In 1569 and 1570, Walsingham gained the full trust of Queen Elizabeth, by reliably gathering support for the Huegenots, and successfully disassembling the Ridolfi Plot. This establishment of trust preceded Queen Elizabeth’s appointment of Walsingham as Principal Secretary. In this role, one of Francis Walsingham’s main duties of interest was the art of espionage. Being a staunch Protestant, and a loyal advisor of Elizabeth, Walsingham made it his duty to keep Britain safe by gathering more information about the enemy through whatever means – whether it be from public sources, through secret spies, or extracted via torture.
In 1583, the Throckmorton Plot emerged, but was soon dismantled by intelligence gathering by Walsingham and his counterparts. Without the intelligence, the Protestant rule may have collapsed as a result of Elizabeth’s death. For this reason, Walsingham’s information was invaluable, as it prevented the occurrence of the plot. Even though it was unsuccessful, Walsingham became alert of the imminent danger of the Catholic threat, and the plots to usurp Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. Walsingham was not prepared to risk this, and became obsessed with trying to eradicate the threat of Mary.
The Bond of Association was created thereafter, which now gave Walsingham the power to kill anyone who tried to usurp the throne or assassinate the queen. His opportunity to remove Mary from contention arrived with the Babington Plot, and with the collection of priceless information, was able to do exactly so. The Babington Plot was trumped up by the zealous Anthony Babington, and a steadfast Jesuit by the name of John Ballard. The plan was flawless, until Walsingham came to know about it. After plucking out one of the intimates of the concocters, Gilbert Gifford, Walsingham employed him as a double agent.
Gifford freely interjected messages between Mary and her admirers, and forwarded them to the light of Walsingham. With his knowledge on the communication between Mary and her followers, Walsingham was able to employ informers, moles and agent provocateurs near and directly associated with the plotters and those involved with the plot. Soon, information was flowing into Walsingham’s domain. Walsingham’s brilliance in espionage was highlighted in his ability to decipher the muddled up symbols in the letters. Now intervening messages, and fully interpreting them, Walsingham was fully aware of the intentions of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Yet, there was no hard evidence to prove this to Elizabeth, until Babington sent a letter to Mary, exclaiming how he, and six other men were preparing to eliminate the queen. With a little forged excerpt at the end of the letter by Thomas Phelippes, Walsingham was able to detect the other six conspirators. The denouement of these events led to the execution of Babington and the other plotters, but more significantly, the Catholic figurehead, the serious threat of a Catholic revolt, Mary, the Queen of Scots, was no longer existent.
No price can be placed on the importance of intelligence. During the hectic situation during the Elizabethan period, nothing was more valuable for leading figures than knowledge. With all the clandestine operations that took place under the reign of Elizabeth, if Walsingham’s intelligence operations had not revealed the plots, Elizabeth would have most likely have been assassinated, and the throne would have been vacant for Mary the Queen of Scots.
Yet, this was not the case, as Walsingham truly understood the important of intelligence, and used it to save his queen, and destroy those who plotted against her and guarantee a successful reformation of the Church of England. The power of intelligence is tantamount to the prevention of a death, and the silencing of a life. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Francis_Walsingham http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Babington_Plot http://ccat. sas. upenn. edu/~jmcgill/project. html http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Throckmorton_Plot http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Bond_of_Association http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Mary_I_of_Scotland