Stephen Alford

All His Spies

All His Spies

The Secret World of Robert Cecil


Robert Cecil, statesman and spymaster, lived through an astonishingly threatening period in English history. Queen Elizabeth had no clear successor and enemies both external and internal threatened to destroy England as a Protestant state, most spectacularly with the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot.

Cecil stood at the heart of the Tudor and then Stuart state, a vital figure in managing the succession from Elizabeth I to James I & VI, warding off military and religious threats and steering the decisions of two very different but equally wilful and hard-to-manage monarchs. The promising son of Queen Elizabeth’s chief minister Lord Burghley, for Cecil there was no choice but politics, and he became supremely skilled in the arts of power, making many rivals and enemies.

All His Spies is a wonderfully engaging and original work of history. Many readers are familiar with the great events of this tumultuous time, but All His Spies shows how easily these dramas could have turned out very differently. Cecil’s sureness of purpose, his espionage network and good luck all conspired to keep England uninvaded and to create a new ‘British’ monarchy which has endured to the present day.

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