Aline Griffith (1923 -), the Countess of Romanones, is the oldest child of William Griffith, Sr., who was a prominent industrialist in Pearl River, New York. During the early years of World War II Miss Griffith, being a typical American career girl, was expected someday to marry and raise a family. She had bigger things in mind, however. With two brothers already fighting in the war, she wanted to become involved herself.
At a party one night in 1944, she met a man by the name of John Derby. In casual conversation with him, Miss Griffith expressed her wish to be a part of the actual war effort – not just on the sidelines, and not just one of “the folks back home”. Derby, sensing her seriousness, advised her that he might be able to help, and to expect a call within the next few days. The call came through and Miss Griffith was given an interview and a cryptic set of instructions.
A month later, Miss Griffith found herself at an undisclosed location in Virginia, at a training camp for spies. John Derby, it transpired, was an official in the newly formed Office of Strategic Services (OSS). He thought she might have the required mettle and had recommended her for possible employment. A series of tests were set for her and the other trainees, and as one of only two women there, she passed with ease.
Her espionage training began in earnest. Miss Griffith learned how to gather information and transmit it using secret codes; the ways of disguise and shadowing; and even how, for example, to make a lethal weapon using only paper. Nothing was spared her; she learned, in graphic detail, the perils she would face as an undercover agent.
Her training was successful, and, deemed ready for her first assignment, was given the code name “Tiger”.
Miss Griffith’s adventures are recounted in a series of three books.
The first, The Spy Wore Red (1988), tells of her early years, training, and mission in Spain during World War II. Generalissimo Francisco Franco had kept Spain neutral, but there were indications that it might join the Axis powers. Miss Griffith was assigned to a group whose mission was to gather information on German activities in Spain, and to spread false information in the months leading up to the Allied landings in Europe. She was based in Madrid and quickly set up a network of operatives there. Even though she was nearly killed once, Miss Griffith’s mission was a success and she won the respect of her superiors. She left the OSS in 1947 to marry Luis Quintanilla and live the life of a Spanish grandee and socialite, as the Countess of Romanones.
In her next book, The Spy Went Dancing (1991), it’s 1966 and Aline, Countess of Romanones, retired spy, is preparing a dinner party for her guests, England’s Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Though she’s promised her husband that her espionage days are long over, things change after a phone call and meeting with John Derby. An old friend and colleague of hers, Magic, has been found murdered. Against her better judgment, Tiger comes out of semi-retirement to locate paintings stolen by the Nazis – clues that might lead to Magic’s killer. She recruits, amazingly enough, the Duchess of Windsor as her willing partner in this new mission. Miss Griffith is forced to work against tough adversaries while simultaneously keeping her mission secret from her husband, and protecting the Duchess by only revealing the least information necessary.
The last book of the series, The Spy Wore Silk (1993), takes place in Spain and Morocco. The year is 1971, and during a pleasure trip to Morocco, the Romanones learn of a plot to assassinate King Hassan II of Morocco. In an about-face, the Count asks his wife to use her espionage talents to unmask the plot and prevent a murder that would be devastating to both countries. There are the usual deceptions and surprises, but Miss Griffith, with John Derby's help, succeeds in foiling the plot and settling a few old scores along the way.
Aline, Countess of Romanones, The Spy Wore Red. New York: Macmillian Library, 1988.
Aline, Countess of Romanones, The Spy Went Dancing. New York: Putnam Publishing Group, 1990.
Aline, Countess of Romanones, The Spy Wore Silk. New York: Macmillan Library, 1992.