Queen Elizabeth I remains a figure of fascination for many; and it is always interesting to read more of the men (and women) who made up her court, and who contributed to her long reign. Francis Walsingham has always been seen as a man of some mystery; a man of intrigue, spies, ciphers and skullduggery generally. So it is most interesting to see a book which deals with Elizabeth's court from the perspective of Walsingham's involvement.
The lengthy and important political career that Walsingham had prior to 1577, when the growing threat of a revival in Catholicism and missionary priests threw internal security, and Walsingham's role in same, into the spotlight, was a revelation to me. It helps to explain Walsingham's later career (which is more popularly known, even if somewhat vaguely, by most), and his conviction and loyalties to his religion and his monarch. Having been present in Paris during the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572, it is not difficult to see how Walsingham could translate the concept of such religious and political threats over to his own country. In this marvellous book, we also get to read of the lives of some of the conspirators; how it was that they appeared to turn against their country and their queen; and how Walsingham and Burghley built the mechanisms to deal with these menaces.
There are interesting and very enlightening chapters in the book also on relations with France, the Babington plot to free Mary Queen of Scots, and Elizabethan attempts to govern Ireland, as well as the dreams of the growing "English Empire".
While there are notes for source material used in the book, it's a shame that there is no bibliography as such; it would have been good to have more suggestions for reading, and source material cited in book form so that I could have looked for more reading and information. But that's the only quibble I have with this book; the writing is totally engaging, the story compelling and the material beautifully presented. Totally recommended for anyone who has an interest in Elizabethan times, political and espionage development in English Tudor history, or just an interest in Walsingham and his times - enough of a fascination in itself to justify devouring the book.