Under the Molehill by Professor John Bossy
An Elizabethan Spy Story

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This absorbing 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 in 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.

About Professor John Bossy

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John Bossy is emeritus professor of history at the University of York.
Published April 1, 2001 by Yale University Press. 208 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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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.

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London Review of Books

‘Incidentally, they know you know they know you know the code.’ Peter Ustinov’s Cold War satire Romanoff and Juliet (1956) could have been about Salisbury Court, the London home in the early 1580s of the French Ambassador to the Court of Elizabeth I, Michel de Castelnau, seigneur de Mauvissière, ...

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Project MUSE

Unlike his Jesuit mentor, Bossy considers the plots and conspiracies that plagued Elizabethan England in the 1580's as serious threats and not simply "dirty tricks" by the government to destroy Catholicism (p.

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