The golden age of England, underneath, was a time when secrets were a form of currency just a precious as gold.
Stephen Alford's "The Watchers: A Secret
History of the Reign of Elizabeth I" was an excellent book about one of my
all-time favorite eras of history the Tudor Reign. I've read several books
about the Tudors, and this book showed that Elizabeth's rule was a precarious
and fragile thing; the Protestant monarch had many enemies at home and abroad, at
times her network of spies was all that stood between rule and ruin.
First, you have to like a book with such
detailed references. A good sign of a non-fiction book's character (or lack thereof)
will be revealed if a book has a strong backbone of source material. I also
thought the layout of the beginning of the book was excellent, the author set
up the characters like that of a playbill, giving a brief description of the
parts each person played-out in this game of spies. This was beneficial, since
there was a number of players to keep straight, and having a quick guide to
turn back to was helpful.
Although I was aware of Elizabeth's most trusted
advisor William Cecil's cunning, and his web of information that was
far-reaching, I did not know to what extent and how wide the network of
underground information-gathering reached. Alford showcased the inner-turmoil
of the country, where Protestants were once again in favor and Catholics fled
the country for fear of persecution or worse. Catholics that left the country,
however, were not safe for the ever-watchful eyes of England’s spies.
Alford’s book gave in detail a number of entertaining
and well-documented accounts of how England’s spies went about procuring their
information, and how these spies give evidence against men they had lived with
,worked for, and befriended. The book also described the Throckmorton Plot to overthrow
Elizabeth, and place Catholic Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.
I highly recommend this book to anyone
interested in Elizabethan or Tudor history, or those interested in reading
about the lucrative business of information-gathering. Alford's "The
Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I" was a well-written
and thoroughly researched book that I found very entertaining and informative.