History Group – 25 October 2016 Meeting Notes

Subject: Tudor England and Francis Walsingham

On 25 October we discussed spying in Tudor England. Most of our time was spent on Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I's spymaster, but reference was made to information that Henry VIII obtained from confidential sources in Europe, also to Anthony Standen, a Catholic who became friendly with the Tuscan ambassador to Spain, from whom he gained information about the preparations for the Spanish Armada, which led to Francis Drake's raid on Cadiz in 1587. Unfortunately for him, when he returned to England in 1593 Walsingham was dead, and Standen received no reward for this.

Francis Walsingham was born in 1532. When Mary became Queen he left England for Switzerland and Italy, returning in 1558 when Elizabeth became Queen. He was appointed to Royal service by William Cecil as spymaster. He was French ambassador and he witnessed the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572 and returned to England. He maintained a network of agents in European courts, even in Turkey; many of whom he paid out of this own pocket.

Mary Queen of Scots fled to England in 1568 and was lodged  in a succession of   houses away from London. There were many plots to kill Elizabeth and substitute Mary as a Catholic  Queen of England, to which she had a claim. One of these involved Throckmorton. who was executed in 1584.  In 1585 an Act of Parliament provided for the trial of any claimant implicated in such a plot.  Walsingham read all Mary's  correspondance. He was able to ,convince her that there was  a secure way of smuggling letters, but all were copied to him.  in 1586 she responded  to an approach from Babington, which led to her trial, and execution in 1587. Walsingham died in 1590.

The video above is taken from The History Channel programme Queen Elizabeth the 1st's spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham
(A youtube video so there may be a short advert at some point.)