Sir Francis Walsingham

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Sir Francis Walsingham (wôl´sĬng-əm), 1532?–1590, English statesman. A zealous Protestant, he went abroad during the reign of Queen Mary I but returned on the accession (1558) of Elizabeth I. He entered Parliament (1559) and soon was employed by William Cecil, Baron Burghley, in obtaining intelligence from abroad. Joint secretary of state after 1573, he built up an elaborate and effective spy system, which later implicated the imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots in a conspiracy against Elizabeth (1586) and led to her execution. His system in 1587 also provided England with minute details of the impending attack of the Spanish Armada. Walsingham, as a Protestant, favored an alliance of England, France, and the Netherlands against Spain. But, although he was employed on numerous missions and knighted in 1577, he was never able to persuade Elizabeth to adopt his policies of militant Protestantism. The responsibility for the debts he assumed (1586) at the death of his son-in-law, Sir Philip Sidney, put him in financial difficulties, and he died in debt.

See C. Read, Mr. Secretary Walsingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth (3 vol., 1925, repr. 1967).

views updated

Walsingham, Sir Francis (c.1532–90). Walsingham matriculated at King's College, Cambridge, in 1548 and was taught by the prominent humanist (and Cecil's father-in-law) Sir John Cheke. He travelled abroad 1550–2, began common law training at Gray's Inn in 1552, and studied civil law at Padua from 1555. He became privy counsellor and principal secretary in 1571 and held the post until his death. Walsingham was a strong protestant, watchful against catholic plots and anxious for a European coalition of protestant powers. He helped to draft the ‘bond of Association’ in 1584 to protect Elizabeth from conspiracies, though Cecil had developed the idea in 1569. Walsingham had a reputation as an intelligence expert and in 1568 warned of a European plot to free Mary Stuart. One of his lines should stand as his epitaph: ‘there is less danger in fearing too much than too little.’

John F. C. Harrison

views updated

Walsingham, Sir Francis (1532–90) English statesman, a leading minister of Elizabeth I. He was a zealous Protestant, who set up an efficient intelligence system, based on bribery, to detect Catholic conspiracies. He produced the evidence that led to the conviction and execution of Mary.