Aphra Behn the Spy

In 1666 Aphra Behn was recruited as a political spy in Antwerp on behalf of King Charles II.


A sketch of Aphra Behn by George Scharf from a portrait believed to be lost (1873)

She worked under the alias Astrea, a name under which she later published many of her writings. Behn was sent there to turn William Scot into a double agent. He was the son of Thomas Scot who had been executed in 1660 for signing the death warrant of Charles I. When she was there she ran up huge debts; it’s unlikely the British government paid any of her expenses. Her friends paid her fare back to England where she ended up in debtors’ prison. Mysteriously an unknown benefactor paid for her release and she returned to writing in order to make her living until her death in 1689.