Allan Massie

Sympathy For A Devil

Elizabeth’s Spy Master: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War that Saved England

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 320pp £20 order from our bookshop

It is difficult now to look on the Elizabethan Age as Victorians like Charles Kingsley did. We know too much of its seamy side, of its torture chambers and treason trials, to regard it as simply the glorious dawn of English Protestant liberty. Our experience of the ideological divisions of twentieth-century Europe has darkened our view of the sixteenth century, and the work of recent historians has taught us what the men who engineered and maintained the Protestant Revolution knew very well: that, as an Elizabethan Privy Councillor, Sir Ralph Sadler, wrote, ‘the ancient faith still lay like lees at the bottoms of men’s hearts and if the vessel was ever so little stirred, comes to the top’. Even our understanding of Shakespeare has been changed by the evidence that most of his family and connections were either still Roman Catholics, or at least Catholic sympathisers.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,