The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I was a ruler who radiated a sense of power and purpose. Her long and successful reign was a Golden Age of wealth, confidence, creativity, Shakespeare's plays and Walter Raleigh's adventures: the apotheosis of the Tudor dynasty. Across much of Europe, however, Elizabeth was viewed very differently. She was 'Jezebel', the bastard offspring of Henry VIII's illegal second marriage, a woman and a Protestant heretic. The pope denounced her as a heretic schismatic tyrant and the most powerful rulers of Europe conspired to destroy her, their plans most fully realized by the Spanish Armada. If Elizabeth's reign was a golden age, then it was also a precarious one that required constant, anxious surveillance against sometimes overwhelming threats. "The Watchers" is a beautifully written, gripping account of the unflagging battle by spies, code breakers, ambassadors and confidence-men to protect the queen. It was a reign that required endless watchfulness - of the coasts, of the Catholic seminaries, of Elizabeth's own subjects. The stakes could not have been higher: priests coming secretly ashore were hunted down and executed, and assassination plots, real and imagined, sprung up everywhere. Drawing on extraordinary secret files, Stephen Alford brings to life this shadow world, where nobody could be trusted and where a single mistake could have changed England's history drastically. This is a dark, surprising and utterly compelling account of an extraordinary reign.
An intimate and revealing exploration of the men who did the Elizabethan security state's dirty work. Lifting the lid on the Protestant-Catholic 'cold war' of the late sixteenth century, Stephen Alford sifts the sources with a forensic eye, bringing to life the motley collection of self-interested chancers and drifters, religious and political zealots who watched each other in the streets of London, Paris and Rome. Leading us into the dark corners, safe houses and interrogation chambers of this twilight world, The Watchers paints a fascinating picture of the vast and nebulous threat facing Elizabethan England - and its determination to deal with that threat by any means necessary -- Thomas Penn, Author Of Winter King Alford ... has delved deeply into 16th-century archives to unearth a history of the dark underside to the Elizabethan golden age - a page-turning tale of assassination plots, torture, and espionage Publishers Weekly
Stephen Alford is the author of the acclaimed biography Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He taught for fourteen years at Cambridge University, where he was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of History and a Fellow of King's College. He is now Professor of Early Modern British History in the University of Leeds.