I wonder who was the highest ranking government official working knowingly and clandestinely for a foreign government.

Two nominations are possible:


A citizen of country X working officially for the government of X but secretly spying for country Y. Examples:

Note that Marshal Beria, executed as a British spy, is, obviously, not an acceptable example here. :-)


A citizen of country Y working for the intelligence services of country Y, also working for the government of country X under an assumed name. Examples:

  • 1
    why downvotes?. – sds Apr 20 '15 at 22:49
  • 3
    How do we compare ranks? – MCW Apr 20 '15 at 23:09
  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace: using Table of Ranks :-) – sds Apr 20 '15 at 23:10
  • 3
    I think downvotes come from 1. lack of own research (typing 4 names is not a research, it's to be googled in a minute) 2. difficulties in recognition of the "rank" (is a prime minister of Ruritania higher rank than secretary of state of the USA?) 3. This question asks for a list, or at least - drives to a list creation. – Voitcus Apr 21 '15 at 6:05
  • @sds I find the thought behind the question intriguing, but do worry it can only be answered with a list. Perhaps a question that is derived from the comparison of tactical concepts could possibly result in an answer you could find helpful. – E1Suave Apr 21 '15 at 21:31

Probably Cardinal Talleyrand, who had been Napoleon's foreign minister and was still on his Council of State while working with the Coalition to unseat Napoleon after 1807.

  • I don't think Talleyrand was on Coalition payroll or took orders from them. – sds Apr 20 '15 at 22:49
  • He took bribes from Coalition Governments. – Oldcat Apr 20 '15 at 22:51
  • @Oldcat Well, to be sure, there was an old European practice of the government of country X paying "pensions" to statesmen of country Y. Receipt of such a pension was not considered treasonable as long as there was no open war declared between X and Y. However, the pensions were not bandied about too much. Today this would be called "lobbying fees" probably. The old times were just a bit franker. Now, one must note that the standards of diplomatic propriety had been rising so I don't know if Talleyrand's carrying on was egregious by his time's standard or not. – Felix Goldberg Apr 21 '15 at 1:16
  • PS T. was never a cardinal. He had been a bishop before the Revolution but gave up his clerical rank. – Felix Goldberg Apr 21 '15 at 1:21
  • If he received the money openly, it does not qualify as "secretly spying". – sds Apr 21 '15 at 10:38

If early Roman history is to be believed (it isn't really true, as we know, but it's such a darn good read...), then Sextus Tarquinius would be pretty high on the list:

Gabii reneged from the Latin treaty with Rome for unknown reasons. Tarquinius' son, Sextus Tarquinius, went to Gabii, pretending to be in revolt against his father and asking for assistance.[19] He was accepted, and after successfully commanding various military expeditions, he was appointed as the leading general of the army of Gabii. As general, he commanded a number of minor but successful skirmishes against Roman forces, with the complicity of the Roman king.[20]

He sent a message to the king asking what to do next. Receiving the messenger in the garden the king said nothing at all (for which he might have been held liable later) but strolled around lopping off the heads of the tallest poppies with a stick. Sextus took this to be a message to destroy the aristocrats of Gabii including Antistius Petro whom according to legend Sextus accused of plotting with Tarquinius Superbus Sextus' return to Rome dead or alive, thereby provoking the Gabines to stone Antistius to death.[21] Tarquinius Superbus was able to take advantage of the ensuing confusion and bring Gabii into submission without battle. (Source)

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