I love writing Regencies about spies and now have three novellas where spies make an appearance. The British government during this period developed a system that would have made Bond proud. Maybe the spies during the Napoleonic era were not like James Bond or those in contemporary literature, but they were Professors, poets and MP's and lived double lives shrouded in mystery. Though it lacked sophistication it was a framework the government continued to build upon. There were informers and intelligence gathers working for Wellington and they were not always treated well.
In my book, LOVE AND WAR, my hero, Gyles Devereaux, the Earl of Halcrow is a member of the Hussar Regiment. His spymaster is George Scovell. Scovell was the chief codebreaker for the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War of 1808-1814.
Under Wellington’s command, codebreaking and intelligence gathering played an important role in British victories such as Oporto (1809), Salamanca (1812) and Vittoria (1813).
Scovell, a gifted linguist, developed a system of military communications and intelligence gathering for the British that intercepted French letters and dispatches to and from the battlefield, and cracked their code.
It is to Scovell that Lady Selena turns when her mysterious husband, Lord Gyles disappears again. And, unwittingly, she places him in great danger.
One of the best known spymasters was William Wickham PC, PC (Ire) (11 November 1761-22 October 1840) a British politician who acted as a spymaster during the French Revolution, and was later a Privy Counsellor and Chief Secretary for Ireland.
Wickham was born into wealth in Yorkshire, England, and attended Harrow School and Christ Church, Oxford before taking a law degree in Geneva, Switzerland in 1786; he was also called to the bar in England, at Lincoln's Inn. He married a Swiss lady in 1788.
He then entered the diplomatic service. Because of his knowledge of Switzerland, Wickham was sent to that country in 1794 as assistant to the British ambassador. A year later he himself was named ambassador. His duties were chiefly that of a spymaster. By 1795, England was openly combating the French revolutionaries who had usurped and beheaded King Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinette. Wickham established a spy network in Switzerland and in France and directed his agents to plan invasions of France by royalists or even foreign powers who might be able to restore the French monarchy of King Louis XVIII, who was then living in exile.
At every turn he attempted to discredit French Revolutionaries, foment rebellion against their rule, and disable the workings of an already shattered government. To accomplish those goals, the British government secretly endowed Wickham with an enormous amount of money. A good deal of that money was spent in a complex plot to bring French General Charles Pichegru, then a revolutionary general, into the royalist camp with all of his troops. its cause, going over to the ranks of Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé who maintained an army on the Rhine. Condé's agent was Comte de Montgaillard who used a Swiss printer named Louis Fauche-Borel as the contact with Pichegru. Fauche-Borel, a born intriguer, gave Pichegru £8,000 which Wickham advanced to feed and supply Pichegru's troops. Once the French general received this payment, however, he vacillated, then reported that the time was not right for him to make his move. Pichegru would make his move in 1804, but his revolt against Bonaparte was short-lived. Joseph Fouché's agents quickly detected his plot and he was arrested and imprisoned, found mysteriously murdered in his cell a short time later.
This research came in handly for my novel set during the French Revolution titled HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE.
Colquhoun Grant was one of the Duke of Wellington’s most famous intelligence officers, but he never thought of himself as a spy. In the nineteenth century spying was still considered an underhand and dishonest way of warfare. To brand Grant a spy would have been to cast doubt on his status as an officer and a gentleman.Wellington soon realised that the French outnumbered his forces. He therefore needed to have as much advance information as possible and he developed a network of intelligence officers and local spies. He valued both strategic information, gathered by the interception of enemy letters, and tactical intelligence, gathered by men in the field such as ‘exploring officers’.
Exploring officers in Wellington’s army were under the command of the Quartermaster General. They operated on their own or with one or two local guides. Their task was to collect first-hand tactical intelligence by riding to enemy positions, observing and noting movements and making sketch maps of uncharted land. It was a dangerous job and they had to be fit, good horsemen, and ready to escape at any moment.