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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best history book I've read this year
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...
Published 4 months ago by Claire Ridgway

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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 1 month ago by James F. Woods


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8 of 8 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.

The reader is drawn into the life and times of the people, particularly those of the Vaux family, and it is fascinating to learn how skilled carpenters were able to make hiding places for families to hide not only their Catholic relics and religious objects, but also priests. The terror of the families when their homes got raided is palpable, as is their relief and faith when the visitors somehow miss what is on full view or their horror when loved ones are arrested, tortured and executed. Those accounts are truly thrilling and, at times, incredibly moving.

God’s Traitors is fully referenced, containing footnotes, end notes and a bibliography. I enjoyed reading some of the footnotes as much as the main text at times, they were very enlightening.

A brilliant book and well worth 5 stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Focus on the Vaux Family: Recusancy and the Gunpowder Plot, 12 Jun 2014
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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.

As Childs describes each Vaux generation's response to recusancy, the tension and the danger mount: fines, arrests, imprisonment, debt, danger, conflict within the extended family, and death. Trying to find a way to practice his faith and yet be an Englishman proved exhausting for William the second Baron Vaux. Recusant Catholics could "either obey their Queen and consign their souls to damnation or obey the pope and surrender their bodies to temporal punishment", as Childs sums it up. Vaux's son Henry and daughters Anne and Eleanor and daughter-in-law Eliza would be even more courageous, leading the underground network of safety for the missionary priests. The later generations of Vauxes--further and further separated from how the Catholic faith had once been practiced in England--grew more and more desperate as they found their choices so limiting: unable to take part in the leadership of their country, they fled to the Continent as mercenaries, like Ambrose, the black sheep of the family.

The Vauxes are always on the edges of the conspiracies against Elizabeth I (the Ridolfi Plot, the Babington conspiracy, the Throckmorton Plot)--and thus William Vaux spent so much time answering questions, along with his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Tresham, paying fnes, enduring imprisonment and house arrest. But at the end of the book, the Gunpowder Plot attempt to blow up Parliament with King James I, his family, and all the Lords and Commons, sums up the entire struggle. Anne Vaux feared that young men she knew well like Robert Catesby were plotting something horrible and she wanted Father Henry Garnet to tell them not to go forward with their plans. Did Father Garnet do enough? did he ask the right questions? respond forcefully enough to tell Catesby and Digby et al not to pursue whatever plot they had in mind? Those were questions he asked himself while in prison and even during his questioning. Although he did not instigate the plot or encourage the plot--he knew about the Gunpowder Plot and he did not report it to the authorities, citing the seal of the confessional.

In the Epilogue, Childs continues the story of the Vauxes: the sisters Anne and Eleanor and their sister-in-law Eliza continue their good works, focused now on the children to be raised in the Catholic faith. The family endures the long Eighteenth century and then finally enjoys Emancipation and freedom. One of the best details of this after story is that the nine Baron Vaux was Father Gabriel Gilbey, O.S.B. and took his seat in the House of Lords in 1962, 403 years after the last Benedictine served in the House (I presume that could be John Feckenham, the last abbot of Westminster Abbey).

Alice Hogge in "God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot" (2005) described the lives and deaths of the missionary priests who studied abroad and returned to England, branded as traitors for their priesthood, in her build-up to the Gunpowder Plot and its aftermath. It could almost serve as the companion volume to Childs' great story of the Vaux family. By focusing on the noble Vaux family, the lay men and women who struggled to remain true to their Church and to their nation, however, Childs has given us a great story of faithfulness and endurance. I cannot recommend "God's Traitors" highly enough: it is well-narrated and her analysis is always balanced and insightful.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, well-researched and highly readable - highly recommended, 3 May 2014
This review is from: God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (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
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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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you should read!, 14 May 2014
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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.
In addition it has a strong feminist angle for the principal personalities linking the narrative are three ladies: the Vaux sisters, Eleanor and Anne and their sister in law Eliza and this in a patriarchal age though widows like Eleanor( Brooksby) and Eliza ( Vaux) and spinsters like Anne Vaux did have far more autonomy than their married counterparts, Their self- imposed task was supporting the mainly Jesuit priesthood who in turn were charged with strengthening and developing the Catholic Faith in England where it was dwindling as, 'old Massing priets' from pre Reformation days, died. In following many family exploits, we learn of its loyalty, its and the priests' astonishing courage in the face of terrible punishments: torture and death; how they financed the 'Mission' and a miscellany of social history from bearing children annually to the normality of dying in your 20s; the tensions of hiding in specially designed priests' holes or escaping through a rear door and happy times too; celebrating Mass in a beautiful garden probably to the music of William Byrd.
Why do I consider my evaluation has any significance? Why should my opinions count? As a graduate historian of long standing who has spent many years studying and teaching this period, I can set this volume's content against other works but I also have one special qualification not given to many I suspect. Part of my ancestry lies in a recusant, gentry family also from Vaux' county. So many characters that go to make up this story are well- known to me through personal exploration. Here are some relatives, some friends who come alive in her account. I can vouch for its special resonance.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!!!!!!!! This is a stellar book!, 16 April 2014
_______________________________________________________________

For Thy sake allow me to be tortured, mutilated, scourged, slain and butchered. I refuse nothing, I will embrace all, not indeed I, dust and ashes as I am, but Thou, my Lord, in me. ~~~ Saint Robert Southwell

_______________________________________________________________

About 200 yards from the site of the Tyburn Gallows lies the Shrine of the Martyrs at Tyburn, located within the Tyburm Convent, home of the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre, more commonly known as the Tyburn nuns. Since 1901, the Tyburn nuns have enjoyed their contemplative life within the monastic tradition of the Church under the Rule of St. Benedict. While doing so, they created their remarkable shrine to honor the memory of over 105 Roman Catholic Martyrs executed at Tyburn Gallows primarily during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, today a location of international pilgrimage. Largely alone in their exhaustive efforts, the Tyburn nuns have ensured the life stories and sacrifices of those Roman Catholics martyrs executed at Tyburn Gallows are remembered and revered, if not commonly by British culture, at least by the Roman Catholic pilgrims who ventured through their doors.

As Winston Churchill so candidly and perceptively observed, “History is written by the victors.” Consequently, when you look through any library, any book store, any online merchant, the vast majority of books highlighting the timeline of the English Reformation, whether fact or fiction, focuses on the Protestant experience. This dominance of perspective, both historically and currently, permeates the British culture, including education, cultural traditions and religion. Consequently, far more people can tell you who Thomas Cranmer is than Edmund Campion, and far more people view Queen Mary as religiously intolerant than her sister Queen Elizabeth. Through her exhaustive research and compelling narrative, Jessie Childs turns the tables upside down and backwards, and in doing so, she brings to life the experiences and remarkable life stories of Roman Catholics in Elizabethan and early Stuart England, demonstrating convincingly and emphatically, the creativity, ingenuity, courage, and perseverance of Roman Catholic priests and reclusants throughout the realm — men and women who through their civil disobedience, and in many cases sacrifice of their very lives, practiced their faith, insuring Roman Catholicism endured in England for future generations. God’s Traitor: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England is truly a masterpiece of historical research. I can hear the Tyburn nuns rejoicing and praising the Lord from here!

Jessie Childs centers her story through the remarkable history of the Veax family of Harrowden. The family patriarch, William, 3rd Baron Vaux, managed his estate Harrowden Hall, largely staying away from his seat in Parliament and the intrigues of court. Well respected by those neighboring his estate, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, Baron Veax kept his life close to home and away from the eyes of Protestant Privy Counselors, enabling him to harbor priests living in his home under assumed names, and to host mass at his chapel attended by family, servants and neighboring Roman Catholics. Initially, the Veax family was able to celebrate their faith, albeit not openly and with penalties of fines for failure to attend Anglican services, without undue interference by those who kept a blind eye. Their world, however, as well as the world of all practicing Roman Catholics in England, changed dramatically on February 25, 1570. On this day Queen Elizabeth was excommunicated by Pope Pius V, who declared “Elizabeth, the pretend Queen of England and the servant of crime” to be a heretic, further releasing all of her subjects from any allegiance to her, even when they “swore oaths to her”, and excommunicating any that obeyed her orders. With this one declaration, Queen Elizabeth became at immediate risk for plots to overthrow her rule, as well as outright assassination, while practicing Roman Catholics loyal to the papacy became enemies of the state, whether loyal to the queen or not.

With this simple fact established, God’s Traitors moves into full gear in earnest, the history so intense, this work of factual accounting begins reading like a tightly written thriller novel. In fact, historical fiction writers will find this accounting of Elizabethan history a “go to source” for research, along with a treasure trove of plot ideas. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction, and Childs convincingly proves the point by simply documenting the course of events as they unfold. English Roman Catholics sneak into Europe for seminary studies and sneak back in as priests. Mass is celebrated in private home attics, bedrooms, and secret rooms. Priests are financed, equipped, housed, hidden, fed, and constantly kept on the move by their reclusant supporters, for the Jesuits in the realm by a variety of Veax family members, most notably Veax’s son Henry and daughters Eleanor and Anne. Enter Francis Walsingham, Mary Queen of Scots, Edmund Campion, Henry Garnet, John Girard, women in leadership roles, plots against the Queen, outright state tyranny, heavy fines, imprisonment, deprivation, home raids, torture and execution both of priests and recusants. Enter ingenious disguises, portable mass altars and detachable chalices, vestments kept at the ready at all recusant homes, ingenious hiding spaces within homes, priest-holes, and caves.

Although this historical accounting is thrilling and downright chilling, Jessie Childs also often poignantly details the tragic endings of many of the brave priests and reclusants of Elizabethan England, honoring their memory through respectful accounting of their life stories. Have some tissues ready when you learn of the deprivation, torture and torment priests and recusants endured. It’s nothing short of heartbreaking. Beyond all this, Childs’ accounting throughout is balanced, exquisitely researched, engagingly written, and, in short, brilliant! If you have any interest in Elizabethan history, you will not put this book down. Even the footnotes are well worth the read!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - meticulously researched yet easy to read and entertaining., 19 April 2014
This review is from: God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (Kindle Edition)
God's Traitors is neither a hagiography or a - what I like to call it - "High History" book that focuses on major political events and turning points, analyzing them from a conventional historical perspective. Rather, it follows the Vaux family and its entourage around England a time of fierce anti-Catholic persecution.

The book's task is clearly that of setting out and detailing the everyday existence of a fairly standard noble family during trying times. It does so magnificently and, by reading it, one can clearly grasp the trials and sufferings they had to endure. As such, it reads very much as a novel, even though the actual twists and turns recorded therein are - as hard as it is to believe - historical facts. The author has clearly undertaken a vast research in order to record said history very precisely, and has presented the information in a manner that makes it accessible to both the mature historian, the budding academic, as well as the average novel-reader. In sum: a must-read for all!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Explores the Elizabethan Catholic experience through the Vaux family of Harrowden Hall, 10 Jun 2014
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Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (Kindle Edition)
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 this space, but approaches her subject not via the spies and intelligencers but through the Vaux family of recusants.

At a time when religious belief could overlap with treason – and carry the ultimate penalty of death – English Catholics were forced to choose between their spiritual conscience and their political loyalty: but, too often, religious dissent was conceived of as political rebellion, even revolt.

The Vaux family were acquainted with many of the prominent Catholics of the time: Campion and his Jesuit mission, Babington who plotted to assassinate Elizabeth and replace her on the throne with Mary Queen of Scots, Tresham and Catesby who were prime movers in the Gunpowder Plot.

So this is a detailed yet personable look at the history of the period through a single family. There are a few points where the narrative feels a bit circular and out of chronological order, but overall this is a readable story which explores the underside of the ‘golden’ age of Elizabeth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good, well written history, 11 Aug 2014
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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. I was expecting a much more revisionist history, and was very pleasantly surprised.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars God's traitors, 4 May 2014
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This review is from: God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (Kindle Edition)
God's Traitors , very informative, a good narrative history from the catholic perspective . This helps to explain the context of the " Gun powder plot". A good back ground read to Elizabethan A' level students.
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