I really enjoyed this book. I am currently working on my first non-fiction book about Elizabethan Rebellions, so this was a really interesting fictional account of the Babington plot which led to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots the following year. This is the fifth in a series of books revolving around Giordano Bruno.
Giordano Bruno as a character was intriguing and keeps being so throughout each book in the series. He is complex, with different strands like his religious history, academic studies, and his spy and undercover work. Bruno was a real person who was in England spying for Francis Walsingham, although the exact nature of his assignments doesn’t seem to be known, and it look as though he left England in 1585 so couldn’t have been involved in the Babington plot in 1586.
A bit of historical license is OK, and Bruno is such an interesting character that I can imagine he would have been involved in the Babington conspiracy if given the opportunity. The conspiracy was the interesting bit for me and the relationships between those involved in the conspiracy – Babington, Titch, Ballard, and Savage. In historical sources we don’t see these relationships so that was what drew my attention.
Those who know the history will know how it ends and the basics of the progression of the plot, but Parris manages to hold you on the edge of your seat anyway, weaving the real history through with fictional sub-plots which blend in seamlessly to the rest of the story. The reason I didn’t give it five stars is because I found the beginning quite slow and hard going. It didn’t seem necessary to spin it out for so long.
I’ve always enjoyed reading this series because of the interactions between the characters and their involvement in various conspiracies. Whether there will be further books in the series, I don’t know, but there are several unresolved issues, so I really hope so!
Witch-hunts were irrevocably tied in to the Reformation. Both Catholic and Protestant countries had cases, but they increased in number during the pivotal period of the Reformation. This was the second half of the sixteenth century. James Sharpe claimed that witchcraft operated ‘within the context of the reformation and counter-reformation’.[i] Witchcraft did not become a major factor in people’s lives until the Reformation, and it died out as the religious situation across Europe settled down and stabilised. In England, for example, the last person executed for witchcraft was Jane Wenham in 1712.[ii] This was a time when England was settled and unified with Scotland. It was probably the most peaceful time to be English.
In some Catholic countries, like Italy, Spain and Portugal, there were actually relatively few witch trials. However, Pope Sixtus IV still felt that the danger was enough to warrant him approving an Inquisition to deal with them.[iii] However, Pope Alexander IV explicitly stopped an Inquisition from dealing with witches as early as 1258. This was possibly because the Church still had its power, whereas in the later period that power was slowly slipping away. The Inquisition, although originally allowed to deal with Jews and Moors in Spain, widened out to include heresy like Protestants, and then witches. Continue reading “Witchcraft and the Reformation”→
How do Historians Account for the Comparative Differences in Witch Hunting and the Witchcraze Throughout Europe?
The witchcraze was a period in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries where so-called ‘witches’ were hunted and punished for practising witchcraft. This belief in witchcraft was most noticeable in Scotland and continental Europe as this is where the majority of accusations took place. This essay will look at several different areas of witchcraft and the witchcraze, including where beliefs did and did not take hold, the proportion of men and women who were accused, the influence of the Protestant Reformation and the prosecution of witches across Europe. Historians tend to agree that the witchcraze took off in Protestant areas more than Catholic areas, and also that it was largely female-identified. Historians also agree that there were different punishments for witchcraft in different countries, with some being stricter than others. However, there are some problems in analysing the differences in the witchcraze in different countries because for some countries it is difficult to access the trial records and historians do not even agree on the number of people who were executed as witches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at the height of the witchcraze.
The witchcraze had more of an effect in some countries than others but the questions that were asked to accused witches by the interrogators and the authorities were often given the same or very similar answers all across the globe, and it was this which first gave rise to the idea that the witchcraze was an ‘international conspiracy’.Continue reading “Witchcraft in the 16th and 17th Centuries”→
Germany – monk, priest, reformer, author & professor of theology
Rejected five of the seven sacraments – sale of indulgences, confession, pilgrimages, prayers to Saints and the Catholic Mass.
Salvation achieved through faith not good works.
Transubstantiation – real body and blood of Christ.
Denied Papal authority.
Importance of the Scriptures.
Bible should be in the vernacular.
For clerical marriage.
Works:- * Ninety-Five Theses (1517) * Appeal to the German Nobility (1520) * Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520) * Freedom of a Christian (1520) * On Secular Authority (1523) * Bondage of the Will (1525) * Small and Large Catechisms (1529) Continue reading “Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrich Zwingli & John Knox”→
1542 – James V dies and is succeeded by his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots.
James V dies and his successor is his first daughter, Mary, who becomes Mary Queen of Scots. The Stuarts were known for being Catholics, and that is partially why Henry VIII didn’t wish for the succession to pass to the children of his sister Margaret (the mother of James V). Mary was only a year old when she succeeded to the throne and at one point there were plans to marry her to the future Edward VI of England.
1543 – Knox converts to Protestantism.
1545 – Knox becomes an associate and bodyguard to George Wishart.
1510 – Luther is sent to Rome on monastic business and sees the corruption of the Church.
1517 – Luther posts his 95 theses on a church door in Wittenburg in Germany, formally beginning the Protestant Reformation in Europe:-
The disputation protests against clerical abuses like pluralism, absenteeism, baptism and the sale of indulgences (the idea that people could buy a place in heaven for their souls, and to forgive their sins).
1518 – Luther defends his beliefs in front of Augustinians, and refuses to recant. Frederick the Wise protects him from being handed over to Rome.
1519 – Luther debates papal infallibility and begins a New Testament sermon series.
1499 – War between the Swabian League and the Swiss Cantons and a Swiss victory forces the Treaty of Basel, granting Swiss independence:-
The Treaty of Basel was an armistice to end the war between Switzerland and the Swabian League, which was a peace-keeping Imperial organisation. The war had lasted nine months and the Emperor Maximilian I was forced to sign a treaty due to an unprecedented Swiss victory.
1509 – John Calvin is born in Noyon, France.
1513 – Peasant and labour rebellions spread outwards from Switzerland.