Benbow Smith is a spymaster with the British Foreign Office.
His full name is a mouthful - Benbow Collingwood Horation Smith.
It is such an interesting name that someone, likely Smith but possibly someone else, taught Ananais a pithy little jingle to recite with little or no provocation: "Three jolly admirals all in a row; Collingwood, Nelson, and bold Benbow". [It sounds like it was taken from a naval drinking song or poem but I could find no similar reference on the web.]
Ananais, by the way since I knew you were wondering, is a very, very talkative parrot that Smith owns and for whom he has considerable affection. Ananais is frequenly spouting off about this or that, often lacing his statements with Spanish racy language. Since Smith does a lot of his meetings with people in the study of his home, the same study where Ananais rules, the chatty bird hears a considerable amount and loves to recite some of it back.
Described as "a very tall, thin man, with the forward stoop and slightly peering gaxe of a scholar", Smith wears large horn-rimmed glasses which he often pushes up on to his forehead when not reading. Though he is named after three admirals, it is written that "a less nautical figure could hardly have been imagined" but when it came to using his mind, he was every bit as leader-qualified as any naval officer who ever earned a star.
Interestingly, it is said that though he distinguished himself at college, he then "passed into obscurity" and largely vanished. It was a few years later than he was again noticed by the world, or at least a small part of it, when after publishing a monograph on Russian ikons and another on early German woodcuts, neither of which got any attention from anyone, he came out with a book entitled The European Problem which was not only a treatise on how things stood in the years before WWI but also keenly predicted what would certainly transpire as a result. He was amazingly and chillingly accurate.
When the Great War did come, Smith was in constant demand because of his "intimate knowledge of almost every European country". Virtually every governmental department that Britain had made a call to his door at one time or another and he helped as best he could, the results of which made his voice very much something to listen to.
Despite his resultant power and prestige, the man changed little. He was still a bachelor and decidedly considered an eccentric. One young bride having received as a wedding gift an expensive string of pearls lovingly but accurately referred to him as "a dinky old duck".
Which very well describes Benbow Smith. What is not so easily described is his amazing and very hush-hush connection to the cloak and dagger world, mostly handled from the study where his talkative parrot holds reign.