Alexander Wilson lived life at full pelt, a whirlwind man who used his background as a spy to create an aura of thriller round himself that might solely be unravelled in loss of life. When he was felled by a coronary heart assault in April 1963, aged 69, the layers of intrigue started to peel away, exposing the novelist as a serial bigamist with 4 wives and 7 kids. To at the present time government-held paperwork on this extraordinary character stay categorized, suggesting his actions throughout wartime nonetheless threaten to trigger embarrassment to the nation.

Now the astonishing story of a person whose many lives have been constructed on lies is being advised in a three-part drama referred to as Mrs Wilson, which begins on BBC One subsequent Tuesday.

And in an impressed piece of casting his granddaughter, the actress Ruth Wilson – 36-year-old star of Luther and The Affair – performs her real-life grandmother Alison, Alexander’s third spouse.

Alison died in 2005 however Ruth burrowed deep into the household historical past, helped by her grandmother’s memoir, to assist create what is about to be a stand-out drama starring Iain Glen as Alexander, recognized to everybody as Alec.

Alison met Alec whereas working for M16 in the course of the battle and so they went on to have two kids, Gordon and Nigel, throughout their 22-year marriage.

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FAMILY LIES: Ruth Wilson performs her grandmother Alison and Iain Glen as her grandfather Alec (Picture: Steffan Hill/ BBC)

m16 spy alec wilson four wives

Marriage ceremony Photograph, 1916 to Gladys Wilson, his 1st Spouse (Picture: Alexander Wilson Property)

Earlier than he died at their dwelling in Ealing, West London, Alec gave Alison a observe with a telephone quantity on it, with directions to not ring the quantity till after his loss of life.

Shortly after that decision was made Gladys Wilson turned up on her doorstep with the bombshell information that she was Alec’s spouse and collectively they’d had three kids: Daphne, Dennis and Adrian.

Furher shocks have been in retailer for Alison when she not solely acquired correspondence from two different wives, Dorothy and Elizabeth, however realized there have been two extra sons.

Even the one factor she should have thought she may take as a right about Alec – his age – turned out to be false.

Checks on his delivery certificates revealed he was born in 1893 and was three years older than she thought.

The query uppermost in Ruth’s thoughts has all the time been whether or not her grandfather’s a number of marriages have been a part of his cowl as a spy or simply ruthless emotional manipulation of susceptible ladies by a intelligent conman.

“We’ve not come to a conclusion,” she stated at a London screening of the drama. “MI5 nonetheless will not launch his information as to what he bought as much as there, they’re ‘case delicate, so we do not actually know what he truly bought as much as, or what he was doing with MI5, or MI6.

“We do not know if the marriages have been for work? Have been they for love? We nonetheless do not have readability on that. So he is a person of thriller.”

m16 spy alec wilson four wives

Dorothy Wilson, Aec’s 2nd spouse (Picture: Alexander Wilson Property)

Alexander Joseph Patrick Wilson by no means divorced any of his wives, juggling his parallel households like a magician.

He wed Gladys – his solely authorized spouse – in 1916 and he or she had their son Adrian in 1917. One other son, Dennis, remains to be alive right this moment, aged 97.

Initially of the First World Conflict Alec joined the Royal Naval Air Service however, after crashing his airplane, transferred to the Royal Military Service Corps, the place he was concerned in taking provides to France.

It was whereas serving as a service provider seaman on a ship travelling to Vancouver that he first fell foul of the legislation.

He was given onerous labour in Canada for theft.

When the battle ended he and Gladys ran a touring theatre firm however in 1925 he took a job in India as a professor of English literature on the College of Punjab.

It was throughout this time that he began writing spy novels. The Thriller Of Tunnel 51, printed in 1928, featured a thinly veiled model of M16 chief Mansfield Smith-Cumming, often known as C.

His Wallace of the Secret Service novels shaped just one strand of the 24 novels and three tutorial books he wrote presently.

m16 spy alec wilson four wives

Alexander Wilson (Picture: Alexander Wilson Property)

He additionally discovered time to fulfill and marry second spouse Dorothy Wick, a touring actress. It’s thought they married in 1930.

With child son Michael in tow they returned to England however after a time Alec went off to reside with the very forgiving Gladys in Southampton for a yr and a half.

At one stage he went again to Dorothy, telling Gladys he wished to seek out them a house in London.

However by the point Michael was eight Alec was out of their lives.

m16 spy alec wilson four wives

Ruth’s grandmother: Alison Wilson (Picture: Alexander Wilson Property)

To cowl his father’s heartless desertion, Dorothy advised Michael that Alec had been killed at El Alamein in 1942.

He solely discovered the reality six a long time later.

Spouse quantity three was Alison McKelvie, the primary character within the drama, performed by Ruth.

Their paths first crossed in 1940 when Alison was working for MI6 and Alec was recruited as a undercover agent.

The enticing younger secretary was enthusiastic about his bewitching charisma.

When her flat was bombed, Alison went to reside with Alec. Inevitably they turned lovers, married and had two kids, one among whom, Nigel, was Ruth’s father.

By now a seasoned bigamist Alec averted detection by altering his center title on marriage certificates. “He modified his center names usually in order that it did not have a file of a earlier marriage,” says Ruth.

It was when he started working as a hospital porter, that he encountered spouse quantity 4: a younger nurse referred to as Elizabeth Hill.

They went on to have a son Douglas however Elizabeth and boy later moved to Scotland.

m16 spy aec wilson four wives

Elizabeth Wilson, the 4th Spouse (Picture: Alexander Wilson Property)

Alison outlived Alec by a number of a long time, writing two memoirs as a means of attending to grips together with her husband’s deceit.

“He had not solely died,” she wrote in a single, “he had evaporated into nothing. He had destroyed himself, there was nothing left however a heap of ashes. My love was decreased to a heap of ashes.”

For Ruth, taking part in her grandmother, was “daunting and scary”.

She provides: “However as a result of it’s a drama. We’re not judging them. It will truly be extra exposing to make a documentary as a result of it could be me, Ruth, and you would need to give solutions.

“However I’ve by no means judged them and neither has the remainder of the household. I discover them each curious and complicated. So it’s safer to dramatise it, get beneath the characters extra, and totally serve the story.”

Creator Tim Criminal, who’s writing a second guide about Alexander Wilson, says: “Ruth has proven nice braveness in taking up the position and he or she has executed a implausible job.”

Mrs Wilson begins on Tuesday, November 27 at 9pm on BBC One.

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