Of course, I refer to the first Elizabeth not the kind, grandmotherly lady who adorns our throne today. This from Ian Mortimer's 'must-read' book The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England which will tell you in engrossing detail how life was lived - and lost - in those more robust times:
Consider the case of Dr. John Story, a Catholic lawyer and MP, who is locked up in 1563 after speaking some poorly chosen words against the queen. Escaping by night and reaching the Spanish ambassador's residence, he manages to slip the country and flee to the Netherlands. There the duke of Alba appoints him to search all vessels coming from England, and Story assiduously combs every English ship for Protestant letters, books and messages. The zeal with which he conducts his work leads him to becoming the leader of a group of émigré Catholic activists, and more than just a minor irritant to the English merchants trading with the Low Countries. [Sir William] Cecil therefore decides to take action. In 1570 he sends agents to Dr. Story who win his trust. They join him in searching English boats, until one day they lead him onto a boat whose captain has been primed. Dr Story is seized, taken to England and handed over to the privy council for interrogation and trial. Found guilty of high treason, he is drawn, hanged and quartered. 'Black operations' such as this, in which government agents seize residents in a foreign country and subject them to rendition, torture and eath, have a long pedigree.
Tut, tut, who'da thunk it?! Not that 'good Queen Bess' didn't sometimes live up to her image:
On July 1579 a young man named Thomas Appletree is fooling about with some friends in a boat on the Thames near Greenwich. He has a loaded gun, which to the great amusement of the party he fires three or four times at random. Unknown to him, the glass-sided royal barge is slowly floating towards them. The queen is aboard, discussing with the French ambassador the possibility of her marrying the duke of Anjou, when one of Appletree's bullets strikes the helmsman six feet from her and leaves him lying on his back bleeding profusely. The queen tosses the injured man her scarf and tells him to be of good cheer: the bullet was surely meant for her and the fact that it struck him is good news, for the assassin had failed. Later, there is a thorough investigation, and Appletree is soon found. He confesses and is duly condemned to death for endangering the queen's life. A gallows is set up on the bank of the river so that he may be hanged close to the scene of his crime. Before his execution, Appletree makes a speech to the assembled crowds. He is no traitor, he says, but admits that through his carelessness he had endangered the life of the sovereign and therefore deserves to diw. When he has said goodbye to his friends, the hangman places the noose over his head. Just then, when he is on the very brink of death, a man in the crowd steps forward with a pardon from the queen. She knows Appletree is just a silly young man, but he had to be taught a lesson.
So, not only were the dark arts of the security services in operation 450-odd years ago but so were the ones of the public relations industry, too!