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Power, Treason and Plot in Tudor England (Hardback)

Margaret Clitherow, an Elizabethan Saint

Military P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > By Century > 16th Century

By Tony Morgan
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 25 mono
ISBN: 9781399097970
Published: 23rd February 2022



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The Tudor period was notable for religious turmoil. Under Queen Elizabeth I, the slowly reforming Protestant Church of England finally gained a level of stability, but many people, from paupers to Lords, clung to Catholicism. Most crossed their fingers and attended Protestant services. Others, the ‘recusants’, remained defiant and refused to conform.

This book takes a fresh look into the life and death of one prominent Catholic recusant, Margaret Clitherow, and the wider events which shaped her story and that of many others. In 1970, Margaret was made a saint, one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. All suffered a similar fate.

Elizabeth’s government faced threats from multiple directions - poor harvests, disease, attempts at invasion and plots to replace the Queen with a Catholic monarch. In York, friction was growing between the Council of the North and the city Corporation. But for much of the population, life went on as normal. One well-to-do family in the city celebrated the birth of a daughter. Brought up for a time as a Protestant, Margaret Middleton eventually married a butcher, John Clitherow. They set up home in the Shambles and raised a family. Margaret’s destiny changed when she embraced Catholicism.

In 1586, Margaret’s stepfather was elected Lord Mayor of York. A few weeks later, Margaret was arrested for harbouring Catholic priests. Coincidence, or something more sinister? What happened next was sensational. One woman taking on the northern authorities, the Church of England and assizes judiciary. Sentenced to death for refusing to make a plea in court, Margaret received a last-minute reprieve due to claims of her pregnancy, only for these to be rejected. Following Margaret’s brutal execution, Queen Elizbeth is said to have apologised to the people of York.

With one martyr and no winner, Margaret’s story is examined as a microcosm of Tudor life, a family tragedy of faith and betrayal, set against a backdrop of political power games, treason and plot.

As featured om History of War

History of War

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love to read about European history, specifically anything to do with Queen Elizabeth I. This book dives into the life of Margaret Clitherow, a well-known Catholic recusant. Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Protestant church became more stable but many of her people still held onto Catholic beliefs. A lot of people embraced Protestant beliefs, or at least pretended to. The people who refused to do so were known as "recusants". Margaret was one of them, and this book explores her life and the events that happened to her as well as many others. In 1586, she was arrested for harboring Catholic priests, and sentenced to death. She did not go quietly and was granted a reprieve from death due to her claim of pregnancy. This was later rejected as it was a false claim and she was executed in a brutal manner. Afterwards, allegedly the Queen apologized to the people of York, where Margaret lived. This was a great read and an interesting look into Margaret's life and death.

NetGalley, Jamie Adams

Overall, the author presents the various stages of the English Reformation in a straightforward and concise manner, demonstrating how they influenced York. Margaret Clitherow’s life is fairly depicted by him, yet she is seen as really dedicated, bold, and not wholly beyond reproach.

Read the review here

A Tudor Reader

The gripping story of one of Tudor England's most fascinating women - Margaret Cliterow, brought brilliantly to life by Tony Morgan.

Books Monthly

As featured in: 'Death of a York saint and martyr'

The Press (Yorkshire)

The author writes in an easy style, packing lots of background information to the politics of Tudor religion, the structure of political society in York, England, and the wider world as well as the day-to-day lives of ordinary citizens.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

This an excellent even-handed history that covers not only the life of this canonized martyr but also the historical circumstances in both England and York during the Tudor period. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

NetGalley, Janet Perry

One of the book's strengths is that the author does not shy away from the complexities of Margaret's character... The book has a lot to recommend it. The complexities of the English Reformation are summarised clearly, and the relationship between central authority 200 miles away in London, and how laws were enforced in York comes over well.

Read the full review here

A Burnt Ship

This is very well written and researched, very interesting I finished it in 1 day.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

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About Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan is an Associate Professor at the University of Leeds. Having lived near York for 30 years, he’s fascinated by the city’s history. He’s written three historical novels and delivers history talks about two of York’s most famous former residents, Guy Fawkes and Margaret Clitherow.

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