The Atterbury Plot was a conspiracy led by Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster, aimed at the restoration of the House of Stuart to the throne of Great Britain. It came some years after the unsuccessful Jacobite Rising of 1715, at a time when the Whig government of the new Hanoverian king was deeply unpopular.
Apart from Atterbury, other conspirators included Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, Lord North and Grey, Sir Henry Goring, Christopher Layer, John Plunket, and George Kelly.
The Plot was later considered the greatest threat to the Hanoverians between the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745.It collapsed in 1722, when some of the conspirators were charged with treason. However, evidence was in short supply, and Atterbury himself escaped with removal from his Church of England positions and exile.
Atterbury was a Tory and a leader of the High Church party in the Church of England. In 1710, the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell led to an explosion of High Church fanaticism, and Atterbury helped Sacheverell with his defence, then became an active pamphleteer against the Whig ministry. When the ministry changed, rewards came to him. Queen Anne chose him as her chief adviser in church matters, and in August 1711 she appointed him Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, a strongly Tory college. In 1713 he was promoted to become Bishop of Rochester and Dean of Westminster Abbey, and if the Tories had remained in power he might have risen much higher, so he dreaded the Hanoverian accession planned by the Act of Settlement of 1701. The death of Queen Anne in 1714 was a setback for him. He took the oath of allegiance to George I, but he became an opponent of the new government. He was in indirect communication with the family of the Pretender, and when the Jacobite Rising of 1715 appeared, he refused to sign a declaration in which other bishops attached themselves to the Protestant accession. In 1717 hundreds of Jacobites arrested at the time of the Rising were released from prison by the Act of Grace and Pardon, and Atterbury began to correspond directly with James Francis Edward Stuart. He was later accused of plotting a coup d'état which involved the capture of the Hanoverian royal family and the proclamation of the Pretender as James III.
Events of 1720, notably the Bubble Act and the collapse of the South Sea Company, left the pro-Hanoverian Whig government in disarray and deeply unpopular with the many ruling class investors who had lost heavily. Atterbury seized the moment to conspire with the exiled John Erskine, who at the Jacobite court was the Duke of Mar, and who had been the Pretender's Secretary of State.
The aim of the conspirators was a new Jacobite rising, to coincide with the general election expected in 1722, this date being foreseen because by the Septennial Act of 1716 parliament was enabled to sit for seven years after the election of 1715.
Sir Henry Goring, who was himself standing (unsuccessfully as turned out) in the election as MP for his old seat of Steyning in Sussex, wrote to the Pretender on 20 March 1721 a letter in which he put forward a plan for a restoration of the Stuart monarchy with the assistance of an invasion by Irish exile troops commanded by the Duke of Ormonde from Spain and Lieutenant-General Dillon from France.
Christopher Layer, a barrister of the Middle Temple and an agent and legal advisor to the "notorious Jacobite" Lord North and Grey,met some fellow plotters regularly at an inn in Stratford-le-Bow, and by the summer of 1721 had succeeded in recruiting some soldiers at Romford and Leytonstone. He then travelled to Rome, where he met the Pretender to reveal the details of a plot. Layer stated that he represented a large number of influential Jacobites, who proposed to recruit old soldiers to seize the Tower of London, the Bank of England, the Royal Mint, and other government buildings in Westminster and the City of London, to capture the Hanoverian royal family, and to kill other key men. English Tories were to summon their men, secure their counties, and march on London, while volunteers from the Irish Brigade of the French Army were to land in England to join them. Layer returned to London with assurances of royal favour from the Pretender.
The plot collapsed in England in the spring of 1722, at the time of the death of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, who a year before had been forced to resign as First Lord of the Treasury. He died on 19 April, when the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, made it known to Carteret, Robert Walpole's Secretary of State for the Southern Department, that the Jacobites had asked him to send three thousand men in support of a coup d'état to take place early in May. The French said they had refused permission for the Duke of Ormonde to march a force across France to a channel port and they had also moved their Irish Brigade away from Dunkirk.Sunderland's papers were seized, and a letter of thanks addressed to him by the Pretender came to light.
In England, insufficient money had been collected by the Jacobites to provide enough arms to support a rising, leading Mar (writing in March 1722) to comment on hearing this that Goring, "though a honest, stout, man, had not showed himself very fit for things of this kind."
Walpole's agents began the search for evidence against the leading suspects of Jacobitism, but they found little. Despite this, Walpole gave orders for several men to be arrested: Arran, Strafford, Orrery, North and Grey, Goring, Atterbury, the Duke of Mar's agent George Kelly, and Christopher Layer. Atterbury, who had long been an opponent of Walpole, was named as a conspirator by Mar and was arrested on 24 August 1722, to be charged with treason.He and Orrery were imprisoned in the Tower of London. On 17 October the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended.
Goring, meanwhile, avoided arrest and had fled the country on 23 August; he remained in France until his death in 1731. In his absence, at a trial where he was considered one of the major managers of the plot, his agent stated Goring had attempted to enlist a gang of one thousand brandy smugglers to assist the projected invasion. This led to some government action against such smuggling.
Layer was arrested and lodged with Atterbury in the Tower, his clerks were placed under surveillance, and his wife was arrested and brought to London from Dover. He was less fortunate than most of the others arrested, as two women agreed to give evidence against him. His case was first heard at the Court of King's Bench on 31 October 1722, and a trial began on 21 November before the Lord Chief Justice, John Pratt. Among compromising papers found in the possession of Elizabeth Mason, a brothel-keeper, was one entitled Scheme, said to be in Layer's hand, which outlined a proposed insurrection. The Court was interested to have evidence that the Pretender and his wife had acted as godparents to Layer's daughter, when they were represented at a christening in Chelsea by the proxies Lord North and Grey and the Duchess of Ormonde.After a trial lasting eighteen hours, the jury unanimously found Layer guilty of high treason. On 27 November 1722, he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, but execution was several times delayed, in the hope of his giving information against others, which he refused to do. He was eventually executed at Tyburn on 17 May 1723.
Atterbury's correspondence with the Jacobites in exile which could be found proved to have been so cautious that it was not judged to be enough to lead to his conviction. He was therefore the target of a Pains and Penalties Bill, with the aim of removing him from his church positions, banishing him for life, and forbidding British subjects to communicate with him, by the decision of parliament rather than through prosecution in a court.The evidence offered to parliament consisted chiefly of a spaniel named Harlequin, a present from the Pretender, and some letters found in a lavatory, leading to suspicions that Atterbury was the victim of a Whig conspiracy. However, in May 1723 the Pains and Penalties Bill aimed at him was approved by the Commons and by the Lords, where the voting was eighty-three votes for and forty-three against, being finally enacted on 15 May, two days before the execution of Layer. On 18 June, Atterbury went into exile in France. Orrery remained in the Tower for six months, after which he was given bail. There was insufficient evidence to proceed against him.
Among the other conspirators, John Plunkett and George Kelly were also arrested and were punished by being deprived of their estates.Lord Stafford was suspected, but no action was taken against him, and he continued to play some part in public affairs. Lord North and Grey was known to be involved, but those who could have implicated him refused to do so.
In January 1723, a secret parliamentary committee was established to investigate the Plot, and this reported in March of the same year. The Papists Act 1722 required landowners to take oaths of allegiance by Christmas Day, 1723; those who would not do so were obliged to register their estates and risked forfeiting them.
George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 and ruler of the Duchy and Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire from 23 January 1698 until his death in 1727. He was the first British monarch of the House of Hanover.
Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford,, known between 1721 and 1742 as Sir Robert Walpole, was a British politician who is generally regarded as the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Francis Atterbury was an English man of letters, politician and bishop. A High Church Tory and Jacobite, he gained patronage under Queen Anne, but was mistrusted by the Hanoverian Whig ministries, and banished for communicating with the Old Pretender. He was a noted wit and a gifted preacher.
The Tories were a political faction and then a political party in the parliaments of England, Scotland, Great Britain, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Between the 1680s and 1850s, the Tories contested power with their rivals, the Whigs.
The Black Act 1723 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain passed in 1723 in response to a series of raids by two groups of poachers, known as the Blacks. It was expanded over the years. It greatly strengthened the criminal code. It specified over 200 capital crimes, many with intensified punishment. Arson, for example, was expanded to include burning or the threat of burning haystacks. The legal rights of defendants were strictly limited. For example, suspects who refused to surrender within 40 days could be summarily judged guilty and sentenced to execution if apprehended. Local villages were punished if they failed to find, prosecute and convict alleged criminals.
Philip Wharton, 1st Duke of Wharton was a powerful Jacobite politician, was one of the few people in English history, and the first since the 15th century, to have been raised to a Dukedom whilst still a minor and not closely related to the monarch.
Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal was an English peer and politician. He was the first son of Lord Thomas Howard and Mary Elizabeth Savile. Upon the death of his uncle Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk, he inherited the titles of 17th Baron Furnivall and 8th Duke of Norfolk. He married Maria Shireburn, daughter of Sir Nicholas Shireburn, 1st and last Bt., of Stonyhurst Hall, on 26 May 1709, when she was age 16 and a half, with a fortune of more than £30,000.
John Erskine, Earl of Mar, KT was a Scottish Jacobite who was the eldest son of Charles, Earl of Mar, from whom he inherited estates that were heavily loaded with debt. He was the 23rd Earl of Mar in the first creation of the earldom. He was also the sixth earl in the seventh creation .. He was nicknamed "Bobbing John", for his tendency to shift back and forth from faction to faction, whether from Tory to Whig or Hanoverian to Jacobite. Deprived of office by the new king in 1714, Mar raised the standard of rebellion against the Hanoverians; at the battle of Sheriffmuir in November 1715, Mar's forces outnumbered those of his opponent, but victory eluded him. At Fetteresso his cause was lost, and Mar fled to France, where he would spend the remainder of his life. The parliament passed a Writ of Attainder for treason against Mar in 1716 as punishment for his disloyalty, which was not lifted until 1824. He died in 1732.
The 1722 British general election elected members to serve in the House of Commons of the 6th Parliament of Great Britain. This was the fifth such election since the merger of the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. Thanks to the Septennial Act of 1715, which swept away the maximum three-year life of a parliament created by the Meeting of Parliament Act 1694, it followed some seven years after the previous election, that of 1715.
James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater was an English Jacobite, executed for treason.
Events from the year 1722 in Great Britain.
The Taxation Act 1722 was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain passed in response to the Jacobite risings and the Atterbury Plot. The Taxation Act, with the Oaths Act, is known collectively as the Papists Act 1722.
The Jacobite rising of 1715 was the attempt by James Francis Edward Stuart to regain the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland for the exiled House of Stuart.
Christopher Layer (1683–1723) was an English Jacobite conspirator, executed for high treason in 1723 for his part in what became known as the Atterbury Plot.
William North, 6th Baron North and 2nd Baron Grey, known as Lord North and Grey, was an English soldier and Jacobite, and a peer for more than forty years. He had the right to sit in the House of Lords between 1698 and 1734, although he spent the last twelve years of his life overseas.
In the spring and summer of 1715 a series of riots occurred in England in which High Church mobs attacked over forty Dissenting meeting-houses. The rioters also protested against the first Hanoverian king of Britain, George I and his new Whig government. The riots occurred on symbolic days: 28 May was George I's birthday, 29 May was the anniversary of Charles II's Restoration and 10 June was the birthday of the Jacobite Pretender, James Francis Edward Stuart.
Sir Henry Goring, 4th Baronet, of Highden, Washington, Sussex, one of the Goring baronets of Highden, was an English politician who had a part in the Jacobite Atterbury Plot of 1721.
The 5th Parliament of Great Britain was summoned by George I of Great Britain on 17 January 1715 and assembled on the 17 March 1715. When it was dissolved on 10 March 1722 it had been the first Parliament to be held under the Septennial Act of 1716.
Sir John Shaw, 3rd Baronet of Greenock was a Scottish Whig politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1708 and 1734. He was instrumental in the construction of Greenock Harbour, and took part in actions against the Jacobite risings.
John Plunket (1664–1738), was an Irish Jacobite, a key player in the Atterbury Plot of the 1720s aimed at restoring the House of Stuart to the throne of Great Britain. He sometimes used the alias of John Rogers.