Christoval 'Kit' Alvarez is an agent with British Intelligence.
Since this all takes place in the late 1500's, there was not actual government organization that would answer to that name but telling anyone close to Sir Francis Walsingham (c.1532 - 1590) that and you might get a knowing smile. Walsingham was a man of clear vision who understood the importance of having sufficient information on matters of state so as to help the ruler on the throne make intelligent decisions. When we meet Alvarez being pushed into service to Walsingham, that titled man was serving as the Queen's Secretary of State and would until his death.
Alvarez is 16 when we first meet 'him', an apprentice to 'his' father, Baltasar Alvarez, a noted physician often on call to the rich and powerful even though he was aging and his hands shook more than he would like or admit it. Both Alvarez's are originally from Portugal four years before, heading to England to avoid the dreaded Inquisition that ruled that country as it did its larger neighbor, Spain. Their need to flee was due to the fact that the Alvarez family were Jewish and therefore in terrible danger from the extremes of Catholicism on the Iberian Peninsula in those days. Now to survive, they are "the 'Forced Ones', driven under duress to take whatever is the dominant religion in the country where we live. It is only thus that we can survive."
"I have watched and helped my father since childhood. I have been his assistant physician at the Hospital of St. Bartholomew for two years now," Alvarez would proudly state when challenged in the first recorded adventure. Alvarez also affirms, "We are the best physicians in London" and says so with no doubt. Now young Kit Alvarez was happily following in 'his' father's footsteps.
The quotes around the 'him' and 'his' comes from the fact that Kit Alvarez, the young man, was really a young woman. The ruse has begun during the frantic escape years before where the fate of a fleeing refugee female was not to be explored so her hair was cut close to her head and every effort made to disguise any physical evidence of her true gender, though at 12 at the time that was not too difficult. It worked but her father felt, upon arrival in England, that it would be best for a time to continue the ruse and over time neither pushed to change it. Therefore, when we meet her, she is thought by all to be a him and that deception would continue.
Alvarez has a lot more going for her than just the training in medicines. Elder Alvarez had seen to tutors in music, mathematics, and philosophy so Kit's education is quite well rounded and her intellect is quite high, including a facility in languages.
It would be in the learning of mathematics and not medicine that would attract the attention of Walsingham and push the young woman into the espionage world. Those gifted in numbers were known to be exceptional in making and breaking of codes and therein lay Walsingham's needs. As part of his training, Alvarez had routinely been given codes and ciphers by his noted tutor and had successfully solved each 'puzzle' so his skill in such matters was established. Ironically, though, it would be as a doctor seeing to the ailment of Walsingham's top lieutenant, Robert Poley, that Alvarez even came to their attention. Once known by them, though, there would be no going back.
- About a prison executioner, "he might be one of those who smiles at your face while slipping a knife between your ribs from behind."
- About a clumsy maid, "[she] could shatter an earthenware pitcher on the far side of the room merely by looking at it."