The History Girls: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Marranos – by Ann Swinfen

The first well organised secret service in England was the lifelong achievement of Sir Francis Walsingham. During the early part of his career, he worked for William Cecil – Lord Burghley – Queen Elizabeth’s chief advisor, undertaking a number of roles in the service of the state, including the post of ambassador to Paris at the time of the notorious St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Walsingham, his pregnant wife and small daughter, together with young Philip Sidney, who was staying with them, were caught up in a series of terrifying and horrific events in that August of 1572 which would mark them for life.

Burghley had developed an embryonic secret service, but when Walsingham took it in hand it became a sophisticated and highly skilled organisation which spread out from his London home in Seething Lane to cover the whole of Europe and even reached into the Ottoman Empire. Its purpose was to safeguard the queen and the English nation from treason and foreign invasion. After the death of Catholic Queen Mary and the accession of her Protestant sister Elizabeth to the throne, the Pope had judged that England was likely to fall back into the heretical beliefs which had been promoted under Henry VIII and (even more vehemently) under his young son Edward VI. He declared Elizabeth a bastard and an excommunicate heretic. (Henry VIII’s run-in with the papacy still rankled.) Moreover, he gave a pardon in advance to any man who succeeded in assassinating Elizabeth.

The papacy thus fostered, encouraged, and sometimes financed repeated assaults on England for the whole of Elizabeth’s reign, including those undertaken by the…

Source: The History Girls: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Marranos – by Ann Swinfen.

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