Heart of darkness: from the time-honoured barbarity of the Tudors in Ireland to Islamic State

The leader of a small military force – perhaps 500 strong – is determined to subdue a province, and to do so quickly. Terror is his explicit policy. Every inroad he makes into enemy territory is followed by indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. Every man, woman and child is killed. Houses, churches, crops – everything is … Continue reading Heart of darkness: from the time-honoured barbarity of the Tudors in Ireland to Islamic State

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Divided Souls – a review of God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England by Jessie Childs

The daily lives of catholics in England under Elizabeth I and James I have long been neglected by historians. True, much as been written about the various attempts against Elizabeth during her reign – most obviously the Babington ‘complotment’ which resulted in the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots – and, of course, the Gunpowder … Continue reading Divided Souls – a review of God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England by Jessie Childs

Richard Topcliffe: the Queen’s torturer

There is no known portrait of Richard Topcliffe, the man most associated with the torture and persecution of Catholics in Elizabethan England. In some respects that is as it should be: those who break human bodies on behalf of the state are usually anonymous, ordinary figures, extraordinary only in the apparent disjunction between their personal … Continue reading Richard Topcliffe: the Queen’s torturer

Richard Topcliffe and the capture and torture of Robert Southwell

The capture and torture of Southwell is a perfect example of Topcliffe’s full-service approach to persecution: it was his own handiwork through and through, and took extensive planning and thought. Southwell, a Norfolk man, had left England for the Catholic English College at Douai in the summer of 1576. He was not yet 15. Two … Continue reading Richard Topcliffe and the capture and torture of Robert Southwell

The persecution of Edward Rookwood: a Catholic victim of Elizabethan state power

There was politics behind the choice of East Anglia for Elizabeth’s summer progress in 1578. During the course of the summer, Elizabeth stayed twice with Philip Howard, Earl of Surrey – heir of the foolish traitor Thomas Howard, fourth duke of Norfolk – just turned 21 that June. Kenninghall, Norkolk's great palace, had been shuttered … Continue reading The persecution of Edward Rookwood: a Catholic victim of Elizabethan state power