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The Watchers By Stephen Alford

The Watchers

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Elizabeth I was a ruler who radiated a sense of power and purpose. Her long and successful reign was a Golden Age of wealth, creativity, Shakespeare's plays and Walter Raleigh's adventures: apotheosis of Tudor dynasty. This title offers an account of unflagging battle by spies, code breakers, ambassadors and confidence-men to protect the queen.

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The Watchers Summary


The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I by Stephen Alford

The enthralling story of the dark side of Elizabethan rule - its spies, secret agents and informers - from Stephen Alford, dubbed the John le Carre of Tudor history SUNDAY TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2012 Elizabeth I was a ruler who radiated a sense of power and purpose. Her long and successful reign was a Golden Age of wealth, confidence, creativity, Shakespeare's plays and Walter Raleigh's adventures: the apotheosis of the Tudor dynasty. Across much of Europe, however, Elizabeth was viewed very differently. She was 'Jezebel', the bastard offspring of Henry VIII's illegal second marriage, a woman and a Protestant heretic. The pope denounced her as a heretic schismatic tyrant and the most powerful rulers of Europe conspired to destroy her, their plans most fully realized by the Spanish Armada. If Elizabeth's reign was a golden age, then it was also a precarious one that required constant, anxious surveillance against sometimes overwhelming threats. The Watchers is a beautifully written, gripping account of the unflagging battle by spies, codebreakers, ambassadors and confidence-men to protect the queen. It was a reign that required endless watchfulness - of the coasts, of the Catholic seminaries, of Elizabeth's own subjects. The stakes could not have been higher: priests coming secretly ashore were hunted down and executed, and assassination plots, real and imagined, sprung up everywhere. Drawing on extraordinary secret files, Stephen Alford brings to life this shadow world, where nobody could be trusted and where a single mistake could have changed England's history drastically. This is a dark, surprising and utterly compelling account of an extraordinary reign. Reviews: 'Forget Le Carre, Deighton and the rest - this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction' Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph '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 '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 'An enthralling account of the murky shadow-world of Elizabethan espionage' Helen Castor, Times Higher Education 'Splendid ... a riveting study of the spies, informers and code-breakers who kept the Virgin Queen safe from Catholic conspiracies during an era that was much more paranoid than we remember' Sunday Times, Books of the Year 2012 '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' Keith Thomas, Guardian '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 'Stephen Alford's gripping new book tells the story of [the Elizabethan] years through the eyes of the men he calls watchers ... Alford brings these men, their worlds and the unfortunate victims of their espionage vividly out of the shadows ... [Alford] has brought a dash of le Carre to the 16th century' Dan Jones, The Times Book of the Week 'Alford sets the scene perfectly ..., 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 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.

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The Watchers Reviews


Forget Le Carre, Deighton and the rest - this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction -- Rupert Christiansen * Daily Telegraph *
Absorbing and closely documented ... Alford is a professional historian, with an excellent command of the manuscript sources, and he tells an exciting story ... 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 *
Stephen Alford's gripping new book tells the story of [the Elizabethan] years through the eyes of the men he calls watchers ... 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 Carre 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 *
A splendid exploration of the secret world of Elizabethan England ... a riveting study of the spies, informers and code-breakers who kept the Virgin Queen safe from Catholic conspiracies during an era that was much more paranoid than we remember * Sunday Times Books of the Year *
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
[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 *
A compelling collection of small, painful, often pitiful stories, carefully and insightfully told * Times Literary Supplement *
Detailed and diligently researched * Sunday Times *
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 *

About Stephen Alford


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.

Additional information

GOR004327286
The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I by Stephen Alford
Stephen Alford
Used - Very Good
Hardback
Penguin Books Ltd
2012-08-30
416
1846142601
9781846142604
N/A
Book picture is for illustrative purposes only, actual binding, cover or edition may vary.
This is a used book - there is no escaping the fact it has been read by someone else and it will show signs of wear and previous use. Overall we expect it to be in very good condition, but if you are not entirely satisfied please get in touch with us.