Régina Diana: Seductress, Singer, Spy

Written by David Semeraro Vivien Newman
Review by Edward James

The death of Mata Hari before a firing squad in Paris in 1917 is one of the most famous events in the history of espionage.  The death of Regina Diana in similar circumstances in Marseille the following year was completely forgotten until the authors of this book resurrected her memory.

Diana was Swiss and, like Mata Hari, was a singer, entertainer and seductress, but unlike Mata Hari (who probably was not a spy) she ran a successful spy ring for German Intelligence for most of WW1.  Her technology now seems quaint – handwritten messages in invisible ink on postcards to Switzerland.  She was betrayed when a card was left too near the stove in a sorting office and the secret message emerged in the warmth.

Diana was too good a spy to leave many records, certainly too few to fill a book.  Less than half of Régina Diana directly relates to the woman herself and the rest is about Switzerland in WW1, popular songs, the German Intelligence service and even the loss of a troopship that might, or might not, have been due to one of Diana’s reports.  Diana led an exciting life, but her story must rest with the novelist not the historian.