History - Previous Meeting Discussions

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.

Map of the Spanish Armada

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.

Elizabeth the 1st with Francis Walsingham

The video above is linked to 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.)

William Cecil

Our next meeting is on 22 November, when the subject is the Boer War. I hope to see you there.

Peter Degen

26th July 2016 Meeting Notes 

Subject: Slavery

On 26th July we had our first meeting as a discussion group, without a main speaker. The subject was slavery. Nearly everyone had something to say about it. We heard about slavery in ancient Greece and Rome, about slavery in Islam and particularly by Arabs in Africa, and raids by Muslim slavers on the Mediterranean coasts and Northern European coasts including those of he British Isles until late in the eighteenth century.

The Atlantic slave trade began in the sixteenth century: a total of perhaps 1 1/2 million slaves and 16 million deaths in Africa. The triangular trade - manufactured goods to Africa, slaves to West Indies and America, sugar, rum, tobacco and cotton to Europe was extremely profitable. Bristol and Liverpool thrived, and the British Empire was founded on the slave trade. The British Government outlawed the slave trade in 1806 but slavery in the Empire went on for another 30 years until the slaves were freed and huge compensation paid to slave owners both overseas and in the UK.

27th September 2016 Meeting Notes 

Subject: James II and his descendants

We met for the second time as a discussion group without a speaker to introduce it. The attendance was 7, including a new member, Janet Adams.

Our subject was James II and his descendants.  James came to the throne upon the death of his brother Charles II, leaving no legitimate children. James had two daughters who had been brought up as Protestants but after their mother's death James, who had converted to Roman Catholicism married an Italian noblewoman, a Catholic. The Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, raised an unsuccessful rebellion against James. Sandy Warren spoke at length about  Judge Jeffries, who lived for some time in Chalfont St Peter, and the part he played after the defeat of the Duke of Monmouth who was executed together with hundreds of his followers.

James' new Queen had a son in 1685, who could be expected to become a Catholic King of England. There was considerable unrest, and members of the English aristocracy invited William of Orange, who had married James' elder daughter Mary, to invade England, which he did. James threw the Great Seal of England into the Thames, but then fled, as did Jeffries.   After William's army had moved, unopposed, to London it was agreed by Parliament that he and Mary would rule jointly as King and Queen of England.

James invaded Ireland with an army provided by Louis XIV of France but was defeated by William III at the Battle of the  Boyne. An attempted invasion by his son, the Old Pretender after George I's accession in 1715 was abortive. The landing in the West of Scotland by his grandson Bonny Prince Charlie in 1745 was supported only by the Catholic  Highlanders and, although after minor skirmishes he entered Edinburgh in style and crossed into England he gained no significant number of recruits and, after turning back at Derby, was finally defeated at Culloden by the Duke of Cumberland's army of English, Scottish and Hanoverian troops, dying ignominiously in 1789.

You can find out more about the Battle of Culloden here:


There are plenty of websites with excellent articles about Culloden so go to any search engine and type in 'Culloden' and it will find the 'sites that may be of interest to you.