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Jeremy Blackshaw is the central character of the novel. He was born in Stoke Lacy, the Blackshaws’ family estate, in the county of Shropshire in 1627. The early death of his mother, when he was only a child, kindled in him the desire to become a doctor. Even though his father was a member of the landed gentry, as a Catholic in Protestant England he had to pay heavy fines and therefore was not wealthy enough to pay for his son’s studies at a university on the Continent.
So Jeremy was apprenticed to a barber-surgeon in Worcester and served as a field surgeon in the King‘s army during the Civil War. After the execution of King Charles I he went into exile and studied medicine at the University of Padua. In view of the inadequacy of the medicine of his time, especially with regard to dangerous diseases, he believed that he could do more good as a priest and so went to Rome to join the Society of Jesus.
After some years of missionary work in India Jeremy was finally sent on the English mission. As Catholic priests are by law forbidden to enter the country, Jeremy works under the alias of Fauconer to save his family from reprisals.
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