God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England
This book follows the history of England’s Catholics between the accession of Elizabeth I and the Gunpowder Plot, through the lives of members of one staunchly Catholic noble family. The Vaux defied increasingly stringent laws to practice their faith, shelter its priests and advance its cause. Using the Vaux family as her focus provides Childs with a strong narrative backbone and human interest: these are fascinating, complex, and above all, real people. It also keeps us conveniently close to the bigger picture: Henry was the English Mission’s treasurer in the earlier period, and Anne sheltered the leader of the Catholics in England for many years.
Occasionally, it can feel that Childs is too close to her subjects: for example, she appears keen to try to exonerate the Vaux from involvement in the ‘Babington Plot’ to assassinate Elizabeth. However, she does balance this by acknowledging the likelihood of Anne knowing about the Gunpowder Plot in advance. Despite this, God’s Traitors is a fascinating, well-researched, and highly readable book. Childs has drawn vivid portraits of these stubborn, passionate believers, facing almost impossible dilemmas about faith and patriotism, in an era when to cleave to one was, almost inevitably, to defy the other.