Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sir Francis Walsingham: Spymaster, Diplomat, and Defender of Protestantism (Theonomy Applied)

Sir Francis Walsingham, a steady
promoter of the reformation, used
his influence in his service to Queen
Elizabeth to protect Christianity
both nationally and internationally.
Sir Francis Walsingham (1532?-1590) was Queen Elizabeth's secretary of state from 1573-1590. He also served as Elizabeth's spymaster, and is considered by some to be the father of modern espionage. 

Benjamin Brook says this about Walshingham:

Sir Francis Walsingham was a steady promoter of the reformation ; a zealous and constant friend to the puritans; and a most celebrated statesman. His talent for business, his eloquence, insinuating address, universal intelligence, and profound secrecy, are mentioned by all our historians. He was employed by Queen Elizabeth in the most important embassies, and advanced to the post of secretary of state; notwithstanding which, he was so far from accumulating a fortune, that he spent his patrimony in the service of the public, and was buried in the night, at the expense of his friends, through fear of his corpse being arrested for debt: a fault which few statesmen since his time have been guilty of. He died April 6,1590.[1]
As a “steady promoter of the reformation,” Walsingham used his influence to protect Christianity both nationally and internationally. One writer notes the following about Walsingham’s endeavors to protect the Puritans nationally: 
At an early period he opposed himself to the rigid enforcement of the habits objected to by the Puritans ; while, at the same time, he used his influence with their leaders, to prevent their separation from the church because of these scruples. When the breach had become so wide that many of the Puritans felt themselves obliged to separate for the enjoyment of religious freedom, Walsingham exerted all his power in the council to mitigate the harshness of the bishops. His regard for Cartwright was shown in the encouragement he gave him to undertake the refutation of the Rhemish version, at a time when this great Puritan divine was suffering the displeasure of the Queen, and the unrelenting opposition of Archbishop Whitgift.[2]  
Walsingham used the theater as a means to advance Protestantism within his realm:
Walsingham, seeing the possibilities of advancing the Protestant cause through plays with patriotic and historical themes, created a company of actors, the Queen’s Men, under the direct patronage, and control, of the Crown. When the prim London authorities tried to limit the new troupe’s performances, Walsingham calmly remonstrated with them, and got his way.[3]

Walsingham's international support for Protestantism included attempts to protect the persecuted French Huguenots. Leslie Stephen writes:
In the autumn of 1570 Walsingham was for the first time formally entrusted with public duties commensurate in dignity with his talents and experience. He was sent to Paris to second the efforts of Sir Henry Norris, the resident ambassador at the French court, in pressing on the French government the necessity of extending an unqualified toleration to the Huguenots (11 Aug. 1570; DlGGES, Compleat Ambassador). The task was thoroughly congenial to Walsingham; for he held the conviction that it was England's mission to nurture protestantism on the continent—especially in France and the Low Countries—and to free it from persecution.[4]  
Walsingham favored a multi-national Protestant league to counter the threat posed by Roman Catholicism. Both Walsingham and the earl of Leicester, members of Elizabeth’s privy council,
were strongly in favour of intervention in the Netherlands. They shared a belief that England’s best response to the Spanish threat was to protect its Protestant co-religionists in the Netherlands, ideally as the leading force in a multi-national Protestant league. Both men had invested a great deal of time and political capital in the Dutch cause over many years. … 
For Leicester and Walsingham, and the many Englishmen who thought like them, the queen’s policy towards the Netherlands had a greater significance than merely the fate of the Dutch, important though it was. In their eyes, the Low Countries represented the crucial test-case for the notion of a broader international ‘Protestant cause’. This view was based upon the idea that the Protestant communities of northern Europe must act together against the forces of the Counter-Reformation. Aside from strong Protestantism, support for this cause was characterised by a rich intellectual culture and an internationalist conception of political and military action.[5]
[2]   W. H. Stowell and D. Wilson, History of the Puritans in England: and the Pilgrim fathers (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1849), 218.
[3] Stephen Budiansky, Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage (Penguin, 2006), no page number listed in this preview edition.
[4] Leslie Stephen, The Dictionary of national biography: Volume 59, ed., Sidney Lee (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1899), 232.
[5]  Paul E. J. Hammer, The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585 –1597 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 42, 43.

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting or discussing any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics). 

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