In the first of this three-part series about British and international secret services and their chiefs, three British spy-masters were described fairly extensively – those three who controlled British Intelligence from its creation as ‘SIS’, though its period as ‘MI6’, until the secret services were ‘outed’ and no longer secret in the second half of the twentieth century.
Our previous two articles made it clear that secret services (usually founded by a monarch, though not always) are by no means an imaginary cloak-and-dagger operation invented by eminent authors like John le Carré, Frederick Forsyth, Len Deighton and Ian Fleming. Alexander the Great entrusted much of the intelligence side of his staggering conquests to his most trusted general Ptolomy, aided by Alexander’s companion Hephaistion. Alfred before he became The Great had spies reporting to him from the Danish/Norwegian occupied parts of Eastern England; But perhaps the first officially set-up spy system, almost purely national, was thought up by the first Tudor king, Henry VII. His choice as spy-master was, of course, a churchman.