This is Sir
Francis Walsingham’s copy of a letter to Antony Standen,
whom he refers to as ‘AB’. He confirms that Sir
Francis Drake was able to use Standen’s intelligence to
attack the Spanish fleet at Cadiz, seriously damaging Spain’s
readiness for invasion. Walsingham says Drake ‘fired thirty
of great ships and sunk two galleys’. He also discusses the
possibility of a French alliance with Spain and asks Standen to
go to Rome to find out more about Italian intentions. Standen was
always concerned that Queen Elizabeth should not doubt his loyalty
and he must have been relieved to read Walsingham’s comment
that she is grateful for his work and hopes he will continue to
serve her well.
There are many similar letters in the State Papers, showing how
close a spy like Standen allowed Walsingham, hundreds of miles away
in England, to get to the secret councils of his enemies in Europe.
In 1588 Standen moved to Madrid and he continued to send information,
not only about the Armada,
but also about illegal trade.
In 1593 Standen finally ended his exile and returned to England.
By then Walsingham had died and Standen did not receive much of
a welcome. Little is known about his later life, but it seems that
in one of his last missions to Italy, under James I, Standen’s
desire to reconcile his two loves, England and the Roman Catholic
church, got him into trouble with his employers. On his return to
England Standen was imprisoned in the Tower of London.