Gilbert Gifford

Gilbert Gifford

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Gilbert Gifford'
Start a new discussion about 'Gilbert Gifford'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Gilbert Gifford was a double agent
Double agent
A double agent, commonly abbreviated referral of double secret agent, is a counterintelligence term used to designate an employee of a secret service or organization, whose primary aim is to spy on the target organization, but who in fact is a member of that same target organization oneself. They...

 who worked for Sir Francis Walsingham
Francis Walsingham
Sir Francis Walsingham was Principal Secretary to Elizabeth I of England from 1573 until 1590, and is popularly remembered as her "spymaster". Walsingham is frequently cited as one of the earliest practitioners of modern intelligence methods both for espionage and for domestic security...

 and played a role in the uncovering of the Babington Plot
Babington Plot
The Babington Plot was a Catholic plot in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, a Protestant, and put Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, on the English throne. It led to the execution of Mary. The long-term goal was an invasion by the Spanish forces of King Philip II and the Catholic league in...

. Shortly before his death in Paris, he was ordained as a Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 priest in Rheims. His true allegiances - whether to Queen Elizabeth I or to Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 cause - are unclear.

In Douai, Rome and Rheims


Born in Staffordshire
Staffordshire
Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders...

 in 1560, Gifford was the son of a recusant
Recusancy
In the history of England and Wales, the recusancy was the state of those who refused to attend Anglican services. The individuals were known as "recusants"...

 Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, John Gifford. In 1577, he entered Cardinal Allen's English College
English College, Douai
The English College, Douai was a Catholic seminary associated with the University of Douai . It was established in about 1561, and was suppressed in 1793...

 at Douai
Douai
-Main sights:Douai's ornate Gothic style belfry was begun in 1380, on the site of an earlier tower. The 80 m high structure includes an impressive carillon, consisting of 62 bells spanning 5 octaves. The originals, some dating from 1391 were removed in 1917 during World War I by the occupying...

, hoping to become a missionary priest. Two years later, he transferred to the English College at Rome. He was expelled from there, but was offered a second chance by Allen, and in 1582, he returned to the Allen's college, which was now based at Rheims. He left again, returned to England, and went back to France, and from there to Rome. In October, 1583, he returned to Rheims, and Allen, despite some doubts, readmitted him to the college. Gifford was ordained as a deacon in 1585.

Double agent


It was around this time that Gifford became friendly with John Savage, a student and former soldier who was involved in a plot to assassinate
Assassination
To carry out an assassination is "to murder by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons." Alternatively, assassination may be defined as "the act of deliberately killing someone, especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons."An assassination may be...

 Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 and put Mary, Queen of Scots, on the throne. According to Savage's confession in English State Papers, Savage had agreed in the presence of Gilbert Gifford, William Gifford (Gilbert's cousin) and Christopher Hodgson
Christopher Hodgson (priest)
Christopher Hodgson was a Catholic priest who played a minor role in the Babington Plot . The plot was a failure and eighteen of the main conspirators were hung, drawn, and quartered in London in 1586. Hodgson was a committed Roman Catholic, in defiance of the Elizabethan authorities...

 (Gilbert's close friend) to carry out this assassination. In October 1585 Gifford left Rheims again and went to Paris, where he met Thomas Morgan
Thomas Morgan (of Llantarnam)
Thomas Morgan of Llantarnam , of the Welsh Morgan of Monmouthshire, was a confidant and spy for Mary, Queen of Scots, and was involved in the Babington plot to kill Queen Elizabeth I of England....

, an agent of Mary, and Charles Paget
Charles Paget (conspirator)
Charles Paget was a Roman Catholic conspirator, involved in the Babington plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I of England.He was also a double agent working for Sir Francis Walsingham....

, another conspirator in the plot to assassinate the Queen. In December he crossed over to the port of Rye in England, where he was arrested and brought to London for questioning by Sir Francis Walsingham
Francis Walsingham
Sir Francis Walsingham was Principal Secretary to Elizabeth I of England from 1573 until 1590, and is popularly remembered as her "spymaster". Walsingham is frequently cited as one of the earliest practitioners of modern intelligence methods both for espionage and for domestic security...

, head of the Queen's security forces.

In the course of the interrogation, or beforehand, Gifford agreed to act as double agent. Walsingham gave him the code name No. 4. He used several aliases, such as Colerdin, Pietro and Cornelys. He visited Mary, Queen of Scots, during her imprisonment in Chartley Hall in Staffordshire. He quickly gained her trust and took the role of smuggling encrypted letters to and from her, concealing them in beer barrels. The letters were secretly handed to Walsingham and decoded, and led to the arrest and execution of Anthony Babington
Anthony Babington
Anthony Babington was convicted of plotting the assassination of Elizabeth I of England and conspiring with the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots...

 and the other conspirators, as well as to the execution of Queen Mary.

Fateful flight to France


Knowing that the Babington Plot
Babington Plot
The Babington Plot was a Catholic plot in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, a Protestant, and put Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, on the English throne. It led to the execution of Mary. The long-term goal was an invasion by the Spanish forces of King Philip II and the Catholic league in...

 would fail, Gifford departed for France without Walsingham's permission. In a letter dated 2 August 1586, Walsingham wrote: "Sorry I am that Gilbert Gifford is absent. I marvel greatly how this humour of estranging himself cometh upon him." He was ordained as a priest in Rheims in March 1587. At least nominally a Catholic, Gifford opposed both the Jesuits and the proposed Spanish invasion.

In late 1587 in Paris, he was arrested in a brothel, being found in bed with a woman and a male servant of the Earl of Essex. Initially placed in the Bishop's prison, his captors considered sending him back to Walsingham. Eventually he was transferred to the Bastille
Bastille
The Bastille was a fortress in Paris, known formally as the Bastille Saint-Antoine. It played an important role in the internal conflicts of France and for most of its history was used as a state prison by the kings of France. The Bastille was built in response to the English threat to the city of...

 to await trial. A record of his interrogation show that he tried to implicate Morgan and Paget in double dealings. In August 1589 he was brought before the court and sentenced to twenty year’s imprisonment for acting against the interests of the Catholic Church. At that time Paris was in the control of the Catholic League
Catholic League (French)
The Catholic League of France, sometimes referred to by contemporary Roman Catholics as the Holy League, a major player in the French Wars of Religion, was formed by Duke Henry of Guise in 1576...

, which had risen against the French King. While in prison his health deteriorated. At the Battle of Ivry
Battle of Ivry
The Battle of Ivry was fought on 14 March 1590, during the French Wars of Religion. The battle was a decisive victory for Henry of Navarre, the future Henry IV of France, leading Huguenot forces against the Catholic League forces led by the Duc de Mayenne...

 in March 1590 the army of the League was annihilated, and the King marched towards Paris, determined to starve the capital into submission. The siege lasted until August and caused a famine. Gifford died a few months later, in November 1590.

Assessment


While Gifford is universally acknowledged as a double agent, his ultimate loyalties are often perceived to be in favour of Walsingham and Queen Elizabeth, rather than Mary, Queen of Scots. This supposition sits uneasily with the facts of his Catholicism, his flight from England when the Babington Plot was thwarted, and Walsingham's disapproval of his emigration. The English ambassador in Paris, Sir Edward Stafford went through Gifford's papers after his arrest in 1587 and concluded that: "He had showed himself to be the most notable double, treble villain that ever lived." One historian has suggested that in fact Gifford was working for the assassination of Elizabeth.

External links

  • Mary, Queen of Scots in the Catholic Encyclopedia
    Catholic Encyclopedia
    The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia and the Original Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in the United States. The first volume appeared in March 1907 and the last three volumes appeared in 1912, followed by a master index...