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* Home > Spies > Standen
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* * * Antony Standen alias 'Pompeo Pellegrini' (c.1548-?)
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Catalogue reference: SP 94/2 pt2; letter from Pellegrini to Walsingham's servant, 1587 (link to an enlarged view)
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Spying on the Spanish Armada
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Standen's intelligence work
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Antony Standen passed information from Europe to Elizabeth I’s ‘spymaster’ Sir Francis Walsingham. His intelligence reports on the Spanish Armada made him a key figure in the Elizabethan secret service. Yet for almost thirty years Standen was a Roman Catholic refugee from Protestant England. Despite a knighthood from Elizabeth, he was never able to reconcile loyalty to his religion with service for his country.

Walsingham’s duty was to protect the Queen, her sovereignty and her religion, not only from plots inside England, but also from the danger of invasion. Philip II, King of Spain, had once been a suitor of Elizabeth’s but wanted to remove her from the throne and replace her with a Catholic monarch. While England remained isolated in Europe, Spain under Philip grew and prospered. By 1585 the two countries were at war - and Spain’s navy was as big as England’s and the Netherlands’ combined.

Walsingham wanted to find out if and when Spain was going to invade. One of his spies in Europe was Standen, a restless and adventurous Catholic who had left England for Scotland in 1556 with Lord Darnley. In 1565 Standen went to France and in the early 1580s he seems to have settled in Tuscany. In Florence Standen used the pseudonym ‘Pompeo Pellegrini’. He made friends with Giovanni Figliazzi, Tuscan ambassador to Madrid and an excellent source of information about developments in Spain. Although Walsingham was probably in contact with Standen from about 1582, it was not until the spring of 1587 that a regular correspondence began and Standen started to receive £100 a year from the Queen for his service as a spy.
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