Birth of a Spymaster: Francis Walsingham and Tudor Espionage
Spies have intrigued us ever since we started telling stories. I imagine that even cavemen told tales of those who infiltrated rival tribes to ferret out secrets and report back on potentially damaging plans. The clandestine act of obtaining information for a cause, while risking one’s life, carries with it an undeniable glamour and adrenaline rush that many of us find irresistible.
The Chinese and the Mongols used spies; feudal Japan relied on ninjas to gather valuable information. In Elizabethan England, Francis Walsingham is credited with giving rise to the modern notion of intelligence gathering, creating a vast organization dedicated to protecting the queen. Walsingham’s targets were Catholic agitators, such as Jesuit priests, assassins and other recusants who might subvert or otherwise damage the established order. Whether or not it was right to hunt down those who opposed a particular religious view was beside the point. So iconic has Elizabeth become in our eyes, so gloriously do we view her realm, in comparison to the brutal suppressions of Spain, that protecting her seems like the right, indeed, the only, thing to do. While Elizabeth herself was known to dislike Walsingham’s methodology— which included torture— dubbing him her "Moor" because of his complexion or preference for dark clothes or perhaps his infamously somber personality, she contended with his brusque manner. She understood that he was the right man for a nasty job, unparalleled in his competence and fervor, his penetrating insight into foreign affairs, and his devotion to her safety. To him, she was England—the heart and soul of the Protestant movement. She faced a formidable foe in the Catholic king of Spain and legions of dedicated counter-reformation fanatics whom Philip unleashed. Papal dispensation guaranteed passage to Heaven to whoever managed to murder the queen of England. Walsingham was determined that no Catholic on his watch would ever win that prize.
Since time began, there have been men willing to die for a cause; we only need to look at our world today to see that. Some also put themselves at the service of a charismatic leader; and Elizabeth was indeed that. She promised tolerance in an intolerant age; she wanted peace and prosperity for her subjects, above all else. While the latter days of her reign were plagued by upheavals and a savage persecution, she had been literally yanked into that stance by the advent of the Armada and the very real threat of another on the horizon. Walsingham drew upon Elizabeth’s charisma and the threat posed by the Counter Reformation to conscript men of both noble and ordinary birth, who decided they had to do something to safeguard their way of life.
In The Tudor Secret, we meet Francis Walsingham before he becomes Elizabeth’s trusted spymaster. Here, he is still a hireling of the princess’s secret protector, William Cecil, but he’s already converted to the reformed faith upheld by Elizabeth and her brother, King Edward. Dark and enigmatic, Walsingham abducts Brendan Prescott, the book’s lead character, who as a squire to the Dudley family, is drawn into Cecil’s burgeoning spy network in order to uncover a conspiracy against the princess. Walsingham trails Brendan; lurking in shadows, he is a panther with a knife, disapproving of the callow youth whom Cecil has seen fit to hire. Is he friend or foe? Will he help or hinder Brendan’s mission?
It is the beginning of the grand era of Tudor espionage and of Brendan’s, and his rival Walsingham’s, service to an embattled future queen.
Thank you so much for spending this time with me. To learn more about me and my books, as well as access special features, please visit me at: http://www.cwgortner.com. Happy reading!
C.W. Gortner is the author of the acclaimed historical novels The Last Queen and The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis on Renaissance Studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues. Half-Spanish by birth, he divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala.
The Tudor Secret is the first book in Gortner’s The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles series.
You can visit the author online at www.cwgortner.com or his blog at http://historicalboys.blogspot.com/.
Would you like to win your own copy?