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Sir Francis Walsingham Spymaster Facts Quotes

Sir Frances Walsingham was a staunch Protestant in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, he served the queen faithfully in the role of spymaster. He is known to have had many spies in all of the royal courts of Europe one of which was reputed to be Christopher Marlowe.

While regarded as being a Government Administrator for Elizabeth I, there was not much going on in the royal court or indeed across Europe that Walsingham was not aware of. He is more widely remembered for the role he played in the trial and subsequent execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Sir Francis Walsingham Key Facts

Francis Walsingham was born in Chislehurst, Kent in 1532 to a wealthy family. His parents were William Walsingham and Joyce Denny. His father was a lawyer, he saw that his son received a good education and after attending King's College Cambridge he travelled to Europe to continue his studies. Upon his return to England in 1552 he committed to further study at Grey's Inn, London before again returning to Europe to further his education. Francis Walsingham became a Member of Parliament in 1562 where his talent caught the eye of William Cecil, Lord Burghley who, by 1568 had Walsingham in his employ.

As Walsingham was fluent in many European languages, Lord Burghley wanted to use him to spy in the foreign courts in order to identify any threats to Queen Elizabeth or the country as a whole. It did not take Walsingham long to have spies installed in all of the important courts in Europe.

Sir Francis Walsingham's Career

Frances Walsingham served as Ambassador to the French Court from 1570 to 1573. During this time he was charged with arranging the marriage of Queen Elizabeth to the Duke of Anjou, though this never came to fruition. He was elevated to the role of Secretary in 1573 and received his knighthood in 1577. Still a Member of Parliament he was able to keep Lord Burghley in touch with what was being discussed in the House of Commons, while Burghley himself make notes about the House of Lords.

Sir Francis Walsingham as the Spymaster

It was through the extensive spy network put in place by Walsingham that the threat to the queen, known as the Throckmorton Plot was discovered in 1583 as well as the Babington Plot in August 1586. While Walsingham was aware that many of these plots were linked to the machinations of Mary, Queen of Scots no evidence could be produced to convince the queen of her involvement until the discovery of the Babington Plot.

Letters were revealed that had been sent to Babington by Mary herself, evidence which the Queen could not ignore and was sufficiently convincing enough for a trial to be arranged followed by Elizabeth agreeing to sign Mary's death warrant. Sir Francis Walsingham was committed to the service of his queen and was a loyal and trusted member of the court until his death in April 1590. Possibly his most famous and most appropriate quote is that of "See and keep silent."

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