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Dona Maria Aline Griffith Dexter, Countess of Romanones, spouse of a deceased Grandee of Spain (born 1923) is a Spanish-American aristocrat, socialite, and writer who worked in the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as a cipher clerk during World War II. She has been a member of the International Best Dressed List since 1962.
Born in Pearl River, New York, Miss Griffith (as she then was) was working as a model when she was recruited by the OSS and sent to Spain, where she later met and married her husband. According to Elizabeth McIntosh's book "she started out in Madrid in the X-2 code room in 1943, on call night and day to encipher messages. She also handled a small agent net that spied on the private secretary of a minister in the Spanish government. Most of her exciting work was done after hours when she developed an extensive social life, reporting on the gossip she had overheard after a night of partying, often with Spanish aristocracy." She married Luis Figueroa y Perez de Guzman el Bueno, Count of Quintanilla, in 1947; they had three children:
The couple later became the Count and Countess of Romanones upon the death of her husband's grandfather, Alvaro Figueroa. She currently lives at her homes in Madrid and Pascualete, the latter of which is a country estate of her husband's family, which she has painstakingly restored.
Romanones has published seven books to date: six are presented as non-fiction and one is a novel. The three Spy books all dealt with her involvement in espionage and intelligence.
There is some controversy over the accuracy of Romanones' depiction of her work for OSS and the CIA in her memoirs. There is no doubt that she served as a cipher clerk for the OSS in Madrid during World War II, but historian Rupert Allason, writing under the pen name "Nigel West", contends that her "supposedly factual accounts [of her espionage work] were completely fictional."
In 1991, Women's Wear Daily reported that it had retrieved her OSS file from the US National Archives and found that Romanones had "embroidered her exploits as an American spy". According to the paper, she started out as a code clerk and then moved into a low-level intelligence job that involved reporting on gossip circulating in Spanish high society; there was no mention of her shooting a man or assisting in the exposure of a double agent, as The Spy Wore Red alleges. Romanones responded to the allegations in a March 1991 Los Angeles Times interview: "My stories are all based on truth. It's impossible that whatever details of any mission I did would be in a file."
Women's Wear Daily also quoted an anonymous former intelligence officer's complaint that Romanones's later memoir gives the misleading impression that she and the Duchess of Windsor alone found a CIA mole when "it took the whole CIA two years and about 200 people to do it." Romanones replied, "I did not pretend to do it single-handedly. I explained clearly that they only came to us when they couldn't find him." The CIA has declined to comment on Romanones's statements.