The Queens Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I

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  1. Francis Walsingham - Wikipedia
  2. Anne Somerset
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Deeply disappointed by this book.

It was promoted as a biography of Walsingham 'the spymaster and cryptographer'. Granted Walsingham was not the 'master cryptographer' of his network I expected to read more of that aspect of his work. It was sadly lacking. It also felt very much that Walsingham was a secondary character in his own biography. I learned far more about many other people than I did about him. I came away feeling that this was a well researched and, to be fair, well written book that Deeply disappointed by this book.

I came away feeling that this was a well researched and, to be fair, well written book that told me very little about the principal character and a lot about the people around him. It certainly did not live up to the PR. Sep 16, Karen Brooks rated it it was amazing.

Coming to the throne amidst religious, international and other turmoil, Elizabeth, as a single woman, was perceived by many as an easy target for unscrupulous deals — at their peril, as it happened. But while Elizabeth presented a relatively calm face to various threats — real and imagined — as well as marriage proposals and grumblings from the Commons and the Privy Council, working furiously behind the scenes to ensure stability and the removal of any danger, was Walsingham, Lord Burghley and a host of secret agents.

These were recruited and posted across England and Europe — most of whom Walsingham personally chose for the skills and connections they possessed and which he could use for the benefit of queen and country. A staunch Protestant, Walsingham was able to reconcile the brutality he sometimes resorted to with his beliefs as he saw Catholicism as a stain on the country and, indeed, the world, which must be wiped out at any cost.

A diplomat, he was multi-lingual, clever, extraordinarily hard-working and, as is often the way with people who are workaholics, prone to illness. Connected by family to other well-known names and personalities of the period, his one daughter, Frances, married first Philip Sidney and later, the charming but doomed Earl of Essex. He lived long enough to see that union made, but not, fortunately, the end it met.

Involved in many an effort to find a suitable husband for his liege, Walsingham was also behind efforts to dissuade her from less than popular matches — such as with the Duke of Anjou. Working side by side with Lord Burghley William Cecil , with whom he often disagreed with, Walsingham always tried to put his monarch and country first.

Unlike his peer, Burghley, Walsingham did not garner riches for his diligence and determination to root out all popery and assassination attempts; to protect Britannia. On the contrary, when he died, he had little materially to leave his second and beloved wife, Ursula, as not only did he take on the debt of his dead son-in-law, Philip Sidney, but also he often used his own monies to ensure the flow of information and thus the knowledge network he built was maintained.

Preferring to dress in black, dour of face and loyal in faith, and to her majesty, though he often bemoaned her sex and the foibles and idiosyncratic behaviours he felt came with it, Walsingham cuts a mysterious figure. Cooper, with all the revelations and wonderful information he provides, still maintains this sense of secrecy, adding a particular frisson to the book. Wonderfully written, Cooper conveys the period and the threats that were faced, all the while balancing them against the benefit of hindsight and another version of historical reality.

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Francis Walsingham - Wikipedia

Impeccably researched and eruditely presented, this book is a must for history buffs and those who love to know more about the machinations behind the throne of one of the most colourful monarchs in English history. Interesting in some chapters but often too repetitive. Sometimes gets into too many unuseful details. Jun 27, Simon Prior rated it liked it. Very interesting read, but not quite what I was expecting. May 08, Mojofiction rated it liked it Shelves: reviewed. They had Mike Lupica on the line and they were discussing his new book.

They start with a character they find interesting, someone whose journey they want to chronicle. She was surrounded by plots and under constant threat from the European powerhouses of France and Spain, and, notably, the Catholic Church and the Pope.

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Many of the plots against her centered around the fight between Protestantism and Catholicism. Each change to the throne brought with it a rending of the Church in England. Elizabeth established control, but she could not stop wars of religion and persecution in her own country, and sometimes she helped to facilitate it. For her defense, Elizabeth surrounded herself with protestant allies. One of these was Francis Walsingham, a devoted Protestant and staunch defender of the Queen.

In his position as principal secretary, Walsingham developed a network of agents and informers in England and the courts of France and Spain and used them to fight against threats both homegrown and overseas. These actions were mirrored in France and Spain as well, though often with Catholicism holding the upper hand.

Anne Somerset

If this subject matter interests you at all, you should find this book to be an enjoyable read. The author moves through events at a pretty good clip. You receive an in-depth picture of the times and the players. However, the book is not without its faults. The author, John Cooper, once taught history at Oxford, and his story reads like a master-class you take after completing his course. He rattles off names and dates like you are already familiar with them and can fill on some of the gaps yourself.

The events, while technically presented in a linear fashion, flip back and forth through time on every page, leading, at least to this reader, to quite a bit of confusion early on. The author might be discussing a particular plot against the queen, then bring up a new player in the plot. Then the author jumps back to the original matter at hand as if none of that extra information deluge ever happened. The other problem is Sir Francis Walsingham himself.

Even non-fiction needs to give a reader some kind of a through-line to latch on to. There are some writings of his that the author is able to present to us and quote, and that gives the reader some insight. But the story is not nearly as much about the man as I had hoped. Jan 17, H. In only pages in hardcover, Cooper sets out to not only tell the story of Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England but the more general history of Elizabethan England.

For someone like me with a rather limited background in English history, it is difficult to appreciate the history context at times and fully grasp what is going on. When Cooper slows down to dig into his subject, he is at his best. Unsurprisingly, the best example is the titular focus of the book—the rise of espionage in Elizabethan England. Walsingham, ever the self-made man, built his spy network on his personal network and supplemented crown expenditures from his own pocket.

April 6 - Sir Francis Walsingham: The Queen's spymaster

A lot of people following their conscience are persecuted and a handful of very serious threats against Elizabeth are thwarted, proving the security v. Cooper has no doubt that Walsingham was driven first by Protestant zeal and second by national loyalty. His contracted spies, on the other hand, have much murkier motives. Cooper is talented at drawing out the inherent drama in the situations and exploring motivations without going beyond the historical record. I found the section on Ireland equally interesting, although that is perhaps in part because of how little I knew about the Ireland of that day.

Cooper draws the distinction between England and Ireland well, a line that went much deeper than religion. The English failure to understand the Irish led to their failure in subduing Ireland and escalating violence. The section on the Lost Colony in the New World, on the other hand, has little more information than my North Carolina state history textbook from elementary school.

The sections that move away from espionage suffer from a disconnect from Walsingham. As is usually to be expected from biographer, Cooper takes a very favorable view of Walsingham, along with Protestantism and England. Elizabeth fares worse, coming off primarily as indecisive. Abridged by Libby Spurrier. Blurb - Elizabeth I came to the throne at a time of insecurity and unrest. Elizabeth is one of my heroes.

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Nay, not a heroine - as Elizabeth called herself a prince, so I will call her a hero. Thus, I have read a lot of Elizabethan history, especially in my formative years. One of my favorite individuals from the vast cast of characters surrounding Elizabeth was always Walsingham - there was something of the quiet mastermind, skulking-in-shadows sort of aura to him, a view which was slightly inaccurately magnified in the movie Elizabeth. I was delighted, therefore, to Elizabeth is one of my heroes.

I was delighted, therefore, to find a book bringing light to this otherwise somewhat obscure figure. I always had the idea that Walsingham was of prime importance to the success of Elizabeth's reign. Early in her reign, he did much for foreign affairs, playing ambassador for some time in Paris.