Turncoats and Opportunists
- BuyThe Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I by John Cooper
Faber, 400 pp, £9.99, July 2012, ISBN 978 0 571 21827 1
From the moment he died in April 1590, Francis Walsingham, principal secretary to Elizabeth I, has been the subject of competing myths. Catholics greeted the demise of a relentless opponent with relief and applause, and circulated lurid providential stories about the appalling stench that came from his corpse, which allegedly poisoned one of his pall-bearers. By contrast, Protestant writers – William Camden was one – praised his unswerving allegiance to the queen, his tireless dedication to the reformed religion, and his genius as ‘a most subtil searcher of hidden secrets’.
Vol. 34 No. 15 · 2 August 2012
From Charles Coutinho
In an otherwise masterful discussion of the available literature and biography of Francis Walsingham in light of John Cooper’s new study, Alexandra Walsham makes a couple of errors (LRB, 5 July). First, whatever else Conyers Read’s study of Walsingham may have reflected in terms of his interest, it cannot have reflected his ‘role in establishing the Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA, in the decades before the Second World War’, as the Office of Strategic Services was only founded during World War Two – almost twenty years after Read’s study. Second, Thomas More was never Walsingham’s ‘predecessor as principal secretary’: he was Lord Chancellor, in succession to Cardinal Wolsey.