It seems intuitively obvious that the political elite in previous historical eras consisted of people who had a level of intelligence and cunning that would impress us today. There is, however, at least one major reason for doubting that: social inclusiveness.
Think about the inner cadre of advisers to Henry VIII. In order to get into those positions, it was essentially necessary to be born into a circumstance that allowed such advancement. No matter how clever you were, and what an acute political mind you had, if you were born into a life of servitude in the fields, you were pretty unlikely to end up doing anything else. So, you take the population of Tudor England, exclude basically all the women and everyone otherwise trapped by the social system, and then those advisers are drawn from who remains. The same would have been true in relation to the advisers of Alexander the Great, Ramesses II, or any other historical leader you care to consider.
If you imagine society as a cone, with influence graphed on the vertical axis and the number of people graphed as the narrowing radius of the cone, those in ancient societies who ended up at the top were clearly drawn from a smaller pool.
By contrast, in states like Canada today, it is plausible that anybody who is extremely capable, savvy, and intelligent could rise and play a role within the top tiers of the political elite. By extension, it seems plausible to say that the caliber of people in such positions – both in Canada and elsewhere – is likely higher than has generally been the case in the past.
Of course, there can be a deep and wide chasm that separates advisers who are intelligent and savvy from those who urge courses of action likely to improve the general welfare of the population. That is especially true if being a psychopath helps with becoming politically influential.