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84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walsingham's Agent
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...
Published on 28 Oct 2011 by David Phillips

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a biography, a review of the religious and political scene at the time
By his own confession, there is very little that remains in the archives that goes to show anything of Francis Walsingham the man, just glimpses from the occasional reference in more important political papers. A shadowy figure that, for all this very well researched book, remains just that. I thought that, overall, it was more of a diatribe against the religious fervour...
Published 15 months ago by Sandy Parker


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read, 25 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Queen's Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (Hardcover)
Really interesting and informative book. Makes no retrospective judgements which is great because it is something that irritates me where books and commentators judge people and events from the past by todays attitudes and morals. Really pleased.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and full of Interest, 25 Aug 2013
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This was a Kindle Daily Deal offer and when I purchased it I'm not sure if I knew what I'd let myself in for. It's a long book (though the last 30% is taken up in acknowledgments, the index and some good pictures), highly researched but not difficult to read.

Walsingham was involved in a good many things: espionage, Ireland, the Armada and America. So you get quite a variety of issues. The parallels with Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell are interesting. The perceived threat of Roman Catholicism looms large, though you can understand Duffy's thesis that had it not been for the deaths of Mary Tudor (without issue) and Cardinal Pole, England might have remained a relatively contented Roman Catholic country, albeit with a dissident Puritan minority, who would doubtless have continued to fare little better than their co-religionists in France. This was, of course, an age of great and brutal religious intolerance, and, as another reviewer had commented, the author seems to write with a commendable lack of bias. He uses the phrase "partisan historians" but this description could never be applied to him.

The Irish episodes are baleful as ever, providing a counter-balance to the behaviour of the Spanish in the Netherlands. I was also interested in the way the English were encouraged to colonise Ireland. In this context, the pertinent observation that this was "a chance to assert (the Queen's) sovereignty at a time when domestic political tensions were running high" still rings a bell today. There is also some interesting history on attempts to exploit and colonise north America. Elizabeth herself comes across as mercurial, emotional and unpredictable, as well as indecisive on occasion, but basically shrewd and probably a good brake on the ambitions of some of her more maverick advisers.

Remember that this is a scholarly work by an academic, not a fun one. But it is certainly not tedious or unduly heavy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A detailed and scholarly textboook which puts 'flesh' on a secretive and shadowy figure., 26 Mar 2013
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This is a scholarly text book for students of Elizabethan history, full of detailed information but not an easy read. Although I did A level history a long time ago and this was my period, I doubt whether I would have had time then to have done much more than skim the pages. However, on studying it, I did learn a lot more about Elizabeth's personality and how the politics and religious upheavals of Europe impacted upon this island.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Driven by faith..., 21 Feb 2013
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FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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The problem with Walsingham, as a subject for biography, is the shortage of documentation, particularly relating to his private life. As Cooper explains, his private papers were taken along with his public papers after his death for the benefit of future secretaries, but later most of the private papers were destroyed as they were considered unimportant. This means that Cooper has to work hard to fill in Walsingham's early life and give us a flavour of the man. Although he succeeds to an extent, I didn't feel that Walsingham came truly to life as a full, rounded personality in the book.

However, Cooper gives us a clear, well written and very readable account of the main political issues of Walsingham's time as secretary, including of course his role in the torture and death of many English Catholics while stemming the threat of Catholic revolt, as well as the part he played in the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. He explains very clearly the religious and political upheavals across Europe and a chapter is devoted to the Spanish invasion that never was. He also describes Walsingham's involvement in the settlement of Ireland, a problem that remained unresolved throughout his career; and relates the part Walsingham played in promoting the exploration and settlements in America and elsewhere that went on to become the beginnings of empire, which was something I hadn't been aware of.

Much of the book, though, concentrates on what Walsingham is perhaps best remembered for: his role as spymaster and ruthless interrogator. Here Cooper has gathered a huge amount of detail about the murky and convoluted roles that these double- and sometimes triple-agents were playing throughout the courts of Europe, and shows evidence of occasions when Walsingham was involved in what we would now think of as entrapment. Walsingham's uneasy relationship with Elizabeth is well portrayed and Cooper shows that he often had to subsidise the expenses of his spies from his own pocket due to Elizabeth's reluctance to pay. This gives weight to the picture Cooper paints of Walsingham as a man driven, not by hope of patronage or reward, but by his patriotism and above all by his faith.

Overall I found this a very interesting read, with Walsingham set well into his historical context, but though Cooper has shed a considerable amount of light on him, he remains a rather shadowy figure - which in the end seems quite appropriate. Recommended.

NB This review is of a proof copy provided by the publisher.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shielding Elizabeth from Storm, 23 Dec 2012
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Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
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This begins like a novel with Walsingham, the English ambassador in Paris, risking his life by harbouring a Huguenot in a vain attempt to save him from the St Barthelomew's Day Massacre in 1572. This appalling event was critical in convincing Walsingham of the absolute necessity of preventing a Catholic invasion of England.

Although destined to play second fiddle to Lord Cecil, Walsingham filled a major role as Principal Secretary to Elizabeth, heavily involved in foreign policy, negotiating the thorny paths of her phony marriage plans, promoting early abortive attempts to extend English influence by founding colonies in North America, but most of all organising a network of secret agents to glean evidence of plots amongst Catholics at home and abroad.

Cooper provides a somewhat repetitive but fascinating analysis of how English Catholics who mostly just wanted to be free to worship "in the old way" were hardened into plotting against Elizabeth by the influence of priests who set up seminaries abroad and ventured into England, at great risk and personal cost, to spread the word. It was a vicious circle in which repressive laws, an inevitable result of foiled rebellions and plots, only made the English Catholics feel more persecuted and rebellious. Cooper debates whether Walsingham was guilty of "entrapment" by infiltrating Catholic families with agents who encouraged them to intrigue against the Queen.

Some events, such as the Throckmorton plot, are not easy to follow since they are presented in a rather fragmented way, and the whole structure of the book is a little disjointed, so that the abrupt switch from Walsingham's reliance on ciphers and code breakers to troubles in Ireland and attempts to found a colony at Roanoke feels like reading two fresh books in which he scarcely figures.

Yet, a sense of Walsingham the man comes through clearly: puritanical but not fanatical, loyal and industrious, stymied by the queen's periods of indecision. While giving her lavish presents, he was reduced to debt partly through being obliged to pay for some of his security work himself, not to mention the indignity of having an ungrateful queen throw a slipper in his face. His occasional bursts of written frustration to others seem almost modern in tone, and very human.

A few clear maps would have been useful, say of the ill-fated colony on Roanoke Island, the ports ravaged by Drake in the Spanish Empire, or even the route taken by the Armada. A timeline and list of main characters for easy reference would also assist the general reader. The illustrations are interesting, but need a full page each to do them justice.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Queen's Agent -Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I, 3 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Queen's Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (Hardcover)
Well researched, brings clarity to some confusing aspects of the period as well as a well balanced review of the life of an interesting man.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, 25 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Queen's Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (Hardcover)
This is a great book. It's informative and beautiful to read. Walsingham is shown fully immersed in the context of his times, and treated, as even the briefest participants are here, as a person before anything else. Their lives and characters are teased out with many first hand quotes, from contemporary commentators and from the people themselves. The constant use of primary sources means that the great and sweeping questions of the day never lose their immediacy, and come across with a present urgency. Cooper's style is evocative and very readable, and he regularly lights on the telling word to bring his subject to life. He covers a lot of ground here, and there's any complaint, it would be that occasionally he leaves you wishing he had expanded a little more on some things. It's a minor one though, and mostly caused by the appetite for the age that his writing gives you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book!, 16 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Queen's Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (Hardcover)
This book is one of the most interesting I have ever read. It arrived in pristine condition well packed and on time. The work of Francis Walsingham deserves to be better known and appreciated and John Cooper certainly brings him to life. The period setting is also well described and a lesser known side of the character of Queen Elizabeth 1.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 15 July 2014
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Excellent well written book
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4.0 out of 5 stars Informative but not inspiring, 5 Jun 2014
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If this is right the I suppose Walsingham was a bit door and dry. Which is what comes out in the book. His portrait looks like one who doesn't laugh and that is here too. But a very intelligent man albeit a little on the bigoted side and determined to root out Catholics and Mary Stuart in particular.
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