Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story / Edition 1

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More About This Textbook


"This account of Catholic and anti-Catholic plots and machinations at the English, French and exiled Scottish courts in the latter part of the sixteenth century is a sequel to John Bossy's highly acclaimed Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair. It tells the story of an espionage operation in Elizabethan London that was designed to find out what side France would take in the hostilities between Protestant England and the Catholic powers of Europe. France was a Catholic country whose king was nonetheless hostile to Spanish and papal aggression, Bossy explains, but the king's sister-in-law, Mary Queen of Scots, in custody of England since 1568, was a magnet for Catholic activists, and the French ambassador in London, Michel de Castelnau, was of uncertain leanings." Bossy relates how Queen Elizabeth's Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham, found a mole in Castelnau's household establishment, who passed information to someone in Walsingham's employ. Bossy discovers the identity of these persons, what items of intelligence were passed over, and what the English government decided to do with the information. He describes how individuals were arrested or fled, a political crisis occurred, an ambassador was expelled, deals were made. He concludes with a discussion of the authenticity of Elizabethan secret operations, arguing that they were not theatrical devices to prop up an unpopular regime but were a response to genuine threats of counter-revolution inspired by Catholic zeal.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This sequel to Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair, which plotted the course of espionage in Salisbury House (the French embassy in London) in the 1580s, sniffs out a mole in the house. Someone was leaking letters, including potentially incriminating correspondence between the ambassador and Mary, Queen of Scots, to England's spymaster (officially, secretary of state), Francis Walsingham. The letters revealed alarmingly rapid progress in plans for a marriage between the Duke of Anjou, once a suitor of Elizabeth's, and a Spanish princess, which threatened to bring a closing of Catholic ranks against Elizabethan England. Mary herself suspected the existence of a mole. This individual would also be instrumental in uncovering the "treachery" of Francis Throckmorton, a young Catholic gentleman who had compiled for the benefit of the Spanish a list of those who might be expected to support a Spanish invasion. But who was this insider whose significance to England's future in this turbulent time, Bossy argues, was very real? Was it Claude de Courcelles, the ambassador's secretary, who had been orchestrating contacts with a variety of Catholic sympathizers? Courcelles appears to have been devout in his faith, but he was also melancholic, frustrated and ambitious. Or was it the clerk, Laurent Feron, who lived suspiciously close to one of Walsingham's agents? Since France had not confirmed its allegiance either to Spain or to England, what was the role of its ambassador in London? Bossy, professor emeritus of history at the University of York, explores the intricate web of possibilities with the single-minded focus of a chess player, reflecting like Poirot on the difficulties of detective work. While intriguing to Anglophiles, the game requires strict concentration from the reader proof, if any were needed, of the cryptic sophistication of Elizabethan secret intelligence. Illus. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this sequel to his award-winning Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair, Bossy (emeritus, history, Univ. of York) continues his meticulous and carefully argued investigation into espionage operations in Elizabethan London, where Protestants (represented by Elizabeth) vie with Catholics (whose exiled leader was Mary, Queen of Scots). The common topic of both studies, Bossy notes, is "the defense of the realm by the acquisition of intelligence about subversion and potential invasion." The present work recounts how an informant (or "mole," in modern parlance) in the household of Michel de Castelnau (the French ambassador in London) passed on information about France's likely position should hostilities break out between Protestant England and the Catholic powers of Europe. It is also the story of how Bossy discovered the identity of the mole, what items of intelligence were leaked and to whom, and how the English government reacted. Both scholarly and witty, this work suggests that intrigue, corruption, fanaticism, and pursuit of self and national interest have always been closely linked to "the defense of the realm." Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Robert C. Jones, Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300094503
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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