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Spy Rings

Female Spies

Female spies were particularly effective. The seventeenth-century belief that women operated exclusively within the domestic realm and were less capable than men of rational thought gave them a useful invisibility and a superior freedom of movement. When captured and interrogated they were more likely to be released and, even when found guilty, they avoided execution.

These ‘she-intelligencers’ were deeply involved in crucial information gathering and plotting, taking advantage of and occupations to extend their influence beyond the usual societal constraints.

Lady D’Aubigny hid the instructions for a royalist uprising in her hair in order to smuggle them from Oxford to London.

Female booksellers sewed messages into book covers and took advantage of the life of a travelling salesperson to move freely from place to place. Jane Whorewood, ‘agent 409’, couriered large sums of cash to Oxford in barrels of soap and was central to the operation of Charles I ‘s three unsuccessful attempts to escape from imprisonment at Carisbrooke Castle.