Richard Aldrich

Richard J. Aldrich is a leading cyber-security and intelligence expert, award-winning spy writer, historian and presenter. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Professor of International Security at the University of Warwick and helps to lead the Warwick Cyber Security GRP.

Richard’s field of expertise, the future of cyber-security, liberty and privacy, is one of the most pressing of today. His most recent research has focused on ‘Project Spaceman’, an examination of pioneering British efforts in computer security. He is the author of many books, including GCHQ: The Uncensored Story of Britain’s Most Secret Intelligence Agency (2019) and The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers (2016). He is the co-author of The Secret Royals (2021).

He is an experienced broadcaster and public speaker, appearing on The One Show, Newsnight, the Today Programme and Nightwaves. Together with Rory Cormac he has co-presented history documentaries for Channel 4, most recently The Queen and the Coup (2020). He has also featured in several Timewatch, Discovery, ZDF and PBS documentaries. He enjoys literary festivals and has been a regular at Edinburgh and Cheltenham.

Richard has assisted with national museum exhibitions related to intelligence and advises English Heritage on the Blue Plaques scheme in London.

Links & Credits

Channel 4 - The Queen and The Coup

Richard Aldrich co-presents the Channel 4 history documentary

Books

Spying and the Crown

Richard J. Aldrich and Rory Cormac

Spying and the Crown uncovers for the first time the remarkable relationship between the Royal Family and the intelligence community, from the reign of Queen Victoria to the death of Princess Diana.

In an enthralling narrative, Richard J. Aldrich and Rory Cormac show how the British secret services grew out of persistent attempts to assassinate Victoria and then operated on a private and informal basis, drawing on close personal relationships between senior spies, the aristocracy, and the monarchy. This reached its zenith after the murder of the Romanovs and the Russian revolution when, fearing a similar revolt in Britain, King George V considered using private networks to provide intelligence on the loyalty of the armed forces – and of the broader population.

In 1936, the dramatic abdication of Edward VIII formed a turning point in this relationship. What originally started as family feuding over a romantic liaison with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, escalated into a national security crisis. Fearing the couple’s Nazi sympathies as well as domestic instability, British spies turned their attention to the King. During the Second World War, his successor, King George VI gradually restored trust between the secret world and House of Windsor. Thereafter, Queen Elizabeth II regularly enacted her constitutional right to advise and warn, raising her eyebrow knowingly at prime ministers and spymasters alike.

Based on original research and new evidence, Spying and the Crown presents the British monarchy in an entirely new light and reveals how far their majesties still call the shots in a hidden world.

‘Intricate, ingenious and determined …  Intelligent, fair-minded and a pleasure to read’

— The TLS

This monumental book is really a history of the British secret services, focusing on the fascinating moments when this intersects with royal history… Authoritative and highly readable… As every page of this book attests, the royals have always been involved in secretly directing the affairs not just of this country but of many others.

— Ben Macintyre, The Times

A fascinating history of royal espionage… The book, which stretches back to Elizabeth I and her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, has something of interest on pretty much every page.

— Rowland White, Sunday Times

‘Authoritative and Gripping!’

— The Observer

Bizarre and disturbing episodes are revealed in this excellent history of the royal family’s relationship with espionage… Richard Aldrich and Rory Cormac’s fascinating history argues that modern intelligence evolved out of efforts to prevent Queen Victoria being assassinated… Through unbelievably thorough research – all of it fully referenced for grateful future scholars – they have compiled something comprehensive and compelling.

— Guardian

Aldrich and Cormac have written an important book. Packed with new material and fresh insights, it offers an original way of looking at royal history. It’s also a very good read.

— Jane Ridley, Literary Review

Their mastery of a subject that is extensive both chronologically and in its geographical scope is assured and impressive… An intriguing alternative narrative of British royal history.

— Matthew Dennison, Sunday Telegraph

GCHQ: The Uncensored Story of Britain’s Most Secret Intelligence Agency

Richard Aldrich

GCHQ is the largest and most secretive intelligence organisation in the UK, and has existed for 100 years – but we still know next to nothing about it.

In this ground-breaking book – the first and most definitive history of the organisation ever published – intelligence expert Richard Aldrich traces GCHQ’s development from a wartime code-breaking operation based in the Bedfordshire countryside into one of the world-leading espionage organisations.

Packed with dramatic spy stories, GCHQ also explores the organisation’s role behind the most alarming headlines of our time, from fighting ISIS to cyber-terrorism, from the surveillance state to Russian hacking.

Revelatory, brilliantly written and fully updated, this is the crucial missing link in Britain’s intelligence history.

The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers

Richard Aldrich and Rory Cormac

The Black Door explores the evolving relationship between successive British Prime Ministers and the intelligence agencies, from Asquith’s Secret Service Bureau to Cameron’s National Security Council.

From Churchill’s code breakers feeding information to the Soviets to Eden’s attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, from Wilson’s paranoia of an MI5-led coup d’état to Thatcher’s covert wars in Central America, Aldrich and Cormac entertain and enlighten as they explain how our government came to rely on intelligence to the extent that it does today.