|Died||13 July 1705 55) (aged|
|Known for||Fabricating the Popish Plot|
|Years of service||1675–76|
Titus Oates (15 September 1649 – 12/13 July 1705) was an English priest who fabricated the "Popish Plot", a supposed Catholic conspiracy to kill King Charles II.
Titus Oates was born at Oakham in Rutland. His father Samuel (1610–1683), of a family of Norwich ribbon-weavers, : 5 rejoining the established church at the Restoration, and was rector of All Saints' Church at Hastings (1666–74). : 3was a graduate of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and became a minister who moved between the Church of England (sometime rector of Marsham, Norfolk) and the Baptists; he became a Baptist during the English Civil War,
Oates was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and other schools. At Cambridge University, he entered Gonville and Caius College in 1667 but transferred to St John's College in 1669; : 5 At Cambridge, he also gained a reputation for homosexuality and a "Canting Fanatical way".he left later the same year without a degree. A less than astute student, he was regarded by his tutor as "a great dunce", although he did have a good memory.
By falsely claiming to have a degree, he gained a licence to preach from the Bishop of London. Adventure in the Royal Navy. : 54–55 Oates visited English Tangier with his ship, but was accused of buggery, which was a capital offence, and spared only because of his clerical status. : 54–55 He was dismissed from the Navy in 1676.On 29 May 1670 he was ordained as a priest of the Church of England. He was vicar of the parish of Bobbing in Kent, 1673–74, and then curate to his father at All Saints', Hastings. During this time Oates accused a schoolmaster in Hastings of sodomy with one of his pupils, hoping to get the schoolmaster's post. However, the charge was shown to be false and Oates himself was soon facing charges of perjury, but he escaped jail and fled to London. In 1675 he was appointed as a chaplain of the ship HMS
In August 1676, Oates was arrested in London and returned to Hastings to face trial for his outstanding perjury charges, but he escaped a second time and returned to London.With the help of the actor Matthew Medbourne he joined the household of the Catholic Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk as an Anglican chaplain to those members of Howard's household who were Protestants. Although Oates was admired for his preaching, he soon lost this position.
On Ash Wednesday in 1677 Oates was received into the Catholic Church.Oddly, at the same time he agreed to co-author a series of anti-Catholic pamphlets with Israel Tonge, whom he had met through his father Samuel, who had once more reverted to the Baptist doctrine.
He is described by John Dryden in Absalom and Achitophel (published 1681) thus— : 7
Sunk were his eyes, his voice was harsh and loud,
Sure signs he neither choleric was nor proud:
His long chin proved his wit, his saint-like grace
A church vermilion and a Moses' face.
Oates was involved with the Jesuit houses of St Omer in France and the Royal English College at Valladolid in Spain. He was admitted to the training course for the priesthood in Valladolid through the support of Richard Strange, head of the English Province, despite a lack of basic competence in Latin : 58and later claimed, falsely, that he had become a Catholic Doctor of Divinity. His ignorance of Latin was quickly exposed, and his frequently blasphemous conversation, and his attacks on the British monarchy, shocked both his teachers and the other students. Thomas Whitbread, the new Provincial, took a much firmer line with Oates than had Strange and, in June 1678, expelled him from St Omer.
When he returned to London, he rekindled his friendship with Israel Tonge. Oates claimed that he had pretended to become a Catholic to learn about the secrets of the Jesuits and that, before leaving, he had heard about a planned Jesuit meeting in London.
Oates and Tonge wrote a lengthy manuscript that accused the Catholic Church authorities in England of approving the assassination of Charles II. The Jesuits were supposed to carry out the task. In August 1678, King Charles was warned of this alleged plot against his life by the chemist Christopher Kirkby, and later by Tonge. Charles was unimpressed, but handed the matter over to one of his ministers, Thomas Osborne, Earl of Danby; Danby was more willing to listen and was introduced to Oates by Tonge.
The King's Privy Council questioned Oates. On 28 September, Oates made 43 allegations against various members of Catholic religious orders—including 541 Jesuits—and numerous Catholic nobles. He accused Sir George Wakeman, Queen Catherine of Braganza's doctor, and Edward Colman, the secretary to Mary of Modena, Duchess of York, of planning to assassinate Charles.
Although Oates may have selected the names randomly, or with the help of the Earl of Danby, Colman was found to have corresponded with a French Jesuit, Father Ferrier, who was confessor to Louis XIV, which was enough to condemn him. Wakeman was later acquitted. Despite Oates' unsavoury reputation, his confident performance and superb memory made a surprisingly good impression on the council. When he named "at a glance" the alleged authors of five letters supposedly written by leading Jesuits, the council were "amazed". As Kenyon remarks, it is surprising that it did not occur to the Council that this was useless as evidence if Oates had written all the letters himself. : 79
Others whom Oates accused included William Fogarty, Archbishop Peter Talbot of Dublin, Samuel Pepys MP, and John Belasyse, 1st Baron Belasyse. With the help of Danby, the list grew to 81 accusations. Oates was given a squad of soldiers and he began to round up Jesuits, including those who had helped him in the past.
On 6 September 1678, Oates and Tonge approached an Anglican magistrate, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, and swore an affidavit before him detailing their accusations. On 12 October, Godfrey disappeared, and five days later his dead body was found in a ditch at Primrose Hill; he had been strangled and run through with his own sword. Oates subsequently exploited this incident to launch a public campaign against the "Papists" and alleged that the murder of Godfrey had been the work of the Jesuits.
On 24 November 1678, Oates claimed the Queen was working with the King's physician to poison the King. Oates enlisted the aid of "Captain" William Bedloe, who was ready to say anything for money. The King personally interrogated Oates and caught him out in a number of inaccuracies and lies. In particular, Oates unwisely claimed to have had an interview with the Regent of Spain, Don John, in Madrid: the King, who had met Don John at Brussels during his Continental exile, pointed out that Oates' hopelessly inaccurate description of his appearance made it clear that he had never seen him. The King ordered his arrest. However, a few days later, with the threat of a constitutional crisis, Parliament forced the release of Oates, who soon received a state apartment in Whitehall and an annual allowance of £1,200.
Oates was heaped with praise. He asked the College of Arms to check his lineage and produce a coat of arms for him and subsequently received the arms of a family that had died out. Rumours surfaced that Oates was to be married to a daughter of Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury.
After nearly three years and the execution of at least 15 innocent men, opinion began to turn against Oates. The last high-profile victim of the climate of suspicion was Oliver Plunkett, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, who was hanged, drawn and quartered on 1 July 1681. William Scroggs, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, began to declare more people innocent, as he had done in the Wakeman trial, and a backlash against Oates and his Whig supporters took place.
On 31 August 1681, Oates was told to leave his apartments in Whitehall, but he remained undeterred and even denounced the King and his Catholic brother, the Duke of York. He was arrested for sedition, sentenced to a fine of £100,000 and imprisoned.
When the Duke of York acceded to the throne in 1685 as James II, he had Oates retried, convicted and sentenced for perjury, stripped of clerical dress, imprisoned for life, and to be "whipped through the streets of London five days a year for the remainder of his life".Oates was taken from his cell wearing a hat with the text "Titus Oates, convicted upon full evidence of two horrid perjuries" and put into the pillory at the gate of Westminster Hall (now New Palace Yard), where passers-by pelted him with eggs. The next day he was pilloried in London and the third day was stripped, tied to a cart, and whipped from Aldgate to Newgate. On the next day, he was whipped from Newgate to Tyburn.
The presiding judge at his trial was Judge Jeffreys, who stated that Oates was a "shame to mankind", despite the fact he himself had helped to condemn innocent people on Oates' perjured evidence. Jeffreys recognised that evidence admitted in the second perjury trial had not been believed in a previous trial when sworn in contradiction to Oates's own evidence, and regretted that evidence now freshly presented had not been available, particularly at the trials of Ireland and of the five Jesuits (at the latter of which he presided) as, "it might have saved some innocent blood".So severe were the penalties imposed on Oates that it has been suggested by among others Thomas Babington Macaulay that the aim was to kill him by ill-treatment, as Jeffreys and his fellow judges openly regretted that they could not impose the death penalty in a case of perjury.
Oates spent the next three years in prison. In 1689, upon the accession of the Protestant William of Orange and Mary, he was pardoned and granted a pension of £260 a year, but his reputation did not recover. The pension was later suspended, but in 1698 was restored and increased to £300 a year. Oates died on 12 or 13 July 1705, by then an obscure and largely forgotten figure.
Francis Barlow made a comic strip about the Popish Plot and Oates in c. 1682 named A True Narrative of the Horrid Hellish Popish Plot , which is generally considered the earliest example of a signed balloon comic strip.
Oates was played by Nicholas Smith in the 1969 BBC TV serial The First Churchills . In Charles II: The Power and The Passion (2003), Eddie Marsan played Oates.
The Popish Plot was a fictitious conspiracy invented by Titus Oates that between 1678 and 1681 gripped the kingdoms of England and Scotland in anti-Catholic hysteria. Oates alleged that there was an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the executions of at least 22 men and precipitated the Exclusion Bill Crisis. During this tumultuous period, Oates weaved an intricate web of accusations, fueling public fears and paranoia. However, as time went on, the lack of substantial evidence and inconsistencies in Oates's testimony began to unravel the plot. Eventually, Oates himself was arrested and convicted for perjury, exposing the fabricated nature of the conspiracy.
Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey was an English magistrate whose mysterious death caused anti-Catholic uproar in England. Contemporary documents also spell the name Edmundbury Godfrey.
Sir William Scroggs was Lord Chief Justice of England from 1678 to 1681. He is best remembered for presiding over the Popish Plot trials, where he was accused of showing bias against the accused.
William Bedloe was an English fraudster and Popish Plot informer.
William Ireland was an English Jesuit and martyr from Lincolnshire. He was falsely accused of conspiring to murder King Charles II during the Popish Plot hysteria, and was executed on 24 January 1679. He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI and his feast day is celebrated on 24 January, the day of his death.
Sir George Wakeman was an English doctor, who was royal physician to Catherine of Braganza, Consort of Charles II of England. In 1678, in the allegations of the fabricated Popish Plot, he was falsely accused of treason by Titus Oates, who had gained the backing of Thomas Osborne, 1st Earl of Danby, the effective head of the English government. Oates accused Wakeman of conspiring to kill the King with the help of the Jesuits, and to put his brother James, Duke of York on the throne in his place. At his trial in 1679 Wakeman was acquitted, the first sign that the public was beginning to lose faith in the reality of the Plot.
Thomas Pickering was a Benedictine lay brother who served in England during the time of recusancy in the late seventeenth century. He was martyred as a result of the fraudulent claims of Titus Oates that he was part of a plot to murder King Charles II.
Israel Tonge, aka Ezerel or Ezreel Tongue, was an English divine. He was an informer in and probably one of the inventors of the "Popish" plot.
David Lewis, S.J. was a Jesuit Catholic priest and martyr who was also known as Charles Baker. Lewis was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales and is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church. His feast day is celebrated on 27 August.
Miles Prance was an English Roman Catholic craftsman who was caught up in and perjured himself during the Popish Plot and the resulting anti-Catholic hysteria in London during the reign of Charles II.
Maurus Corker was an English Benedictine who was falsely accused and imprisoned as a result of the fabricated Popish Plot, but was acquitted of treason and eventually released.
Richard Langhorne was an English barrister and Catholic martyr, who was executed on a false charge of treason as part of the fabricated Popish Plot. He fell under suspicion because he was a Roman Catholic and because he had acted as legal adviser to the Jesuits at a time of acute anti-Catholic hysteria.
Edward Colman or Coleman was an English Catholic courtier under Charles II of England. He was hanged, drawn and quartered on a treason charge, having been implicated by Titus Oates in his false accusations concerning a Popish Plot. He is a Catholic martyr, beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.
Thomas Whitbread was an English Jesuit missionary and martyr, wrongly convicted of conspiracy to murder Charles II of England and hanged during the Popish Plot. He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI and his feast day is celebrated on 20 June.
William Barrow was an English Jesuit, executed as a result of the fictitious so-called Popish Plot, that between 1678 and 1681 gripped the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in anti-Catholic hysteria. Barrow is regarded as a martyr of the Roman Catholic church and was beatified in 1929.
Stephen College (c.1635–1681) was an English joiner, activist Protestant, and supporter of the perjury underlying the fabricated Popish Plot. He was tried and executed for high treason, on somewhat dubious evidence, in 1681.
Stephen Dugdale (1640?-1683) was an English informer, and self-proclaimed discoverer of parts of the Popish Plot. He perjured himself on numerous occasions, giving false testimony which led to the conviction and execution of numerous innocent men, notably the Catholic nobleman Lord Stafford, the Jesuit Provincial Thomas Whitbread, and the prominent barrister Richard Langhorne.
John Fenwick, real surname Caldwell was an English Jesuit, executed at the time of the fabricated Popish Plot. He is a Catholic martyr, beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.
John Gavan was an English Jesuit. He was a victim of the fabricated Popish Plot, and was wrongfully executed for conspiracy to murder King Charles II. He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.
Anthony Turner was an English Jesuit priest and martyr. He was a victim of the Popish Plot, and was falsely convicted and executed for conspiracy to murder Charles II. He was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI and his feast day is 20 June.