God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot

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9780007156375: God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot

A thrilling account of treachery, loyalty and martyrdom in Elizabethan England from an exceptional new writer.

As darkness fell on the evening of Friday, 28 October 1588, just weeks after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, two young Englishmen landed in secret on a Norfolk beach. They were Jesuit priests. Their aim was to achieve by force of argument what the Armada had failed to do by force of arms: return England to the Catholic Church.

Eighteen years later their mission had been shattered by the actions of a small group of terrorists, the Gunpowder Plotters; they, themselves, had been accused of designing 'that most horrid and hellish conspiracy'; and the future of every Catholic they had come to save depended on the silence of an Oxford joiner, builder of priest-holes, being tortured in the Tower of London.

‘God's Secret Agents’ tells the story of Elizabeth's 'other' England, a country at war with an unseen enemy, a country peopled – according to popular pamphlets and Government proclamations – with potential traitors, fifth-columnists, and assassins. And it tells this story from the perspective of that unseen 'enemy', England's Catholics, a beleaguered, alienated minority, struggling to uphold its faith.

Using contemporary documents, ‘God's Secret Agents’ pieces together a deadly game of cat-and-mouse between priests and Government spies, as Elizabeth I and her ministers fought to defend the State, and English Catholics fought to defend their souls. It follows the priests – God's Secret Agents – from their schooling on the Continent, through their perilous return journeys and their lonely lives in hiding, to the scaffold, where a gruesome death awaited them. To their Government they were traitors, to their co-religionists they were glorious martyrs. It was a distinction that the Gunpowder Plot would put to the test. Ultimately ‘God's Secret Agents’ is the story of men who would die for their cause undone by men who would kill for it.

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Review:

'Hogge's absorbing narrative...reads like a historical novel, but it was no fiction' -- The Guardian

'a compelling and at times harrowing story...beautifully told...Hogge's eloquent account of religion, desperation and extremism is unexpectedly timely' -- Waterstones Quarterly

'a melodramatic read...the final chapters make moving, even tragic reading' -- Evening Standard

'a vivid picture of the stresses of operating in secret, under false identities, in constant fear of betrayal' -- Sunday Times

'lucidly argued…Hogge brings the characters vividly to life' -- Daily Express

'the hazards faced by English Catholics returning to their homeland are powerfully evoked...compelling storytelling' -- The Observer

'vivid and moving...Hogge is brilliant at evoking the climate of suspicion and fear' -- The Spectator

'wonderful...an astonishingly assured work of history and an extraordinarily moving story' -- The Tablet

About the Author:

Alice Hogge was educated at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. She lives in London. This is her first book.

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