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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable portrait of a Tudor genius, 18 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Queen's Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (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. However in a sense, we feel that he was not always fully appreciated by his mistresss as perhaps Cecil was, and was frequently indebted due to having to recompense other servants of the Crown for his purposes at his own expense.

The details surrounding the creation and activities of Seething Lane, effectively the first state intelligence gathering department in the country (though as Cooper describes, not neccessarily the sixteenth century equivalent to MI6), his many family connections, and his support for colonial exploration to rival the Spanish is fascinating; however, less savoury, is the historical exploration of the treatment of the Irish by the hands of the Elizabethan Government.

The only criticisms I would level however, is that at times throughout the book, some confusion is caused by jumping to and fro certain key periods which results in some duplication and repetition.

However, all in all, this is a fascinating portrayal of a remarkable man, devoted to Queen and country who perhaps was never fully appreciated and somewhat shades in comparison, to an extent with Lord Burghley, who appears to have been better documented in the past. Notwithstanding; highly recommended.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Jan 2013 08:38:58 GMT
An excellent commentary on the book; I have learned a lot regarding some of the more obscure aspects of Walsingham's operations. I shall certainly buy the book, based on your fine review. Many thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Mar 2013 13:34:57 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Mar 2013 13:36:02 GMT
Thank you sincerely for your comment regarding my review. I hope you enjoy reading the book - I certainly felt it shed a lot of light on one of Elizabeth's more obscure servants and was overall, a sympathetic and convincing portrayal. Regards.
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