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The Queen's Agent: Sir Francis Walsingham and the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England Paperback – 20 Aug 2015

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; Reprint edition (20 Aug. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605985333
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605985336
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 0.3 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 831,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A superb new account of Walsingham and the Tudor age, paints a John le Carre-like world of double dealing and intrigue ... In pages of crisp prose and with punctilious scholarship and vivid storytelling, The Queen's Agent brilliantly recreates Elizabethan England in all its cloak-and-dagger intrigue and glory. George Smiley would have liked it.' --Sunday Telegraph

'Fascinating ... John Cooper neither vilifies nor lionises his subject, preferring to set his actions in context ... Cooper does not neglect other less well-known aspects of Walsingham's career ... Cooper's lucid and readable study of this 'most subtle searcher of hidden secrets' does much to show that Walsingham's work was 'odious though necessary'.' --Literary Review --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

The definitive book about Francis Walsingham, the first great English spymaster and the man who saved Elizabeth's regime and England's independence. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 87 people found the following review helpful By David Phillips on 28 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Queen's Agent provides a wealth of drama and detail surrounding the person, and the life and times of Francis Walsingham. One quickly develops a confidence in Cooper's breadth of knowledge of the era as he skillfully weaves the factors that help us understand Walsingham's difficult decisions as secretary to Elizabeth I. Cooper is not an apologist for one side, but helps the reader understand both Roman Catholic and Protestant hopes and anxieties. He helps us see the fragility of the kingdom and what was at stake. I was hooked when I heard the abridged version read on BBC 4, the full book was more than I'd hoped for. The style is engaging and entertaining. I highly commend it!
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 30 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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".
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Apocalyptic Queen on 18 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is a thoroughly engaging yet scholarly depiction of the Elizabethan spymaster and overall genius (judging by the contents of this book!), who as Elizabeth I's Personal Secretary, was at the forefront of the key political and tumultous events of Elizabeth's reign; ranging from the political strife in Ireland; the events which followed the assassination of the Prince of Orange in 1580; the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots; and the threat of the Armada.
The book divulges that Elizabeth's reign was never secure from the threat of harm which predominantly emanated from Catholic hostility abroad, namely, from French and Spanish interests, with the Huguenot massacre threatening to spill over into England and with Philip II eagerly awaiting any opportunity to manipulate and exploit domestic discontents at home.

Cooper presents a lively portrait of Francis, who with the constant threat looming on the continent, utilised his own spymasters abroad in the Spanish and French embassies, and even on occasion, utilised contacts as far as Italy and the Ottoman Empire to help protect Queen and Country from the continuing threats of invasion.
The despatches show that Walsingham played a key role in exposing a number of homegrown plots to overthrow the Queen, notably, Saville, Parry, Antony Babington and Nicholas Throckmorton.
He was also at the forefront of events concerning Mary, Queen of Scots, and along with his famous decipherer Thomas Phelippes, was able to secure the evidence needed to effect her downfall.

The work is on a balance, a sympathetic portrait of Francis Walsingham, which displays his evident ability and religious convictions stemming from a genuine commitment to his faith.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Louis Burg on 15 Nov. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Queen's Agent brings the character of Walsingham alive and enables one to appreciate the concerns and problems of someone living through the tumultuous years of Elizabeth's reign. I enjoyed very much the combination of drama, fine-story-telling, and history (both fascinating details and informative and engaging descriptions of the broader currents and issues of the day). It is easy to recommend this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Simon Binning on 15 Nov. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a really good read. Given that biographies generally get more difficult to write the further you go back in time - the sources just get less and less - and that the subject was involved in espionage - so deliberately hid things, the author has done well to produce such a well-rounded portrait of her subject.
There are gaps, where we simply don't know things, but the author does well to point these out and offer suggestions.
The style is eminently readable, and well-paced, and it gives a good feel for the times, and what it was like to work in the court of Elizabeth.
If you are interested in this period of history, then this book is a must.
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