Sir Francis Walsingham|
(circa 1530 - 1590) U.K.
English Ambassador to France (1570-1573) and Secretary of State (1573-1590) to Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham is best known as a spymaster for the queen, establishing the most extensive spy network the world had ever seen, placing secret agents throughout Europe, especially in the Catholic courts of Spain, Italy, and France, to ferret out Catholic plots against Elizabeth.
Walsingham was a patron of writers and adapted some of his contacts in the theatrical world to create the Queen's Men, a travelling theatrical group that performed plays with high propaganda content.
By performing their entertainments in the grand manor houses of the rich and influential throughout the country, the group also provided eyes in the homes of known and suspected Catholic sympathizers. Among his agents was the playwright Christopher Marlowe, with whom he had an homosexual affair.
Doubtless to the Catholics, Walsingham was a kind of Himmler and Goebels figure combined. Walsingham, meanwhile, balanced the day-to-day business of sanctioning the interrogation and torture of suspects with investments in the voyages of discovery of Sir Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher.
He helped build the case for the execution of Elizabeth's Catholic rival, Mary Queen of Scots. In 1587 he obtained details of the planned Spanish Armada attack on England, leading to its defeat.