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Study Notes

Francis Walsingham

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 12 Apr 2017

Francis Walsingham, was officially the principal secretary to Elizabeth, although he will probably be most remembered as Elizabeth’s spy master. Walsingham was also a devout Protestant and during the reign of Mary I he lived in Switzerland to escape from the persecution of Protestants.

Walsingham was a key player in Elizabethan foreign policy and had a number of successes including success in Ireland, colonisation of the New World, and was first to realise the potential of England as a naval power.

However, Walsingham was also Spymaster for Elizabeth, a role he carried out with considerable success. He had a huge network of agents across England and Europe which he used to uncover plots from Catholics against Elizabeth and Spanish military plans. As spymaster, Walsingham was responsible for the use of torture against anyone suspected of plotting against the Queen. His drive to uncover Catholic plots came from his hatred of Catholicism and his experiences whilst he was in Europe. Whilst he was the ambassador to France, he has witnessed the massacre of Protestants at the hands of the Catholics, and worried intensely that the same would happen in England if the Catholics ever managed to take control and remove Elizabeth.

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