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God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England Hardcover – 6 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head; First UK Edition edition (6 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921566
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921567
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 4.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jessie Childs is an award-winning author and historian. Born in 1976, she graduated from Oxford University with a first-class degree in history. Her debut book, Henry VIII's Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was critically acclaimed and won the 2007 Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography.
Jessie has written and reviewed for various national newspapers and magazines, including the Daily Telegraph and Literary Review.
Her second book, God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (Bodley Head, March 2014), tells the story of one Catholic family's struggle to keep the faith in Protestant England. A tale of dawn raids and daring escapes, stately homes and torture chambers, ciphers, secrets and lies, it exposes all the tensions and insecurities masked by the cult of Gloriana.
Jessie lives in London with her husband and two daughters.

For more information see:
or Twitter: @childs_jessie

Product Description


"A triumph of story-telling, backed by first-rate research" (Antonia Fraser)

"Absorbing, exciting and relevant" (Ben MacIntyre The Times Book of the Week)

"Richly packed, absorbing... A parade of extraordinary characters" (Simon Callow Guardian)

"Thrilling" (New Statesman)

"God’s Traitors, with its crisp prose and punctilious scholarship, brilliantly recreates a world of heroism and holiness in Tudor England... It is little short of a triumph" (Ian Thomson Financial Times)

"Beautifully written... Hollywood could not have made it up" (Professor JJ Scarisbrick)

"Brilliant " (Wall Street Journal)

"Truly excellent... God's Traitors crosses the divide between popular and academic history. It raises issues of some real historical importance" (Michael Questier Spectator)

"This vivid, minutely researched and brilliantly original history is a much-needed look at the dark side of the Elizabethan age" (Dan Jones Sunday Times)

"Excellent... An engaging history of English papists, filled with memorable episodes" (The Economist)

"In the quality of her research and sensitive handling of issues that remain raw to this day, Jessie Childs succeeds in evoking ‘the lived experience of anti-Catholicism’ as few have done before... Childs’s language is lively and inventive... By picturing Elizabethan recusants in all their complexity, Jessie Childs has enabled them to speak for themselves at last" (John Cooper Literary Review)

"Superb and groundbreaking... It isn’t possible in the space of a review to do justice to the breadth and depth of Childs’ research and insight; but they illuminate the entire landscape of English life...a superlative, flawlessly written book... Childs’ description of an exorcism at Lord Vaux’s house in Hackney...is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever read" (Matthew Lyons, author of The Favourite)

Book Description

A true story of plots, priest-holes and persecution and one family's battle to save Catholicism in Reformation England.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Claire Ridgway on 22 May 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is the best history book I’ve read in the last few months. I just can’t say enough good things about it. I’ve raved about it to friends, family and contacts, and read passages out to my husband and anyone who would listen. It is fantastic!

What makes it so fantastic? Well, I could say Jessie Childs’ first-rate research and the detailed information she gives about Catholics living in Elizabeth I’s reign, but what I really enjoyed about God’s Traitors was how Childs brought the subject to life by giving the information through people’s stories. It could have been a dry, academic book about Catholic recusants, but Childs chose to make it personal and that made it a gripping read. By concentrating on the Vaux family, Childs was able to explore what it was like for real people living at that time. The reader meets some strong characters, particularly women, who put their lives on the line to not only practise their faith but to help others practise theirs and to protect Catholic priests and evangelists.

The book also shows another side to Elizabeth I’s reign, a time which has become known as the Golden Age, without demonizing Elizabeth or her advisers – a tricky balance. While Mary I has become known as “Bloody Mary” because of her persecution of Protestants, Elizabeth has maintained more of a positive image, even though Catholics suffered at the hands of her government – for example, Margaret Clitherow who was pressed to death under “seven or eight hundred weight” in York for her faith and for refusing “to plead to the charge of priest-harbouring”. These were brutal times.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie A. Mann on 12 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Rather like Adrian Tinniswood with "The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth Century England", which focused on that family's reactions to events like the English Civil War and Interregnum, in "God's Traitors: Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England" Jessie Childs focuses on the Vaux family of Harrowden Hall (and connected families like the Treshams of Rushton) and how they, remaining true to their Catholic faith, responded to the ever-tightening restrictions on recusant Catholics during Elizabeth I's reign--and how much they knew about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

One great feature of the design of this book, which includes two insets of color images, other illustrations, a list of principal characters, and a family tree, is the map of the Midlands of England with the Catholic houses identified in each county: Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. Seeing the distances (if not the terrain) between the houses, I could imagine the missionary priests moving from house to house, celebrating the Sacraments, keeping ahead of the government pursuivants. I could also imagine the government pursuivants, going from house to house, hoping to catch a priest!

By telling the story of Vaux family, as each generation continues the family's faithfulness to the Catholic Church, Childs retells stories familiar to me, of St. Edmund Campion and Father Robert Persons, St. Robert Southwell, Fathers Henry Garnett and John Gerard, and other priests and martyrs, from a different angle: how the Vaux family had sheltered and assisted the priests.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By CW on 3 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This book follows the history of England’s Catholics between the accession of Elizabeth I and the Gunpowder Plot, through the lives of members of one staunchly Catholic noble family. The Vaux defied increasingly stringent laws to practice their faith, shelter its priests and advance its cause.

Using the Vaux family as her focus provides Childs with a strong narrative backbone and human interest: these are fascinating, complex, and above all, real people. It also keeps us conveniently close to the bigger picture: Henry was the English Mission’s treasurer in the earlier period, and Anne sheltered the leader of the Catholics in England for many years.

Occasionally, it can feel that Childs is too close to her subjects: for example, she appears keen to try to exonerate the Vaux from involvement in the ‘Babington Plot’ to assassinate Elizabeth. However, she does balance this by acknowledging the likelihood of Anne knowing about the Gunpowder Plot in advance.

Despite this, God’s Traitors is a fascinating, well-researched, and highly readable book. Childs has drawn vivid portraits of these stubborn, passionate believers, facing almost impossible dilemmas about faith and patriotism, in an era when to cleave to one was, almost inevitably, to defy the other.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Doreen Agutter on 14 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After buying and reading Jesie Childs' excellent first book at Christmas 2006, I looked forward hopefully to her next publication. Imagine my pleasure when reading the 'Times' on 1st March to find an article on 'God's Traitors', her latest work, the perfect gift for my 40th wedding anniversary.You may ask why acquire another book on a well-trodden path: the background and events leading to the Gunpwder Plot. Superficially I might have thought that myself for I already own no less than six detailed accounts of the Plot not to mention a wide range of material on the religious history of the period, collected over 50 years, from standard works to specialist volumes of local and Roman Catholic history. So why might I advocate Ms Childs' contribution to the story?
She has chosen to put centre stage one significant Northamptonshire family: the Vaux of Harrowden near Wellingborough( adding a thoughtful note on its pronunciation) and its personal connections. In an age when the State dominated all actions, this family was divied from many others by its religious beliefs as adherents of the forbidden Roman Catholic Church. In vain would members stress this did not make them traitors to Queen and country, but did it? We are asked to reflect on how they might have reacted if the Spanish Armada had successfully invaded our shores or the terrorist Gunpowdrer Plotters' scheme come to fruition.
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