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God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England [Hardcover]

Jessie Childs
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
Price: £17.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 Mar 2014
The year is 1606. A woman wakes in a prison cell. She has been on the run, changing her lodging every few days but the authorities have tracked her down and taken her to the Tower of London. She is placed in solitary confinement and interrogated for her role in the Gunpowder Plot. The woman is Anne Vaux - one of several ardent, extraordinary, brave and, at times, utterly exasperating members of the Vaux family. In this superb history, award-winning author Jessie Childs explores the Catholic predicament in Elizabethan England through the eyes of a Catholic aristocratic family: the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall. Elizabeth I had criminalised Catholicism in England: for refusing to attend Anglican services her subjects faced crippling fines and imprisonment; for giving refuge to outlawed priests - the essential conduits to God's grace - they risked death. Catholics, like the Vauxes, were beleaguered on the one hand by a Papacy that branded Elizabeth a heretic and on the other by a government that saw itself fighting a war on terror. With every invasion scare and attempt on Elizabeth's life, the danger for England's Catholics grew. God's Traitors is a tale of dawn raids and daring escapes, stately homes and torture chambers, ciphers, secrets and lies. From clandestine chapels and side-street inns to exile communities and the corridors of power, it exposes the tensions and insecurities masked by the cult of Gloriana. Above all, it is a timely story of courage and frailty, repression and reaction and the terrible consequences when religion and politics collide.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (6 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847921566
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847921567
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,999 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)

"A riveting account of resistance in an age of intolerance" (Leanda de Lisle)

"Vivid but measured…never has the actual experience of the recusants been rendered with such a wealth of searing detail…richly packed, absorbing… It is a parade of extraordinary characters and a banquet of Elizabethan and Jacobean prose" (Simon Callow Guardian (Book of the Week))

"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)

"Absorbing history...inspired... Childs writes with a breezy, engaging style, of a period of history too often clogged by breathy romance or earnest sanctimony. She treats both Catholic and anti-Catholic bias with the proper circumspection; refreshingly, when she is speculating, she says so... God’s Traitors is scholarly, absorbing, even-handed and relevant" (Ben MacIntyre The Times Book of the Week)

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

"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)

"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)

"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)

"Excellent... 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" (Virginia Rounding Daily Telegraph (five stars))

"Plots and priest holes abound" (Caroline Sanderson Bookseller)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best history book I've read this year 22 May 2014
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking read with superb information sources. 25 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you want the background to the Powder Treason this is THE READ. Examines in detail why the Plot took place following a long period of Catholic persecution. I had often wondered about the role of the Vaux sisters, and the role of the Vaux family in the events leading up to the Treason.

I would be sorry to miss this great book. Thank you Jessie Child's.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gives you a very good sense of the precarious nature of their...
Detailed and fascinating account of a family of English recusants and their involvement with some of the leading figures in the Counter Reformation. Read more
Published 5 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very informative about a subject I knew very little. Well researched and written.
Published 21 days ago by juan portela
5.0 out of 5 stars Roman Catholics in Elizabethan England.
A forgotten episode of British History and the personal cost of having strong beliefs.
Published 1 month ago by Mr. O. D. Pickmere
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and instructive
I found this book extremely interesting. I had read a lot about Henry VIII and the following Elizabethan period, but this book offers a different viewpoint, a perspective from... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Marinitcha
2.0 out of 5 stars Dry and Difficult to Read
Reads like a history textbook. Not what I expected based on the reviews I had read.
Published 2 months ago by James F. Woods
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good, well written history
A really good, well written history. The story is told even handedly, and the parallels to our lives today are implicit in the story without being continually hammered at us. Read more
Published 2 months ago by julia grundy
4.0 out of 5 stars Explores the Elizabethan Catholic experience through the Vaux family...
There have been more than a few recent books which have explored the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for a non-academic audience: Child’s book plays in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Roman Clodia
3.0 out of 5 stars good but unsatisfactory
Whilst I am sure this is a good book for some, I found it laborious to read and never seemed to get to the heart of the matter. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Loverofbooks
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly engaging historical narrative
God’s Traitors’ by Jessie Childs tells the story of Catholic recusancy in the Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods through the prism of the Vaux family. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Venyhamin
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you should read!
After buying and reading Jesie Childs' excellent first book at Christmas 2006, I looked forward hopefully to her next publication. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. Doreen Agutter
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