3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Highly engaging historical narrative,
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This review is from: God's Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England (Hardcover)
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. Ever since the break from Rome during Henry VIII’s reign Catholics were faced with swearing a dual loyalty to their monarch and the Pope with many unable to swear the former. The execution of Protestants during the country’s brief swing back to Catholicism under Mary I did not help their cause under the long reign of Elizabeth I. During that time and following Elizabeth’s excommunication by the Pope Catholics also faced ever increasing hefty fines and punishments for refusing to attend Anglican services. The beginnings of the Jesuit mission and various abortive plots meant that Catholics came under immense pressure to conform and anyone found to be harbouring priests in the ingeniously devised Nicholas Owen hides could expect severe penalties including the ultimate sanction.
How complicit the leader of the Jesuit mission, Henry Garnet, was in the Gunpowder Plot will probably never be fully known but Childs makes a good case for him to be aware of it if somewhat naive in his equivocation although he was bound by the confessional. Childs has written a highly intelligent and readable historical narrative that gives a real flavour of how it must have felt to be living in those times. It was an age when tolerance was an anathema to the authorities as there could only be one true religion. Discovery and disclosure was an ever present danger with people prepared to go to extremes in order to protect their threatened religion. In her epilogue Childs without overstating the case makes the allusion to how religion and politics are still mixed up with fundamentalism, persecution, martyrdom and fanaticism and how plots and conspiracies still abound. After the Gunpowder Plot was discovered Robert Wintour told Guy Fawkes about a dream that tormented him of a “scarred city with steeples blown ‘awry’ and charred, disfigured faces.”