Death of Sir Francis Walsingham – 6 April 1590

Posted By claire on April 6, 2011

Sir_Francis_Walsingham_by_John_De_Critz_the_ElderOn this day in history, 6th April 1590, Elizabeth I’s spymaster, adviser and principal secretary, Sir Francis Walsingham, died. Although he had served the Queen for many years, he died in debt as he had underwritten the debts of Sir Philip Sidney, his son-in-law.

You can find out more about Sir Francis Walsingham, the man behind discovering the Babington Plot, in my bio Sir Francis Walsingham – Elizabeth’s Spymaster and you can find out more about the plots against Elizabeth in my article Plots Against Elizabeth I.


6 Responses to “Death of Sir Francis Walsingham – 6 April 1590”

  1. Christine says:

    Oh, I do like that ruff! I don’t want to be nitpicking again, but he was Secretary of State (not her private secretary; no idea who that was …). It is generally claimed that he was the least close to her personally from all the major policy makers; as appears from his letters, he was himself more distanced to her than some of the others. He died from some terrible illness, it seems.

    It is true he squabbled with Leicester over Philip Sidney’s debts, he thought Leicester should pay them, but Leicetser was bankrupt himself (Netherlands!). Walsingham managed to retrieve movables worth about 2,000 pounds from Sidney’s home, but then they spent it all on Sidney’s state funeral! Elizabeth was quite niggardly …

  2. Neil Kemp says:

    Hello Christine.
    Thought I would give your post some company and perhaps help you out a little (my poor brain doesn’t know much, but I’m willing to share what little it does know!).
    You are correct in saying Walsingham was Secretary of State and not Private Secretary to the Sovereign, the latter post was not instigated until 1805, so it’s understandable you cannot find who held this position under Elizabeth.
    As secretary Walsingham could pursue no independent policy and became more of a permanant under secretary of the combined home and foreign departments.
    He did indeed die with many debts (the levels are disputed), most caused by his son in law, Phillip Sidney, and others by living beyond his means (don’t we all!) having received few of the perquisites which Elizabeth gave to “favourites”.
    I have been unable to find out anything concerning the manner of his death regarding illness, so you know more than me in that area.
    Hope this has been of some help to you Christine.

  3. Claire says:

    Sorry, Christine, I actually meant “prinicpal” secretary not “private” and I have corrected that now.
    I too have not been able to find out precisely what he died of but I do intend to read more about him, I find him a fascinating character.

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    I find him of interest, too and like his intriguing mind. I am thankful to him for discovering all the plots against Elizabeth–I have read that she was not as fond of him, mainly because his religious beliefs were more radical than her own and he was insistent in them. Many who served her died impoverished–

  5. Peter Stark says:

    The Queen did not favour him precisely because his primary allegiance was to his
    religion rather than to her, which she resented. Burhgley, a much shrewder fellow,
    knew well that complete oabeisance meant great rewards–lands and estates.

  6. Peter Stark says:

    Regarding his late years’ struggle with Leicester….it was due to the fact that Leicester
    was the Executor of Sydney’s estate and refused to sell off some properties to satisfy
    Francis’ debt demands.

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