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Female Spies

The Sealed Knot

After the execution of the King, Britain was ruled as a republic by Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. The Sealed Knot was a secret royalist organisation that plotted for the restoration of the Monarchy. Cromwell’s spymaster, John Thurloe, hunted enemy spies. His spy-catchers intercepted royalist communications, systematically opening letters. Royalist spies took advantage of the prevailing belief that female correspondence was mainly trivial gossip, using recognisably female handwriting, names and subject matter as cover for secret messages. 

A photo of letter which was written by Henrietta Maria to the king which was written in code
Letter from Henrietta Maria

This letter was written by Queen Henrietta Maria to King Charles I and is written in French and in code. We can see the annotations made by Parliamentarian code breakers after they captured the letter. The Queen’s words were published to prove that the King was controlled by his wife, something seen in the seventeenth century as comical and shameful, a symptom of the “natural order turned upside down”.