Francis Walsingham

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Sir Francis Walsingham (1532-1590), an adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, is generally accepted to be the head of the first intelligence agency in the West. He is credited with personally developing a number of aspects of tradecraft, such as invisible inks and clandestine mail opening.[1]

In 2006, a report from an English diplomat, Dr. Valentine Dale, to Walsingham was exhibited by the Library of Congress.[2] It was a diplomatic input to his broader program to provide intelligence of the Spanish Armada.

He developed a comprehensive collection plan and employed a network of agents throughout Europe to gather information. He never blindly trusted any one source, using multiple agents against the same target. As the Armada preparations came to a head, Walsingham commissioned naval reconnaissance missions of key Spanish ports, and although his work provided strategic warning to the crown and the Royal Navy, contrary winds prevented tactical warning.[3]


  1. Kahn, David, The Codebreakers: the Story of Secret Writing (Revised, 1996 ed.), Scribners, p. 119
  2. Hans P. Kraus (2006), Sir Francis Drake: A Pictorial Biography -- The Invincible Armada, Library of Congress
  3. John R. Arpin (Summer, 2006), "(book review) Budiansky, Stephen. Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage", Naval War College Review