Born a crypto-Jew in Portugal in 1525, Roderigo Lopez studied medicine in Spain before moving to London in 1559. A talented surgeon, Lopez soon rose to prominence at court, and displayed a capacity for intrigue and espionage. In the service of spy networks, he became deeply entwined in English foreign policy. When the 1st Earl of Essex was poisoned to death, Lopez numbered amongst those suspected. But in 1586, undeterred by the scandal, he was appointed personal physician to the Queen. However, Lopez was financially over-extended and became so desperate, that he embarked on a high-risk enterprise as a freelance diplomat and spymaster, contacting the Spanish in an attempt to set up a conduit for peace talks. Suspicious of Lopez’s involvement in his father’s death, the 2nd Earl of Essex began an investigation. The case against Lopez was damning. Lacking vital corroboration of his story by the Spanish, and despite the Queen’s support, amidst an atmosphere of anti-Semitism stirred up by Essex, Lopez was executed in 1594. He protested his loyalty and Christianity to the last, and provided the young Shakespeare with inspiration for a topical new play.