Elizabeth’s Spy Master : Francis Walshingham and the Secret War that Saved England
This is a meticulous study of the shadowy world of espionage and its master, Francis Walsingham. As Elizabeth’s principal Secretary of State, Walsingham fought a secret and dangerous war to protect his sovereign and country from the Catholic threat. Walsingham was the first “spy master” in the modern sense, and his methods of ciphers, forgery, secret inks, bribery and torture offer terrifying resonances with modern times and other totalitarian regimes. He even had to come to terms with that perennial nightmare facing any intelligence service past or present, namely the importance of analysing raw information and assessing the reliability of its source.
In revealing Walsingham’s religious fanaticism and also his genius for disinformation, we learn little about the underlying man, a shadowy figure who was rarely forced into the limelight, except famously at Mary Stuart’s trial. How far we believe Hutchinson’s claim that he deserves to rank with Nelson and Wellington, even Churchill, as the defender of this “fledgling Protestant nation” is for readers to judge. However, the strength of this book lies in its combination of brilliant original research with a compelling narrative.