Her Majesty's Spymaster
In the late 16th century, England had strong enemies in France and Spain but precious little military might. However, Queen Elizabeth I did have as principal secretary one Sir Francis Walsingham, a master of politics and espionage who used a wide network of informants, double agents, and scoundrels to uncover plots against the crown. As a result, he helped to keep France at bay, to lay waste to the Spanish Armada, and to prevent the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, from usurping the Protestant throne (a sharp ax helped). In Her Majesty’s Spymaster, Stephen Budiansky commendably looks underneath the era’s Elizabethan finery to show how the arts of code breaking, propaganda, and ”bureaucratic back-stabbing” became fine-tuned political instruments — and how little things have changed since.