Perhaps you saw that movie about the real life game show host of The Gong Show being recruited as a CIA assassin. Or perhaps you have seen the new film Elvis and Nixon about Elvis’ desire to become a secret undercover agent at large. Stories like this though often treated with a grain of salt, historically have some foothold in reality.

Take Pierre Beaumarchais, French inventor, musician, playwright (of which he is most famous for), and yes spy.  Pierre Beaumarchais was born into wealth but strongly rejected the idea that the bourgeois were a superior people to those with lower social status. Although the Beaumarchais enjoyed his status in upper class society he felt that it was his work and not his birthright that earned him his privilege. The Barber of Seville and the Marriage of Figaro both hugely successful brought him fame with his social standing.


Meanwhile the Seven Years War (1756-1763)  the French had lost to the British in many battles over world domination. France was broke and the only thing France shared with it’s allies was a collective hate of the British. When Beaumarchais heard about a rag tag group of rebels like George Washington, and the charismatic Thomas Jefferson in the American territories. He wanted to help them defeat the British. He failed to get the French government to join the rebels but they recruited him as a spy. He preformed many secret missions around Europe to undermine British authority with merit and was eventually given his chance to aid the American revolutionaries. Although the French government still could not afford to openly fight the British they put Beaumarchais in charge of secret arms and supply shipments.


Beaumarchais funded by Spain and France set up a fake shipping company and using a false name managed to get several ships full of supplies to the American rebels. All was going well until a local theater company put on a production of The Marriage of Figaro. Pierre Beaumarchais entered the theater undercover but was so appalled at the production value that mid-performance he broke his cover and began giving direction to the actors. As news of the event spread the shipping company was forced to close. By 1778 France decided to break its truce with Britain and officially joined the fight of American independence.