Your God. Your Country. Your Kin.
Who Do You Betray?
1563: Anyone could be a suspect; any Catholic could be accused of plotting against the throne. Clarenceux keeps his head down and his religion quiet. But when a friend desperately pleads with Clarenceux to hide a manuscript for him, he is drawn into a web of treachery and conspiracy he may never untangle. Is there no refuge if your faith is your enemy?
Bestselling author Dr. Ian Mortimer, writing as James Forrester, has crafted a chilling, brilliant story that re-imagines how the explosive mix of faith and fear can tear a country apart. Sacred Treason tells a thrilling story of murder, betrayal, and loyaltyand the power of the written word.
Sacred Treason (Book 1)
The Roots of Betrayal (Book 2)
The Final Sacrament (Book 3)
"An Elizabethan romp featuring a conspiracy, a secret manuscript, and whispers about Anne Boleyn."Sunday Times
"Vivid and dramatic."The Guardian
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Saturday, December 11
Clarenceux was sitting in his candlelit study with his robe close around him. He was alone again but for Henry Machyn's chronicle, smelling the wood smoke of his study. He heard footsteps on the stairs. A moment later his daughter Annie appeared, holding an orange. Her brown hair was tied back, showing off her high forehead.
"Annie, you should be asleep. It's very late," he said, welcoming her into his arms.
"Yes, but Mother said I could show you this," she replied, thrusting out the orange and smiling. "We buyed it in the market. It was priced a shilling."
"You bought it in the market," he corrected. "Not buyed it." He took the orange and held it up, examining it. "A whole shilling? Do you know why it was so much?"
"Oranges grow on trees in a country far away, called Spain, where the sun shines all day long. Then they are picked and packed in barrels..."
Annie was not listening. She was looking at the chronicle that lay open on the table board. "What is this?" she asked.
"A book. A chronicle."
"What does it say?"
"It says, ‘December the eleventh. On this day did Ann, daughter of Mr. Clarenceux-'"
Clarenceux stopped suddenly. The next words read: dye from her ateing of an orange fruyte.
"Go. Go downstairs, now," he commanded.
He watched her go. She left the door open. He knew she would be crying; he had been too abrupt. But he had had reason: this was outrageous. How dare Machyn write such things! Did the man not hope to win his favor? How far had his wits wandered?
He turned back to the chronicle. The next entry read: Ye following daye dyed his wyfe Awdrey from the poysoninge appel gyven unto her by Mr. Clarenshux because hee dyd not anymoore love her.
He swept the book off the table board, sending his visitation, two other volumes, inkwell, and paper flying across the chamber. As it fell he stood up, rage filling his body, and turned the board itself over. Did he not love her? He bent down and lifted the chronicle, and threw it with all his force across the room. Did he not love them both? His daughter? His wife? The mother of his children? How could anyone have written...
"William, William!" he heard his wife shout. "William, stop it!"
He opened his eyes. It was light, the shutters were open. Awdrey was leaning over him, a loose strand of blonde hair hanging down.
Clarenceux rubbed his hand over his face, feeling his brow soaked with sweat. He lay back in his bed, warm and fresh, where the study in his dream had been smoky and cold. It seemed to him as if the malevolence of the previous night had come back with him, into his house.
It had been a prophetic dream, he knew. He had to give the book back to Machyn. But today was the day that Machyn had foretold was the day of his death.
"You've been thrashing about in your sleep like a man possessed," said Awdrey, her voice tinged with fear. "Where were you last night? I waited after all that knocking on the door, but you didn't come to bed. Thomas told me this morning that you went out. And now you are shouting in your sleep, shouting about me and about Annie like a man gone mad, beating your arms about. What happened? Where did you go?"
He sat upright and breathed deeply. Calmer now, he swung his legs out of the bed and sat in his shirt, looking at the open window.
Blue sky. The rain had stopped. He looked at the crucifix on the wall.
"Did Thomas tell you who called last night?"
"He said it was Goodman Machyn."
"Yes, it was Machyn," he replied, glancing at her. "He is in trouble."
"Trouble? What sort of trouble?"
"He is in fear of his life. He was terrified. I didn't realize at first how serious his situation was. It only occurred to me later, after he had gone. So I went after him. A royal sergeant-at-arms stopped me."
"William, that was not sensible."
Clarenceux gazed out of the window. "I thought at the time I could help him."
Awdrey said nothing.
Clarenceux stood up. "Will you fetch me some water?"
Awdrey slipped off the bed and picked up the jug. With it, she filled the brass basin on the floor, draped a towel over her arm, and then lifted the basin and carried it to her husband. He nodded his thanks and splashed cold water over his face, wetting his shirt.
"There is some sort of conspiracy afoot," he said. "Machyn is involved. He believes he will be killed today."
He took the towel from her arm and wiped his face. He threw it on the bed and stood, looking into her blue eyes. "I didn't realize it was treason. I still don't think it is. I thought..." He searched her frightened eyes. "I don't know what I thought. I felt that whatever trouble he might be in, he is a good man, and so I had no choice but to try to help him."
"How?" she asked, a little coldly. "In what way could you have helped?"
Clarenceux shook his head. "I cannot tell you, my love." He looked away. He let go of her and went over to his clothes chest. He lifted the lid and pulled out a folded shirt. It smelled strongly of lavender and cloves, like the rest of his clean linen. "All I know is that...I have to find out more. I am going to go and look for him this morning."
"You still intend to? Even though he is a traitor? And you mean to go by yourself?"
"Goodman Machyn is not a traitor. I'll take Thomas with me."
"Go with friends. No one argues with you when you have your heralds and pursuivants about you."
Clarenceux lifted a clean pair of hose from his clothes chest. "I will take Thomas," he repeated. "All I need to do is ask Machyn one thing."
What People are Saying About This
"A brilliant mystery adventure ... seamlessly incorporating known facts and people of the time with fictional aspects to progress the story ... A must read for historical fiction lovers." - Passages to the Past
"Reading Sacred Treason was like being completely immersed in the world of 16th Century England (without the smells). It was bracing and marvelous and compelling from beginning to end.
" - Book Lovers Inc.