Francis Walsingham

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Sir Francis Walsingham (c. 1532[1] – 6 April 1590) was Principal Secretary to Elizabeth I of England from 1573 until 1590, and is popularly remembered as her "spymaster". Walsingham is frequently cited as one of the earliest practitioners of modern intelligence methods both for espionage and for domestic security. He oversaw operations which penetrated the heart of Spanish military preparation, gathered intelligence from across Europe, and disrupted a range of plots against the queen, securing the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Walsingham was one of the small coterie who directed the Elizabethan state, overseeing foreign, domestic and religious policy, and the subjugation of Ireland. He worked to bring Scotland and England together. Overall, his foreign policy demonstrated a new understanding of the role of England as a maritime, Protestant power in an increasingly global economy. He was an innovator in exploration, colonization and the use of England's potential maritime power. He is also a convincing prototype of the modern bureaucrat.


Early years

Francis Walsingham was born at the Walsingham family seat, Scadbury Park near Chislehurst, Kent to William Walsingham and Joyce Denny. His father died the following year, and later, his mother married Sir John Carey, a relative by marriage of Queen Anne Boleyn.

Walsingham studied at King's College, Cambridge from 1548 with many Protestants but as an undergraduate of high social status did not sit for a degree.[2] In 1550, he travelled abroad, returning two years later to enroll at Gray's Inn. Upon the death of Edward VI and accession of Catholic Queen Mary, he fled to continue his studies as a law student at the University of Padua. Between April 1556 and November 1558, he visited Switzerland. He cultivated contacts among the leading Protestant statesmen on the continent.

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