Richard Dearlove

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Richard Dearlove

Richard Dearlove1.JPG
Richard Billing Dearlove

(1945-01-23) 23 January 1945 (age 74)
Gorran Haven, Cornwall
Alma materQueens' College, Cambridge
OccupationIntelligence officer
AwardsUK Order St-Michael St-George ribbon.svg KCMG
Order of the British Empire (Civil) Ribbon.png OBE
Espionage activity
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Service branchSecret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6)
Service years1966–2004
RankChief of SIS/MI6

Sir Richard Billing Dearlove KCMG OBE (born 23 January 1945) was head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), a role known informally as "C",[1] from 1999 until 6 May 2004.

He currently serves as Chair of Board of Trustees of University of London. He previously served as Master of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge from 2004 to 2015.

Early life and education[edit]

Dearlove was born at Gorran Haven in the county of Cornwall,[2] son of Jack Dearlove, 1948 Olympic silver medallist,[3] and attended Monkton Combe School near Bath, the Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, and Queens' College, Cambridge.[4]


He joined MI6 in 1966 and was posted to Nairobi in 1968.[5] In 1984, he was appointed an OBE. After being posted to Prague, Paris and Geneva, he became head of Washington station in 1991,[5] director of personnel and administration in 1993 and director of operations in 1994.[5] Dearlove became Chief in 1999.[5] In 2001, he was appointed a KCMG.[6]

Sir Richard's tenure as the head of MI6 saw many events for the Service:

KCMG Badge and Breast Star

Post-career activities[edit]

Dearlove was elected Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, on 1 August 2004.[5] He accepted an invitation to become the Chairman of Trustees of the Cambridge Union Society in 2006.[2] As Master of Pembroke, Dearlove was ex officio chairman of the board of Trustees of Pembroke House, a community centre in Walworth, London, via the college's patronage of the advowson of St Christopher's, Walworth (CofE).[8][9] He is to this day the President of Pembroke College Boat Club.[10]

In February 2008, Dearlove gave evidence at the inquest of Princess Diana's death, responding to Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed who said that MI6 had murdered Diana.[5]

Sir Richard is a signatory of the neo-Conservative Henry Jackson Society principles.[11] He is also a "senior advisor" to the Monitor Group – a consultancy and private equity firm which has been implicated in undertaking PR work for Libya and Muammar Gaddafi.[12][13] In April 2013, it was announced that Dearlove joined the advisory board of Ergo, an intelligence and advisory firm.[14][15]

On 15 February 2011, Dearlove gave a talk at the Cambridge Union Society, taking as his theme the question of how much secrecy the UK needs: "The short answer to that question is that it needs some but actually not as much as you think."[16](2:48) He said he "would definitely draw a parallel at the moment between the wave of political unrest which is sweeping through the Middle East, in a very excited and rather extraordinary fashion, and also the Wikileaks phenomenon",[16](3:25) but added later, in connection with the way technological advances was altering the norms of civic and private life, commenting on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, that "the Assange story, as such, is ultimately a distraction. He's a very undignified flag-carrier, in my opinion, for a very important issue."[16](11:50)

In 2012, Dearlove took a sabbatical from Cambridge University to write an account of events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq from his perspective at MI6, including coverage of the production of the so-called "dodgy dossier". Publishing such an account would be unprecedented for a former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. He may release this now that the Chilcot Inquiry findings have been published in 2016.[17]

On 7 July 2014, in a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, Dearlove argued that the government and media had exaggerated the Islamist terrorism threat to the UK, giving extremists publicity counter-productive to UK interests.[18][19]

In 2015, Dearlove retired as Master of Pembroke College.[20] He is non-executive chairman of Crossword Cybersecurity plc.[21]


On 16 May 2016, Dearlove gave a public lecture televised by the British Broadcasting Corporation on contemporary mass foreign migration and its effects upon the European continent. In its text he stated that the governments of Europe were facing a "sea change" in their politics, and if they did not get control and prevent ongoing mass migration of peoples from Africa and Asia into Europe they would find themselves "at the mercy of a populist uprising, ... which is already stirring," and that the oncoming 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum was the first manifestation of it.[22] He stated further that foreign mass migration's geopolitical impact upon Europe, if it was not prevented, was set to reshape its political landscape as those of its citizens who feel their interests are threatened asserted their influence.[23]

On 8 June 2017, Dearlove intervened on the day of the 2017 UK general election in The Daily Telegraph saying "how profoundly dangerous it would be for the nation if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister."[24]

On 29 November 2018 Dearlove co-signed an open letter, published in a British national newspaper, condemning Prime Minister Theresa May's negotiated Withdrawal Agreement for the United Kingdom from the European Union after the 2016 Referendum on the issue, as the matter was passing through the House of Commons to be voted upon. In its text he stated that the Withdrawal Agreement as negotiated undermined MI6's nationally independent global intelligence power.[25]
In a published response, dated the same day, the Prime Minister's Office issued a public "rebuttal" to the letter's content, singling out Dearlove personally from the named list of several signatories to the open letter, stating the Withdrawal Agreement "absolutely does not" compromise the national independence of the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service's capacity.[26]
In early December 2018 Dearlove, in a jointly authored text with Major-General Julian Thompson, published on the website 'Briefings for Brexit' an extensive reply to the Prime Minister's Office's statement entitled 'The Prime Minister is misleading the country on defence and security', citing a 'worryingly poor understanding of the issues' by the Prime Minister's office.[27]

On 8 January 2019, in an extraordinary intervention in the political sphere by figures from the S.I.S. and the military quarter, Dearlove sent a letter, co-signed by Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, to all Chairs of Conservative Party Parliamentary Constituency Associations with sitting Members of Parliament stating that the passage through the House of Commons of Prime Minister Theresa May's European Union Withdrawal Agreement contained decisions which fundamentally undermined the integrity of the Defence of the Realm, and requested that they take measures to discourage their parliamentary representatives from voting for it imminently in the Commons. The letter as an alternative advocated the case upon national security grounds that the United Kingdom should fully withdraw from the European Union without an Intergovernmental relationship between the two persisting after the process.[28][29]


  1. ^ Corera, Gordon. "Plaque unveiled for first MI6 chief Mansfield Cumming". BBC. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Exeter University: Honorary Graduates".
  3. ^ "The Olympic hero they kept in hiding". Daily Telegraph. 4 July 2012. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  4. ^ New MI6 spymaster named, BBC News, 25 February 1999. Accessed 13 February 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Profile: Sir Richard Dearlove BBC News, 20 February 2008
  6. ^ "No. 56237". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2001. p. 3.
  7. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (23 November 2009). "Five key questions to be answered" – via The Guardian.
  8. ^ "St Christopher's, Walworth". Southwark Diocese.
  9. ^ "Pembroke College Mission" (PDF).
  10. ^ "PCBC Pembroke College Boat Club". Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  11. ^ "Signatories to the Statement of Principles". Henry Jackson Society. Archived from the original on 8 August 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^ "Richard Dearlove". Monitor Group.
  13. ^ "Britain and Libya's web of deceit and hypocrisy".
  14. ^ "Home". Ergo – Global Intelligence.
  15. ^ Sir Richard Dearlove Joins Ergo's Advisory Board, PR Newswire, 23 April 2013, Retrieved 12 June 2013
  16. ^ a b c "Sir Richard Dearlove". Cambridge Union Society. 7 July 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  17. ^ Melanie Hall (21 July 2013). "Former head of MI6 threatens to expose secrets of Iraq 'dodgy dossier'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  18. ^ Richard Norton-Taylor (7 July 2014). "Islamist terror threat to west blown out of proportion – former MI6 chief". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  19. ^ "'Pathetic' Britons in Syria and Iraq do not pose threat, says former MI6 chief". The Daily Telegraph. 7 July 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  20. ^ Michael White (17 May 2016). "Is Sir Richard Dearlove seeking refuge from Chilcot?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  21. ^ "Leadership Team". Crossword Cybersecurity. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  22. ^ 'Richard Dearlove lecture at BBC's World on the Move Day,' BBC News, 16 May 2016. Published on Youtube.
  23. ^ 'Former MI6 Chief warns against visa-free Turkish immigration', 'The Guardian', 17 May 2016.
  24. ^ Dearlove, Richard (8 June 2017). "Jeremy Corbyn is a danger to this nation. At MI6, which I once led, he wouldn't clear the security vetting". The Daily Telegraph.
  25. ^ 'Former MI6 Chief accuses Theresa May of surrendering British national security to the EU', 'Brexit Central', 29 November 2018.
  26. ^ 'Response to coverage of a Richard Dearlove letter in The Sun', Prime Minister's Office, 29 November 2018.
  27. ^ 'The Prime Minister is misleading the country on defence and security', 'Briefings for Brexit', December 2018.
  28. ^ "Theresa May's Brexit deal threatens national security says former head of MI6". Daily Telegraph. 10 January 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  29. ^ "Ex-MI6 and defence chiefs warn Tory MP's to vote down Brexit deal that "threatens national security". Sky News. 10 January 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2019.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Sir David Spedding
Chief of the SIS
Succeeded by
Sir John Scarlett
Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Roger Tomkys
Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Baron Smith of Finsbury