Daphne Park

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Person.png Daphne Park  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Daphne Park.jpg
British 'Queen of Spies'
Surrey, England, UK
Died2010-03-24 (Age 88)
Alma materRosa Bassett School, Somerville College (Oxford University), Newnham College (Cambridge University)

Daphne Margaret Sybil Désirée Park, Baroness Park of Monmouth CMG, OBE, FRSA worked for the SOE during WW2 and was a senior MI6 officer, diplomat, Tory peer and member of the Thatcher Foundation from 1992. She was known as the 'Queen of Spies' after her four decades as one of those tough top British female intelligence agents admired by the KGB and other opponents, having served in Hanoi, Moscow, the Congo, and Zambia:

"I must have been arrested and condemned to be shot several times," she admitted. "It was a hazard that I got used to." [1]

According to Stephen Dorril, Daphne Park worked with the CIA in trying to overthrow the Government of Patrice Lumumba following the independence of the Congo in 1960.[2] In April 2013, Lord Lea of Crondall publicly claimed that fellow peer and former MI6 officer Daphne Park admitted to him shortly before her death in March 2010 that the British government had had a role in the 1961 assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. When Lord Lea asked Lady Park whether MI6 might have had something to do with it, he recalls her saying:

"We did. I organised it."[3]

Early life and education

The daughter of John Alexander and Doreen Gwynneth Park, Daphne's father had contracted tuberculosis as a young man and was sent to Africa for rest and recuperation. He moved from South Africa to Nyasaland (now Malawi), and served as a spook during WW1. Thereafter he worked as a tobacco farmer and as an alluvial gold prospector in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). When Daphne was six months old she travelled to Africa with her mother to join him there.[4] Park had a brother, David who died aged 14.

When she was 11, Daphne Park returned to England and was educated at Rosa Bassett School in Streatham and at Somerville College, Oxford, where she graduated with a B.A. in modern languages in 1943. She was further educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she received a Certificate of Competent Knowledge in Russian in 1952.


On graduating in 1943, Daphne Park turned down jobs in the Treasury and the Foreign Office to make a direct contribution to the war effort. She then joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY). During the selection process for FANY, she came to the attention of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), due to her understanding of ciphers. Park was promoted to the rank of sergeant and trained groups of operatives for Operation Jedburgh whose task was to support the Resistance in Europe. In 1945 Park went to work as a briefing and dispatching officer in North Africa. On her return in 1946 she was sent to Vienna to establish an office for the Field Intelligence Agency Technical (FIAT), a unit of the Allied Commission responsible for tracking down former Axis powers scientists.

In 1948, she was attached to the Foreign Office, while actually working for the Secret Intelligence Service (aka SIS/MI6), becoming Third Secretary of the United Kingdom's delegation to NATO in 1952. She then became Second Secretary of the British Embassy in Moscow between 1954 and 1956. From 1959 to 1961 she was Consul and First Secretary at Leopoldville in the former Belgian Congo. She was alleged to have claimed later in life that during this period she organised the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.[5] She rose further through the ranks of the Foreign Office to be High Commissioner to Lusaka from 1964 to 1967 and then Consul-General in Hanoi from 1969 to 1970. In 1972 she was named as Chargée d'Affaires of the British Embassy in Ulan Bator for several months. From 1973 onwards she served in the Foreign Office then retired two years early in 1979 to become Principal of Somerville College, Oxford.


  • 1971–72, Honourable Research Fellow at the University of Kent
  • 1980–89, Principal of Somerville College
  • 1982–87, Governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
  • 1983–89, Member, British Library Board
  • 1984–90, Chairman, Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Aid
  • 1985–89, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Oxford
  • 1989–90, Director, Zoo Development Trust
  • 1989–94, Chairman, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England
  • 1991–92, Trustee, Royal Armouries Development Trust
  • 1994–96, Member, Forum UK
  • 1994–2010, President, Society for the Promotion of the Training of Women
  • 2003, Patron, Action Congo
  • Member, Royal Asiatic Society
  • Governor, Ditchley Foundation
  • Trustee/Patron, Great Britain-Sasakawa Foundation
  • Trustee, Jardine Educational Trust
  • Trustee, Lucy Faithfull Travel Scholarship Fund

Honours and awards

In 1960, Park was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her service as Consul to Leopoldville. In 1971 she was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for her service as Consul-General in Hanoi. On 27 February 1990, she was created a life peer Baroness Park of Monmouth, of Broadway in the County of Hereford and Worcester, and served as SIS's semi-official spokesperson in the House of Lords. According to Lord Rooker, Park told him that her choice of 'Monmouth' in her title was unconnected with the market town of Monmouth but chosen to honour Monmouth House, a building in which her friends in the Secret Intelligence Service worked. She was an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, and a Fellow of Chatham House (RIIA) and of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Personal life

Daphne Park was unmarried and had no children. She died after a long illness on 24 March 2010, aged 88.[6][7] A Service of Thanksgiving for the Life and Work of Baroness Park was held on Tuesday 26 October 2010 and the eulogy was made by fellow ex-spy Sir Mark Allen, CMG.[8]



External links

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