1 PM Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. First scene with Elizabeth and Francis Walsingham today and, as is the nature of filming, this is Walsingham’s last scene in the movie.
Walsingham had not been a well man for much of his adult life – his already weak constitution weighed down by the pressures of work. These bouts of illness, which often took him away from court, were probably exacerbated by his insistence on taking Tudor medical remedies, many of which were of doubtful value and some of which were actively poisonous. One of the most common remedies of the day was ‘Mummy Powder’, a medicine made from the ground up bodies of real ancient Egyptian human mummies. Other potions involved lead and mercury, both of which are now known to be powerfully neuro-toxic.
Sir Francis’ health was probably not helped by the increasing debt he found himself in. His position as Secretary of State only brought in £100 a year (and two hot meals a day) and despite other sinecures his expenditure on his spy network, which was not always refunded by Elizabeth, and the debts he inherited from his dead son-in-law Sir Philip Sidney, meant that by the time he died he was a staggering £27,324 in debt – according to an estimate made by Burghley. Perhaps these debts were the reason he was buried the night after his death, in the north aisle of the choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Burying him quickly and at night meant professional mourners did not have to hired and the cathedral didn’t have to be draped in black.