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

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

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by Alice Hogge
     
 

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One evening in 1588, just weeks after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, two young men landed in secret on a beach in Norfolk, England. They were Jesuit priests, Englishmen, and 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 would be

Overview

One evening in 1588, just weeks after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, two young men landed in secret on a beach in Norfolk, England. They were Jesuit priests, Englishmen, and 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 would be shattered by the actions of the Gunpowder Plotters -- a small group of terrorists who famously tried to destroy the Houses of Parliament -- for the Jesuits were accused of having designed "that most horrid and hellish conspiracy."

Alice Hogge follows "God's secret agents" from their schooling on the Continent, through their perilous return journeys and lonely lives in hiding, to, ultimately, the gallows. She offers a remarkable true account of faith, duty, intolerance, and martyrdom -- the unforgettable story of men who would die for a cause undone by men who would kill for it.

Editorial Reviews

One day in 1603, five devout British Catholics met secretly and swore an oath on the Holy Sacrament to blow up King James and the Houses of Parliament. This desperate act was designed to lift the rampant repression and persecution of Catholics within the country. On the night before the plot was to be enacted, conspirator Guy Fawkes was arrested in the cellars beneath Parliament with gunpowder. Alice Hogge's God's Secret Agents describes how warring religious fundamentalists nearly changed the face of England.
Publishers Weekly
As historian Hogge points out in this sometimes dry and sometimes lively popular religious history, the impulse to return Catholicism to England in the latter part of the 16th century arose with the establishment of the Anglican Church. In the early days of her reign, Elizabeth instituted strict laws regarding church attendance and religious practice with punishments that included fines and death. By the time that James I ascended to the throne, persecution of Catholics had risen to such a pitch that a group of Catholic conspirators, including most famously Guy Fawkes, hatched a plot to blow up Parliament. Hogge provides a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of the priests-such as Edmund Campion, John Gerard and Henry Garnet-who made martyrs of themselves in their efforts to reinstate Catholicism in England. Hogge deftly narrates the seething world of religious conflict in late 16th- and early 17th-century England, as well as the intra-Catholic conflicts that arose in the face of persecutions by the throne. Anyone interested in vibrant details of the Gunpowder Plot will have to look elsewhere, since the event plays a small role in Hogge's book, but for a detailed sketch of the religious conflict that led to the plot, Hogge's book provides a starting point. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
‘Excellently researched and beautifully written; impossible to put down.’ A.C.Grayling, Financial Times‘Vivid and moving…Hogge is brilliant at evoking the climate of suspicion and fear.’ Spectator‘A compelling and at times harrowing story…beautifully told…Hogge’s eloquent account of religion, desperation and extremism is unexpectedly timely.’ Waterstones Quarterly‘Hogge paints a vivid picture of the stresses of operating in secret, under false identification, in constant fear of betrayal, and deprived even of contact with their fellow priests.’ Sunday Times
Eamon Duffy
“Alice Hogge’s vivid narrative culminates in a gripping account of the [Gunpowder] Plot and its disastrous denouement.”
Jonathan Mirsky
“[A] vivid and moving portrait of the Counterreformation in the Elizabethan age.”
New Statesman
“An exciting account of the Catholic resistance in England under Elizabeth.”
Financial Times
“Excellently researched and beautifully written.”
The Spectator
“[A] vivid and moving portrait of the Counterreformation in the Elizabethan age.”
London Times
“Paints a vivid picture of the stresses of operating in secret, under false identities, in constant fear of betrayal.”
Evening Standard
“The final chapters make moving, even tragic reading.”
Weekly Standard
“A well-researched, skillfully crafted book that evokes the physical as well as the intellectual world of Renaissance English Catholicism.”
Booklist
“A tense, taut, real-life political thriller.”
The Observer
“Compelling storytelling.”
The Guardian
“Hogge’s absorbing narrative of the experience of [Catholic] underground life reads like a historical novel.”
National Catholic Reporter
“An illuminating look at an often overlooked period of church-state turmoil . . . Draws surprising parallels with events today.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062047250
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/15/2011
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
488
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

God's Secret Agents

Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot
By Alice Hogge

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Alice Hogge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060542276

Chapter One

' ... as the waves of the sea, without stay, do one rise and overtake another, so the Pope and his ... ministers be never at rest, but as fast as one enterprise faileth they take another in hand... hoping at last to prevail.'
Sir Walter Mildmay MP, October 1586

Armada Year, 1558, swept in on a flood tide of historical prophecies and dire predictions. For the numerologists, who divided the Christian calendar into vast, looping cycles of time, constructed in multiples of seven and ten and based on the Revelation of St John and the bloodier parts of the Book of Isaiah, the year offered nothing less than the opening of the Seventh Seal, the overthrow of Antichrist and the sounding of the trumpets for the Last Judgement.

For the fifteenth century mathematician Regiomontanus, although he had not been quite so specific about the year's unfolding, still the promise of a solar eclipse in February, and not one but two lunar eclipses in March and August had not, he had thought, augured well. Regiomontanus had recorded his findings in Latin verse, concluding: 'If, this year, total catastrophe does not befall, if land and sea do not collapse in total ruin, yet will the whole world suffer in upheavals, empires will dwindle and from everywhere will be great lamentation.' As the year began, in Prague the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, himself a keen astrologer, scanned the heavens for signs that his was not the empire to which Regiomontanus referred. He could discover little more than that the weather that year would be unseasonably bad.

The printers of Amsterdam rang in the year with a special edition of their annual almanac, detailing in lurid prose the coming disasters: tempests and floods, midsummer snowstorms, darkness at midday, rain clouds of blood, monstrous births, and strange convulsions of the earth. On a more positive note, they suggested that things would calm down a bit after August and that late autumn might even be lucky for some, but this was not a January horoscope many read with pleasure.

In Spain and Portugal the sailors assembling along the western seaboard talked of little else, no matter that their King, His Most Catholic Majesty Philip II of Spain, regarded all attempts to divine the future as impious. In Lisbon a fortune-teller was arrested for 'making false and discouraging predictions', but the arrest came too late: the year had already begun with a flurry of naval desertions. In the Basque ports Philip's recruiting drive slowed and halted 'because of many strange and frightening portents that are rumoured'.

In Rome it was brought to the attention of Pope Sixtus V that a recent earth tremor in England had just disgorged an ancient marble slab, concealed for centuries beneath the crypt of Glastonbury Abbey, on which were written in letters of fire the opening words of Regiomontanus' prediction. It was felt by the papal agent who delivered this report that the mathematician could not, therefore, be the original author of the verses and that the prophecy could stem from one source only: from the magician Merlin. It was the first hint that God might be on the side of the English.

But in England no one mentioned Merlin's intervention in international affairs and the English almanacs that year were strangely muted affairs, proffering the general observation that 'Here and in the quarters following might be noted ... many strange events to happen which purposely are omitted in good consideration.' With their fellow printers in Amsterdam working round the clock to meet the public's demand for gruesome predictions it seems odd the English press were grown so coy, particularly when the editor of Holinshed's Chronicles had written the year before that Regiomontanus' prophecy was 'rife in every man's mouth'. But it was not in the Government's interest that England should be flooded with stories of death and destruction, for it was all too likely that any day now it would be visited by the real thing.


For some four years now England and Spain had been at war: an undeclared phoney war, fought at third hand, on the battlefields of the Low Countries and up and down the Spanish Main, by mercenaries and privateers, most notably the 'merry, careful' Francis Drake. Drake's raid on the port of Cadiz in April 1587 had cost Spain some thirty ships and had bought England a twelvemonth reprieve. But all this did was to postpone the inevitable until the fateful year 1588, because the Spanish were coming, with the mightiest fleet that had ever been amassed. Sixty-five galleons like floating castles, many-oared galleys, cargo-carrying urcas, nimble pataches and zabras, all these had been assembling in the west-coast ports of the Iberian peninsula since 1586. Together they could hold some thirty thousand men, numerous cavalry horses and pack animals and all the many carefully counted barrels of food and water needed to sustain a force of such size ...

Continues...


Excerpted from God's Secret Agents by Alice Hogge Copyright © 2005 by Alice Hogge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Eamon Duffy
“Alice Hogge’s vivid narrative culminates in a gripping account of the [Gunpowder] Plot and its disastrous denouement.”

Meet 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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God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Manirul More than 1 year ago
Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Except for the perseverant Jewish people, or the high- minded Freemasons, it's hard to think of a group that has been the focus of as much conspiratorial thinking as the Jesuits. Putting aside the rich history history of a certain brand of Machiavellianism known as Papal Diplomacy, still a fair reading of many Jesuit lives seems to belie the odd reputation they have gained over the centuries. This book mentions the Gunpowder Plot and Queen Elizabeth in the subtitle, but clearly those are as attention-getters. What is admirable about the book is the manner in which the author describes the early Jesuit culture and also the issues surrounding the Spanish Armada. In fact, I actually understood the imp[eus behind the Armada better after reading her description than in several books dedicated to the subject. As to the several little plots to infiltrate Protestant England by the Jesuits, it unfortunately comes off as being a bit pathetic and a little tedious for all the sneaking around. Its also commendable how she clarifies that Elizabeth was reluctant to inhibit religious liberties per se, and rather did so by laws enforcing attendance at Protestant Divine Service. What I liked best was the help it gives you in getting that what was feared was Spain, most catholic Spain, and not so much the Catholic Church itself. In some ways the Counter-Reformation can be seen as a massive over- reaction. This especially if one considers that Pope Adrian VI proclaimed that the fault for the protestant revolts was to be found with the corruption of the Church itself. A sentiment echoed by Cardinal Reginald Pole in the his opening statement at the Council of Trent. But balance and long term moral self-examination has never been the Roman Church's strong-suit. In this sense, the whole founding of the Jesuit Order, based as it is in a certain sense in Counter-Reformation over-reaction, would seem almost to make it easier for conspiracy nuts. Sadly the tropes of this paranoid style are alive and well, ironically, in some of the more pugilistic Catholic pundits, whose right-wing thought is indistinguishable from Father Coughlin's in style if not in substance. As to the Jesuits themselves they continue to be very selective thus they tend to, as a group, avoid this more flagrant sort of instability. I knew a guy in my time in the Church, who was turned down by the Jesuits much to his chagrin, who has done quite well for himself, I've read, in the hierarchical jockeying of diocesan priesthood and episcopacy. Most of the skullduggery in the Cathlolic Church today, doubtless in much attenuated form compared to the past, takes place within the diocesan clergy. But this interesting book admirably portrays when the Jesuits were front and center for such things.