Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

The Queen's Agent: Francis Walsingham & the Rise of Espionage in Elizabethan England, John Cooper

Second paragraph of third chapter:
It had all looked so different earlier that same summer. The signing of the treaty of Blois was commemorated in a group portrait of the English royal family now known as the Allegory of the Tudor Succession. According to its inscription, the painting was presented by Queen Elizabeth to Francis Walsingham as a 'mark of her people's and her own content'. The artist didn't sign his name but was probably Lucas de Heere, a Flemish Protestant who fled to England with his family in the 1560s. He later acted as an envoy between Walsingham and William of Orange. Like so many images of the time, the Allegory was intended to be decoded as well as admired. The setting is a throne room in one of the royal palaces. Henry VIII presides under the Tudor coat of arms, surrounded by his three children. Edward VI kneels beside his father, accepting the sword of justice, but it is Elizabeth who dominates the foreground of the painting. She is pictured entering the chamber hand in hand with Peace, a goddess with an olive branch. Weapons are trampled and burst into flames, while Plenty follows behind with her cornucopia. To the rear of the royal dais stand Queen Mary and Philip of Spain attended by Mars, god of war.
My Tudor research is somewhat on hold at the moment, but I'm keeping my interest ticking over, and this rose to the top of one of my piles (books acquired in 2015; next is Darwin's Island: The Galapagos in the Garden of England, by Steve Jones). It's an interesting survey of Walsingham's career, starting with how his views of Catholicism vs Protestantism were hardened by the experience of being the English ambassador in France at the time of the St Bartholomew's Eve Massacre (see also Christopher Marlowe, and Doctor Who). And in particular, Cooper conveys very effectively the fragility of the Elizabethan regime as directly experienced by those who were running it. One of the biggest mental adjustments I've had to make as I get into the period is to realise that the people living through it had no idea that Elizabeth would live to 1603 - crowned heads were tumbling at the drop of a hat across Europe, and the heir to Elizabeth's throne was literally imprisoned in England and actively plotting against her. It's also clearly and sympathetically put that Walsingham and Cecil were more hardline in their religion than the queen was; and they saw their job as preserving the realm even against her whims if the latter should be potentially destructive. Ireland doesn't loom as large here as I had expected it might; perhaps the informal demarcation of responsibilities between Walsingham and Cecil left it more in the latter's domain. But there is lots of useful stuff, helping me to form a better picture of the complex environment of the time. You can get it here. (The American edition has a different title, The Queen's Spymaster.)
Tags: bookblog 2020, tudor history, tudor ireland
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