The Queen's Agent, By John Cooper

 

Forget M. England's greatest spymaster was W. As enthralling as any modern spook yarn, this portrait of Elizabeth I's éminence grise reveals that along with engineering the execution of Mary Queen of Scots ("modern lawyers would condemn this as entrapment"), Francis Walsingham also scuppered the Armada by obtaining the invasion plan "only days after Philip had seen it".

His manoeuvrings took such a toll that the Queen cracked a black joke when she finally signed Mary's death warrant. She hoped the news would restore her principal secretary to health.

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