Fact or Fiction


Supplement II at the end of the novel indicates if details in the novel are based on fact or fiction. With the exception of one date, all persons, documents, dates and quotes are based on recorded fact. Dialogue and details for which there are no records had to be created.

This is a sample of how two of the chapters are treated in that supplement.


FACT: Scadbury Manor, twelve miles outside London, was the estate of Sir Thomas Walsingham. 

FICTION: Although Thomas Walsingham is referred to throughout this novel as “Sir Thomas Walsingham,” he was not actually knighted until 1597, which is four years after thebeginning of this novel. This consistent designation was done to eliminate any confusion since his knighthood is not referred to in this novel. 

FACT: The word “god” is not capitalized since it is a generic exclamation and not referring to God himself. 

FACT: Thomas Kyd was served with the edict to appear before the Privy Council in May, 1593. He was the author of The Spanish Tragedy as well as other acclaimed works and was the second most prominent playwright in England at that time. 

FACT: Marlowe had been living with Thomas Kyd for two years and had recently moved in with Sir Thomas Walsingham. The common term for two men living together was “chamber fellows.” 

FACT: Homosexual relationships were quietly accepted at that time so long as one’s liaisons remained within one’s own class. 

FACT: There are historians who agree that there was a romantic relationship between Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Walsingham. There are, however, strong opinions on both side of this issue. 

FACT: The portion of the edict which appears in this novel is exact. “By order of the Privy Council Thomas Kyd is ordered to appear before the Councilors on 11 May 1593 to answer changes concerning the discovery of vile heretical concepts denying the deity of Jesus Christ our Savior. Under suspicion of blasphemy, he will….” The edict then continued. (The phrase “vile heretical concepts” was not underlined in the original edict.) 

FACT: Atheism was a treasonous crime and was punishable by death. 

FACT: The edict was a result of the searching of the living quarters of Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe. 
FACT: Marlowe was notorious for making many heretical remarks about Jesus including all the ones mentioned in this novel. Marlowe did like to spew that Christ had been just a magician and that St. John the Evangelist was merely a bedfellow of Christ and that Jesus did use him “as did the sinners of Sodom.” 

FACT: The edict as stated is accurate: “There will be a reward of 100 crowns to the person who supplies information about such libelers.” The statements about the searching of Kyd’s quarters and the reward of 100 crowns are accurate. The authorities did find six pages of what was called “vile, heretical” writings. 

FACT: The papers did actually belong to Marlowe. Though he claimed at the time that he did not know where he had gotten them, in fact they were part of the discussion sessions with Sir Walter Ralegh at his School of Night. 

FACT: “Ralegh” was the conventional spelling of Sir Walter’s name at that time. 

FACT: The edict did read “If Mr. Thomas Kyd refuses to afford the Privy Council proper information, officers shall put him to the torture in Bridewell Prison.” 

FACT: Richard Topcliffe was the Royal Rackmaster atBridewell Prison. 

FACT: The details of the plague are factual, including the deaths of approximately 100 people a day in London. 

FACT: England was at war with Spain at that time. The details of the war between Protestant England and Catholic Spain are factual. 

FACT: Sir Francis Walsingham was considered to be the cousin of Sir Thomas Walsingham. (See Historical Data – Chapter Nine -- for clarification.) The details of his heading the British spy network and his being the England’s first Secretary of State are accurate. 

FACT: The Privy Council did consider Sir Walter Ralegh to be a threat but too close to Queen Elizabeth I to attack directly. 

FACT: Christopher Marlowe was a spy who had often worked for Sir Francis Walsingham. 

FACT: Some wives of Henry VIII had been imprisoned. 

FACT: On March 26, 1593, Queen Elizabeth created a new Royal Commission to hunt down and punish “Barrowists, Separatists, Catholics recusants, counterfeiters, vagrants all who secretly adhere to our most capital Enemy (sic), the Bishop of Rome” (the Pope). 

FACT: As amazing as this may seem today, the Commission did incarcerate anyone who “refused to repair to the Church to hear Devine service.” 

FACT: Christopher Marlowe had previously lived with Thomas Bradley, Richard Baines, and Thomas Kyd, before moving in with Sir Thomas Walsingham.


FACT: Marlowe was the foremost playwright in England at the time and was considered a loose cannon, making all kinds of dangerous statements. 

FACT: Marlowe was a member of Sir Walter Ralegh’s inner circle of friends and did belong to Ralegh’s School of Night and Durham House groups. 

FACT: Marlowe was notorious for saying all those heretical statements as listed, including that Christ was a bastard, that his mother was a whore, and that John the Evangelist always rested his head on the bosom of Jesus. He did reason that, therefore, Jesus loved John as did the sodomites in the bible. 

FACT: Marlowe was known for frequently using the notorious remark that “All they that love not boys and tobacco are fools.” 

FACT: Marlowe was twenty-nine years old at that time. 

FACT: Marlowe did have a string of theatrical and poetic successes unmatched in England at the time. By that date these included Dr. Faustus, The Jew of Malta, and Tamburlaine, among other works. 

FACT: Marlowe was one of the nearly 100 spies answering to Sir Francis Walsingham, the cousin of Sir Thomas Walsingham. 

FACT: Marlowe did go to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, on a scholarship for those of modest means. 

FACT: It is true that Marlowe did not elect to take holy orders after graduation (but instead went into the theatre). 

FACT: Theatre at that time was akin to prostitution, thievery, and vagrancy. Theatres were required to be built outside city walls along with brothels, prisons, and lunatic asylums. The theatres were considered to be disreputable and dens of iniquity. 

FACT: Despite the dark reputation that theatre had at that time, Queen Elizabeth I did occasionally attend performances. 

FACT: Marlowe was originally recruited for spying by Sir Francis Walsingham while Marlowe was still a second year student at Cambridge. The details about withholding his master’s degree in 1587 and then awarding it later are accurate. The charge was that he had defected to Rheims and gone into a Catholic seminary. The intervention later by Lord Cecil Burghley, president of the Privy Council, seemed to establish that Marlowe had obviously been a double spy sent to Rheims by Sir Francis Walsingham. 

FACT: “Good service” was a common code expression for “spying”. 

FACT: Sir Thomas Walsingham had recently become Marlowe’s patron and protector – an arrangement that was critically important to all playwrights at the time. Playwrights and actors needed patrons for financial reasons and because of the law. The various troops of actors wandering all over England were considered to be vagrants and thought to be the cause of many problems in the country. The Second Act of Congress of 1592 – the Vagrancy Act – did lay down the laws which read: “Unlicensed vagabonds, common players, and minstrels, not belonging to any baron or other personage of greater degree can, by law, be whipped, have their noses cut off or burned through the ear”. As a result, most actors, playwrights and theatre companies searched out a patron, who afforded them a measure of protection. As a by-product of this arrangement, the lords who sponsored such companies got acknowledgements and what might be called “good public relations” throughout England for their patronage. 

FACT: Thomas Kyd did attempt to run away but was captured.