Sir Francis Walsingham

1 portrait on display in Room 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sir Francis Walsingham, attributed to John De Critz the Elder, circa 1585 - NPG 1807 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Sir Francis Walsingham

attributed to John De Critz the Elder
oil on panel, circa 1585
30 in. x 25 in. (762 mm x 635 mm)
Purchased, 1917
Primary Collection
NPG 1807


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Walsingham, the son of a London lawyer, established and ran the great Elizabethan secret service, providing information in particular for William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Its spies operated mainly against Roman Catholic conspirators and the agents of Philip II of Spain. As Secretary of State (1573-90), Walsingham continually advised Elizabeth I to wage war on Spain, and foresaw the threat of the Armada. He also secured the conviction and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Despite mounting debts, he repeatedly entertained Elizabeth at his home at Barn Elms, near Putney, in the second half of the 1580s, the period from which this portrait dates. It shows Walsingham wearing a cameo of the queen who he served so faithfully and yet who failed to reward him for his loyalty and patriotism.

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