The Moor’s Counsel: Sir Francis Walsingham’s Advice to Elizabeth I

  • Hannah CoatesEmail author
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


Highlighting the valuable counsel that occurred within their problematic and challenging relationship, this chapter analyses the language and structure of Francis Walsingham’s letters to Elizabeth I over the course of his career: how he represented himself, how he presented his arguments, and how he thought of her. An analysis of Walsingham’s techniques and strategies for presenting his advice and arguments in written form is essential to understanding their relationship and to understanding how they negotiated it. Through her analysis, Hannah Coates reveals how Walsingham’s style and approach altered throughout his service to the queen, providing evidence of another side to this important relationship that suggests a strong, mature and complex dynamic, which even included elements of playfulness.


Burghley Parrhesia James Daybell Principal Secretary Printer Owners 
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On 30 March 1586, Bernadino de Mendoza, Spanish ambassador in Paris, wrote to Philip II of a recent incident at the English court. In response to a report that the Spanish king was preparing a “great naval force” which was perhaps intended for England, Elizabeth I “turned to Secretary Walsingham … and said a few words to him … after which she threw a slipper at Walsingham and hit him in the face”.1 This incident and others like it have been regularly repeated by historians to exemplify Elizabeth’s famous temper and in particular her stormy relationship with her principal secretary.2 However, the type of relationship implied by these accounts does not explain how Elizabeth and Walsingham managed to work together for nearly twenty years despite having very different political outlooks and personalities.

Appointed one of Elizabeth’s principal secretaries in 1573, Sir Francis Walsingham attended daily on the queen, acting as the point of contact between the monarch and the council. As a privy councillor, he offered Elizabeth advice on the thorniest issues of the day. In this capacity, Walsingham is known for his outspoken and often critical counsel.3 Historians have been baffled by Elizabeth’s tolerance, and generally attribute it to her wisdom and forbearance. In Sir John Neale’s words, “there was no greater tribute to the tolerance, sagacity, and masterful nature of Elizabeth than her choice of ministers such as Walsingham”.4 In contrast, other historians have been scathing about Elizabeth’s abilities, and laid the credit for her successes at the door of her long-suffering advisers, Lord Burghley and Walsingham.5

Neither of these approaches, however, really helps access the reality of counselling Elizabeth. The vast majority of Walsingham and Elizabeth’s interactions cannot be directly recovered as, given his daily attendance, these were mainly verbal and thus have left few archival traces. Perhaps it is largely for this reason that historians’ treatments of their relationship have relied on the colourful accounts of (usually Spanish) diplomatic observers. Historians have been less cautious about repeating such accounts than the eyewitnesses themselves, who acknowledged that there may have been a performative aspect to the queen’s outbursts, as she attempted to demonstrate her antipathy to Walsingham’s policy preferences.6 There evidently were disagreements over the general thrust of policy with Walsingham repeatedly lamenting Elizabeth’s “indisposition to deale effectually”, that is, her preference for a reactive, opportunistic policy as opposed to committing to a course of action and seeing it through to the end.7 There were also serious breaches around specific issues from time to time, such as over Walsingham’s close contact with the Dutch in the mid-1570s. However, there is also substantial evidence of a more amicable relationship.

Walsingham’s absences on diplomatic business or sick leave provide an opportunity to address this academic neglect of an important political relationship. The letters he sent to Elizabeth during these periods stood in for his physical presence, and as such he chose his words and arguments extremely carefully.8 Elizabeth’s letters to Walsingham, of which fewer survive, were sometimes the product of collaborative practices of composition: some may have been dictated to a secretary, some written on her behalf by a secretary or adviser, and some written by the queen herself. The strategy Elizabeth used could convey subtle gradations of meaning to the recipient.9 It is important to remember also that the letters between Elizabeth and Walsingham, as with all epistolary exchanges, did not exist in isolation, instead this correspondence must be seen in context, as one component with which they constructed and maintained their relationship.10

This chapter will consider the ways in which Elizabeth and her secretary were able to navigate this most complex of relationships, with particular emphasis on the ways in which they did or did not adhere to aspects of contemporary expectations of counsel.

* * *

Elizabeth and her advisers had all benefitted from the early sixteenth-century humanist educational program advanced by writers like Erasmus and Sir Thomas Elyot.11 As a result, they shared a substantial bank of knowledge and expectations, derived from a curriculum of texts composed by writers from the ancient world and contemporary thinkers writing in the same vein. Erasmus and other writers on the upbringing of princes emphasized that princes must be well-educated both morally and academically before they could be advised properly.12 One of the central tenets for princes and their advisers was that rulers would and should take counsel, as monarchs could not be experts in all things and might not always rule virtuously.13 However, rulers were free to appoint their counsellors and were not obliged to accept the proffered advice.14

In the context of debates about the legitimacy of female rule, some writers used the expectation that a monarch would be counselled to allay men’s fears. John Aylmer, for example, defending queens regnant against John Knox, stressed that the potential evils of female rule were limited in Elizabeth’s case by “built-in safeguards for her natural deficiencies … in the form of counsel”.15 However, as Victoria Smith has argued, “Elizabethans did not react homogenously to the prospect of female monarchy”. Smith argues convincingly that both Nicholas Throckmorton and Thomas Randolph, Elizabethan diplomats, responded pragmatically, accepting Elizabeth’s importance in her own government without wishing to limit her role. Randolph and Throckmorton’s conduct suggests that they saw themselves as counselling a monarch, not controlling a queen.16

Walsingham occasionally appeared to share some of the contemporary anxieties about female rule. In a document attributed to him, he remarked that “her Majestie beinge by sexe fearefull, cannot but be irresolute, Irresolucion beinge an ordinarie Companion to feare”.17 On many occasions, Walsingham was exasperated by Elizabeth’s irresolution, and her parsimony, which were seen as stereotypical feminine failings.18 He never again linked these so explicitly to her sex, however, and his concerns about Elizabeth’s flaws did not prevent him from obeying her instructions or accepting her centrality to the political process.

Additionally, at least on some level, Walsingham saw Elizabeth as his intellectual equal, and their letters show that, whatever their differences on policy, they shared a common vocabulary of politics, drawn from their shared educational experiences. Walsingham sometimes used Latin sayings in a gesture to this common language. On 10 August 1581, trying to persuade Elizabeth to commit herself to financially support the Duke of Anjou’s campaign in the Netherlands, he argued that if the expense was likely to be more than England could bear that would be a sound reason for refusal, “for that vltra posse, non est esse” (i.e. what is beyond possibility cannot exist).19 Latin tags also feature in Walsingham’s correspondence with his male colleagues.20

Elizabeth certainly did not accept that her authority could or should be limited by her male advisers, and made efforts to assert her independence and restore distance between them. Linda Shenk has demonstrated how, particularly through her university orations, Elizabeth sought to “eliminate the proximity between learned subject and learned prince”. In these speeches to the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, Elizabeth “eradicated the shared right to power that civic humanism had created” and by 1592 she had “devised a language that collapsed the humanist paradigm of wise counsel into a posture of love and obedience”.21 The ideological chasm identified by Patrick Collinson between a queen who felt thus and a group of councillors who felt that monarchy was a “public office” and that “as a public officer the monarch is accountable, certainly to God and perhaps to others” was a considerable source of friction.22

However, these tensions could be navigated by shared knowledge of the expected forms for offering advice, especially a shared knowledge of rhetorical techniques: how to present advice and persuade an audience. Their tutors had taught Elizabeth and her advisers that true rhetoric should be moral, and tend to the good of the audience, and the speaker should be a good man.23 Four interlocking and mutually-informing concepts were understood to be particularly important in proffering effective and wholesome advice: parrhesia (free/frank speech), ethos (the speaker’s character), decorum (social and rhetorical appropriateness) and kairos (timing or opportunity).24 Found in the works of classical writers, especially Aristotle, Isocrates, Cicero and Plutarch, these ideas were developed and adapted by sixteenth-century writers and rhetoricians including Elyot, Thomas Wilson and George Puttenham.25 Importantly, it was up to the audience to judge the speaker’s success at meeting these criteria.26 When Walsingham advised Elizabeth, then, he had to choose his time correctly; select and phrase his arguments with due regard to the matter, occasion and audience; and manipulate her perception of his character in order to persuade her that his advice was honourable and useful—in Cicero’s terms honestum and utile.27 Walsingham had certainly internalized many of these concepts. In a letter of advice to one of his nephews, Walsingham advised the young man to direct his conduct according to “the rule which Tully [Cicero] calls the rule of honesty, accounting no act as good that proceedeth not from that fountain”.28

In practical terms, Elizabeth’s humanist education gave her the tools to hear counsel intelligently, with an ear tuned for techniques and references, ready to engage critically on an intellectual and technical level with those advising her. Walsingham’s education gave him the tools to deliver advice in accordance with the established conventions.29

* * *

Elizabeth did not usually receive advice from her council in corporate fashion. Instead, Walsingham and each of his colleagues had an individual relationship with the queen based on her appreciation of their abilities and on personal affection. This concept of direct personal service was reinforced by the language of the oath that new privy councillors took on their appointment. Each swore to “beare trew fayth and allegiance” to the queen and to advise her “as maye best seme in your conscience” for her safety and the good of the commonwealth. No mention was made of the new councillor’s responsibilities to his colleagues.30 Ultimately, it was Elizabeth who had the power to set the parameters of counsel. However, she did not have matters entirely her own way. She presided over a group of active and capable advisers who, influenced by their own training, saw advising her as necessary even when their opinions were not solicited. It was necessary, therefore, for the queen to develop her own mechanisms for retaining control and asserting her primacy over her counsellors. These priorities probably had more to do with Elizabeth’s character than her sex. All monarchs have idiosyncrasies in the ways in which they chose to rule and take counsel. Being female may have made it more likely that she would be side-lined and therefore provided a spur to her desire to introduce means for preserving her freedom of action and independence but was not necessarily the deciding factor. Like other elite women, Elizabeth could use her education to justify her intervention in (and in this case control over) traditionally male-dominated spaces and practices.31

A key aspect of Elizabeth’s practice was the appointment of small groups of advisers to discuss particular issues, apart from the council as a whole. Natalie Mears has termed these “probouleutic groups”.32 For Walsingham, by 1575 at least, this practice was an accepted part of counselling the queen. He assumed she would delegate specific councillors to debate, for example, what should happen to recently apprehended plotters.33 Elizabeth thus exerted significant control over who would be presenting her with counsel.

Despite all of his efforts to counsel and persuade Elizabeth, Walsingham nonetheless acknowledged the practical truth that it was Elizabeth’s “wyse iudgment” that would determine the course to be taken, though his experience of her abilities sometimes left him baffled by her decisions.34 In 1578, the only explanation he could find for her deafness to the needs of the Dutch was: “[w]here the advice of faithfull counselors cannot prevaile with a prince of her Majesties iudgment, it is a signe that god hath closed up her Majesties hart from seeing & executing that which may be for her safety; which we that love her … cannot but with griefe thinck of”.35

It seems that the pattern of their advisory relationship was for Walsingham to discuss the issue of the moment with the queen, sometimes arguing strongly against her preferred course of action, but ending with his acceptance of her decision and obedience to her wishes. In 1586, Walsingham conveyed to Sir Amias Paulet, gaoler of the queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s order to seize Mary’s money and dismiss her servants, apparently in the hope that these indignities would induce a final decline in his prisoner. Walsingham disapproved of these instructions, but told Paulet that as he was away from court owing to illness, “I cannot debate the matter with her majesty as I would”. His advice to Paulet was that the queen’s “pleasure being suche I do not see why you should nowe any longer forbeare the putting of the same in execucion, Yf afterwardes thinconveniences happen … her majesty can blame none but herself for yt”.36 Walsingham gave advice to Elizabeth because it was his duty as a loyal counsellor. However, once he had discharged this duty, if she refused his advice, the responsibility for the consequences was hers alone.

This throwing up of hands shows how Walsingham and his colleagues tried to navigate the tricky line between serving their monarch and serving God and the commonwealth. Their education and training endowed them with a strong sense of their responsibility to all three: they were answerable to God for their conduct of their offices as lesser magistrates but they were also bound by oath and by traditional ties of deference to obey their monarch.37 In Walsingham’s words, rulers were those “whome god hathe appointed watchmen over that peece of his house”, who had a duty to uphold the Protestant religion in their dominions and to work with princes of the same religion to further the Gospel.38 He had his own responsibilities in this regard. For example in 1578, Walsingham justified his concern over recent events in Scotland on the grounds of “the good I wish to that state, and benifite of bothe the Realmes, and the dutie I owe to th’advauncement of the Kingdome of God and maintynnce of the same within this Isle”.39 Walsingham here conflated the good of Protestantism and the good of England and asserted his duty to champion both.

What is clear from Walsingham’s career is how central Elizabeth was to the processes of government, whether he liked it or not. In August 1575 Walsingham complained to Burghley that the councillors’ letter to the English agent in Scotland had been “tourne in peeces” by Elizabeth because she thought it “tempred with too mych fleame [phlegm]”. Walsingham had been commanded to “drawe an other of an other temper”, a course of action of which he strongly disapproved: it was “so seasoned with choller, as I thinke we may take owre leave of the amytye of Scotelande”. Despite this, he did in fact write it.40 Walsingham’s strong opposition to a particular course of action never prevented him from obeying his monarch. As he put it: “seinge I am borne a subiecte & not a prynce I am tyed to the condition of obedience & commaundmente”.41 This was not qualified by that prince’s gender. He certainly was not always happy about Elizabeth’s instructions, but he did nevertheless obey in the end. He accepted that her decisions ultimately depended on God, but that he had a responsibility to encourage her to act in the best interests of the reformed religion, England and her own safety, using rhetorical techniques to urge this on her but not to force her to act.

* * *

A close analysis of even Walsingham’s most critical letters reveals that he self-consciously constructed his approaches to Elizabeth, being careful to ensure that these complied with contemporary views of a counsellor’s role, his rhetorical training and Elizabeth’s preferences. Even his famous frankness was a rhetorical choice. A rhetor’s ethos or self-presentation could play an important role in persuading their audience. Following Cicero, Thomas Wilson, author of the Arte of Rhetorique (1560), saw that “style serves as the foundation for ethical proof as it both embodies and develops the [adviser/speaker’s] character”.42 In 1575 Walsingham referred self-deprecatingly to his style of advising Elizabeth, but he hoped that she, “seeynge the grownd of this my zeale will most graciousely incline to pardon my rude & plaine (thoughe dutifull) maner of writynge”.43 He self-consciously constructed the persona of an honest “dutifull” adviser through his style.

Frankness was key to Walsingham’s self-presentation and almost certainly his self-perception: he saw himself and tried to make Elizabeth see him as an honest, impartial, wise and discreet adviser who had the interests of his country and queen at heart. Accordingly, Walsingham consistently identified his advice with the opinions of “men of iudgement” and those who put her interests first, as opposed to those who, transported with partiality, most certainly did not.44 In 1578 he lamented Elizabeth’s unwillingness to assist the Dutch with the words: “By whose advice her Majestie is directed to deale so hardly with those of this country … I knowe not: but sure I am, that the alienation of theise peoples hartes from her … will breede so great perill to her highness self, and so great mischief to the whole Realme … as she will cursse them that were the aucthors of the advice, whom she shall perceave that they had more regard to som perticuler proffit … then to her highnes saufties as in true course of duty they are bound”.45

Even early on in his career Walsingham did not shy away from giving his opinion with relatively little sugar-coating. In one letter of March 1575 in which he urged her to secure Scotland’s friendship he bluntly told Elizabeth that if she ignored the advice of her best counsellors and things went badly “the burden of the error wilbe only cast on your majestie”. He even went so far as to suggest that her failure in this regard might “breede an alienation” in her subjects “in that you laye them open to so many manifest perils”.46

There was much that was true in Walsingham’s self-presentation. He did believe that his advice was the most beneficial for Elizabeth and England. The problem was that Elizabeth did not always agree. Walsingham usually conflated the interests of England and Elizabeth with the interests of international Protestantism, in contrast to Elizabeth’s notorious reluctance to play the role of Deborah. Sometimes this led the queen to suspect that his affinity with his coreligionists abroad led him away from his duty to her. If Mendoza is to be believed, in 1579 Elizabeth told Walsingham “to begone and that the only thing he was good for was a protector of heretics”.47 It was important, therefore, that Walsingham portray himself as dispassionate, as “passion” was a word with highly negative connotations. As opposed to sober and considered counsel, passion was emotional, impulsive and selfish. One of Walsingham’s most obvious characteristics was his emotional, as well as ideological, commitment to his cause. He acknowledged that he was “cholerike”, or passionate, but this was a trait that he regarded with suspicion in others, as is apparent from his scathing references to those “carryed away with passion”.48 How did he reconcile these competing forces?

That his fears for the interconnected fates of Protestantism, England and Elizabeth were genuine, rather than merely rhetorical positions designed to scare the queen into agreeing with his preferred policy is apparent from the words he used to describe his reactions to the vicissitudes of Elizabethan politics. In 1580, in the space of one letter Walsingham used the word “grief” to describe his feelings about both the state of Anglo-Scottish relations and the death of his young daughter.49 In some ways, the fact that he took political setbacks so much to heart may have made his plain counsel more acceptable to Elizabeth. When he could convince her that his criticism or lecturing was occasioned by genuine concern for her safety and her service Elizabeth could tolerate it, even if she disagreed with him: his ethos as a concerned counsellor justified his parrhesia. One aspect of Ciceronian decorum involved being true to yourself: one’s internal disposition must match one’s external expressions.50 Therefore, Walsingham could use his “choleric” character to justify his impassioned advice, which was also justified by the dangers he saw in England’s political situation.

Walsingham’s “frank” persona explains the relatively plain style of his letters: his plainness implicitly served as an assertion of his good faith and honesty and the quality of his advice. Thus a decision not to use heavily patterned language or rhetorical flourishes was intended, paradoxically, to have a persuasive effect.

Walsingham’s plainness may also have been intended to evoke the ideal of the “familiar letter”, an epistolary genre beloved of humanists, and used by them to construct and express their friendship.51 In a familiar letter “plain writing equals plain emotion, plain truth”, and was therefore often characterized by a “‘conversational’ tone, intimate language, and emotional expression”, because plainness was supposed to be best among friends.52

Walsingham recognized that the timing and content of approaches to the queen were vital in determining their success: a keen awareness of opportunity or kairos could be the difference between success and failure, and approaches had to be governed by what was appropriate (decorum) between a queen and her adviser—something Elizabeth had the power to decide.

Walsingham often provided detailed advice to others about how to approach Elizabeth on matters of both patronage and politics, showing his sensitivity to these issues. In a letter to William Davison concerning Davison’s suit for a fee farm, Walsingham told him that because Elizabeth was “presently so disquieted with … theis affaires of Scotland I could therefore fynd no apt tyme to move hir yet therein”.53 Walsingham therefore advised him to write directly to Elizabeth explaining just how necessitous his situation was, “Whervppon I will take occasion to deale with her earnistly againe” now that Davison had given him “ground to worke vppon”.54

Similarly, in 1586 to overcome Elizabeth’s reluctance to pay James VI a pension, Walsingham urged the English agent in Scotland, Thomas Randolph, to “caule often & earnestly vppon vs to hasten the sending … of the promised pencion”. This was one of Sir Francis’s techniques for “managing” Elizabeth; asking other royal servants to write to her or the council urging the preferred course of action. He justified this to Randolph on the grounds that “we do no more here … then we are vrged vnto by necessity”.55

Previously, in 1581, in response to what he considered an over-optimistic assessment of the loyalty of people of the north of England from the Earl of Huntingdon, Walsingham wrote that though he was glad of Huntingdon’s view, he feared that despite their “good show of liking of the present state” they “would be found very dangerous and doubtful in obedience” if given the opportunity, and “therefore I wish her Majesty still to doubt the worst, and the worst accordingly to be provided for”.56 Walsingham made full use of the potential of the secretaryship for controlling the flow of information to Elizabeth in order to paint the grimmest possible picture of her situation in the hope that this would persuade her to act in earnest. Of course, the fact that Walsingham worked so hard to manage the information that reached Elizabeth confirms her centrality in the political process and his acceptance of this in practice.

Elizabeth sometimes suspected that Walsingham was not entirely honest with her, as Walsingham himself realized. He admitted that sometimes she “dothe suspect that I alleadge reasons and suggestions not altogether agreable with truthe”.57 When Elizabeth’s suspicions were aroused in this way, she could prevent Walsingham from succeeding in his persuasive efforts, denying their validity when his behaviour did not match his claim to frankness (parrhesia), as we shall see.

As well as paying attention to the presentation of his advice, Walsingham also tailored its content to his audience. One of the striking aspects of Walsingham’s written advice to Elizabeth is his habitual omission of arguments based on the interests of international Protestantism, despite his claims to frankness. In several letters of advice to Elizabeth in 1575 in which he urged her to ally herself with the Scots he made no mention of the countries’ shared religious outlook despite the fact that Walsingham felt the emotional and ideological pull of this himself.58 Knowing such arguments would cut no ice with Elizabeth, he instead focused on the practical dangers facing her. France and Spain were against her and willing to intervene in Scotland to harm her, so securing the northern border was supremely necessary.59 This was part of Walsingham’s rhetorical training, to select appropriate arguments for his audience, just as much as Elizabeth used her own training to discern the merits and flaws of the various pieces of advice she received.

Sometimes, in particularly delicate situations, Walsingham declined to proffer advice to Elizabeth at all. In 1578 he told Sir Christopher Hatton that “yf I stoode (as I heere I doo not) in her majesties good grace … I would then discharge my dewtie, playnly vnto her” by urging her to seize the opportunity for amity with Scotland offered by the contemporaneous Scottish embassy to her court. However, he added that “my state standinge as it doth, havinge no hope to doo good, I thincke it wisdome to forbeare to offend”.60 This shows the importance of Elizabeth’s consent to being counselled, and Walsingham’s yielding to this practical consideration.

A close personal bond was also an important component in their relationship, reinforcing the mutual understanding between them. Princes were expected to “listen affably” to advice proffered in the “spirit of good counsel” which was “friendship”.61 Plutarch has been identified as especially influential, joining parrhesia and kairos into the view that frank speech from a true friend was justified by its timing and that friend’s motivation.62 Walsingham was evidently an admirer of Plutarch. He enjoined his nephew, for instance, “read you the lives of Plutarch and join thereto all his philosophy.”63 Walsingham’s strong personal relationship with Elizabeth provided a firm foundation for criticisms and disagreements. After his appointment as principal secretary, Walsingham was soon recognized as one of the most influential men at court.64 He soon overtook the senior secretary, Sir Thomas Smith, and Smith’s replacement, Dr. Thomas Wilson, never attained the same level of influence, despite his rhetorical expertise.65 Despite their abilities, neither of these men were personally close to the queen.

When he criticized Elizabeth in September 1581, for example, Sir Francis could trade on his intimacy with her to remove the sting. He began this letter with a reference to the “Laws of Ethiopia [sic], my native soil”.66 This referred to the nickname of “Moor” or “Ethiopian” which Elizabeth had bestowed upon him. Neale described those lucky enough to receive one of these as Elizabeth’s “close friends”.67 Indeed, a list of these men bears out their close political and personal ties to the queen. In particular, Lord Burghley was Elizabeth’s “Spirit” and the earl of Leicester her “Eyes”. When Walsingham acquired his nickname it was a sure sign that he was included in Elizabeth’s inner circle. Traditionally, historians have explained this in terms of Walsingham’s dark colouring, with Neale calling him “dark-featured”.68

This explanation is not entirely satisfactory. In the context of the fifteenth-century reconquista and the ongoing conflict between Spain and the Ottomans in the Mediterranean, it seems a wry nod to Walsingham’s Hispanophobia. Perhaps more importantly, Moors could not disguise their difference or alter it. In Titus Andronicus, Aaron boasts that blackness “scorns to bear another hue”. The conceit was reinforced in Scripture: “The blacke More … [cannot] change his skin [any more than] the leopard his spots”.69 Elizabeth herself played on this quotation to acknowledge Walsingham’s honesty and integrity. As early as 1578, Leicester wrote to Walsingham that she had “expressed very great favour with many favourable words towards you; and … she willed me to say thus to you, that, [a]s she doth know her Moor cannot change his colour, no more shall it be found that she will alter her old wont, which is, always to hold both ears and eyes open for her good servants …”.70 “Moor” encapsulates both Walsingham’s political position, and something of his relationship with Elizabeth: it could be light-hearted and apparently affectionate.

Walsingham’s privileged relationship with the queen was also demonstrated through his participation (with some success) in the practice of presenting extravagant and carefully chosen New Year gifts.71 She also bestowed the expensive honour of five royal visits upon Walsingham over the course of his career.72 The queen felt no qualms about snubbing the houses of those of whom she was not fond, so Elizabeth’s visits to Walsingham were concrete indicators of her favour.73

This favour was predicated upon her appreciation of Walsingham’s abilities and the fact that she could trust him to act in her best interests. At the outset of his career, as resident ambassador in Paris, Walsingham had impressed Elizabeth with his “wisdom & discretion”. So much so that Elizabeth was reluctant to send his replacement, who was “but a symple man & she liketh not that he should deale” in the ongoing negotiations for her marriage.74 In normal circumstances, therefore, Walsingham’s personal bond with Elizabeth, his experience and capabilities, and his sensitivity to the norms of counsel and his queen’s preferences prevailed. These techniques helped to mitigate sometimes unpalatable advice and navigate the gulf between Elizabeth and Walsingham’s conceptions of counsel, allowing them to arrive at a modus vivendi. Similar techniques also helped to reinstate normal relations after significant breaches caused by deviations from the norms of counsel.

* * *

Serious clashes occurred periodically in Walsingham’s relationship with Elizabeth. The two issues around which many of their difficulties revolved were the questions of whether England should lend assistance, covert or overt, to the Dutch rebels, and whether Elizabeth’s projected marriage to the Duke of Anjou was a viable option. Each of these issues led to Walsingham journeying abroad to negotiate directly with the regimes involved which, fortunately for historians, resulted in a correspondence with his colleagues and queen back in England. By examining these incidents, we can shed light on the causes of these breaches and their solutions, which in turn opens a window onto the nature of Elizabeth’s relationship with her principal secretary.

In his capacity as principal secretary, Walsingham often acted as an intermediary between Elizabeth and the representatives of foreign rulers. In some cases, he even corresponded with these rulers directly. Sometimes, his own conception of what was necessary for England and Elizabeth came into conflict with Elizabeth’s expectations of her advisers. It was one thing to advise a client on how to obtain their fee farm and another to advise a foreign ruler on how to handle Elizabeth. It was this that drew the queen’s ire in 1576, in the context of Walsingham’s relationship with the Prince of Orange.

Anglo-Dutch relations were particularly fraught at the time, as a result of Orange’s seizure of the ships belonging to the Merchant Adventurers in order to extort a loan to fund his anti-Spanish campaigning. Walsingham’s whole position on the Dutch question aroused Elizabeth’s suspicion and irritation, and she believed that Walsingham was at least partly to blame for this inflammatory act.75 She imparted her suspicions to Burghley who did his best to alleviate them. Despite Burghley’s involvement, the key factor in resolving this crisis of confidence was a face-to-face meeting between Walsingham and the queen. The former described to Burghley how he had had “longe tavlke” with Elizabeth about the issue and had found her “verry well cavlmed … and wyllyng ynowghe to heare what I coold saye”. To Burghley, and presumably to Elizabeth in their conversation, Walsingham protested his innocence and that “as I never gave the advyce [to seize the ships], so dyd I never allowe of the fact”.76

Walsingham actually opposed the Dutch action, mainly because it would alienate the queen and other potential supporters of their cause in England.77 However, Walsingham was providing detailed advice to Orange on other matters through the prince’s advisers.78 Hence a long letter to Monsieur de Villiers, one of Orange’s semi-official agents in his relations with England. Through Villiers, Walsingham advised Orange on how to assuage Elizabeth’s wrath. The prince, Walsingham suggested, should write to Burghley, Leicester and other key figures bemoaning Elizabeth’s “evil opinion” of him and promising to do all in his power to recover her favour. He should ask these disparate figures to intercede with the queen on his behalf, or else, devoid of her favour, “he must either be enforced to abandon the cause by retiring into Germany, or to reconcile himself with Spain upon any conditions, or to yield those countries absolutely into the French King’s hands”.79 Walsingham astutely calculated that Elizabeth’s fear of French dominance in the Low Countries might induce her to mitigate her displeasure with Orange, when presented by these, her loyal advisers. In years to come, he would continue to stress the menace of a French-controlled Netherlands to persuade Elizabeth to support the rebels herself.80 Here, again, Walsingham selected arguments to suit the audience, though in this case Elizabeth denied the appropriateness of this.

Elizabeth’s annoyance was understandable. Walsingham was, after all, supposed to be her secretary and not pursue his own agenda. As Conyers Read noted, though “it can hardly be said that Walsingham was guilty of treachery to the Queen in writing such a letter”, it was true that “his sympathies with the cause of the Dutch Protestants were leading him far away from his duties as the royal amanuensis”.81 She seems, however, to have been mollified by his assurance that he was not involved in the wilder excesses of the Dutch cause. Walsingham saw the Protestant, anti-Spanish Orange as England’s natural ally against their common enemy, Philip II. For Walsingham, therefore, his actions were an extension of his duty to preserve his own prince and country, but to Elizabeth Walsingham’s behaviour did not match his claims about his ethos as a loyal servant. The breach was mended, however, by a frank exchange between queen and adviser, as we have seen. In fact, in 1577, Walsingham was knighted by Elizabeth, a public statement of her confidence in him, although his enthusiasm for the Dutch cause drew him into trouble again the following year.82

The occasion this time was his joint embassy to the Netherlands with Lord Cobham in 1578. Whether it was not writing in enough detail about their negotiations, or not meeting Anjou (in his guise as protector of the Dutch) quickly enough, the envoys felt they could do nothing right. Elizabeth was particularly irate when Cobham and Walsingham raised a loan of £5000 for the Dutch on their own private bonds.83 Walsingham was driven into a deep despair by her unwillingness to grasp the offered opportunity to provide for her security and by her refusal to accept his advice on the matter. He complained to Burghley that the “persons that wysshe best and the cavses that woorke best are the most myslyked”.84 He hoped, however, that Elizabeth would change her mind when he and Cobham had been able to explain their views to her in person.85

Elizabeth was angry that her ambassadors had exceeded their remit, offering concrete financial support to the Dutch, at a time when she was very reluctant to do such a thing herself. Perhaps in particular she was angry with Walsingham, the more experienced diplomat, her trusted adviser, for his disobedience, his apparent putting of Dutch interests before hers. Walsingham was frustrated with her prevarication, and upset by her denunciations of her ambassadors in their absence.86 As their queen, she was supposed to uphold their “credit”, not threaten to hang them on their return.87 Additionally, she would not accept their assessment of the necessity of aiding the Dutch, a cause close to his heart and, in his mind, essential to the safety of Protestantism, England and herself. However, she remained willing to comfort and listen to her envoys, especially Walsingham.

A long letter of instructions on 8 August from Elizabeth acknowledged that “although yow may conceave that we have had misliking of some parts of your procedings … and therwith both the L[ord] Cobham and yow maybe in your mindes somwhat greeved; yet considering we are well assured of bothe your good willes and faithfull meanings in all your actions, we coold not that yow shuld dismaye your selues …”. She reassured Walsingham in particular that she would hear him out: “And yow Walsingham shall at your retorne know what we have misliked in your actions at which tyme we will not refuse like a good Mastress to heare your aunswere with our accustumed favor”.88 This document, a draft mostly in Burghley’s hand, maintains a balance between formality and informality. It employed a formal greeting at the outset; it used the royal “we” rather than in her less formal letters where Elizabeth used “I”; and it is primarily concerned with instructions on how to proceed. However, it is also concerned with the fears and complaints of her ambassadors. It therefore conveys both her displeasure and her willingness to mend the breach.89

One of the key mechanisms that enabled Elizabeth and her principal secretary to work together so successfully was the queen’s willingness to listen not only to his counsel but to his justifications of his behaviour. On these two occasions in the 1570s when Walsingham allowed his sympathies for the Dutch rebels to run away with him Elizabeth made time to talk out their differences.

The year following his embassy to the Low Countries, Walsingham attracted Elizabeth’s ire for his opposition to her projected marriage to the heir to the French crown, the Duke of Anjou. Walsingham’s own correspondence indicates that he was in deep disgrace in late 1579, and, though the causes of his absence from court are not entirely clear, it is likely that it was related to Elizabeth’s suspicion that he had had a hand in John Stubbs’ pamphlet opposing the match.90 After the marriage negotiations fell through, Elizabeth sent Walsingham to Paris to negotiate an Anglo-French league instead, and several letters written during this embassy exemplify both Walsingham’s style of counsel and the ways in which he was able to escape censure.

Walsingham had grown intensely frustrated with Elizabeth’s procrastination and reluctance to commit herself to either the league or the marriage. Anglo-French amity was particularly important at this time, when a joint military venture to break Spanish power in the Netherlands was under discussion. In turn, Elizabeth had been annoyed with her secretary’s behaviour, especially towards Anjou himself. This had been at least partly mitigated by an earlier exchange of letters, which had seen Elizabeth inform Walsingham that her “mislike conceived of my dealinge with the duke is in part qualified” and lay “open vnto me your disposition touching the charge committed vnto me”.91

Walsingham responded by promising to use this latter favour “as a lodestarre the better to direct my course”.92 This metaphor perfectly encapsulates Walsingham’s attitude to Elizabeth’s wishes: they were a lodestar, not a map: he would use them as his guiding principles while taking whatever means presented themselves to achieve his instructions. He also defended his actions, asserting that he had never “swarued” from the purpose of his embassy. Given this, he hoped that Elizabeth, in the “goodnes of your owne princely nature, and the vprightnes in your owne princely iudgment” would “rest satisfied”.93 Despite his criticisms of her conduct of the negotiations, Walsingham ended this letter with a prayer that God would ensure all turned out “to your highnes particuler contentment & the comfort of your best affected subiectes”.94 This letter shows Walsingham’s obedience to the queen’s wishes and, with a judicious compliment, his dependence on her willingness to see the best in his actions, as she usually was.

Despite clearing the air in this way Walsingham remained deeply exasperated by Elizabeth’s conduct. On 12 September he sent a long letter full of criticism of his queen, presented in his usual plain style. Walsingham accused Elizabeth of maintaining a “sparing and improvident course”.95 He piled error upon error into a damning indictment of Elizabeth’s conduct: her unwillingness to spend had “lost Scotland” and was risking her hold on England, prevented her from concluding any meaningful foreign alliance, and was an invitation for the Queen of Scots to alienate her impecunious gaoler’s loyalty. Walsingham presented himself as a loyal counsellor reluctantly delivering hard truths, the central element of his ethos, playing on his nickname to assert that if she continued her course “no one that serveth in place of a Councellor, that either weigheth his own credit, or carrieth that sound affection to your Majestie as he ought to do, that would not wish himself in the farthest part of Ethiopia …”.96

Elizabeth defended herself robustly against Walsingham’s reproach that she was keeping him and his colleagues in the dark, while relying on other agents. She demanded, “[c]an you wittingly do me so much wrong as to suppose I am readier to make strangers acquainted with my mind and let you run another course?” She also complained of what she considered the unreasonable behaviour of the French: “it is too much that all our charge, care and expense is so far neglected, and we are said but to beguile”. However, she added that as his mission now seemed “vain”, Walsingham could request to return home, “which I wish not least to see”.97 Even at this moment of tension between them, Elizabeth still wanted her secretary back at court—and she used the more informal and intimate “I” to explain this.

Walsingham was careful to justify his counsel to Elizabeth in terms of their personal relationship and his concern for her and England. Walsingham asked Elizabeth that “if any thing shall escape my pen, that may breed offence” she would “ascribe it love, which can never bring forth evil effects, though sometimes it may be subject to sharp censures”.98 He alluded to the integrity of his motivation: “if either ambition or riches were the end of my strife, my grief [at her displeasure] would be the less”, and often emphasized his duty to Elizabeth, apologizing for having “spoken in the heat of duty”.99 In, for example, claiming that the queen’s actions had put her “in peril of the loss of England”, Walsingham deployed discourses of necessity in the face of the dangers facing his queen and country in order to both excuse his frankness and create a sense of urgency which would induce Elizabeth to act.100 The notion of kairos also had connotations of urgency: now was the moment not only to advise but also to act.101 Presenting Elizabeth’s situation as critical gave Walsingham the opportunity to advise her, and also justified his frankness and “heat” or passion. Model orators like Isocrates and Demosthenes justified their frank speech in a similar manner, emphasizing the good of the state and their own disinterested motives.102

Occasionally their shared education and conception of the monarch-counsellor relationship could be undermined by Elizabeth’s subversion of expectations. The importance of Elizabeth’s appreciating Walsingham, in public and in private, is shown by a letter of 1581 in which he expressed to Elizabeth “… how infinitely I think my self bound unto you for … your comfortable Postscript in the Earl of Leicesters [sic] Letters, other your most gracious and favourable speeches given out publiquely since my departure, of the good opinion it pleaseth your most excellent Majestie to hold of your poor and unprofitable servant …”.103

A perceived lack of appreciation caused Walsingham to leave court in December 1586, telling Burghley that Elizabeth’s “vnkynd dealyng towards me hathe so wownded me as I coold take no compfort to staye there”.104 He did not return until the following February. The cause of Walsingham’s withdrawal was a deep-seated sense of personal and political grievance with Elizabeth. Not only had she refused him adequate reward for the “infynyt toyle and dyscompforte” he had experienced as secretary, but he was also profoundly frustrated by her prevarication over the fate of Mary Stuart.105 As his monarch, it was her duty to reward his service and ensure it could continue, and she was ignoring his dutiful advice. This was also a time of significant personal and financial stress for Walsingham: his son-in-law, Sir Philip Sidney, had recently died, leaving Walsingham to honour his debts.106 Elizabeth’s unsympathetic response to her secretary’s financial plight, personal grief and political argument undermined the pillars that supported their relationship: her willingness to listen to his advice and their personal intimacy.

Walsingham was most successful when his rhetoric and actions aligned, when his claims to be acting in Elizabeth’s best interests were accepted by the queen herself. Burghley acknowledged the importance of this when he wrote: “we all must dutifully beare with hir … offence … not despearyng, but how so ever she mislyketh matters at on tyme, yet at an other tyme, she will alter hir sharpnes, specially whan she is perswaded, that we all meane truly for hir and hir suerty, though she sometymes will not so understand”.107 When she felt that he did not have her service at heart, she was less willing to accept his advice or even his presence at court. However, these moments of doubt and suspicion were usually alleviated by “long talk”.

* * *

When Walsingham adhered to the rules of counsel he seems largely to have escaped censure. His capacity to present advice and even swingeing criticism in a form acceptable to Elizabeth was dependent on his sensitivity to her requirements and views. Walsingham is seen as frank by historians, which demonstrates the strength of his ethos or self-presentation. Elizabeth, however, understood Walsingham’s assertions of honesty and impartiality as a rhetorical device, designed to improve the efficacy of his advice. This meant that she could dispute his right to parrhesia, or frank/free speech, and the advice proffered through it. It was her resentment of Walsingham’s attempted manipulation that caused disagreements, not Walsingham’s “frankness”.

Elizabeth was obviously an active and expert participant in the process of counsel. Another woman, who had not had Elizabeth’s educational opportunities, would have struggled to assert her authority over those around her in this way. This shared knowledge, usually the preserve of men, bridged the gap between queen and counsellors, mitigating the importance of Elizabeth’s sex, and making it more difficult to side-line her in political discussion.

Walsingham often criticized Elizabeth for faults associated with the female sex, such as indecisiveness and parsimony. However, he rarely explicitly identified them as feminine weaknesses even to his colleagues. Walsingham did not accuse Elizabeth of these faults out of generalized disapproval of female rule, but instead singled out her attributes which were most antithetical to the active, militarily involved policy he wanted to pursue. In this sense, Walsingham’s efforts to endow Elizabeth with resolution and certainty through both ordinary and, sometimes, extraordinary means can be understood in the context of the contemporary expectation that counsellors were to supply the faults of their princes.108 What Walsingham thought about queenship in general is not clear, but his response to Elizabeth’s rule in particular suggests that, like Throckmorton and Randolph, he approached this pragmatically, treating Elizabeth’s active rule as a fait accompli.

For all the importance of convention in such relationships, we have to leave room for individual idiosyncrasies in the practical relationship forged between monarch, whether male or female, and adviser. Walsingham’s centrality, personally and politically, to Elizabeth’s government was exemplified in 1586, while he and Lord Burghley were both away from court attending the trial of the Queen of Scots. Elizabeth wrote them a joint letter, addressing them informally at the outset as “Sir spirite, myne and yow master Moore”. She ended the letter, “I haue commanded this bearer to bring me word of both your healthes And so when a foole hath spoken, she hath all done”, and signed herself “[s]uch am I to yow as your faiths haue deserued”.109 William Davison also passed on to Walsingham Elizabeth’s hope that the commissioners were “neer growen to some end so as by thursday next she may see you here”.110 These letters demonstrate the affection and dependence of Elizabeth on her two most famous advisers: she could not be without her Moor or his counsel for long.


  1. 1.

    Mendoza to Philip II, 30 March 1586, Calendar of Letters and State Papers relating to English Affairs preserved in the Archives of Simancas, ed. Martin A. S. Hume, vol. III, 1580–1586 (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1892–1899: 1896), 573. Hereafter cited as Cal. Spanish.

  2. 2.

    See for example Hsuan-Ying Tu, “The Pursuit of God’s Glory: Francis Walsingham’s Espionage in Early Elizabethan Politics, 1568–1588” (PhD diss., University of York, 2012), 251–52; John Cooper, The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (London: Faber and Faber, 2011), 104; Christopher Haigh, Elizabeth I, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 1998), 87; Lacey Baldwin Smith, Elizabeth Tudor: Portrait of a Queen (London: Hutchinson, 1976), 72; Conyers Read, Mr. Secretary Walsingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth, vol. II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925), 259.

  3. 3.

    Anne Somerset, Elizabeth I (London: Phoenix, 2003), 353; Sir John Neale, Queen Elizabeth (London: Jonathan Cape, 1934), 238; James Anthony Froude, The Reign of Elizabeth, vol. IV (London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1911), 61.

  4. 4.

    Neale, Queen Elizabeth, 228–9; Read, Mr. Secretary Walsingham, II, 259; Tu, “Walsingham’s Espionage,” 252; Somerset, Elizabeth I, 353.

  5. 5.

    Froude, Reign of Elizabeth, V, 476–7.

  6. 6.

    See for example Mendoza to Philip II, 9 October 1581, Cal. Spanish, 1580–86, 185. Something of the sort may also have been going on during the 1576 mission of the Sieur de Champagny on behalf of the governor of the Low Countries, Requesens, see Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 322.

  7. 7.

    Walsingham to Sir Christopher Hatton, 23 June 1578, Additional MS 15891, fol. 45v, British Library.

  8. 8.

    See especially Walsingham’s letters to Elizabeth in February, March and April 1575 in SP 12/103, and August and September 1581 in SP 78/6 and also printed in Sir Dudley Digges, The Compleat Ambassador, or, Two Treaties of the Intended Marriage of Queen Elizabeth of Glorious Memory; Comprised in Letters of Negotiation of Sir Francis Walsingham, her Resident in France. Together with the Answers of Lord Burleigh, the Earl of Leicester, Sir Tho: Smith, and others (London: Tho: Newcomb for Gabriel Bedell and Thomas Collins, 1655).

  9. 9.

    For Elizabeth’s letter writing practices and preferences see Rayne Allinson, A Monarchy of Letters: Royal Correspondence and English Diplomacy in the Reign of Elizabeth I (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 17–36; Melanie Evans, “‘By the Queen’: Collaborative Authorship in Scribal Correspondence of Queen Elizabeth I,” in Women and Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1690, ed. James Daybell and Andrew Gordon (London: Routledge, 2016), 36–51.

  10. 10.

    James Daybell, “Introduction,” in Early Modern Women’s Letter-Writing, 1450–1700, ed. James Daybell (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), 8.

  11. 11.

    For Elizabeth’s education see, for example, T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespere’s Small Latine and Lesse Greeke (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944), 25784. For Walsingham’s education see Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 14–20.

  12. 12.

    Joanne Paul, “Counsel and Command in Anglophone Political Thought, 1485–1651” (PhD diss., Queen Mary, University of London, 2013), 41.

  13. 13.

    Sir Thomas Elyot, The book named the governor, 1531 (Menston: Scolar Press, 1970), sig. B52.

  14. 14.

    John A. Guy, “The Rhetoric of Counsel in Early Modern England,” in Tudor Political Culture, ed. Dale Hoak (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 294.

  15. 15.

    Anne McLaren, “Delineating the Elizabethan Body Politic: Knox, Aylmer and the Definition of Counsel 1558–88,” History of Political Thought 17, no. 2 (1996): 241.

  16. 16.

    Victoria Smith, “ “For Ye, Young Men, Show a Womanish Soul, Yon Maiden a Man’s”: Perspectives on Female Monarchy in Elizabeth’s First Decade,” in Gender and Political Culture in Early Modern Europe, 1400–1800, ed. James Daybell and Svante Norrhem (London: Routledge, 2017), 153, 151.

  17. 17.

    “Whether it may stand with good policy for her Majesty to join with Spain in the enterprise of Burgundy,” Harley MS 168, fol. 54, BL. For discussion of this document’s attribution, see Simon Adams, Alan Bryson and Mitchell Leimon, “Walsingham, Sir Francis (c.1532–1590),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online ed., May 2009). Accessed 10 November 2015, doi: Hereafter ODNB, “Walsingham.”

  18. 18.

    See for example Walsingham to Henry Cobham, 7 June 1582, SP 78/7, fol. 96-, The National Archives, Kew; Walsingham to Robert Bowes, 22 July 1583, SP 52/32, fol. 107, TNA.

  19. 19.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 10 August 1581, SP 78/6, fol. 4v, TNA.

  20. 20.

    [Walsingham] to Robert Beale, 2 November 1577, SP 81/1, fol. 103, TNA.

  21. 21.

    Linda Shenk, “Turning Learned Authority into Royal Supremacy: Elizabeth I’s Learned Persona and Her University Orations,” in Elizabeth I: Always Her Own Free Woman, eds. Carole Levin, Jo Eldridge Carney and Debra Barrett-Graves (Aldershot, Hampshire, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003), 79.

  22. 22.

    Patrick Collinson, “The Monarchical Republic of Queen Elizabeth I,” in Elizabethan Essays, ed. Patrick Collinson (London: Hambledown Press, 1994), 44.

  23. 23.

    Daniel Kapust, “Cicero on Decorum and the Morality of Rhetoric,” European Journal of Political Theory 10, no. 1 (2011): 95.

  24. 24.

    David Colclough, “Parrhesia: The Rhetoric of Free Speech in Early Modern England,” Rhetorica 17, no. 2 (1999): 179; Todd S. Frobish, “An Origin of a Theory: A Comparison of the Ethos in the Homeric ‘Iliad’ with that Found in Aristotle’s ‘Rhetoric,’” Rhetoric Review 22, no. 1 (2003): 18, 19; Kapust, “Cicero on Decorum,” 97; Joanne Paul, “The Use of Kairos in Renaissance Political Philosophy,” Renaissance Quarterly 67, no. 1 (2014): 44, 46.

  25. 25.

    Colclough, “Parrhesia,” 178–186; James S. Baumlin, “Ciceronian Decorum and the Temporalities of Renaissance Rhetoric,” in Rhetoric and Kairos: Essays in History, Theory, and Praxis, eds. Phillip Sipiora and James S. Baumlin (Albany, New York: University of New York Press, 2002), 138–64; Kapust, “Cicero on Decorum,” 91–112; Paul, “Use of Kairos,” 45–51.

  26. 26.

    Colclough, “Parrhesia,” 183–184, 190; Frobish, “Origin of a Theory,” 27; Kapust, “Cicero on Decorum,” 97.

  27. 27.

    Paul, “Counsel and Command,” 57.

  28. 28.

    Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 18.

  29. 29.

    Natalie Mears, Queenship and Political Discourse in the Elizabethan Realms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 74–78; ODNB, “Walsingham”; Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 13–25.

  30. 30.

    “The othe of a Consellor”, 17 November 1558, SP 12/1, fol. 3v, TNA.

  31. 31.

    Gemma Allen, “Women as Counselors in Sixteenth-Century England: The Letters of lady Anne Bacon and Lady Elizabeth Russell,” in Women and Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1690, eds. James Daybell and Andrew Gordon (London: Routledge: 2016), 82, 91.

  32. 32.

    Mears, Queenship and Political Discourse, 35–40.

  33. 33.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 22 February 1575, SP 53/10, fol. 12, TNA.

  34. 34.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 16 January 1575, SP 26/2, fol. 152, TNA.

  35. 35.

    [Walsingham] to [Sir Christopher Hatton], 2 September 1578, SP 83/9, fol. 62v.

  36. 36.

    Walsingham to Sir Amias Paulet, 5 September 1586, SP 53/19, fol. 87, TNA

  37. 37.

    Stephen Alford, The Early Elizabethan Polity: William Cecil and the British Succession Crisis, 1558–1569 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 41–2; Mears, Queenship and Political Discourse, 271.

  38. 38.

    Walsingham to Thomas Randolph and Robert Bowes, 16 March 1578, Harley MS 6992, fol. 100, BL.

  39. 39.

    Walsingham to Thomas Randolph and Robert Bowes, 16 March 1578, Harley MS 6992, fol. 100v, BL.

  40. 40.

    Walsingham to Burghley, 3 August 1575, Harley MS 6992, fol. 13, BL.

  41. 41.

    Walsingham to [unknown], 1570, SP12/45, fol.1v, TNA.

  42. 42.

    Lois Agnew, “Rhetorical Style and the Formation of Character: Ciceronian Ethos in Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetorique,” Rhetoric Review 17, no. 1 (1998): 93.

  43. 43.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 12 April 1575, SP 12/103, fol. 59, TNA.

  44. 44.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 12 April 1575, SP 12/103, fol. 59, TNA.

  45. 45.

    [Walsingham] to Burghley, 2 September 1578, SP 83/9, fols. 61-61v, TNA.

  46. 46.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 20 March 1575, SP 52/26/2, fol. 159, TNA.

  47. 47.

    Mendoza to Zayas, 16 October 1579, Cal. Spanish, 1568–79, 704. Mendoza was not sure whether “all this is artifice.”

  48. 48.

    Walsingham to Sir Thomas Heneage, 1 June [1571?], Report on the Manuscripts of Allan George Finch, Esq., of Burley on the Hill, Rutland, ed. Sophia Crawford Lomas, vol. I (London: H.M.S.O, 1913), 18; Walsingham to Randolph, [18 March] 1581, SP 52/29, fol. 46, TNA.

  49. 49.

    Walsingham to Robert Bowes, 10 August 1580, SP 52/128, fol. 162–, TNA.

  50. 50.

    Kapust, “Cicero on Decorum,” 102.

  51. 51.

    Rachel McGregor, “Making Friends with Elizabeth in the Letters of Roger Ascham,” in Women and Epistolary Agency in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1690, eds. James Daybell and Andrew Gordon (London: Routledge, 2016), 154.

  52. 52.

    Gary Schneider, The Culture of Epistolarity: Vernacular Letters and Letter Writing in Early Modern England, 1500–1700 (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005), 130–1.

  53. 53.

    Walsingham to William Davison, 15 May 1584, SP 52/34, fol. 69, TNA.

  54. 54.

    Walsingham to Davison, 20 May 1584, SP 52/34, fol. 77, TNA.

  55. 55.

    Walsingham to Randolph, [2] April 1586, SP 52/39, fol. 41, TNA.

  56. 56.

    Walsingham to Huntingdon, 21 March 1581, Report on the manuscripts of the late Reginald Rawdon Hastings, Esq., of the Manor house, Ashby de la Zouche, ed. by John Harley and Francis Bickley, vol. II (London: H.M.S.O., 1930), 29.

  57. 57.

    Walsingham to William Davison, 20 May 1584, SP 52/34, fol. 77, TNA.

  58. 58.

    Walsingham to [Burghley], 24 July 1577, Cotton MS, Caligula C III, fol. 529, BL.

  59. 59.

    See, for example, Walsingham to Elizabeth, 20 March 1575, SP 52/26/2, fol. 159, TNA.

  60. 60.

    Walsingham to Hatton, 23 June 1578, Additional MS 15891, fol. 46, BL.

  61. 61.

    Guy, “Rhetoric of Counsel,” 294.

  62. 62.

    Paul, “Use of Kairos,” 49; Colclough, “Parrhesia,” 190–1.

  63. 63.

    Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 18.

  64. 64.

    Mendoza to Philip II, 31 March 1578, Cal. Spanish, 1568–79, 476.

  65. 65.

    Mary Dewar, Sir Thomas Smith: A Tudor Intellectual in Office (London: University of London, Athlone Press, 1964), especially 119–23, 171–4; Florence M. Greir Evans, The Principal Secretary of State: A Survey of the Office from 1558 to 1580 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1923), 46, 49; Michael B. Pulman, The Elizabethan Privy Council in the Fifteen-Seventies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 152.

  66. 66.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, [1]2 September 1581, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sig. Hhh 25.

  67. 67.

    Neale, Queen Elizabeth, 214.

  68. 68.

    Neale, Queen Elizabeth, 215.

  69. 69.

    Titus Andronicus (4.2.99), and Jeremiah 13:23, cited in Michael Neill, “‘Mulattos’, ‘Blacks’, and ‘Indian Moors’: Othello and Early Modern Constructions of Human Difference,” Shakespeare Quarterly 49, no. 4 (1998): 364.

  70. 70.

    Leicester to Walsingham, 30 July 1581, Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Most Hon. the Marquis of Salisbury: preserved at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, vol. II (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O, 1888), 403. Hereafter cited as Hatfield MSS.

  71. 71.

    [Walsingham] to Sir Amias Paulet, 14 January 1578, SP 78/2, fol. 4, TNA. When Elizabeth gave presents in turn, Walsingham was often singularly fortunate. John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. III (London: John Nichols & Son, 1823), 19.

  72. 72.

    Mary Hill Cole, The Portable Queen: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Ceremony (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 223–4.

  73. 73.

    Hill Cole, Portable Queen, 71, 229.

  74. 74.

    Sir Thomas Smith to Burghley, 7 January 1573, Harley MSS 6991, fol. 19, BL.

  75. 75.

    Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 322.

  76. 76.

    Walsingham to Burghley, 16 October 1576, Harley MSS 6992, fol. 56, BL.

  77. 77.

    Walsingham to Robert Beale, 28 May 1576, Egerton MSS 1694, fol. 12, BL.

  78. 78.

    Walsingham to Burghley, 16 October 1576, Harley MSS 6992, fol. 56, BL.

  79. 79.

    “Negotiations of M. de Villiers with the Prince of Orange,” SP 70/140, fol. 153-, TNA, cited in Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 333–4.

  80. 80.

    Walsingham to Burghley, 3 August 1578, SP 83/8, fol. 7, TNA.

  81. 81.

    Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 334.

  82. 82.

    ODNB, “Walsingham.”

  83. 83.

    For a detailed account of this embassy, see Read, Mr. Secretary, I, 373–422; private bonds: 394.

  84. 84.

    Walsingham to [Burghley], 20 September 1578, SP 83/9, fol. 28v1, TNA.

  85. 85.

    Walsingham to Burghley, 9 September 1578, SP 83/9, fol. 14v, TNA.

  86. 86.

    See for example, [Walsingham] to Sir Thomas Heneage, [2? September] 1578, SP 83/9, fol. 64v, TNA; and [Walsingham] to the earl of Warwick, 18 July 1578, SP 83/9, fol. 60v, TNA.

  87. 87.

    For this view, see Walsingham to Elizabeth, [1]2 September 1571, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sig. Hhh 25; and for Elizabeth’s threats see Walsingham to Thomas Randolph, 29 July 1578, SP 83/7, fol. 90, TNA.

  88. 88.

    Elizabeth to Walsingham, 8 August 1578, SP 83/8, fol. 16v2, TNA.

  89. 89.

    Evans, “By the Queen,” 43–51.

  90. 90.

    John Zouche to Walsingham, 27 December 1579, SP 63/70, fol. 163, TNA; Walsingham to Sir Henry Cobham, 30 December 1579, SP 78/3, fol. 60, TNA; Read, Mr. Secretary, II, 22; William Pelham to Walsingham, 15 December 1579, SP 63/70, fol. 148; Pelham to Walsingham, 29 December 1579, SP 63/70, fol. 171.

  91. 91.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 16 August 1581, SP 78/6, fol. 13, TNA.

  92. 92.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 16 August 1581, SP 78/6, fol. 13, TNA.

  93. 93.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 16 August 1581, SP 78/6, fol. 13, TNA.

  94. 94.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 16 August 1581, SP 78/6, fol. 13v, TNA.

  95. 95.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, [1]2th September 1581, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sig. Iii.

  96. 96.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, [1]2th September 1581, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sigs Hhh 25−Iii.

  97. 97.

    Elizabeth to [Walsingham], September 1581, Hatfield MSS, II, 430.

  98. 98.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, [1]2th September 1581, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sig. Hhh 25.

  99. 99.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, [1]2 September 1581, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sig. Hhh 25.

  100. 100.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, [1]2th September 1581, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sig. Iii.

  101. 101.

    Phillip Sipiora, “Kairos: The Rhetoric of Time and Timing in the New Testament,” in Rhetoric and Kairos: Essays in History, Theory, and Praxis, ed. by Phillip Sipiora and James S. Baumlin (Albany, New York: University of New York Press, 2002), 119.

  102. 102.

    Diane Parkin-Speer, “Freedom of Speech in Sixteenth Century English Rhetorics,” Sixteenth Century Journal 12, no. 3 (1981): 65.

  103. 103.

    Walsingham to Elizabeth, 6 August 1581, Digges, Compleat Ambassador, sig. Aaa 22.

  104. 104.

    Walsingham to Burghley, 6 December 1586, SP 12/195, fol. 111, TNA.

  105. 105.

    Walsingham to Burghley, 6 December 1586, SP 12/195, fol. 111v, TNA.

  106. 106.

    Walsingham to Thomas Wilkes, 3 December 1586, SP 84/11, fol. 51, TNA; Walsingham to Burghley, 5 January 1587, SP 12/197, fol. 6; ODNB, “Walsingham.”

  107. 107.

    Burghley to Walsingham, 18 July 1578, SP 83/7, fol. 65v, TNA.

  108. 108.

    Elyot, Governor, sig. B51.

  109. 109.

    [Elizabeth] to Burghley and Walsingham, October 1586, Lansdowne MS 10, fol. 213, BL. See also Evans, “By the Queen,” 40–3.

  110. 110.

    William Davison to Walsingham, 15 October 1586, SP 12/194, fol. 70, TNA.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeedsLeedsUK

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