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The Women Who Saved Catholic England (Hardback)

Risking All to Protect Tudor and Stuart Priests

P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > By Century > 16th Century P&S History > By Century > 17th Century P&S History > Social History Women of History World History > Europe

By Martyn R Beardsley
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 32 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399042307
Published: 30th September 2024


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Much has been written about the historical persecution of Catholics. Priests in particular became prime targets during the heightened tensions of the Armada and the Gunpowder Plot. But those whom they relied on for shelter have received little attention – until now. The underground network of lay supporters, the Catholic Resistance, mostly comprised courageous women of the great (and sometimes not so great) families of England, and their houses riddled with priest holes.

These women fought a cat-and-mouse game with spymasters like Walsingham and Cecil and their spider’s web of clandestine informants, knowing that one slip might lead to arrest, torture and execution.

The indomitable Anne Vaux and her sister Eleanor provide the focus of this story but there were others, including their niece Frances, who as an 11-year-old boldly confronted armed raiders in search of priests; and Margaret Clitherow of York, arrested during a similar search and ultimately pressed to death.

To escape the clutches of Elizabeth’s brutal torturer Richard Topcliffe and others like him, men like Father John Gerard, whose ‘zipwire’ escape from the Tower of London is the stuff of Tom Cruise films, and genius priest-hole creator ‘Little John’, turned to these sisters of mercy.

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About Martyn R Beardsley

Martyn Beardsley writes for both children and adults, but history is his big passion. He is from Nottingham but visits the coast as often as possible, and has witnessed the Fowey lifeboat go into action on several occasions – on one of which he helped coax a troubled woman from the chilly waters of Polruan harbour. His other non-fiction works include Charles II and his Escape into Exile, and Waterloo Voices, a compilation of first-hand accounts of the famous battle.

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