“I always knew there was something unusual about him compared to my other grandparents, in Somerset, who just lived in a farmhouse,” says Charlotte Philby of her grandfather Kim Philby, the most notorious traitor in British-espionage history. After defecting to Russia in 1963, when he was revealed to be a member of the Cambridge Five spy ring, Kim died when Charlotte, now 37, was just 5. “I have these memories of arriving at Moscow airport and being escorted to an old car. They would get out the siren from the back seat and whiz us down the motorway. We would be chaperoned by K.G.B.—well, I didn’t know they were K.G.B. then, but they were,” she says. “And I knew his funeral was a big deal. It was on the TV, and it was a big state ceremony.”
Her grandfather’s presence has never left her. Among his various letters and belongings, Charlotte still displays Kim’s old chessboard and the tattered matryoshka dolls he gave her in the London home she shares with her husband, the art director Barney Beech, and their children.