Sir Francis Walsingham by John De Critz the Elder

Francis Walsingham (c.1532–1590) was principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I of England from 20 December 1573 until his death, and is popularly remembered as her "spymaster". A committed Protestant, during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England he joined other expatriates in exile in Switzerland and northern Italy until Mary's death and the accession of her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth. Walsingham rose from relative obscurity to become one of the small coterie who directed the Elizabethan state, overseeing foreign, domestic and religious policy. He served as English ambassador to France in the early 1570s, and witnessed the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. As principal secretary, he was a supporter of exploration, colonization, the plantation of Ireland, and the use of England's maritime power. 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 oversaw operations that penetrated the heart of Spanish military preparation, gathered intelligence from across Europe, disrupted a range of plots against Elizabeth, and secured the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. (more...)

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