Kyle Wilson reviews 'The Secret World: A history of intelligence' by Christopher Andrew

Kyle Wilson reviews 'The Secret World: A history of intelligence' by Christopher Andrew

The Secret World: A history of intelligence

by Christopher Andrew

Allen Lane, $69.99 hb, 960 pp, 9780713993660

The world’s best-known espionage officer, Vladimir Putin, would relish Christopher Andrew’s account of the role of his fellow practitioners at the 1816 Congress of Vienna. The secret services of France, Prussia, Britain, Russia, and Austria jostled to monitor the trysts of courtesans with the statesmen assembled in the Austro-Hungarian capital to carve post-Napoleonic Europe into spheres of influence. In some cases, these delicate sources were bestowing favours serially. More than one secret service was gleaning the pillow talk. The Russian Princess Catherine Bagration, mother of Austrian Foreign Minister Klemens von Metternich’s illegitimate daughter, was receiving at least two, including Tsar Alexander I. Metternich’s then current mistress, the Duchess of Sagan, entertained, separately, two British diplomats, including the British Ambassador to Vienna. How piquant, that Metternich deployed his own agents to keep abreast of the duchess’s other liaisons.

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Kyle Wilson

Kyle Wilson

Kyle Wilson is a former DFAT officer and intelligence analyst at the Office of National Assessments. He is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for European Studies at the Australian National University.

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