The intelligence services

The delicate business of monitoring the monarchy

This very readable account of relations between the British intelligence services and the Crown does more than it says on the tin. Although subtitled ‘Spying and the Crown, from Victoria to Diana’, it quite properly begins with Queen Elizabeth I and the intelligence network masterminded by Francis Walsingham, whom MI6 regard as their historical progenitor. It also quite properly makes the point that ‘spies and royal statecraft were episodic and opportunistic partners’. Unlike other major powers, Britain had no permanent intelligence services until 1909. There weren’t even any permanent military intelligence organisations until the late 19th century. Such networks as there were came and went with war, or its threat,