Licence to Kill


The creation of the British Empire, which idea was first presented to Queen Elizabeth I by her occult advisor and polymath Dr John Dee, depended upon the achievement of three goals: the removal of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in England, the creation of the Anglo-Scottish alliance and subjugation of Ireland. This in turn required an efficient intelligence network. William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Queen's Secretary of State and lawyer from Gray's Inn, had been debating its formation on many occasions with Dr John Dee and with Horatio Palavicino, an Italian merchant and shipping magnate, who after the death of Thomas Gresham took over his role of the principal financial agent of the Queen. Born in Genoa about 1540, Horatio Palavicino was a member of the wealthy, aristocratic banking family in Northern Italy connected to the most of the powerful Italian banking firms. Through his frequent travels, contacts and placement of agents in French and Spanish ports, he took the role of a secret agent. Like with many other inventions in Tudor government, the Elizabeth's secret police drew heavily from the Venetians and build its secret police relying on the merchant and financiers who could span a web of intelligence under cover of trading posts. Inspired by the secret work of Horacio Palavicino, Cecil began to look to recruit an Englishman, skilled in languages and law, who could head the Elizabeth's secret police. Sir Walter Mildmay, another Gray's Inn lawyer who worked with Cecil had recommended him a fellow lawyer who had just returned from Europe, to whom he had been related by marriage to his elder sister Mary. His name was Walsingham, Francis Walsingham.

The Walsinghams emerged in the fifteenth-century London as property owners and merchants. They were the members of the prestigious Vintners Company, one of the most ancient Livery Companies in the City that traded in wines. Francis' father enjoyed a degree of contact with the royal household. His wife, Joyce Walsingham, was the younger sister of Anthony Denny, a member of the Privy Chamber, in charge of “a dry stamp”, a fascimile of the king's signature which empowered him to authorise documents as if they had been signed by king Henry VIII in person. Under the reign of Catholic Queen Mary, Francis Walsingham chose to live in exile, becoming part a vast network of protestants living in Germany, Italy and Swiss Confederation, usually merchants and bankers, who were willing to provide funds in support of the protestant cause. Upon his return to England in 1552, he enrolled at Gray's Inn, became an MP and conveniently married Anne Carleill, a daughter of Sir George Barne, Lord Mayor of London, a participant in conspiracy to put Lady Jane Grey on the English throne.43 Well-educated and well-connected to the merchant, legal and administrative circles of the City of London, Walsingham was perfectly positioned to become a head of Cecil's Secret Police. Under Cecil's patronage, Walsingham began working together with his father-in-law, Lord Mayor of London, collecting intelligence about foreigners arriving to London and tracing conspiring Catholics on the Continent. This involved the surveillance over the activities of Society of Jesus, known in short as Jesuits, an educational institution that operated as a secret police of the Roman Catholic Church aiming to combat the Protestant Reformation in Europe. It was founded in 1540 by a former Spanish soldier and later a priest, Ignatious Loyola, and his six companions from a period of his studies at the University in Paris. They were later joined by the main aide of Emperor Charles V, Francis Borgia, a member of the House of Borgia, Spanish noble family that produced two Popes and was famous for their crimes and intrigues. Ignatious Loyola had contacts with and admitted to his order many Conversos, Jews who converted to Catholicism to escape expulsion by the Spanish Inquisition. By some accounts Ignatious Loyola himself was from a family of Conversos.44 Because the Jesuits needed finance for their activities, they permitted Conversos into their ranks until the battle within the order began in the 1590s to exclude those members who had Jewish lineage.45 In their plans to quash the protestant movement, the Jesuits devised a series of twisted principles, which justified them to undertake often subversive and illegal activities. In England they conspired with the Catholics who were still significant in numbers and active especially in the North, where several powerful nobles like the Earls of Northumberland were Catholics. Thus Walsingham had to watch over the Jesuits, whilst Queen Elizabeth I continued her father’s practice of downplaying the power of the Northern lords by promoting members of the gentry, loyal to the crown. This supported Northumberland's belief that “assaults on the prestige of the ancient nobility and on the traditional faith were closely linked.”46

In 1570, Francis Walsingham was appointed an ambassador to Paris. In his absence, Thomas Norton, a fanatic anti-Catholic lawyer from the Inner Temple, who previously served as Counsel for the Merchant Taylor's Company, was appointed to a newly created Remembrancer office in the Parliament, an office that survived till present day. The role of the Remembrancer was to act as an intermediary between the Privy Council and the City of London.47 48 Meanwhile, in Paris, Walsingham witnessed a terrible massacre of the French Protestants, the Huguenots, in Paris. The Huguenots were suspected of trying to topple the ruling House of Valois and the killings were meant to be a pre-emptive strike to save France from the dangers of Protestant reformation. The order for the massacre was issued by King Charles IX, although it was masterminded by his mother, Catherine de Medici. The Huguenots were lured to Paris in August 1572, to celebrate the marriage of a Huguenot, Henry of Navarre, to the king’s sister, Margaret, an act that meant to unite the two religious factions. Just before dawn on August 24, 1572 (St Bartholomew's Day), on the orders of the king, the leader of the Huguenot, Gaspard de Coligny, was brutally beaten and thrown out of his bedroom window by the soldiers under the command of Henri, duke of Guise. Once the killing started, mobs of Catholic Parisians began a general massacre of Huguenots, which spread across the country killing tens of thousands. Margaret saved the lives of several prominent Protestants, including her husband, by keeping them in her rooms. Henry of Navarre had to feign conversion to Catholicism to escape prosecution.49 During the massacre in Paris of 1572, Walsingham managed to shelter few Huguenots in the English embassy. Three years later he returned to England and was appointed member of Queen's Privy Council. Having still fresh memories of the Paris massacre, he decided to tighten up security and virtually introduce a police state in England. Within the few years, Cecil and Walsingham directed the whole Elizabethan state, overseeing foreign, domestic and religious policy, recruiting spies and double agents and manipulating law to legalise executions of political and religious opponents. Walsingham's own house in Seething Lane, situated near the headquarters of Muscovy Company, and within the wall of the ancient city of London, became the headquarters of Walsingham new secret police.50 One of Elizabethan writer on dice play, Gilbert Walker, warned his readers against the taverns and gaming houses that would have been familiar to the spies and intelligencers of London: 'now such is the misery of our time, and such the licentious outrage of idle misgoverned persons.'51

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43 John Cooper, The Queen's Agent, Paperback edition (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2012), p. 45 »

44 See Robert Alexander Maryks, The Jesuit Order as the Synagouge of the Jews (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010) »

45 Ibid. »

46 K. J. Kesserling, The Northern Rebellion of 1569: Faith, Politics and Protest in Elizabethan England (London, 2010), p. 43-46 »

47 “A List of Remembrancers of the City of London from the Creation of the Office”, 'The Remembrancers of the City of London', in Analytical Index to the Series of Records Known as the Remembrancia 1579-1664, ed. W H Overall and H C Overall (London, 1878), pp. x-xv. British History Online »

48 M. A. R. Graves, “Thomas Norton the Parliament Man: An Elizabethan M.P., 1559-1581”, The Historical Journal, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Mar., 1980), pp. 17-35 (19 pages) »

49 See movie Queen Margot directed by Patrice Chéreau (1994) »

50 Cooper, The Queen's Agent, p. 167 »

51 Stephen Alford, The Watchers, A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I (London: Penguin Group, 2012), chapter 10, picture nr. 3 »