Walsingham, Sir Francis

, an eminent statesman in the reign of queen Elizabeth, of an ancient family in Norfolk, was the third and youngest son of William Walsingham of Scadbury, in the parish of Chislehurst, in Kent, by Joyce, daughter of Edmund Denny, of Cheshunt in Hertfordshire. He was born at Chislehurst in 1536. He spent some time at King’s-college in Cambridge, but, to complete his education, travelled into foreign countries, where he acquired various languages and great accomplishments. These soon recommended him to be agent to sir William Cecil, lord Burleigh; and under his direction he came to be employed in the most important affairs of state. His first engagement was as ambassador in France during the civil wars in that kingdom. In August 1570, he was sent a second time there in the same capacity, to treat of a marriage between queen Elizabeth and the duke of Alençon, with other matters; and continued until April | 1573 at the court of France, where he acquitted himself with great capacity and fidelity, sparing neither pains nor money to promote the queen’s interest, who, however, did not support him with much liberality. It was even with great difficulty that he could procure such supplies as were necessary for the support of his dignified station. In a letter from him (Harleian Mss. No. 260), to the earl of Leicester, dated Paris, March 9, 1570, he earnestly solicits for some allowance on account of the great dearth in France; desiring lord Leicester to use his interest in his behalf, that he might not be so overburthened with the care how to live, as to be hindered from properly attending to the business for which he was sent thither. Five days after he wrote a letter to lord Burleigh, which gives a curious account of the distresses to which Elizabeth’s representative was reduced by her singular parsimony. “Your lordship knoweth necessity hath no law, and therefore I hope that my present request, grounded on necessity, will weigh accordingly. And surely if necessity forced me not hereto, I would forbear to do it for many respects. I do not doubt, after my lord of Buckhurst’s return, but you shall understand, as well by himself, as by others of his train, the extremity of dearth that presently reigneth here; which is such as her majesty’s allowance doth not, by 5l. in the week, defray my ordinary charges of household. And yet neither my diet is like to any of my predecessors, nor yet the number of my horses so many as they heretofore have kept. I assure your lordship, of 800l. I brought in my purse into this country, I have not left in money and provision much above 300/; far contrary to the account I made, who thought to have had always 500l. beforehand to have made my provisions, thinking by good husbandry somewhat to have relieved my disability otherwise,” &c. In another letter, dated June 22, 1572, he again solicits lord Burleigh for an augmentation of his allowance, alledging, that otherwise he should not be able to hold out: but notwithstanding this and other solicitations, there is much reason to believe that the queen kept him in considerable difficulties.

His negociations and dispatches during the above embassy were collected by sir Dudley Digges, and published in 1655, folio, with this title, “The complete Ambassador; or, two Treatises 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 the lord Burleigh, the earl of Leicester, sir Thomas Smith, and others. Wherein, as in a clear Mirrour, may be seen the faces of the two Courts of England and France, as they then stood; with many remarkable passages of State, not at all mentioned in any history." These papers display WaUingham’s acuteness, discernment, and fitness for the trust that was reposed in him.

After his return, in 1573, he was appointed one of the principal secretaries of state, and sworn a privy-counsellor, and soon after received the honour of knighthood. He now devoted himself solely to the service of his country and sovereign; and by his vigilance and address preserved her crown and life from daily attempts and conspiracies. ID 1578, he was sent on an embassy to the Netherlands, and in 1581, went a third time ambassador to France, in order to treat of the proposed marriage between the queen and the duke of Anjou; and also to conclude a league offensive and defensive between both kingdoms He resided in France from about the middle of July to the end of the year. In 1583, he was sent into Scotland on an embassy to king James, attended with a splendid retinue of one hundred and twenty horse. The particular design of this embassy is not very clearly expressed by historians. It appears to have been partly occasioned by king James having taken into his councils the earl of Arran, a nobleman very obnoxious to queen Elizabeth. Sir James Melvil, who was at this time at the Scottish court, mentions their expecting the arrival of secretary Walsingham, “a counsellor,” he says, “of worthy qualities, who had great credit with the queen of England.” Sir James was sent to welcome him, and to inform him, “That his majesty was very glad of the coming of such a notable personage, who was known to be endued with religion and wisdom, whom he hail ever esteemed as his special friend, being assured that his tedious travel in his long voyage (being diseased as he was) tended to more substantial points for the confirmation of the amity between the queen his sister and him, than had been performed at any time before.

Walsingham had then an audience of the Scotch king, and after several other private conferences with him, set out again for England. But during his stay in Scotland he declined having any intercourse with the earl of Arran, | < c for be esteemed the said earl,“says Melvit,” a scorner of religion, a sower of discord, and a despise* of true and honest men; and therefore he refused to speak with him, or enter into acquaintance; for he was of a contrary nature, religious, true, and a lover of all honest men.“Arran, in resentment, did every thing he could to affront Walsingham; but the latter, on his, return, made a very advantageous representation to Elizabeth, of the character and abilities of king James. Hume observes, that Elizabeth’s chief purpose in employing Walsingbam on an embassy” where so little business was to be transacted, was Ab Jearn, from a man of so much penetration and discernment, the real character of James. This young prince possessed very good parts, though not accompanied with that vigour and industry which his station required; and as he excelled in general discourse and conversation, Walsingham entertained a higher idea of his talents than he was afterwards found, when real business was transacted, to have fully merited.“Lloyd, who imputes universal genius to Walsingham, says, that he could ^ as well fit the humour of king James with passages out of Xenophon, Thucydides, Plutarch, or Tacitus, as he could that of Henry king of France with Rabelais’s conceits, or the Hollander with mechanic discourses.

Sir Francis Walsingham was not only assiduous in the discharge of those important trusts which were immediately committed to him, or were connected with his office a’s secretary of statej but he was also zealous to promote every public-spirited design, especially what regarded trade and navigation, which the English were at this time extending with great success to all parts of the world. Among others he patronized the celebrated Hakluyt in his studies and discoveries, and also promoted sir Humphrey Gilbert’s voyage for the settling of Newfoundland, by procuring him a sum of money and two ships from the merchants of Bristol.

In 1586, that “the distance between the churches (of Rome and England) should be made wide enough,Antony Wood informs us that a new divinity-lecture was founded at Oxford by sir Francis, <<a man of great abilities in the schools of policy, an extreme hater of the popes and church of Rome, and no less a favourer to those of the puritan party.“in the letters which sir Francis addressed to the chancellor of the university on this occasion, he | ays, f. whereas it is found by good experience, that the learning in popery, and in superstition, whereof our Englishmen of late years trained in the seminaries beyond the sea o greatly glory, and so much hurt her majesty’s good subjects, when they come to this realm from thence, hath by no means grown and taken root so deeply in those seminaries as by certain public teachers in those seminaries that read and handle only common places of their false religion, which some call dictates, whereby the English Jesuits, and late made priests beyond sea, though in truth of small or no reading at all themselves, yet make a great shew of learning: I cannot but marvel, and much mislike, that, in our universities here at home, as great care is not had -for advancement of true religion of God here pro.­fessedy by some more lectures of divinity to be read, especially the handling the principal parts of our religion, whereby no doubt but that the ministry of the churches of this realm, which should spring from the university, would be not only better to deliver all true doctrine, but also to confute upon every occasion the contrary,” &c. The first lecturer nominated by sir Francis, was the celebrated Dr. John llainolds (See Rainolds, p. 494), but the lecture was only of the temporary kind, and is supposed to have ceased on the founder’s death. J Mcifmi

In the same year, 1586, he displayed his usual sagacity and vigilance in the management of every thing relative, to the detection of Babington’s conspiracy against queen Elizabeth; and in October was one of the commissioners appointed to try Mary queen of Scotland. In the course of this trial Mary indirectly charged sir Francis with counterfeiting her letters and cyphers, and with practising both against her life and her son’s. Upon this sir Thomas rose up, and protested that his heart was free from all malice against the Scottish queen. “I call God,” says he, “to witness, that as a private person I have done nothing unbeseeming an honest man; neither in my public condition, and quality have I done any thing unworthy of my place. I confess, that out of my great care for the safety of the queen and realm, I have curiously endeavoured to search and sift out all plots and designs against the same. If Ballard (one of the persons concerned in Babington’s conspiracy) had offered me his assistance, I should not have refused it; yea, I would have rewarded him for his pains and service. If I have tampered any thing with him, why did | be not discover it to save his life?” With this answer queen Mary said she was satisfied; and she desired sir Francisnot to be angry that she had spoken so freely what she had heard reported, and that he would give no more credit to those that slandered her, than she did to such as accused him.

Soon after this sir Francis was made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. As to his share in baffling the designs of the court of Spain, Welwood, in his “Memoirs,” informs us that Walsingham, by a refined piece of policy, defeated, for a whole year together, the measures that the Spanish monarch had taken for fitting out his armada to invade England. “The vast preparations,” he says, “that were making for a considerable time in Spain, kept all Europe in suspense, and it was not certain against whom they were designed; though it was the general opinion they were to subdue the Netherlands all at once, which Spain was sensible could not be done without a greater force by sea as well as land, than had hitherto been employed for that service. Queen Elizabeth thought fit to be upon her guard, and had some jealousies that she might be aimed at: but how to find it out was the difficulty, which at length Walsingham overcame. He had intelligence from Madrid, that Philip had told his council that he had dispatched an express to Rome with a letter written with his own hand to the pope, acquainting him with the true design of his preparations, and asking his blessing upon ity which for some reasons he would not disclose to them till the return of the courier. The secret being thus lodged with the pope, Walsingham, by means of a Venetian priest retained at Rome as his spy, got a copy of the original letter, which was stolen out of the pope’s cabinet by a gent tleman of the bed-chamber, who took the keys out of the pope’s pocket w.hile he slept. And upon this intelligence Walsingham found a way to retard the Spanish invasion for a whole year, by getting the Spanish bills protested at Genoa, which should have supplied them with money to carry on their preparations.” In our article of Thomas Sutton, founder of the Charter-house, we have mentioned that this gentleman was Walsingham’s chief agent in getting these bills protested.

Of the remainder of sir Francis Walsingham’ s life we have few particulars. It appears, that, in 1589, he entertained queen Elizabeth at his house at Barn Elms, and, | as was usual in all her majesty’s visits, her whole court. Previously to this visit, the queen had taken a lease of the manor of Barn- Elms, which was to commence after the expiration of sir Henry Wyai’s, in 160O. Her interest in this lease she granted by letters patent, bearing date the twenty-first year of her reign, to sir Francis Walsingham and his heirs. Sir Francis, in addition to his other dignities, was a knight of the garter, and recorder of Colchester. He passed his latter days mostly in this retirement at Barnes, and when any of his former gay companions came to see him and told him he was melancholy, he is said to have replied, “No, I am not melancholy; I am serious; and ‘tis fit I should be so. Oh! my friends, while we laqgh, all things are serious round about us: God is serious, who exerciseth patience towards us: Christ is ser,ious, who shed his blood for us: the Holy Spirit is serious, in striving against the obstinacy of our hearts: the holy scriptures bring to our ears the most serious things in the world: the holy sacraments represent the most serious and awful matters: the whole creation is serious in serving God and us: all that are in heaven and hell are serious: how then can we be gay?

Sir Francis Walsingham died April 6, 1590, at his town house in Seethinglane, so poor, it is said, that his friends were obliged to bury him in St. Paul’s late at night, in the most private manner; in confirmation of which fact, no certificate of his funeral appears to have been entered at the Heralds 7 college, as was usual when any person of consequence was interred in a manner suitable to his rank. How he became so poor must now be a matter of conjecture. In the early part of his public life we have seen that he expended his own fortune in the service of his country, and what he gained by his official employments was not, probably, more than sufficient to keep up his rank.

His only surviving daughter had the singular lot of being wife to three of the most accomplished men of the age, sir Philip Sidney, the earl of Essex, and the earl of Clanricard. She died at Barn-Elms, June 19, 1602, and was buried the next night privately, near her husband in St. Paul’s cathedral.

Sir Francis Walsingham was a puritan in his religious principles, and at first a favourer of them in some matters of discipline. To them he offered, in 1583, in the queen’s name, that provided they would conform in other points, | the three ceremonies of kneeling at the communion, wearing the surplice, and the cross in baptism, should be expunged out of the Common-prayer. But they replying to these concessions in the language of Moses, that “they would not leave so much as a hoof behind,” meaning, that they would have the church-liturgy wholly laid aside, and not be obliged to the performance of any office in it; so unexpected an answer lost them in a great measure Walsingham’s affection. His general character has been thus summed up, from various authorities: “He was undoubtedly one of the most refined politicians, and most penetrating statesmen, that ever any age produced. He bad an admirable talent both in discovering and managing the secret recesses of human nature: he had his spies in most courts of Christendom, and allowed them a liberal maintenance; for his grand maxim was, that” knowledge is never too dear.“He spent his whole time and faculties in the service of the queen and her kingdoms; on which account her majesty was heard to say that” in diligence and sagacity he exceeded her expectation.“He is thought (but this, we trust, is unfounded) to have had a principal hand in laying the foundation of the wars in France and Flanders; and is said, upon his return from his embassy in France, when the queen expressed her apprehension of the Spanish designs against that kingdom, to have answered*” Madam, be content, and fear not. The Spaniard hath a great appetite, and an excellent digestion. But I have fitted him with a bone for these twenty years, that your majesty shall have no cause to dread him, provided, that if the fire chance to slack which I have kindled, you will be ruled by me, and cast in some of your fuel, which will revive the “flame.” He would cherish a plot some years together, admitting the conspirators to his own, and even the queen’s presence, very familiarly; but took care to have them carefully watched. His spies constantly attended on particular men for three years together; and lest they should not keep the secret, he dispatched -them into foreign parts, taking in new ones in their room. His training of Parry, who designed the murder of the queen; the admitting of him, under the pretence of discovering the plot, to her majesty’s presence; and then letting him go where he would, only on the security of a centinel set over him, was an instance of | reach and hazard beyond common apprehension. The queen of Scots’ letters were all carried to him by her own servant, whom she trusted, and were decyphered for him by one Philips, and sealed up again by one Gregory; so that neither that queen, nor any of her correspondents ever perceived either the seals defaced, or letters delayed. Video et taceo, was his saying, before it was his mistress’s motto. He served himself of the court factions as the queen did, neither advancing the one, nor depressing the other. He was familiar with Cecil, allied to Leicester^ and an oracle to Hadcliffe earl of Sussex. His conversation was insinuating, and yet reserved. He saw every man, and none saw him. “His spirit,” says Lloyd, “was as public as his parts; yet as debonnaire as he was prudent, and as obliging to the softer but predominant parts of the world, as he was serviceable to the more severe; and no less dextrous to work on humours than to convince reason* He would say, he must observe the joints and flexures of affairs; and so could do more with a story, than others could with an harangue. He always surprized business, and preferred motions in the heat of other diversions; and if he must debate it, he would hear all, and with the advantage of foregoing speeches, that either cautioned or confirmed his resolutions, he carried all before him in conclusion, without reply. To him men’s faces spake as much as their tongues, and their countenances were in* dexes of their hearts. He would so beset men with questions, and draw them on, that they discovered themselves whether they answered or were silent. He maintained fifty-three agents and eighteen spies in foreign courts; and for two pistoles an order had all the private papers in Europe. Few letters escaped his hands; and he could read their contents without touching the seals. Religion was the interest of his country, in his judgment, and of his soul; therefore he maintained it as sincerely as he lived it. It had his head, his purse, and his heart. He laid the great foundation of the protestant constitution as to its policy, and the main plot against the popish as to its ruin.

In “Cottoni Posthuma, or divers and choice pieces of sir Robert Cotton,” &c. is a short article entitled “Sir Francis Walsingham’s anatomising- of Honesty, Ambition, and Fortitude” but the book ascribed to him, entitled “Arcana Aulica; or, Walsyngham’s Manual, or prudential Maxims,| which has been printed several times, is of more doubtful authority. 1


Biog. Brit. Lloyd’s State Worthies. Peck’s Desiderata. Birch’s Lives. Melril’s Memoirs. Lysons’s Environs, vol. II. Lodge’s Illustrations lln’ Hist. Wood’s Annals.