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Last updated at 13:19 BST, Tuesday, 01 June 2010

'Revolutionary' dancer


31 May 2010

Secret documents recently made public show that the British ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn was heavily involved in a plot to overthrow the government of Panama in 1959.

Rebecca Jones

Dame Margot Fonteyn


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The Foreign Office documents reveal Dame Margot Fonteyn was suspected of being far more involved in the attempted coup than previously thought. They accuse her of complicity, of knowing that her husband was gathering weapons and rebels.

The British Ambassador to Panama condemned her conduct as "highly reprehensible and irresponsible". He said it "wasn't fitting in any British subject, let alone someone who's been highly honoured by the Queen".

After her arrest in Panama and subsequent release, Dame Margot flew to London where she met the Foreign Office Minister John Profumo. In a memo, which has also just been released, he reveals she told him she'd met Fidel Castro, who promised to help her husband overthrow the Panamanian government.

Profumo writes he had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming what he describes as the "comic opera story".

Rebecca Jones, BBC Arts Correspondent


Click to hear the vocabulary:



give information about something that wasn't known before

suspected of being

believed to be

attempted coup

a failed action to take control of the government of a country


knowing about and being involved in something bad


unofficial soldiers who are fighting against the official government of a country

condemned her conduct

strongly disapproved of her behaviour

highly reprehensible

very bad and deserving of criticism

wasn't fitting

wasn't the right way to behave

a memo

a short note


change by force

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