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