Philip II, King of Spain, had once been a suitor of Elizabeth I, Queen of England. But his suit failed, and he was determined 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 was the queen’s spymaster. He needed 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’ (shown above). 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.

My Thoughts on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

I should have cracked straight into studying this morning, but I felt drawn to watch the first episode of this on 4OD. See, i’ve encountered this same gypsy culture at a catholic festival in Walshingham (south England) and I can honestly say my initial responses was probably the same as the majority of viewers were when watching this. Two details that stuck out were that the girls seemed very obstinate of their lifestyle and their place in the world, and all the males came across as very intimidating and somewhat mischievous. This initial perspective hasn’t changed, in fact it has been confirmed more so. But another element has been added to my view- a simple acceptance that their culture is plainly dissimilar to our own. I don’t have the right to say whether it is good or bad (the fact to that is I don’t entirely know). The characters, their attitudes and their lifestyle came across as to me as somewhat startling and unappealing. But I can honestly say that these instant impressions were stipulated by a truly unsettling component of my own western culture; the notion that something new, or something that doesn’t follow the norm of the majority, is quite simply something to be laughed at. The show clearly put a lot of focus on this with it’s distasteful use of music to create a comical sense of the divergent culture to our own. 

The excellent pixar short video ‘Day and Night’ highlights the notion of our impulse in this western culture to reject ideas that we’re unfamiliar with, to laugh at them and even to reject their presence of living within our own culture. But it develops to the idea that if we took a second to open our minds with loving hearts, we would be able to see the point where we can converge as human beings. Our background and cultures cannot simply change, and probably shouldn’t, but we can change our approach in the way that we observe and accept each other. 

(I’m obviously saying this to the western culture because the gypsy culture is so closed, but with that said I’m not projecting that they aren’t being told the same thing)

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