Monday, June 15, 2020

The Spy Masters of Elizabeth I

Hasn't every little girl wished she could have been a princess or queen and been rescued by a knight in his shining armor? Being a queen sounds like so much fun, having servants, and lady's maids, people waiting on you, men admiring you. 

Elizabeth I
By Presumably William Scrots -, Public Domain,
I think if we could interview Queen Elizabeth I, she'd tell quite a different story. The queen had 7 assassination attempts on her life that her Spy Master, William Cecil, prevented. William Cecil, her chief adviser as a highly intelligent man and he realized that England was alone as a Protestant nation surrounded by Catholicism. He knows he has to be vigilant to protect his queen. 

The Spanish Armada has been defeated but he fears that they could try again. What better way than to remove the queen?

William Cecil
By Attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger - This file was derived from: William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley from NPG (2).jpg:, Public Domain,

So William Cecil keeps a spy ring that infiltrates wealthy homes, churches, businesses, and reaches into other countries. He's like the modern day James 
Bond or maybe better yet, Bond's boss, "M". He is always one step ahead of the enemy and the assassination attempts.

Thomas Howard
By Hans Eworth - World Wide Web, sorry, I can't remember the exact page, Public Domain,
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk was a schemer when it came to getting what he wanted. But Cecil's spy ring keeps him informed and they learn that Thomas schemed to marry Mary Queen of Scots. And Mary consented to it. Now what would a marriage have to do with the queen? Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth and the plan was to put Mary on the thrown. Howard was not as much the knight in shining armor and didn't want to take up arms to get what he wanted, but did attempt briefly to free and wed Mary. He was discovered and imprisoned. Nine months later he was released but quickly went back to his scheming and once again tried to get Mary on the thrown. But the plot was revealed through the spy ring and with some persuasions from Cecil, Elizabeth had him executed.  

Mary of the Scots
By Fran├žois Clouet - YQExprz3sIBJ8A at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,
There would be one more attempt on the Queen's life and though Cecil would rescue Elizabeth from the losing the crown, he would ultimately lose his position for it. The Babington Plot was yet another attempt to put Mary on the thorne. Letters that were smuggled out, Mary believed were secure, but because of the Spy Master's spys, they were not. They were intercepted and read and then continued on, leaving Mary none the wiser. Through the spies, Cecil discovered Mary's attempt to commit treason and had her imprisoned. 

William Cecil realized the threat which Mary still held and wanted her executed. With much convincing Elizabeth agrees but then withdraws that agreement. Cecil has left and whether he chooses not acknowledge Elizabeth's decision not to execute her cousin or whether he really doesn't receive the note, he moves forward and has Mary put to death. I have read that there is question if Elizabeth really wanted the decision taken out of her hands so didn't radically pursue things when she withdrew the right to execute Mary. Whether that is just folklore or truth I don't know. I've read both. But the one thing we know is Elizabeth is so distraught when Cecil returns and tells her it is too late, Mary is dead. Elizabeth is full of grief and probably guilt. She turns that anger on William Cecil, her long time friend, companion, and chief advistor. She can't execute him but what she does do perhaps was worse for William. She removed him from his position and power. William Cecil, the man who had saved his queen 7 times, who had infiltrated so many enemy homes and businesses, no longer held any political power. 

But Willaim Cecil was a cunning man and he knew that there were only 2 men in England that were fit for that job and he made a point to see that the other man received the position--Robert Cecil, his son. Robert would end up being even more shrewd and even devious than his father.

Debbie Lynne Costello is the author of Sword of Forgiveness, Amazon's #1 seller for Historical Christian Romance. She has enjoyed writing stories since she was eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina with their 5 horses, 3 dogs, a miniature donkey, and 10 peking ducks.

Penelope Beatty made up her mind long ago she would live and die a Scottish warrior not a wife. But when nearly all her clan is killed and she is betrayed, she loathes doing the unthinkable, but must seek the help of an Englishman who owed her father’s his life.

Thomas Godfrey never married, but when a Scottish warrior lass shows up needing his aid, he finds her both annoying and irresistible. But the last thing he wants is to marry a woman who fights alongside him. If he was going to marry—which he isn’t—it would be to a soft, submissive woman. But when the Lady Brithwin meets the Scottish lass, she’s sure she’s found the perfect match for Thomas and nothing is going to stop her from seeing a summer wedding.


  1. Fascinating! I didn't realize there were so many attempts on Elizabeth's life. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Linda, I didn't either! A queen's life was not so easy!

  2. Very interesting! Thanks for posting!

  3. This plot against Elizabeth was drought with political and rwlious means. It is too bad her cousin Mary was killed as a result. Your book sounds like it has an engaging plot.