Alford, Stephen


An account of the unflagging battle by spies, codebreakers, ambassadors and confidence-men to protect Queen Elizabeth I. It was a reign that required endless watchfulness – of the coasts, of the Catholic seminaries, of Elizabeth’s own subjects.

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The acclaimed and enthralling story of the dark side of Elizabethan rule, from Stephen Alford

Elizabeth I’s reign is known as a golden age, yet to much of Europe she was a ‘Jezebel’ and heretic who had to be destroyed. The Watchers is a thrilling portrayal of the secret state that sought to protect the Queen; a shadow world of spies, codebreakers, agent provocateurs and confidence-men who would stop at nothing to defend the realm.


‘Forget Le Carré, Deighton and the rest – this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction’ Daily Telegraph

‘Absorbing and closely documented … Alford vividly evokes this murky world of codes, ciphers, invisible ink, intercepted letters, aliases, disguises, forgeries and instructions to burn after reading … flowing narrative [and] crisp judments … engrossing’ Guardian

‘[Alford] has brought a dash of le Carré to the 16th century’ The Times (Book of the Week)

‘A vivid and staggeringly well-researched portrait of the sinister side of Elizabethan England … This is a spectacular book. It sheds new light on plots that most historians have ceased to explore and brings less famous conspiracies to the attention of the general reading public’ Herald

‘Fascinating … If you want to know the inside story of this struggle, the dark heart of calculation and the fight for survival, then this is the book to read. I know no better’ Spectator

About the author:

Stephen Alford is the author of the acclaimed biography Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He taught for fifteen years at Cambridge University, where he was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of History and a Fellow of King’s College. He is now Professor of Early Modern British History in the University of Leeds.

Additional information

Weight 322 g
Dimensions 201 × 133 × 25 mm






xvii, 397 , 8 unnumbered of plates




942.055 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K