Recusant, by Alfred J. Dillon
Date: 18th Feb 2016
Publisher: Dynasty Press Ltd
Recusant is the riches-to-rags story of a long-standing, loyal English family who lost their position as landed gentry and fell into obscurity. The violent, brutal separation of England from the Roman Catholic faith under King Henry VIII is well-documented in English history. Much less well-known is how far Henry's daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, was willing to go to repress those who refused to attend services of the Church of England. Such individuals were known as recusants, for they refused to accept or obey the authority of Henry's newly established religion.
The Rookwoods were an ancient Saxon family with established estates and manor houses who had converted to Roman Catholicism and married into prominent families in East Anglia. They served their monarchs well, and defended England during periodic conflicts with her European neighbors. During the Tudor and Stuart reigns, after a thousand years of prosperity and loyalty to the Crown, recusancy destroyed the Rookwoods and they fell into ruin. Edward Rookwood was imprisoned by Elizabeth I on charges of forbidden worship, his property was confiscated by the Crown. His cousin Ambrose became involved in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and by the early 1600s all the major branches of the Rookwood family in England had lost their status.
Recusant explores the intimate ties between the Rookwoods and two other prominent Catholic families, the Brownes and the Tyrwhitts, who shared the fate of poverty, imprisonment, and ostracism. Many families had the misfortune of being caught up in the political warfare between Elizabeth I and her sister Mary and it led to the downfall of an entire class of individuals.
Recusant continues the story of the Rookwoods by briefly tracing the journey of Edward's Puritan grandson, who migrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and become the progenitor of thousands of Rookwood descendants, the Rockwoods of North America.
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