God's Traitors

God's Traitors : Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England

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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 succshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 472 pages
  • 165.1 x 238.76 x 40.64mm | 839.14g
  • Oxford University Press, USA
  • United States
  • English
  • 0199392358
  • 9780199392353
  • 445,564

Review quote

"[B]rilliant" -- Wall Street Journal "This vivid richly packed, absorbing book presents the human truth of all these momentous events. Apart from anything else, it is a parade of extraordinary characters and a banquet of Elizabeth and Jacobean prose. As you read, you marvel." --Simon Callow, The Guardian (Book of the Week) "A tale of spies and skulduggery, of casuistry and unshakable belief, of torture, martyrdom, and the ferocious collision and confusion of politics and religion. God's Traitors is scholarly, absorbing, even-handed and relevant." --Ben MacIntyre, The Times (Book of the Week) "A superb account of cloak-and-dagger religious intrigue in Tudor England. God's Traitors describes a John le Carre-like world of political double-dealing and 'spiery' as a mainstream history it is little short of a triumph." --Ian Thomson, Financial Times "[An] excellent new book... Ms. Childs has written an engaging history of English papists, filled with memorable episodes." --The Economist "In considering the fundamentalisms of today, it's as well not to forget our own gruesome and intolerant past, and Childs has employed her impressive research skills and storytelling verve to bring that past vividly to life." -- Daily Telegraph "This vivid, minutely researched and brilliantly original history is a much-needed look at the dark side of the Elizabethan age." -- Sunday Times "God's Traitors is both a dramatic and thrilling story of fear, faith, courage, and deceit and an important expose of the terror of life as a Catholic in Elizabethan England." --The New Statesman "Truly excellent.... Jessie Childs tells an exciting story... her research is really very thorough God's Traitors crosses the divide between popular and academic history. It raises issues of some real historical importance, not least of how much archival material, more often glimpsed than analysed, might still be out there which has things to tell us about the period but which is often excluded from mainstream versions of it." --Professor Michael Questier, The Spectator ..". this is a fine book: extraordinarily learned, exciting (most of the time), and beautifully written. ... And what a story it tells: plots and counterplots, assassinations and Armadas, horrendous torture and unspeakably gruesome executions, stinking prisons, secret messages written in orange juice (invisible until heated), spies and traitors and clandestine printing presses. Hollywood could not have made it up." --J.J. Scarisbrick, The Weekly Standard "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 "show more

About Jessie Childs

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.show more