Monday, January 27, 2014

"Terror & Faith in Elizabethan England"

This book will not be coming out in the USA until April, but it looks fascinating:

The Catholics of Elizabethan England did not witness a golden age. Their Mass was banned, their priests were outlawed, their faith was criminalised. In an age of assassination and Armada, those Catholics who clung to their faith were increasingly seen as the enemy within. In this superb history, award-winning author Jessie Childs explores the Catholic predicament in Elizabethan England through the eyes of one remarkable family: the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall.

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. has a different blurb:

Elizabeth I 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. Almost two hundred Catholics were executed in Elizabeth's reign and hundreds more wasted away in prison. They were beleaguered on the one hand by a Papacy that branded Elizabeth a heretic and sanctioned her deposition and on the other by a government that saw itself fighting a war on terror and deployed every weapon in its arsenal, including torture, to combat the threat. With every invasion scare and attempt on Elizabeth's life, the danger for England's Catholics grew.

God's Traitors explores this agonising conflict of loyalty from the perspective of one Catholic family, the Vauxes of Harrowden Hall. To follow the Vaux story -- from staunch loyalty to passive resistance to increasing activism -- is to see, in microcosm, the pressures and painful choices that confronted the Catholic community of Reformation England. Theirs in an enthralling tale of plots, priest-holes and persecution plated out in a world of shadows people by spies and agents provocateurs. They lived in a state of siege, under constant surveillance. The petty squabbles, unsuitable marriages, love and laughter of family life were punctuated by dawn raids, sudden arrests and clandestine meetings. Above all, this is a timeless and timely story of human courage and frailty, repression and reaction and the power of faith against the sternest of odds.

Father Godfrey Anstruther, OP, wrote about the family in his 1953 study, Vaux of Harrowden : a Recusant Family, reviewed in The Tablet at the time:

There are many sides to the picture he presents ; the impact of the Reformation on England ; the fabulous adventures of the missionary priests ; the surge of excitement that greeted the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot. But above all this is the history of one family, a family of great wealth and position, who lived in the very heart of England, and whose house, for that among other reasons, became, after the Reformation, one of the nerve-centres of the Catholic resistance. At one time or another nearly every missionary priest must have come to Harrowden ; Father Gerard, S.J., was, in fact, for several years the chaplain there ; and through the eyes of the Vaux family we can see the reaction of the laity in England to almost all the problems that perplexed the members of the proscribed religion. The behaviour of the Vauxes of Harrowden is particularly interesting because, of all the members of the upper class, they had the most reason to cling to the fortunes of the Tudors. The Wars of the Roses had left them virtually penniless and it was only the triumph of Henry VII at Bosworth Field that restored them to power. From then on, prosperity was assured, and Sir Nicholas Vaux was able to play an increasingly prominent part in all. the more spectacular pageants of the age, a form of entertainment of which he appears to have been inordinately fond. The triumph of his life came when he was chosen to arrange the details of that fantastic event that history knows as the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The cost of the whole spectacle was prodigious, but Sir Nicholas at least would have been among those who must have felt that it had been well worth every penny. "I see, I see an Age truly Golden arising," wrote Erasmus in 1519, and without doubt the Vauxes would have been in full agreement with him. Fifteen years later, the first Catholic martyrs were executed at Tyburn. In such a short space of time so much had happened.

It looks like both books would be necessary!

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