Saturday 13 October 2012

The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign on Elizabeth I by Stephen Alford - Book Review

Title: The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I
Author: Stephen Alford
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: 13th November 2012
Pages: 416
Format: E-Book - PDF
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

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In a Europe aflame with wars of religion and dynastic conflicts, Elizabeth I came to the throne of a realm encircled by menace. To the great Catholic powers of France and Spain, England was a heretic pariah state, a canker to be cut away for the health of the greater body of Christendom. Elizabeth's government, defending God's true Church of England and its leader, the queen, could stop at nothing to defend itself. Headed by the brilliant, enigmatic, and widely feared Sir Francis Walsingham, the Elizabethan state deployed every dark art: spies, double agents, cryptography, and torture. Delving deeply into sixteenth-century archives, Stephen Alford offers a groundbreaking, chillingly vivid depiction of Elizabethan espionage, literally recovering it from the shadows. In his company we follow Her Majesty's agents through the streets of London and Rome, and into the dank cells of the Tower. We see the world as they saw it-ever unsure who could be trusted or when the fatal knock on their own door might come. The Watchers is a riveting exploration of loyalty, faith, betrayal, and deception with the highest possible stakes, in a world poised between the Middle Ages and modernity. (Goodreads Synopsis)

 Tudor history has long fascinated me; although, my knowledge is more based on Henry VIII than either of his daughters. So when I saw this book on NetGalley, I felt it was time to improve myself.

I found it an informative and yet also entertaining read. Some of the events I knew vaguely and it was interesting to see what had led to them and how espionage had been employed to protect Elizabeth from the many plots against her.

The text was clear, precise and easy to read; the people so well drawn that reading their stories was never dull. That said, a little knowledge of and interest in the period is probably essential to appreciate this book, so I wouldn't recommend it as a first port of call for those new to reading about the period.

But, if Tudor history and spies are your thing, this book is an excellent read.

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