God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England

God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England


By (author) Jessie Childs

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Format: Hardback | 472 pages
  • Dimensions: 165mm x 239mm x 41mm | 839g
  • Publication date: 1 September 2014
  • ISBN 10: 0199392358
  • ISBN 13: 9780199392353
  • Sales rank: 326,540

Product description

For many Catholics, the Elizabethan "Golden Age" was an alien concept. Following the criminalization of their religion by Elizabeth I, nearly two hundred Catholics were executed, and many more wasted away in prison during her reign. Torture was used more than at any other time in England's history. While some bowed to the pressure of the government and new church, publicly conforming to acts of Protestant worship, others did not - and quickly found themselves living in a state of siege. Under constant surveillance, haunted by the threat of imprisonment - or worse - the ordinary lives of these so-called recusants became marked by evasion, subterfuge, and constant fear. In God's Traitors, Jessie Childs tells the fascinating story of one Catholic family, the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall, from the foundation of the Church of England in the 1530s to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and their struggle to keep the faith in Protestant England. Few Elizabethans would have disputed that obedience was a Christian duty, but following the excommunication of Queen Elizabeth by Pope Pius V in 1570 and the growing anti-Catholic sentiment in the decades that followed, it became increasingly difficult for English Catholics to maintain a dual allegiance to their God and their Queen. Childs follows the Vauxes into the heart of the underground Catholic movement, exploring the conflicts of loyalty they faced and the means by which they exerted defiance. Tracing the family's path from staunch loyalty to the Crown, to passive resistance and on to increasing activism, Childs illustrates the pressures and painful choices that confronted the persecuted Catholic community. Though recusants like the Vauxes comprised only a tiny fraction of the Catholic minority in England, they aroused fears in the heart of the commonwealth. Childs shows how "anti-popery" became an ideology and a cultural force, shaping not only the life and policy of Elizabeth I, but also those of her successors. From clandestine chapels and side-street inns to exile communities and the corridors of power, God's Traitors exposes the tensions and insecurities that plagued Catholics living under the rule of Elizabeth I. Above all, it is a timely story of courage and concession, repression and reaction, and the often terrible consequences when religion and politics collide.

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Author information

Jessie Childs is an author and historian. Her first book, Henry VIII's Last Victim, won the Elizabeth Longford Prize of Historical Biography. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters.

Review quote

"Here, in a truly excellent account of an extended family between the Reformation and the Gunpowder Plot. Jessie Childs tells an exciting story and also suggests how a major aristocratic family might be half in and half out of the establishment at the same time. Through her recovery of these people's lives (and her research is really very thorough) we encounter the web of influence generated by the Vaux and other highborn Catholics. This undoubtedly helped to shape the course of events in Elizabethan England in ways which traditional accounts of the period - so often wedded to the cult of monarchy and the genesis and genius of Anglicanism - are frankly unwilling to admit." --Michael Questier "God's Traitors, with its crisp prose and punctilious scholarship, brilliantly recreates a world of heroism and holiness in Tudor England. As a mainstream history it is little short of a triumph." --Financial Times "[An] excellent new book... Ms Childs has written an engaging history of English papists, filled with memorable episodes." --The Economist "A triumph of storytelling, backed by first-rate research." --Antonia Fraser "A riveting account of resistance in an age of intolerance, God's Traitors brings alive the story of the men and remarkable women of a defiant family." --Leanda de Lisle, author of Tudor: The Family Story