“It is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for the purposes of spying, and thereby they achieve great results. Spies are a most important element in war, because on them depends an army’s ability to move.” – Sun Tzu
“No war can be conducted successfully without early and good intelligence.” – John Churchill, The first Duke of Marlborough
Intelligence activities at the national level first developed during the middle ages in diplomatic circles, with espionage being one of the fundamental duties of ambassadors and envoys. The first English monarch known to place a heavy emphasis on espionage was Henry VII, who in the late fifteenth century employed agents to track the activities of his enemies both domestically and abroad. Prior to assuming the throne, it was only through employment of personal agents that Henry avoided death or capture by his rival, Richard III. Once on the throne, he remained vigilant and kept to a small group of trusted advisers for security and information.
His son, Henry VIII, was less concerned about his own safety and left the duties of espionage to his ministers of state Thomas Wolsey, and later, Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell in particular was adept at coordinating the various existing espionage entities, and primarily used them as an internal security force to root out opposition and combat the Catholic Church’s influence in England.
Many historians consider Sir Francis Walsingham, principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I, as the founder of the British Secret Service. Walsingham had many of the qualities associated with today’s professional intelligence officers. He limited his reporting to the facts at hand, with limited personal opinions and biases. He devoted his time almost solely to gathering intelligence in support of the queen, keeping his personal feelings and ambitions in check, and pursuing what he perceived as good for the country and the queen. Continue reading