, HYDE 02 011/Courtesy Harper Collins)

These days the “honeypot” is a popular trope in espionage thrillers, with seemingly every high-level informant recruited via seduction by a ravishing female spy. But long before James Bond ever jumped across the roof of a moving train in books or film, the globe-trotting spy Betty Pack was wooing suitors for classified information on both sides of the Atlantic. Few people have elevated the habit of pillow talk to an art form quite like the crafty American-born intelligence officer, who “used the bedroom like Bond used a beretta,” Time magazine noted in 1963.

Pack’s code name at the British spy agency MI6 was “Cynthia,” and her clandestine escapades during World War II led her boss, Sir William Stephenson, to call her unequivocally “the greatest unsung heroine of the war.” Her discovery of the French and Italian naval codes, as well as her work aiding in the decades-long effort to crack the Enigma code, helped the Allies stay a few steps ahead of the Axis powers, and eventually, win the war.

Amy Elizabeth “Betty” Thorpe was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1910. She was an uncommonly restless child. “Always in me, even when I was a child, were two great passions—one to be alone, the other for excitement,” Betty told her fellow spy and lover Harford Montgomery Hyde, according to a new biography, The Last Goodnight. “Any kind of excitement—even fear.”

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