Diplomats and Double Agents
Billy Kay explores espionage in Scottish history and the blurring of lines between spying and diplomacy from the period of Mary Queen of Scots through to the Act of Union.
Billy Kay explores espionage in Scottish history and the blurring of lines between spying and diplomacy. We meet two of the greatest spymasters in Europe, Sir Francis Walsingham in England and the Scot in Swedish service Sir James Spens of Wormiston. They were determined to preserve the ascendancy of protestantism across northern Europe. Both were career diplomats but crucial to their success was the vast network of spies they could activate across the continent.
Walsingham used spies to bring about the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Meanwhile in Scotland duality was endemic at the court of James VI. He used agents to sound out alliances with protestant and catholic powers alike while advancing his claim to the English throne. We explore the hierarchy of affiliations engaged in by brilliant men like the diplomat Master of Gray, the composer/spy William Kinloch and the poet/spy William Fowler. Fowler studied in Padua with Walsingham and significantly was one of the first to translate the seminal work of Machiavelli!
Later in the 17th century in the period of the Covenanters and the Killing Times, spying moved from the elites of the court to the common people who who were asked to spy on friends and neighbours as in East Germany under the Stasi secret police.
We also examine the first decade of the 18th century when again Scotland was courted by England and France. Representing English and pro - Union interests was the writer, spy and propogandist Daniel Defoe. On the French side and courting Jacobite and anti Union forces was Nathaniel Hooke. We conclude though by surmising that the greatest spies were probably those we know nothing about. They remain lost to history - we don't even know their names.