Regency Spy Tech
Inkwell denizens are well aware of my tendency to swoon over a dishy spy. Apparently I’m not the only one either, because our very own CJ has served up just such a delectable hero in her debut novel, Redeeming the Rogue.
Kit De Chambelle spent 10 years making trips to France on behalf of his country. In Redeeming the Rogue, he’s home now, but that doesn’t mean he’s hung up his metaphorical saber. So what were some of the tools of the trade Kit might have employed in furtherance of his duties?
While he wouldn’t have had a watch chock full of handy-dandy lasers, he could have had access to invisible ink. In addition to the homegrown options of milk or lemon that required heat to bring out the lettering there were synthetic brands available at this time. In fact, during the American Revolution, the rebels used a brand called Jay’s Sympathetic Stain.
Of course, just writing a report in invisible ink wouldn’t necessarily guarantee its security, so I’m certain that a hero as cautious as our Kit would also have used a code. Codes have been around for thousands of years. In fact, spies claim to be the second oldest profession. Codes are just about that old too.
Leon Battista Alberti, an Italian painter invented one of the first known mechanical devices for encoding messages in the late 15th century. His device was called a cipher wheel. It was made up of two copper wheels, one slightly larger than the other, with the letters of the alphabet etched randomly along the edges. The smaller wheel was placed on top of the larger, and they were turned until a particular letter on one disk lined up with a different letter on the other. Messages could then be written and decoded with ease by simply substituting the appropriate letter on the other disk. A version of Alberti's cipher wheel was still being used 400 years later during the American Civil War. I’m pretty sure, Kit would have had one of these stashed somewhere in his office.
Steganography is the science of hiding messages. Unlike cryptography, which scrambles a message so that it is readable only by its recipient, steganography hides messages in such a way that others don't even know they're there. A British spy once disguised himself as an entomologist. He traveled to the Balkans where he checked out enemy fortifications. Then he sketched the region’s butterflies, incorporating detailed maps of enemy fortifications into each sketch.
As a well-fitted out spy, I'm pretty sure he also carried a sword cane in addition to his trusty pistol. But no matter the gadgets and tricks at his disposal, a regency spy’s best tool was always his brain. Dashing Kit speaks six languages and is quick on the uptake. His quick wits get him in and out of plenty of trouble. I’d be more specific, but I don’t want to post any spoilers.
Suffice it to say that he’s a hero worth reading about, and Mattie Fraser is a heroine to match him.
Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in May, 2012.