The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I (Paperback)Stephen Alford (author)
The acclaimed and enthralling story of the dark side of Elizabethan rule, from Stephen Alford
Elizabeth I's reign is known as a golden age, yet to much of Europe she was a 'Jezebel' and heretic who had to be destroyed. The Watchers is a thrilling portrayal of the secret state that sought to protect the Queen; a shadow world of spies, codebreakers, agent provocateurs and confidence-men who would stop at nothing to defend the realm.
'Forget Le Carré, Deighton and the rest - this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction' Daily Telegraph
'Absorbing and closely documented ... Alford vividly evokes this murky world of codes, ciphers, invisible ink, intercepted letters, aliases, disguises, forgeries and instructions to burn after reading ... flowing narrative [and] crisp judments ... engrossing' Guardian
'[Alford] has brought a dash of le Carré to the 16th century' The Times (Book of the Week)
'A vivid and staggeringly well-researched portrait of the sinister side of Elizabethan England ... This is a spectacular book. It sheds new light on plots that most historians have ceased to explore and brings less famous conspiracies to the attention of the general reading public' Herald
'Fascinating ... If you want to know the inside story of this struggle, the dark heart of calculation and the fight for survival, then this is the book to read. I know no better' Spectator
About the author:
Stephen Alford is the author of the acclaimed biography Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He taught for fifteen years at Cambridge University, where he was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of History and a Fellow of King's College. He is now Professor of Early Modern British History in the University of Leeds.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Number of pages: 432
Weight: 326 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 24 mm
Forget Le Carré, Deighton and the rest - this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction - Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph
Absorbing and closely documented ... his accounts of the unmasking of the Throckmorton and Babington plots are full and gripping, and he throws much light on the secret agents who exposed these and similar conspiracies ... Alford vividly evokes this murky world of codes, ciphers, invisible ink, intercepted letters, aliases, disguises, forgeries and instructions to burn after reading ... flowing narrative [and] crisp judments ... engrossing - Keith Thomas, Guardian
Alford brings these men, their worlds and the unfortunate victims of their espionage vividly out of the shadows. Their interlocking biographies and adventures combine to produce a portrait of a mid-to-late Elizabethan England that was ruled by Walsingham's maxim: "There is less danger in fearing too much than too little" ... [Alford] has brought a dash of le Carré to the 16th century - Dan Jones, Times Book of the Week
Alford paints a vivid and staggeringly well-researched portrait of the sinister side of Elizabethan England ... This is a spectacular book. It sheds new light on plots that most historians have ceased to explore and brings less famous conspiracies to the attention of the general reading public - Herald
Fascinating ... If you want to know the inside story of this struggle, the dark heart of calculation and the fight for survival, then this is the book to read. I know no better - Alan Judd, Spectator
An enthralling account of the murky shadow-world of Elizabethan espionage ... The fascination of Alford's book ... lies in its focus on the worker bees in the intelligence hive. He has delved deep into encrypted archives to discover the lengths to which Elizabethan Englishmen were prepared to go to destroy their queen, or to defend her - and one of the surprises of a story full of dizzying twists is quite how many of them ended up attempting to do both ... In a bravura piece of counterfactual storytelling, Alford describes the moment in an imagined 1586 when one of the many plots to assassinate Elizabeth finally succeeded ... The heart of the Tudor state, as Alford compellingly shows, is entirely human in its darkness - Helen Castor, Times Higher Education
The Watchers ... provides a genuine - and compelling - reappraisal of one of the most studied periods in English history: the reign of Elizabeth I. In exploring the world (or underworld) of Elizabethan espionage, Alford takes us on a darker, more disturbing and arguably more fascinating journey through the Elizabethan era than any other historian of the period ... [He] begins by taking the reader through a terrifyingly dramatic account of an assassination attempt in 1586, which leaves Queen Elizabeth mortally wounded ... It is an imaginary, but startlingly real scenario ... By telling it here, Alford sets the scene perfectly for the rest of the narrative, putting the reader in the mindset of the Virgin Queen's paranoid ministers ... a fascinating cast of characters ... engaging and perfectly pitched narrative ... Alford weaves together the bewilderingly complex threads of plots and counterplots so skilfully that as a reader you are never left floundering - Tracy Borman, BBC History Magazine
Alford ... has delved deeply into 16th-century archives to unearth a history of the dark underside to the Elizabethan golden age - a page-turning tale of assassination plots, torture, and espionage - Publishers Weekly
An intimate and revealing exploration of the men who did the Elizabethan security state's dirty work. Lifting the lid on the Protestant-Catholic 'cold war' of the late sixteenth century, Stephen Alford sifts the sources with a forensic eye, bringing to life the motley collection of self-interested chancers and drifters, religious and political zealots who watched each other in the streets of London, Paris and Rome. Leading us into the dark corners, safe houses and interrogation chambers of this twilight world, The Watchers paints a fascinating picture of the vast and nebulous threat facing Elizabethan England - and its determination to deal with that threat by any means necessary - Thomas Penn, author of WINTER KING
Detailed and diligently researched - Sunday Times
[A] deep and convincing new study of the Elizabethan security services ... Previous attempts to understand the world of Tudor espionage ... have been hampered by the intractability of the source materials ... So it is greatly to the author's credit that he tells us much that is new about the diverse, and frankly bizarre, personalities who protected Elizabeth from an assassin's bullet and her realm from invasion ... Alford's mastery of the Elizabethan state papers delivers a detailed, believable and often compelling account of the strategies deployed by the state ... Alford is even-handed in his approach, not flinching from the grisly details of state-sponsored torture and execution, but also trying to see the situation from the government's point of view - John Cooper, Literary Review
Stephen Alford has written a gripping account of these cruel and dramatic events, proving that the survival of Protestant England was purchased at a very high price indeed - Sunday Express
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