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Royalty Restored or London under Charles II. by J. Fitzgerald Molloy

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the French monarch had instructed this accomplished woman, who
was trusted in his councils, to accept the royal love, which it
was surmised would be proffered her; so that by the influence
which she would consequently obtain, she might hold him to the
promises he might make the Duchess of Orleans.

As had been anticipated, the king became enamoured of this
charming woman, who, before departing with the princess,
faithfully promised to return and become his mistress. In his
desire to possess her the merry monarch was upheld by his grace
of Buckingham, who, continuing in enmity with the Duchess of
Cleveland, resolved to prevent her regaining influence over the
king by adding the beautiful Frenchwoman to the number of his
mistresses. He therefore told Charles, in the sarcastic manner
it was occasionally his wont to use, "it was a decent piece of
tenderness for his sister to take care of some of her servants;"
whilst on being sent into France, he assured Louis "he could
never reckon himself sure of the king, but by giving him a
mistress that should be true to his interests." But neither king
required urging to a resolution on which both had separately
determined; and soon Mademoiselle Querouaille was ready for her
journey to England. A yacht was therefore sent to Dieppe to
convey her, and presently she was received at Whitehall by the
lord treasurer, and her arrival celebrated in verse by Dryden.
Moreover, that she might have apartments in the palace, the king
at once appointed her a maid of honour to her majesty, this being
the first of a series of favours she was subsequently to receive.
Evelyn, writing in the following October, says it was universally
reported a ceremonious espousal, devoid of the religious rite,
had taken place between his majesty and Mademoiselle Querouaille
at Lord Arlington's house at Euston. "I acknowledge," says this
trustworthy chronicler "she was for the most part in her undresse
all day, and that there was fondnesse and toying with that young
wanton; nay, 'twas said I was at the former ceremony, but 'tis
utterly false; I neither saw nor heard of any such thing whilst I
was there, tho' I had ben in her chamber, and all over that
apartment late enough, and was myself observing all passages with
much curiosity."

She now became a central figure in the brilliant court of the
merry monarch, being loved by the king, flattered by the wits,
and tolerated by the queen, to whom--unlike the Duchess of
Cleveland--she generally paid the greatest respect. Her card
tables were thronged by courtiers eager to squander large sums
for the honour of playing with the reigning sultana; her suppers
were attended by wits and gallants as merry and amorous as those
who had once crowded round my Lady Castlemaine in the zenith of
her power. No expense was too great for his majesty to lavish
upon her; no honour too high with which to reward her affection.
The authority just mentioned says her apartments at Whitehall
were luxuriously furnished "with ten times the richnesse and
glory beyond the Queene's; such massy pieces of plate, whole
tables and stands of incredible value." After a residence of
little more than three years at court she was raised by King
Charles to the peerage as Baroness of Petersfield, Countess of
Farnham, and Duchess of Portsmouth; whilst the French king, as a
mark of appreciation for the services she rendered France,
conferred upon her the Duchy of Aubigny, in the province of Berri
in France, to which he added the title and dignity of Duchess and
Peeress of France, with the revenues of the territory of Aubigny.
And two years later King Charles, prodigal of the honours he
conferred upon her, ennobled the son she had borne him in 1672.
The titles of the Duke of Richmond and Lennox having lately
reverted to the crown by the death of Frances Stuart's husband,
who was last of his line, the bastard son of the French mistress
was created Duke of Richmond and Earl of March in England, and
Duke of Lennox and Earl of Darnley in Scotland. To these proud
titles the present head of the noble house of Richmond and
Lennox--by virtue of the grant made by Louis XIV. to his
ancestress likewise adds that of Duc d'Aubigny in the peerage of

But though honoured by the king, and flattered by the court, the
Duchess of Portsmouth was far from enjoying uninterrupted
happiness; inasmuch as her peace was frequently disturbed by
jealousy. The principal cause of her uneasiness during the first
five years of her reign was the king's continued infatuation for
Nell Gwynn; now, by reason of the elevated position she enjoyed,
styled Madam Ellen. This "impudent comedian," as Evelyn calls
her, was treated by his majesty with, extreme indulgence and
royal liberality. In proof of the latter statement, it may be
mentioned that in less than four years from the date of her first
becoming his mistress, he had wantonly lavished sixty thousand
pounds upon her, as Burnet affirms. Moreover, he had purchased
as a town mansion for her "the first good house on the left-hand
side of St. James's Square, entering Pall Mall," now the site of
the Army and Navy Club; had given her likewise a residence
situated close by the Castle at Windsor; and a summer villa
located in what was then the charming village of Chelsea. To
such substantial gifts as these he added the honour of an
appointment at court: when the merry player was made one of the
ladies of the privy chamber to the queen. Samuel Pegg states
this fact, not generally known, and assures us he discovered it
"from the book in the lord chamberlain's office."

From her position as the king's mistress, Madam Ellen moved on
terms of perfect equality with the Duchess of Portsmouth's
friends--supping with my Lady Orrery, visiting my Lord Cavendish,
and establishing a friendship with the gay Duchess of Norfolk.
This was a source of deep vexation to the haughty Frenchwoman;
but Nell Gwynn's familiarity with the king was a cause of even
greater mortification. Sir George Etherege records in verse when
the monarch was "dumpish" Nell would "chuck the royal chin;" and
it is stated that, mindful of her former conquests over Charles
Hart and Charles Lord Buckley, it was her habit to playfully
style his majesty "Charles the Third." Her wilfulness, wit, and
beauty enabled her to maintain such a strong hold upon the king's
heart, that he shared his time equally between her and the
Duchess of Portsmouth. Indignant that a woman from the playhouse
should receive such evidences of the royal affection, her grace
lost no opportunity of insulting Nell, who responded by mimicry
and grimaces, which threw those who witnessed the comedy into
fits of laughter, and covered the wrathful duchess with

But though the light-hearted actress frequently treated disdain
with ridicule, she could occasionally analyze the respective
positions held by herself and the duchess with seriousness,
Madame de Sevigne tells us, Nell would reason in this manner:
"This duchess pretends to be a person of quality: she affirms
she is related to the best families in France, and when any
person of distinction dies she puts herself in mourning. If she
be a lady of such quality, why does she demean herself to be a
courtesan? She ought to die with shame. As for me, it is my
profession. I do not pretend to anything better. The king
entertains me, and I am constant to him at present. He has a son
by me; I contend that he ought to acknowledge him--and I am well
assured that he will, for he loves me as well as the duchess."

To have her son ennobled, and by this means raise him to an
equality with the offspring of her grace, became the desire of
Nell Gwynn's life. To her request that this favour might be
granted, the king had promised compliance from time to time, but
had as frequently postponed the fulfilment of his word. At last,
weary of beseeching him, she devised a speech which she trusted
might have the desired effect. Accordingly, when the monarch
came to see her one day, he found her in a pensive mood, playing
with her pretty boy; and the lad, being presently set upon his
feet, he promptly tottered down the room, whereon she cried out
to him, "Come here, you little bastard!" Hearing this word of
evil import applied to his son, the monarch begged she would not
use the expression, "I am sorry," said she regretfully, "but,
alas, I have no other name to give him! "His majesty took the
hint, and soon after bestowed on him that of Charles Beauclerk,
and created him Baron of Heddington, in Oxon, and Earl of Burford
in the same county; and finally, when he had reached the age of
ten years, raised him to the dignity of Duke of St. Albans.

After a reign of five years in the court of the merry monarch,
her Grace of Portsmouth was destined to encounter a far more
formidable rival than Nell Gwynn, in the person of the Duchess of
Mazarine. This lady, on her arrival in England in 1675,
possessed most of the charms which had rendered her notable in
youth. To the attraction they lent was added an interest arising
from her personal history, in which King Charles had once
figured, and to which fate had subsequently added many pages of

Hortensia Mancini, afterwards Duchess of Mazarine, was descendant
of a noble Roman family, and niece of the great Julius Mazarine,
cardinal of the church, and prime minister of France. Her
parents dying whilst she, her sister and brother were young, they
had been reared under the care of his eminence. According to the
memoirs of the duchess, the cardinal's peace must have frequently
been put to flight by his charges, whose conduct, he declared,
exhibited neither piety nor honour. Mindful of this, he placed
his nieces under the immediate supervision of Madame de Venelle,
who was directed to have the closest guard over them. A story
related by the duchess shows in what manner this lady's duty was
carried out, and what unexpected results attended it on one

When the court visited Lyons, in the year 1658, the cardinal's
nieces and their governess lodged in a commodious mansion in one
of the public squares. "Our chamber windows, which opened
towards the market-place," writes Hortensia, "were low enough for
one to get in with ease. Madame de Venelle was so used to her
trade of watching us, that she rose even in her sleep to see what
we were doing. One night, as my sister lay asleep with her mouth
open, Madame de Venelle, after her accustomed manner, coming,
asleep as she was, to grope in the dark, happened to thrust her
finger into her mouth so far that my sister, starting out of her
sleep, made her teeth almost meet in her finger. Judge you the
amazement they both were in to find themselves in this posture
when they were thoroughly awake. My sister was in a grievous
fret. The story was told the king the next day, and the court
had the divertisement of laughing at it."

Whilst the great minister's nieces were yet extremely young,
Louis XIV. fell passionately in love with the elder, Maria, and
his marriage with her was frustrated only by the united
endeavours of the queen mother and the cardinal. A proposal to
raise Hortensia to the nominal dignity of queen was soon after
made on behalf of Charles II., who sought her as his bride. But
he being at the time an exile, banished from his kingdom, and
with little hope of regaining his throne, the offer was rejected
by Cardinal Mazarine as unworthy of his favourite niece.

His eminence was, however, anxious to see her married, and
accordingly sought amongst the nobility of France a husband
suitable to her merits and equal to her condition, she being not
only a beautiful woman but, through his bounty, the richest
heiress in Christendom. It happened the cardinal's choice
settled upon one who had fallen in love with Hortensia, and who
had declared, with amorous enthusiasm, that if he had but the
happiness of being married to her, it would not grieve him to die
three months afterwards.

The young noble was Armand Charles de la Porte, Duke de
Meilleraye, who had the sole recommendation of being one of the
richest peers of France. On condition that he and his heirs
should assume the name of Mazarine and arms of that house, the
cardinal consented to his becoming the husband of his niece. And
the great minister's days rapidly approaching their end, the
ceremony was performed which made Hortensia, then at the age of
thirteen, Duchess of Mazarine. A few months later the great
cardinal expired, leaving her the sum of one million six hundred
and twenty-five thousand pounds sterling. Alas that she should
have died in poverty, and that her body should have been seized
for debt!

Scarce had the first weeks of her married life passed away, when
the young wife found herself mated to one wholly unsuited to her
character. She was beautiful, witty, and frivolous; he jealous,
dull, and morose. The incompatibility of their dispositions
became as discernible to him, as they had become intolerable to
her; and, as if to avenge the fate which had united them, he lost
no opportunity of thwarting her desires, by such means striving
to bend her lissom quality to the gnarled shape of his unhappy

With such a purpose in view no opportunity was neglected to curb
her pleasures or oppose her inclinations. He continually forced
her to leave Paris, and even when her condition required rest and
care, compelled her to accompany him on long and weary journeys,
undertaken by him in consequence of his diplomatic missions. If
she received two successive visits from one man, he was instantly
forbidden the house. If she called her carriage, the coachman
received orders not to obey. If she betrayed a preference for
one maid more than another, the favourite was instantly
dismissed, moreover, the duchess was surrounded by spies, her
movements being rigorously watched, and invariably reported. Nor
would the duke vouchsafe an explanation to his young wife
regarding the cause of this severe treatment, but continued the
even course of such conduct without intermission or abatement.

After displaying these eccentricities for some years, they
suddenly associated themselves with religion, when he became a
fanatic. Her condition was now less endurable than before; his
whims more ludicrous and exasperating. With solemnity he
declared no one could in conscience visit the theatre; that it
was a sin to play blind man's buff, and a heinous crime to retire
to bed late. And presently, his fanaticism increasing, he
prohibited the woman who nursed his infant to suckle it on
Fridays or Saturdays; that instead of imbibing milk, it might, in
its earliest life, become accustomed to fasting and mortification
of the flesh.

The young duchess grew hopeless of peace. All day her ears were
beset by harangues setting forth her wickedness, by exortations
calling her to repentance, and by descriptions of visions
vouchsafed him. By night her condition was rendered scarcely
less miserable. "No sooner," says St. Evremond, "were her eyes
closed, than Monsieur Mazarine (who had the devil always present
in his black imagination) wakes his best beloved, to make her
partaker--you will never be able to guess of what--to make her
partaker of his nocturnal visions. Flambeaux are lighted, and
search is made everywhere; but no spectre does Madame Mazarine
find, except that which lay by her in the bed."

The distresses to which she was subjected were increased by the
knowledge that her husband was squandering her vast fortune. In
what manner the money was spent she does not state. "If" she
writes, "Monsieur Mazarine had only taken delight in overwhelming
me with sadness and grief, and in exposing my health and my life
to his most unreasonable caprice, and in making me pass the best
of my days in an unparalleled slavery, since heaven had been
pleased to make him my master, I should have endeavoured to allay
and qualify my misfortunes by my sighs and tears. But when I saw
that by his incredible dilapidations and profuseness, my son, who
might have been the richest gentleman in France, was in danger of
being the poorest, there was no resisting the force of nature;
and motherly love carried it over all other considerations of
duty, or the moderation I proposed to myself. I saw every day
vast sums go away: moveables of inestimable prices, offices, and
all the rich remains of my uncle's fortune, the fruits of his
labours, and the rewards of his services. I saw as much sold as
came to three millions, before I took any public notice of it;
and I had hardly anything left me of value but my jewels, when
Monsieur Mazarine took occasion to seize upon them."

She therefore sought the king's interference, but as the duke had
interest at court, she received but little satisfaction. Then
commenced disputes, which, after months of wrangling, ended by
the duchess escaping in male attire out of France, in company
with a gay young cavalier, Monsieur de Rohan. After various
wanderings through Italy and many adventures in Savoy, she
determined on journeying to England. That her visit was not
without a political motive, we gather from St. Evremond; who,
referring to the ascendancy which the Duchess of Portsmouth had
gained over his majesty, and the uses she made of her power for
the interests of France, tells us, "The advocates for liberty,
being excluded from posts and the management of affairs,
contrived several ways to free their country from that infamous
commerce; but finding them ineffectual, they at last concluded
that there was no other course to take than to work the Duchess
of Portsmouth out of the king's favour, by setting up against her
a rival who should be in their interest. The Duchess of Mazarine
was thought very fit for their purpose, for she outshined the
other, both in wit and beauty."

Charles de St. Denis, Seigneur de St. Evremond, was a soldier,
philosopher, and courtier, who had distinguished himself by his
bravery, learning, and politeness. Having fallen under the
displeasure of the French court, he had, in the year 1662, sought
refuge in England, where he had been welcomed with the courtesy
due to his rank, and the esteem which befitted his merits.
Settling in the capital, he mixed freely in the companionship of
wits, gallants, and courtiers who constituted its society; and
delighted with London as a residence, he determined on making
England his country by adoption. An old friend and fervent
admirer of the Duchess of Mazarine, he had received the news of
her visit with joy, and celebrated her arrival in verse.

The reputation of her loveliness and the history of her life
having preceded her, the court became anxious to behold her; the
king, mindful of the relationship he had once sought; with the
duchess, grew impatient to welcome her. After a few days' rest,
necessary to remedy the fatigue of her journey, she appeared at
Whitehall. By reason of her beauty, now ripened rather than
impaired by time, and those graces which attracted the more from
the fascination they had formerly exercised, she at once gained
the susceptible heart of the monarch. St. Evremond tells us her
person "contained nothing that was not too lovely." In the
"Character of the Duchess of Mazarine," which he drew soon after
her arrival in London, he has presented a portrait of her worth
examining not only for sake of the object it paints, but for the
quaint workmanship it contains. "An ill-natured curiosity," he
writes, "makes me scrutinize every feature in her face, with a
design either to meet there some shocking irregularity, or some
disgusting disagreeableness. But how unluckily do I succeed in
my design. Every feature about her has a particular beauty, that
does not in the least yield to that of her eyes, which, by the
consent of all the world, are the finest in the universe. One
thing there is that entirely confounds me: her teeth, her lips,
her mouth, and all the graces that attend it, are lost amongst
the great variety of beauties in her face and what is but
indifferent in her, will not suffer us to consider what is most
remarkable in others. The malice of my curiosity does not stop
here. I proceed to spy out some defect in her shape; and I find
I know not what graces of nature so happily and so liberally
scattered in her person, that the genteelness of others only
seems to be constraint and affectation."

The king--to whom the presence of a beautiful woman was as
sunshine to the earth--at once offered her his affections, the
gallants tendered their homage, the ladies of the court
volunteered the flattery embodied in imitation. And by way of
practically proving his admiration, his majesty graciously
allotted her a pension of four thousand pounds a year, with
apartments in St. James's Palace.

The sovereignty which the Duchess of Portsmouth had held for five
years over the monarch's heart was now in danger of downfall; and
probably would have ended, but for Madame Mazarine's
indiscretions. It happened a few months after her arrival in
London, the Prince of Monaco visited the capital. Young in
years, handsome in person, and extravagant in expenditure, he
dazzled the fairest women at court; none of whom had so much
power to please him in all as the Duchess of Mazarine.
Notwithstanding the king's generosity, she accepted the prince's
admiration; and resolved to risk the influence she had gained,
that she might freely love where she pleased. Her entertainment
of a passion, as sudden in development as fervid in intensity,
enraged the king; but his fury served only to increase her
infatuation, seeing which, his majesty suspended payment of her

The gay Prince of Monaco in due time ending his visit to London,
and leaving the Duchess of Mazarine behind him, she, through the
interposition of her friends, obtained his majesty's pardon, was
received into favour, and again allowed her pension.

She now ruled, not only mistress of the king's heart, but queen
of a brilliant circle of wits and men of parts, whose delight it
became to heed the epigrams and eccentricities which fell from
her lips. Her rooms at St. James's, and her house in Chelsea,
became the rendezvous of the most polite and brilliant society in
England. In the afternoons, seated amongst her monkeys, dogs,
parrots, and pets, she discoursed on philosophy, love, religion,
politics, and plays; whilst at night her saloons were thrown open
to such as delighted in gambling. Then the duchess, seated at
the head of the table, her dark eyes flashing with excitement,
her red lips parted in expectation, followed the fortunes of the
night with anxiety: all compliments being suspended and all fine
speeches withheld the while, nought being heard but the rustle of
cards and the chink of gold.

Dainty and luxurious suppers followed, when rare wines flowed,
and wit long suppressed found joyous vent. Here sat Charles
beside his beautiful mistress, happy in the enjoyment of the
present, careless of the needs of his people; and close beside
him my Lord of Buckingham, watchful of his majesty's face,
hatching dark plots whilst he turned deft compliments. There
likewise were my Lord Dorset, the easiest and wittiest man
living; Sir Charles Sedley, one learned in intrigue; Baptist May,
the monarch's favourite; Tom Killigrew who jested on life's
follies whilst he enjoyed them; the Countess of Shrewsbury,
beautiful and amorous; and Madam Ellen, who was ready to mimic or
sing, dance or act, for his majesty's diversion.

And so, whilst a new day stole upon the world without, tapers
burned low within the duchess's apartments; and the king, his
mistress, and a brave and gallant company ate, drank, and made


A storm threatens the kingdom.--The Duke of York is touched in
his conscience.--His interview with Father Simons.--The king
declares his mind.--The Duchess of York becomes a catholic.--The
circumstances of her death.--The Test Act introduced.--Agitation
of the nation.--The Duke of York marries again.--Lord
Shaftesbury's schemes.--The Duke of Monmouth.--William of Orange
and the Princess Mary.--Their marriage and departure from

Whilst the surface life of the merry monarch sped onward in its
careless course, watchful eyes took heed of potent signs boding
storms and strife. The storm which shook the kingdom to its
centre came anon; the strife which dethroned a monarch was
reserved for the succeeding reign. These were not effected by
the king's profligacy, indolence, or extravagance, but because of
a change in the religious belief of the heir-apparent to the

The cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, which presently spread
and overcast the political horizon, was first observed towards
the beginning of the year 1669. The Rev. J. S. Clarke,
historiographer to George III., chaplain to the royal household,
and librarian to the Prince Regent, in his "Life of James II.,
collected out of Memoirs writ of his own hand," tells us that
about this time the Duke of York "was sensibly touched in his
conscience, and began to think seriously of his salvation."
Accordingly, the historian states, "he sent for one Father
Simons, a Jesuit, who had the reputation of a very learned man,
to discourse with him upon that subject; and when he came, he
told him the good intentions he had of being a catholic, and
treated with him concerning his being reconciled to the church.
After much discourse about the matter, the Jesuit very sincerely
told him, that unless he would quit the communion of the Church
of England, he could not be received into the Catholic Church.
The duke then said he thought it might be done by a dispensation
from the pope, alleging the singularity of his case, and the
advantage it might bring to the catholic religion in general, and
in particular to those of it in England, if he might have such
dispensation for outwardly appearing a protestant, at least till
he could own himself publicly to be a catholic, with more
security to his own person and advantage to them. But the father
insisted that even the pope himself had not the power to grant
it, for it was an unalterable doctrine of the Catholic Church,
not to do ill that good might follow. What this Jesuit thus said
was afterwards confirmed to the duke by the pope himself, to whom
he wrote upon the same subject. Till this time his royal
highness believed (as it is commonly believed, or at least said
by the Church of England doctors) that dispensations in any such
cases are by the pope easily granted; but Father Simons's words,
and the letter of his holiness, made the duke think it high time
to use all the endeavours he could, to be at liberty to declare
himself, and not to live in so unsafe and so uneasy a condition.

Inasmuch as what immediately followed touches a point of great
delicacy and vast importance, the words of the historian, mainly
taken from the "Stuart Papers," are best given here, "His royal
highness well-knowing that the king was of the same mind, and
that his majesty had opened himself upon it to Lord Arundel of
Wardour, Lord Arlington, and Sir Thomas Clifford, took an
occasion to discourse with him upon that subject about the same
time, and found him resolved as to his being a catholic, and that
he intended to have a private meeting with those persons above
named at the duke's closet, to advise with them about the ways
and methods fit to he taken for advancing the catholic religion
in his dominions, being resolved not to live any longer in the
constraint he was under. The meeting was on the 25th of January.
When they were met according to the king's appointment, he
declared his mind to them on the matter of religion, and said how
uneasy it was to him not to profess the faith he believed; and
that he had called them together to have their advice about the
ways and methods fittest to be taken for the settling of the
catholic religion in his kingdoms, and to consider of the time
most proper to declare himself, telling them withal that no time
ought to be lost; that he was to expect to meet with many and
great difficulties in bringing it about, and that he chose rather
to undertake it now, when he and his brother were in their full
strength and able to undergo any fatigue, than to delay it till
they were grown older and less fit to go through with so great a
design. This he spoke with great earnestness, and even with
tears in his eyes; and added, that they were to go about it as
wise men and good catholics ought to do. The consultation lasted
long, and the result was, that there was no better way for doing
this work than to do it in conjunction with France, and with the
assistance of his Most Christian majesty." Accordingly the
secret treaty with France was entered into, as already mentioned.

No further movement towards professing the catholic religion was
made by the king or his brother for some time. The tendencies of
the latter becoming suspected, his actions were observed with
vigilance, when it was noted, that although he attended service
as usual with the king, he no longer received the sacrament. It
was also remarked the Duchess of York, whose custom it had been
to communicate once a month, soon followed his example. Her
neglect of this duty was considered the more conspicuous as she
had been bred a staunch protestant, and ever appeared zealous in
her support of that religion. Moreover, it was noted that, from
the beginning of the year 1670, she was wont to defend the
catholic faith from such errors as it had been charged withal.

These matters becoming subjects of conversation at court soon
reached the ears of Bishop Morley, who had acted as her confessor
since her twelfth year, confession being then much practised in
the English Church. Thereon he hastened to her, and spoke at
length of the inferences which were drawn from her neglect of
receiving the sacrament, in answer to which she pleaded business
and ill-health as sufficient excuses. But he, suspecting other
causes, gave her advice, and requested she would send for him in
case doubts arose in her mind concerning the faith she professed.
Being now free from all uncertainties, she readily promised
compliance with his desire, and added, "No priest had ever taken
the confidence to speak to her on those matters."

The fact that she no longer communicated becoming more noticed as
time passed, the king spoke to his brother concerning the
omission, when the duke told him she had become a catholic.
Hearing this, Charles requested him to keep her change of faith a
secret, which was accordingly done, none being aware of the act
but Father Hunt, a Franciscan friar, Lady Cranmer, one of her
women of the bedchamber, and Mr. Dupuy, servant to the duke. In
a paper she drew up relative to her adoption of the catholic
religion, preserved in the fifth volume of the "Harleian
Miscellany," she professes being one of the greatest enemies that
faith ever had. She likewise declares no man or woman had said
anything, or used the least persuasion to make her change her
religion. That had been effected, she adds, by a perusal of Dr.
Heylin's "History of the Reformation;" after which she spoke
severally to Dr. Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr.
Blandford, Bishop of Worcester, who told her "there were many
things in the Roman Church which it was very much to be wished
they had kept--as confession, which was no doubt commanded by
God; and praying for the dead, which was one of the ancient
things in Christianity--that for their parts they did it daily,
though they would not own to it."

The duchess pondered over what she had read and heard, and being
a woman accustomed to judge for herself, and act upon her
decisions, she, in the month of August, 1670 became a member of
the Catholic Church, in which communion she died seven months
later. For fifteen months previous to her demise she had been
suffering from a complication of diseases, with which the medical
skill of that day was unable to cope, and these accumulating, in
March, 1671, ended her days. The "Stuart Papers" furnish an
interesting account of her death. Seeing the hour was at hand
which would sever her from all earthly ties, she besought her
husband not to leave her whilst life remained. She likewise
requested that in case Dr. Blandford or any other of the bishops
should come to visit her, he would tell them she had become a
member of the Catholic Church; but if they insisted on seeing her
she was satisfied to admit them, providing they would not
distress her by arguments or controversy.

Soon after she had expressed these desires, Bishop Blandford
arrived, and begged permission to see her, hearing which the duke
went into the drawing-room, where his lordship waited, and
delivered the message with which the duchess had charged him.
Thereon the bishop said, "he made no doubt but that she would do
well since she was fully convinced, and had not changed out of
any worldly end." He then went into the room, and having made "a
short Christian exhortation suitable to the condition she was
in," took his departure. Presently the queen came and sat by the
dying woman, with whom she had borne many wrongs in common; and
later on, the Franciscan friar being admitted, the duchess
"received all the last sacraments of the Catholick Church, and
dyed with great devotion and resignation."

Though no mystery was now made concerning the faith in which she
died, the duke, from motives of prudence, continued to preserve
the secret of his having embraced the same religion. He still
publicly attended service on Sundays with the king, but continued
to absent himself from communion. At last, the Christmastide of
the year 1672 being at hand, his majesty besought Lord Arundel
and Sir Thomas (now Lord) Clifford to persuade the duke to take
the sacrament with him, "and make him sensible of the prejudice
it would do to both of them should he forbear so to do, by giving
the world so much reason to believe he was a catholick." To this
request these honest gentlemen replied it would be difficult to
move the duke to his majesty's desires; but even if they
succeeded, it would fail to convince the world his royal highness
was not a catholic. With these answers Charles seemed satisfied;
but again on Christmas Eve he urged Lord Clifford to advise the
duke to publicly communicate on the morrow. His royal highness,
not being so unscrupulous as the king, refused compliance with
his wishes.

The following Easter he likewise refrained from communicating.
Evelyn tells us that "a most crowded auditorie" had assembled in
the Chapel Royal on this Sunday; possibly it had been drawn there
to hear the eloquence of Dr. Sparrow, Bishop of Exeter--probably
to observe the movements of the king's brother. "I staied to
see," writes Evelyn, "whether, according to costome, the Duke of
York received the communion with the king; but he did not, to the
amazement of everybody. This being the second year he had
forborn and put it off, and within a day of the parliament
sitting, who had lately made so severe an act against ye increase
of poperie, gave exceeding griefe and scandal to the whole
nation, that the heyre of it, and ye sonn of a martyr for ye
Protestant religion, should apostatize. What the consequence of
this will be God only knows, and wise men dread."

That the nation might no longer remain in uncertainty concerning
the change the duke was suspected to have made, a bill, commonly
called the "Test Act," was, at the instigation of Lord
Shaftesbury, introduced into the House of Commons, on its
reassembling. In substance this set forth, that all persons
holding office, or place of trust, or profit, should take the
oaths of supremacy and allegiance in a public court; receive the
sacrament according to the Church of England in some parish
church on the Lord's Day; and deliver a certificate of having so
received communion, signed by the respective ministers and
church-wardens, and proved by two credible witnesses on oath.
After prolonged debates upon this singular bill, it was passed
through both houses of parliament, and received a reluctant
consent from the king. [This act continued in force until the
reign of George IV.]

A great commotion followed the passing of this Act. Immediately
the Duke of York resigned his post of lord high admiral of
England. Suspicion now became certainty; he was truly a papist.
His enemies were elated with triumph, his friends dejected by
regret. Before public feeling had time to subside, it was
thoroughly startled by the news that Lord Clifford, who was
supposed to be a staunch protestant, had delivered up his staff
of office as lord treasurer; and Lord Bellasis and Sir Thomas
Strickland, papists both, "though otherwise men of quality and
ability," had relinquished their places at court. The king was
perplexed, the parliament divided into factions, the nation
disturbed. No man knew who might next proclaim himself a papist.
As days passed, excitement increased; for hundreds who held
positions in the army, or under the crown--many of whom had
fought for the king and his father--by tendering their
resignations, now proved themselves slaves of what a vigorous
writer calls the "Romish yoke: such a thing," he adds, "as
cannot, but for want of a name to express it, be called a

Public agitation steadily rose. Evelyn tells us, "he dare not
write all the strange talk of the town." Distrust of the king,
fear of his brother, hatred of popery and papists, filled men's
minds and blinded their reason with prejudice. That the city had
seven years ago been destroyed by fire, in accordance with a
scheme of the wicked Jesuits, was a belief which once more
revived: the story of the gunpowder plot was again detailed.
Fearful suspicions sprang up and held possession of the vulgar
mind, that the prosecutions suffered by protestants under Queen
Mary might be repeated in the reign of the present monarch, or of
his brother. That heaven might defend the country from being
overrun by popery, the House of Commons besought his majesty to
order a day of fasting and humiliation. And by way of adding
fury to the gathering tempest, the bishops, Burnet states,
"charged the clergy to preach against popery, which alarmed the
court as well as the city, and the whole nation."

The king therefore complained to Dr. Sheldon, Archbishop of
Canterbury, that the discourse heard in every pulpit throughout
the capital and the kingdom was "calculated to inflame the
people, and alienate them from him and his government. "Upon
which Dr. Sheldon called the bishops together, that he might
consult with them as to what answer he had best make. Whereon
these wise men declared "since the king himself professed the
protestant religion, it would be a thing without a precedent that
he should forbid his clergy to preach in defence of a religion,
while he himself said he was of it." The next action which
served to inflame public prejudice against catholicism, was the
marriage of the Duke of York to a princess professing that faith.

Soon after the death of his wife, it was considered wise and well
his royal highness should marry again. Of the four sons and four
daughters the duchess had borne him, three sons and one daughter
had died before their mother, and the surviving son and another
daughter quickly followed her to the tomb; therefore, out of
eight children but two survived, Mary and Anne, at this time
respectively aged nine and seven. It being desirable there
should be a male heir-presumptive to the crown, the king was
anxious his brother should take unto himself a second wife. And
that a lady might be found worthy of the exalted station to which
such a union would raise her, the Earl of Peterborough was sent
incognito to report on the manners and appearance of the
princesses of the courts of Neuburg and of Modena. Not being
impressed by the merits of those belonging to the former, he
betook himself to the latter, where, seeing the young Princess
d'Este, then in her fifteenth year, he came to the conclusion no
better choice could be made on behalf of the duke than this fair
lady. On communicating this opinion to his royal highness and to
his majesty, the king commissioned him to demand the hand of the
princess in marriage for his brother.

Difficulties regarding this desired union now arose. The young
lady, having been bred in great simplicity and ignorance, had
never heard of such a country as England, or such a person as the
Duke of York; and therefore had no mind to adventure herself in a
distant land, or wed a man of whom she knew nought. Moreover,
she had betrayed an inclination to spend her days in the
seclusion of a convent, and had no thought of marriage. Her
mother, the Duchess of Modena, then regent, by reason of her
husband's death and her son's minority, was anxious for so
advantageous an alliance. And being unable to gain her
daughter's consent, she sought the interference of the pope, who
wrote to the young princess, that compliance with her mother's
request would "most conduce to the service of God and the public
good." On this, Mary Beatrice Eleonora, Princess d'Este,
daughter of the fourth Duke of Modena, consented to become
Duchess of York. Whereon the Earl of Peterborough made a public
entry into Modena, as ambassador extraordinary of Charles II.;
and having agreed to all the articles of marriage, wedded her by
proxy for the royal duke.

Meanwhile, news that the heir to the crown was about to wed a
papist spread with rapidity throughout the kingdom, carrying
alarm in its course. If sons were born of the union, they would,
it was believed, undoubtedly be reared in the religion of their
parents, and England in time became subject to a catholic king.
The possibility of such a fate was to the public mind fraught
with horror; and the House of Commons, after some angry debates
on the subject, presented an address to the king, requesting he
would abandon this proposed marriage. To this he was not
inclined to listen, his honour being so far involved in the
business; but notwithstanding his unwillingness, his councillors
urged him to this step, and prayed he would stop the princess,
then journeying through France on her way to England. This so
incensed him that he immediately prorogued parliament, and freed
himself from further interference on the subject.

On the 21st of November, 1673, the future duchess landed at
Dover, where the duke awaited her, attended by a scant retinue.
For the recent protestations, made in the House of Commons
against the marriage, having the effect of scaring the courtiers,
few of the nobility, and but one of the bishops, Dr. Crew of
Oxford, ventured to accompany him, or greet his bride. On the
day of her arrival the marriage was celebrated, "according to the
usual form in cases of the like nature." The "Stuart Papers"
give a brief account of the ceremony. "The Duke and Duchess of
York, with the Duchess of Modena her mother, being together in a
room where all the company was present, as also my Lord
Peterborough, the bishop asked the Duchess of Modena and the Earl
of Peterborough whether the said earl had married the Duchess of
York as proxy of the duke? which they both affirming, the bishop
then declared it was a lawful marriage."

This unpopular union served to strengthen the gathering storm;
Protests against popery were universally heard; an article in the
marriage settlement, which guaranteed the duchess a public
chapel, was broken; and the duke was advised by Lord Berkshire to
retire into the country, "where he might hunt and pray without
offence to any or disquiet to himself." This counsel he refused
to heed. Until his majesty should command him to the contrary,
he said, he would always attend upon him, and do such service as
he thought his duty and the king's security required of him. His
enemies became more wrathful at this reply, more suspicious of
popery, and more fearful of his influence with the king, They
therefore sought to have him removed from his majesty's councils
and presence by act of parliament.

Consequently, when both Houses assembled on the 7th of January,
1674, the lords presented an address to the monarch, praying he
would graciously issue a proclamation, requiring all papists, or
reputed papists, within five miles of London, Westminster, or
Southwark, to depart ten miles from these respective cities, and
not return during this session of Parliament. A few days
afterwards an act was introduced into the House of Commons
proposing a second test, impossible for catholics to accept, the
refusal of which would not only render them incapable of holding
any office, civil or military, or of sitting in either House of
Parliament, but "of coming within five miles of the court." This
unjust bill, to which, if it passed both houses, Charles dared
not refuse assent, threw the court and country into a state of
renewed excitement. Knowing it was a blow levelled at the duke,
his friends gathered round him, determined to oppose it by might
and main; and after great exertions caused a clause to be
inserted excepting his royal highness from the test. This was
ultimately carried by a majority of two votes, which, says
Clarke, "put the little Earl of Shaftesbury so out of humour,
that he said he did not care what became of the bill, having that
proviso in it."

This noble earl, who was chief among the royal duke's enemies,
was a prominent figure in the political history of the time. Mr.
Burnet tells us his lordship's strength lay in the knowledge of
England, and of all considerable men. "He understood," says the
bishop, "the size of their understandings and their tempers; and
he knew how to apply himself to them so dexterously, that though
by his changing sides so often it was very visible how little he
was to be depended on, yet he was to the last much trusted by all
the discontented party. He had no regard to truth or justice."
As rich in resources as he was poor in honour, he renewed a plan
for depriving the Duke of York from succession to the crown;
which, though it had failed when formerly attempted, he trusted
might now succeed. This was to declare the Duke of Monmouth the
king's legitimate son and heir to the throne of England, a scheme
which the ambitious son of Lucy Walters was eager to forward.

His majesty's affection for him had strengthened with time, and
his favours had been multiplied by years. On the death of the
Duke of Albemarle, Captain General of the Forces, Monmouth had
been appointed to that high office; and some time later had been
made General of the Kingdom of Scotland, posts of greatest
importance. Relying on the monarch's love and the people's
admiration for this illegitimate scion of royalty, Lord
Shaftesbury hoped to place him on the throne. As the first step
necessary in this direction was to gain his majesty's avowal of a
union with Lucy Walters, he ventured on broaching the subject to
the king; at which Charles was so enraged that he declared, "much
as he loved the Duke of Monmouth, he had rather see him hanged at
Tyburn than own him as his legitimate son." There was, however,
another man engaged in a like design to the noble earl, who, if
not less scrupulous, was more daring.

This was one Ross, a Scotsman, who had been made governor of the
young duke on his first coming into England, and who had since
acted as his friend and confidant. Now Ross, who had not failed
to whisper ambitious thoughts into his pupil's head, at this time
sought Dr. Cosin, Bishop of Durham, and according to the "Stuart
Papers," told him "he might do a great piece of service to the
Church of England in keeping out popery, if he would but sign a
certificate of the king's marriage to the Duke of Monmouth's
mother, with whom that bishop was acquainted in Paris. Ross also
told the bishop, to make the thing more easy to him, that during
his life the certificate should not be produced or made use of."
The same papers state that, as a bishop's certificate is a legal
proof of marriage, Dr. Cosin's compliance would have been
invaluable to the duke and his friends. His lordship, however,
rejected the proposition, and laid the matter before the king,
who expelled Ross from court.

Horror of popery and fear of a papist sovereign increased with
time, care having been taken by my Lord Shaftesbury and his party
that the public mind, once inflamed, should be kept ignited. For
this purpose he spread reports abroad that the Irish were about
to rise in rebellion, backed by the French; and that the papists
in London had entered into a vile conspiracy to put their fellow
citizens to the sword on the first favourable opportunity. To
give this latter statement a flavour of reality he, assuming an
air of fright, betook himself one night to the city, and sought
refuge in the house of a fanatic, in order, he said, that he
might escape the catholics, who had planned to cut his throat.

A tempest, dark and dangerous, was gathering fast, which the
court felt powerless to subdue. The king's assurance to
parliament that "he would endeavour to satisfy the world of his
steadfastness for the security of the protestant religion," had
little avail in soothing the people. Many of them suspected him
to be a catholic at heart; others knew he had accepted the bounty
of a country feared and detested by the nation. Deeds, not
words, could alone dispel the clouds of prejudice which came
between him and his subjects; and accordingly he set about the
performance of such acts as might bring reconciliation in their

The first of these was the confirmation, according to the
Protestant Church, of the Lady Mary, eldest daughter of the Duke
of York, and after him heir presumptive to the crown; the second
and more important was the marriage of that princess to William
of Orange. This prince was son of the king's eldest sister, and
therefore grandson of Charles I. As a hero who, by virtue of his
statesmanship and indomitable courage, had rescued Holland from
the hateful power of France, he was regarded not only as the
saviour of his country, but as the protector of protestantism.
Already a large section of the English nation turned their eyes
towards him as one whom they might elect some day to weald the
sceptre of Great Britain. Subtle, ambitious, and determined, a
silent student of humanity, a grave observer of politics, a
sagacious leader in warfare, he had likewise begun to look
forward towards the chances of succeeding his uncle in the
government of England--in hopes of which he had been strengthened
by the private overtures made him by Shaftesbury, and sustained
by the public prejudices exhibited against the Duke of York.

The proposed union between him and the heiress presumptive to the
crown was regarded by the nation with satisfaction, and by the
prince as an act strongly favouring the realization of his
desires for sovereignty. Cold and grave in temperament, sickly
and repulsive in appearance, blunt and graceless in manner, he
was by no means an ideal bridegroom for a fair princess; but
neither she nor her father had any choice given them in a concern
so important to the pacification of the nation. She, it was
whispered at court, had previously given her heart to a brave
young Scottish laird; and her father, it was known, had already
taken an instinctive dislike to the man destined to usurp his
throne. In October, 1677, the Prince of Orange came to England,
ostensibly to consult with King Charles regarding the
establishment of peace between France and the Confederates; but
the chief motive of his visit was to promote his marriage, which
had some time before been proposed, and owing to political causes
had been coolly received by him. Now, however, his anxiety for
the union was made plain to the king, who quickly agreed to his
desires. "Nephew," said he to the sturdy Dutchman, "it is not
good for man to be alone, and I will give you a help meet for
you; and so," continues Burnet, "he told him he would bestow his
niece on him."

The same afternoon the monarch informed his council that "the
Prince of Orange, desiring a more strict alliance with England by
marriage with the Lady Mary, he had consented to it, as a thing
he looked on as very proper to unite the family, and which he
believed would be agreeable to his people, and show them the care
he had of religion, for which reason he thought it the best
alliance he could make." When his majesty had concluded this
speech, the Duke of York stepped forward, and declared his
consent to the marriage. He hoped "he had now given a sufficient
testimony of his right intentions for the public good, and that
people would no more say he designed altering the government in
church or state; for whatever his opinion on religion might be,
all that he desired was, that men might not be molested merely
for conscience' sake."

The duke then dined at Whitehall with, the king, the Prince of
Orange, and a noble company; after which he returned to St.
James's, where he then resided. Dr. Edward Luke, at this time
tutor to the Lady Mary, and subsequently Archdeacon of Exeter, in
his interesting manuscript diary, informs us that on reaching the
palace, the duke, with great tenderness and fatherly affection,
took his daughter aside, "and told her of the marriage designed
between her and the Prince of Orange; whereupon her highness wept
all that afternoon and the following day." Her tears had not
ceased to flow when, two days after the announcement of her
marriage, Lord Chancellor Finch, on behalf of the council, came
to congratulate her; and Lord Chief Justice Rainsford, on the
part of the judges, complimented her in extravagant terms.

This union, which the bride regarded with so much repugnance, was
appointed to take place on the 4th of November, that date being
the bridegroom's birthday, as likewise the anniversary of his
mother's nativity. Dr. Luke gives a quaint account of the
ceremony. "At nine o'clock at night," he writes, "the marriage
was solemnized in her highness's bedchamber. The king; who gave
her away, was very pleasant all the while; for he desired that
the Bishop of London would make haste lest his sister [the
Duchess of York] should be delivered of a son, and so the
marriage be disappointed. And when the prince endowed her with
all his worldly goods [laying gold and silver on the book], he
willed to put all up in her pockett, for 'twas clear gains. At
eleven o'clock they went to bed, when his majesty came and drew
the curtains, saying, 'Hey! St. George for England!'"

For a time both court and town seemed to forget the trouble and
strife which beset them. Bonfires blazed in the streets, bells
rang from church towers, the populace cheered lustily; whilst at
Whitehall there were many brilliant entertainments. These
terminated with a magnificent ball, held on the 15th instant, the
queen's birthday; at the conclusion of this festivity the bride
and bridegroom were to embark in their yacht, which was to set
sail next morning for Holland. For this ball the princess had
"attired herself very richly with all her jewels;" but her whole
appearance betrayed a sadness she could not suppress in the
present, and which the future did not promise to dispel. For
already the bridegroom, whom the maids of honour had dubbed the
"Dutch monster" and "Caliban," had commenced to reveal glimpses
of his unhandsome character; "and the court began to whisper of
his sullennesse or clownishnesse, that he took no notice of his
princess at the playe and balle, nor came to see her at St.
James', the day preceding that designed for their departure."

The wind being easterly, they were detained in England until the
19th, when, accompanied by the king, the Duke of York, and
several persons of quality, they went in barges from Whitehall to
Greenwich. The princess was sorely grieved, and wept
unceasingly. When her tutor "kneeled down and kissed her gown"
at parting, she could not find words to speak, but turned her
back that she might hide her tears; and, later on, when the queen
"would have comforted her with the consideration of her own
condition when she came into England, and had never till then
seen the king, her highness replied, 'But, madam, you came into
England; but I am going out of England.'"


The threatened storm bursts.--History of Titus Oates and Dr.
Tonge.--A dark scheme concocted.--The king is warned of danger.
--The narrative of a horrid plot laid before the treasurer.--
Forged letters.--Titus Oates before the council.--His blunders.--
A mysterious murder.--Terror of the citizens.--Lord Shaftesbury's
schemes.--Papists are banished from the capital.--Catholic peers
committed to the Tower.--Oates is encouraged.

The marriage of the Lady Mary, though agreeable to the public
mind, by no means served to distract it from the turmoil by which
it was beset. Hatred of catholicism, fear of the Duke of York,
and distrust of the king, disturbed the nation to its core.
Rumours were now noised abroad, which were not without
foundation, that the monarch and his brother had renewed the
treaty with France, by which Louis engaged to send troops into
England to support Charles, when the latter saw fit to lay aside
duplicity, and proclaim himself a catholic. And, notwithstanding
the rigorous Test Acts, it was believed many high positions at
court were held by those who were papists at heart. Occasion was
therefore ripe for the invention of a monstrous fraud, the
history of which has been transmitted under the title of the
Popish Plot.

The chief contrivers of this imposture were Titus Oates and Dr.
Tonge. The first of these was son of a ribbon-weaver, who,
catching the fanatical spirit of the Cromwellian period, had
ranted as an Anabaptist preacher. Dissent, however, losing
favour under the restoration, Oates, floating with the current of
the times, resolved to become a clergyman of the Church of
England, He therefore took orders at Cambridge, officiated as
curate in various parishes, and served as chaplain on board a
man-of-war. The time he laboured as spiritual shepherd to his
respective flocks was necessarily brief; for his grossly immoral
practices becoming notable, he was in every case ousted from his
charge. The odium attached to his name was moreover increased by
the fact, that his evidence in two cases of malicious prosecution
had been proved false; for which he had been tried as a perjurer.
Deprived of his chaplaincy for a revolting act of profligacy,
driven from congregations he had scandalized, homeless and
destitute, he in an evil hour betook himself to Dr. Ezrael Tonge,
to whom he had long been known, and besought compassion and

The Rev, Dr. Tonge, rector of St. Michael's, Wood Street, was a
confirmed fanatic and political alarmist. For some years
previous to this time, he had published quarterly treatises
dealing with such wicked designs of the Jesuits as his heated
brain devised. These he had printed and freely circulated, in
order, as he acknowledged, "to arouse and awaken his majesty and
the parliament" to a sense of danger. He had begun life as a
gardener, but left that honest occupation that he might cultivate
flowers of rhetoric for the benefit of Cromwell's soldiers. Like
Titus Oates, he had become suddenly converted to orthodox
principles on return of the king, and had, through interest,
obtained the rectorship of St. Michael's. Bishop Burnet
considered him "a very mean divine, (who) seemed credulous and
simple, and was full of projects and notions."

Another historian who lived in those days, the Rev. Laurence
Eachard, Archdeacon of Stowe, states Dr. Tonge was "a man of
letters, and had a prolific head filled with all the Romish plots
and conspiracies since the reformation." According to this
author, Tonge took Oates into his house, provided him with
lodging, diet, and clothes; and when the latter complained he
knew not where to get bread, the rector told him "he would put
him in a way." After this, finding Oates a man of great
ingenuity and cunning, "he persuaded him," says Archdeacon
Eachard, "to insinuate himself among the papists, and get
particular acquaintance with them; which being effected, he let
him understand that there had been several plots in England to
bring in popery, and that if he would go beyond sea among the
Jesuits, and strictly observe their ways, it was possible there
might be one at present; and if he could make that out, it would
be his preferment for ever; but, however, if he could get their
names, and some information from the papists, it would be very
easy to rouse people with the fears of popery."

Hungering for gold, and thirsting for notoriety, Oates quickly
agreed to the scheme laid before him. Accordingly he became
acquainted with, and was received into the Catholic Church by,
Father Berry, a Jesuit, and in May, 1677, was sent by the Jesuits
to study in one of their seminaries, situated in Valladolid, in
Spain. Oates, however, though he had proved himself an excellent
actor, could not overcome his evil propensities, and before seven
months had passed, he was expelled from the monastery.

Returning to England, he sought out Dr. Tonge, to whom he was
unable to recount the secret of a single plot. Confident,
however, that wicked schemes against the lives and properties of
innocent protestants were being concocted by wily Jesuits, the
fanatical divine urged Oates to present himself once more before
them, bewail his misconduct, promise amendment, and seek
readmission to their midst. Following his advice, Oates was
again received by the Jesuits, and sent to their famous seminary
at St. Omer's; where, though he had reached the age of thirty
years, he was entered among the junior students. For six months
he remained here, until his vices becoming noted, he was turned
away in disgrace. Again he presented himself before the rector
of St. Michael's, knowing as little of popish plots as he did on
his previous return. But Tonge, though disappointed, was not
disheartened; if no scheme existed, he would invent one which
should startle the public, and save the nation. Such proposals
as he made towards the accomplishment of this end were readily
assented to by Oates, in whose breast wounded pride and bitter
hate rankled deep. Therefore, after many consultations they
resolved to draw up a "Narrative of a Horrid Plot." This was
repeatedly changed and enlarged, until eventually it assumed the
definite shape of a deposition, consisting of forty-three
distinct articles, written with great formality and care, and
embodying many shocking and criminal charges.

The narrative declared that in April, 1677, the deponent was
employed to carry letters from the Jesuits in London to members
of their order in Spain; these he broke open on the journey, and
discovered that certain Jesuits had been sent into Scotland to
encourage the presbyterians to rebel. Arrived in Valladolid, he
heard one Armstrong, in a sermon delivered to students, charge
his majesty with most foul and black-mouthed scandals, and use
such irreverent, base expressions as no good subjects could
repeat without horror. He then returned to England, and was soon
after sent to St. Omer with fresh letters, in which was mentioned
a design to stab or poison his majesty--Pere la Chaise, the
French king's confessor, having placed ten thousand pounds at the
disposal of the Jesuits that they might, by laying out such a
sum, the more successfully accomplish this deed. While abroad
the deponent had read many letters, relating to the execution of
Charles II., the subverting of the present government, and the
establishment of the Romish religion. Returning again to
England, he became privy to a treaty with Sir George Wakeham, the
queen's physician, to poison the king; and likewise with an
agreement to shoot him, made between the Jesuits and two men,
named Honest William and Pickering. He had heard a Jesuit preach
a sermon to twelve persons of quality in disguise, in which he
asserted "that protestants and other heretical princes were IPSO
FACTO deposed because such; and that it was as lawful to destroy
them as Oliver Cromwell or any other usurper." He also became
aware that the dreadful fire had been managed by Strange, the
provincial of the Jesuits, who employed eighty-six men in
distributing seven hundred fire-balls to destroy the city; and
that notwithstanding his vast expenses, he gained fourteen
thousand pounds by plunder carried on during the general
confusion, a box of jewels, consisting of a thousand carat weight
of diamonds, being included in the robbery.

The document containing these remarkable statements was finished
in August, 1678. It now remained to have it brought before the
king or the council. Tonge was resolved this should he done in a
manner best calculated to heighten the effect of their narrative;
at the same time he was careful to guard the fact that he and
Oates had an intimate knowledge of each other. Not knowing any
one of interest at court, he sought out Christopher Kirby, a man
employed in the king's laboratory, of whom he had some slight
knowledge, and, pledging him to the strictest secrecy, showed him
the "Narrative of the Horrid Plot," and besought his help in
bringing it under the notice of his majesty in as private a
manner as possible.

This aid was freely promised; and next day, the date being the
13th of August, when the monarch was about to take his usual
airing in the park, Kirby drew near, and in a mysterious tone
bade his majesty take care, for his enemies had a design against
his life, which might be put into execution at any moment.
Startled by such words, the king asked him in what manner was it
intended his life should be taken; to which he replied, "It might
be by pistol; but that to give a more particular account of the
matter, required greater privacy." The monarch, who quickly
recovered his first surprise, resolved to take his usual
exercise; and, subduing his curiosity, he bade Kirby attend him
on his return from the park, and tell him what he knew of the

When the time arrived, Kirby saw his majesty alone, and related
to him in brief that two men waited but an opportunity to shoot
him; and Sir George Wakeham had been hired to poison him; which
news, he concluded, had been imparted to him by a worthy man
living close at hand, who would attend his majesty's pleasure
when that was manifested.

Bewildered by such intelligence, yet suspicious of its veracity,
the king ordered Kirby to summon his informant that evening by
eight o'clock. When that hour came his majesty repaired to the
Red Room, and there met Dr. Tonge, who delivered his narrative
into his hands. The rector was convinced the great moment he had
so long awaited, in which he would behold the monarch aroused to
a sense of his danger, had arrived. He was doomed to bitter
disappointment. His majesty coolly took the narrative, and
without opening it, said it should be examined into. On this
Tonge begged it might be kept safe and secret, "lest the full
discovery should otherwise be prevented and his life endangered."
The monarch replied that, before starting with the court to-
morrow for Windsor, he would place it in the hands of one he
could trust, and who would answer for its safety. He then bade
him attend on the Lord Treasurer Danby next morning.

In obedience to this command, Tonge waited on his lordship at the
appointed time, and by the character of his replies helped to
develop his story of the plot. When asked if the document he had
given his majesty was the original of the deponent, Tonge
admitted it was in his own handwriting. On this, Lord Danby
expressed a desire to see the original, and likewise become
acquainted with its author. Nothing abashed, the rector replied
the manuscript was in his house, and accounted for its possession
by stating that, singularly enough, it had been thrust under his
door--he did not know by whom, but fancied it must be by one who,
some time before, had discussed with him on the subject of this
conspiracy. Whereon his lordship asked him if he knew the man,
and was answered he did not, but he had seen him lately two or
three times in the streets, and it was likely he should see him
soon again.

Being next questioned as to whether he had any knowledge of
Honest William, or Pickering, the villains who sought the king's
life, he answered he had not. Immediately, however, he
remembered it was their habit to walk in St. James's Park, and
said, if any man was appointed to keep him company, he was almost
certain he would have opportunities of letting that person see
these abominable wretches. Finally, Lord Danby asked him if he
knew where they dwelt, for it was his duty to have them arrested
at once; but of their abode Tonge was completely ignorant, though
he was hopeful he should speedily be able to obtain the required

He was therefore dismissed, somewhat to his satisfaction, being
unprepared for such particular examination; but in a couple of
days he returned to the charge, determined his tale should not be
discredited for lack of effrontery, On this occasion he said he
had met the man he suspected of being author of the document, who
owned himself as such, and stated that his name was Titus Oates,
but requested Tonge would keep it a strict secret, "because the
papists would murder him if they knew what he was doing."
Moreover, Oates had given him a second paper full of fresh
horrors concerning this most foul plot. Taking this with him,
the lord treasurer hastened to Windsor, that he might consult the
king, having first left a servant with Tonge, in hopes the latter
might catch sight of Honest William and Pickering in their daily
walk through the park, and have them arrested. On Danby
recounting Tonge's statements to the king, his majesty was more
convinced than before the narrative was wholly without
foundation, and refused to make it known to his council or the
Duke of York. Therefore the lord-treasurer, on conclusion of a
brief visit, left Windsor for his country residence, situated at

For some days no fresh disclosure was made concerning this horrid
plot, until late one night, when Dr. Tonge arrived in great haste
at Lord Danby's house, and informed him some of the intended
regicides had resolved on journeying to Windsor next morning,
determined to assassinate the king. He added, it was in his
power to arrange that the earl's servant should ride with them in
their coach, or at least accompany them on horseback, and so give
due notice of their arrival, in order that they might be timely
arrested. Alarmed by this intelligence, Danby at once hastened
to Windsor, and informed the king of what had come to his
knowledge. Both endured great suspense that night, and next day
their excitement was raised to an inordinate pitch by seeing the
earl's servant ride towards the castle with all possible speed.
When, however, the man was brought into his majesty's presence,
he merely delivered a message from Dr. Tonge, stating the
villains "had been prevented from taking their intended journey
that day, but they proposed riding to Windsor next day, or within
two days at farthest." Before that time had arrived, another
message came to say, "one of their horses being slipped in the
shoulder, their trip to Windsor was postponed."

Taking these foolish excuses, as well as Dr. Tonge's
prevaricating answers and mysterious statements, into
consideration, the king was now convinced the "Narrative of a
Horrid Plot" was an invention of a fanatic or a rogue. He was,
therefore; desirous of letting the subject drop into obscurity;
but Lord Danby, foreseeing in the sensation which its avowal
would create, a welcome cloud to screen the defects of his
policy, which parliament intended to denounce, urged his majesty
to lay the matter before his privy council. This advice the king
refused to accept, saying, "he should alarm all England, and put
thoughts of killing him into people's heads, who had no such
ideas before." Somewhat disappointed, the lord treasurer
returned once more to Wimbledon, the king remaining at Windsor,
and no further news of the plot disturbed the even tenour of
their lives for three days.

At the end of that time Dr. Tonge, now conscious of the false
steps he had taken, conceived a fresh scheme by which his story
might obtain credence, and he gain wealth and fame. Accordingly
he wrote to Danby, informing him a packet of letters, written by
the Jesuits and concerning the plot, would, on a certain date, be
sent to Mr. Bedingfield, chaplain to the Duchess of York. Such
information was most acceptable to Danby at the moment; he at
once started for Windsor, and laid this fresh information before
the king. To his lordship's intense surprise, his majesty handed
him the letters. These, five in number, containing treasonable
expressions and references to the plot, had been some hours
before handed by Mr. Bedingfield to the Duke of York, saying, he
"feared some ill was intended him by the same packet, because the
letters therein seemed to be of a dangerous nature, and that he
was sure they were not the handwriting of the persons whose names
were subscribed to the letters." On examination, they were
proved to be most flagrant forgeries. Written in a feigned hand,
and signed by different names, they were evidently the production
of one man; the same want of punctuation, style of expression,
and peculiarities of spelling being notable in all. The Duke of
York, foreseeing malice was meant by them, forcibly persuaded the
king to place the epistles before the privy council.
Accordingly, they were handed to Sir William Jones, attorney
general, and Sir Robert Southwell, who stated, upon comparing
them with Dr. Tonge's narrative, they were convinced both were
written by the same hand.

Meanwhile, Tonge and Oates, aware of the coldness and doubt with
which his majesty had received the "Narrative of the Horrid
Plot," and ignorant of the fact he had placed the letters before
his privy council, resolved to make their story public to the
world. It therefore happened on the 6th of September they
presented themselves before Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, a justice of
the peace, in the parish of St. Martin's, who, not without
considerable persuasion, consented to receive a sworn testimony
from Titus Oates regarding the truth of his narrative, which had
now grown from forty-three to eighty-one articles. This action
prevented further secrecy concerning the so-called plot.

A few days later the court returned to town for the winter, when
the Duke of York besought the privy council to investigate the
strange charges made in the declaration. Accordingly, on the
28th of the month, Tonge and Oates were summoned before it, when
the latter, making many additions to his narrative, solemnly
affirmed its truth. Aghast at so horrible a relation, the
council knew not what to credit. The evil reputation Oates had
borne, the baseness of character he revealed in detailing his
actions as a spy, the mysterious manner in which the fanatical
Tonge accounted for his possession of the document, tended to
make many doubt; whilst others, believing no man would have the
hardihood to bring forward such charges without being able to
sustain them by proof, contended it was their duty to sift them
to the end. Believing if he had been entrusted with secret
letters and documents of importance, he would naturally retain
some of them in order to prove his intended charges, the council
asked Oates to produce them; but of these he had not one to show.
Nor, he confessed, could he then furnish proof of his words, but
promised if he were provided with a guard, and given officers and
warrants, he would arrest certain persons concerned in the plot,
and seize secret documents such as none could dispute. These
being granted him, he immediately caused eight Jesuits to be
apprehended and imprisoned. Then he commenced a search for
treasonable letters, not only in their houses, but in the homes
of such catholics as were noted for their zeal. His
investigations were awaited with impatience; nor were they
without furnishing some pretext for his accusations.

One of the first dwellings which Titus Oates investigated was
that of Edward Coleman. This gentleman, the son of an English
divine, had early in life embraced catholicity, for the
propagation of which he thenceforth became most zealous. Coming
under notice of the court, he became the confidant of the Duke of
York, and by him was made secretary to the duchess. A man of
great mental activity, religious fervour, and considerable
ambition, he had, about four years previous to this time, entered
into a correspondence with the confessor of the French king and
other Jesuits, regarding the hopes he entertained of Charles II.
professing catholicity. Knowing him to be bold in his designs
and incautious in his actions, the duke had discharged him from
his post as secretary to the duchess, but had retained him in his
dependence. This latter circumstance, together with a suspicion
of the confidence which had existed between him and his royal
highness, prompted Oates to have him arrested, and his house
searched. Coleman, having received notice of this design, fled
from his home, incautiously leaving behind him some old letters
and copies of communications which had passed between him and the
Jesuits. These were at once seized, and though not containing
one expression which could be construed as treasonable, were,
from expectations they set forth of seeing catholicity re-
established in England, considered by undiscerning judges, proofs
of the statements made by Oates.

On the strength of his discovery, Oates hastened to Sir
Edmondbury Godfrey, and swore false informations; becoming aware
of which, Coleman, conscious of his innocence, delivered himself
up, in hopes of meeting a justice never vouchsafed him.

The Privy council now sat morning and evening, in order to
examine Oates, whose evidence proved untrustworthy and
contradictory to a bewildering degree. When it was pointed out
to him the five letters, supposed to come from men of education,
contained ill-spelling, bad grammar, and other faults, he, with
much effrontery, declared it was a common artifice among the
Jesuits to write in that manner, in order to avoid recognition;
but inasmuch as real names were attached to the epistles, that
argument was not considered just. The subject was not mentioned
again. When an agent for these wicked men in Spain, he related,
he had been admitted into the presence of Don John, and had seen
him counting out large sums of money, with which he intended to
reward Sir George Wakeham when he had poisoned the king. Hearing
this, his majesty inquired what kind of person Don John was.
Oates said he was tall, lean, and black; whereas the monarch knew
him to be small, stout, and fair. And on another occasion, when
asked where he had heard the French king's confessor hire an
assassin to shoot Charles, he replied, "At the Jesuits' monastery
close by the Louvre;" at which the king, losing patience with the
impostor, cried out, "Tush, man! the Jesuits have no house
within a mile of the Louvre!" Presently Oates named two catholic
peers, Lord Arundel of Wardour and Lord Bellasis, as being
concerned in the plot, when the king again spoke to him, saying
these lords had served his father faithfully, and fought his wars
bravely, and unless proof were clear against them, he would not
credit they sought him ill. Then Oates, seeing he had gone too
far, said they did not know of the conspiracy, but it had been
intended to acquaint them with it in good time. Later on he
swore falsely against them.

Meanwhile the wildest sensation was caused by the revelations of
this "hellish plot and attempt to murder the king." The public
mind, long filled with hatred of papacy, was now inflamed to a
degree of fury which could only be quenched by the blood of many
victims. To the general sensation which obtained, a new terror
was promptly added by the occurrence of a supposed horrible and
mysterious murder.

On the evening of Saturday, the 12th of October, Sir Edmondbury
Godfrey was missing from his home in the parish of St. Martin's.
The worthy magistrate was an easy going bachelor of portly
appearance, much given to quote legal opinions in his discourse,
and to assert the majesty of the law as represented in his
person. He was alike respected for his zeal by the protestants,
and esteemed for his lenity by the catholics. Bishop Burnet
records the worthy knight "was not apt to search for priests or
mass-houses;" and Archdeacon Eachard affirms "he was well known
to be a favourer rather than a prosecutor of the papists."
Accordingly, his disappearance at first begot no evil suspicions;
but as he did not return on Monday, his servants became alarmed
at the absence of a master whose regularity was proverbial. His
brothers were of opinion he was in debt, and sought escape from
his creditors; whilst his friends, after their kind, were ready
to name certain houses of doubtful repute in which they were
certain he had taken temporary lodgings. On his papers being
examined, it was found he had set his affairs in order, paid all
his debts, and destroyed a quantity of his letters and documents.
It was then remembered he had been occasionally susceptible to
melancholia--a disease he inherited from his father, who had
perished by his own hand. It was noted some days before that on
which he was missed, he had appeared listless and depressed. It
was known the imprisonment of his friend Coleman had weighed
heavily on his spirits. A terrible fear now taking possession of
his relatives and friends, thorough search was made for him,
which proved vain until the Thursday following his disappearance,
when he was accidentally discovered lying in a ditch, a cloth
knotted round his neck, and a sword passed through his body, "at
or near a place called Primrose Hill, in the midway between
London and Hampstead."

If he had been murdered, no motive appeared to account for the
deed; neither robbery nor revenge could have prompted it. His
rings and money, gloves and cane, were found on and near his
body; and it was known he had lived in peace with all men. Nor
did an inquest lasting two days throw any light upon the mystery.
If it were proved he had died by his own hand, the law of that
day would not permit his brothers to inherit his property, which
was found to be considerable. It was therefore their interest to
ignore the fact that strangulation pointed to FELO DE SE, and to
assume he had been murdered. Accordingly they prohibited the
surgeons from opening the body, lest examination should falsify
conclusions at which they desired to arrive. A verdict was
ultimately returned "that he was murdered by certain persons
unknown to the jurors, and that his death proceeded from
suffocation and strangling by a certain piece of linen cloth of
no value."

Occurring at such a moment, his death was at once attributed to
the papists, who, it was said, being incensed that the magistrate
had received the sworn testimonies of Oates, had sought this
bloody revenge. Fear now succeeded bewilderment; desires of
vengeance sprang from depths of horror. For two days the mangled
remains of the poor knight were exposed to public view, "and all
that saw them went away inflamed." They were then interred with
all the pomp and state befitting one who had fallen a victim to
catholicism, a martyr to protestantism. The funeral procession,
which took its sad way through the principal thoroughfares from
Bridewell to St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, numbered seventy-two
divines, and over twelve hundred persons of quality and
consideration. Arriving at the church, Dr. Lloyd, a clergyman
remarkable for his fine abhorrence of papists, ascended the
pulpit, where, protected by two men of great height and strength,
he delivered a, discourse, pointing to the conclusion that Sir
Edmondbury Godfrey had been sacrificed to the catholic
conspiracy, and instigating his hearers to seek revenge. Sir
Roger North tells us the crowd in and about the church was
prodigious, "and so heated, that anything called papist, were it
cat or dog, had probably gone to pieces in a moment. The
catholics all kept close in their houses and lodgings, thinking
it a good composition to be safe there."

The whole city was terror-stricken. "Men's spirits were so
sharpened," says Burnet, "that it was looked on as a very great
happiness that the people did not vent their fury upon the
papists about the town." Tonge and Oates went abroad protected
by body guards, arresting hundreds of catholics; cannon were
mounted around Whitehall and St. James's; patrols paraded the
streets by day and night; the trained bands were ready to fall in
at a moment's notice; preparations were made for barricading the
principal thoroughfares; the city gates were kept closed so that
admission could be only had through the wickets; and the Houses
of Parliament demanded a guard should keep watch on the vaults
over which they sat, lest imitators of Guy Fawkes might blow them
to pieces. Moreover, it was not alone the safety of the
multitude, but the protection of the individual which was sought
to be secured. In the dark confusion which general terror
produced, each man felt he might be singled out as the next
victim of this diabolical plot, and therefore devised means to
guard his life from the hands of murderous papists. North, in
his "Examen," speaking of this period, tells us: "There was much
recommendation of silk armour, and the prudence of being provided
with it against the time the Protestants were to be massacred.
And, accordingly, there were abundance of those silken back,
breast, and headpots made and sold, that were pretended to be
pistol proof; in which any man dressed up was as safe as in a
house, for it was impossible anyone could go to strike him for
laughing; so ridiculous was the figure, as they say, of hogs in
armour. This was the armour of defence; but our sparks were not
altogether so tame as to carry their provision no further, for
truly they intended to be assailants upon fair occasion, and had
for that end recommended also to them a certain pocket weapon,
which for its design and efficacy had the honour to be called a
protestant flail. It was for street and crowd work; and the
engine lurking perdue in a coat pocket, might readily sally out
to execution, and so, by clearing a great hall, or piazza or so,
carry an election by a choice of polling called knocking down.
The handle resembled a farrier's blood stick, and the fall was
joined to the end by a strong nervous ligature, that in its swing
fell just short of the hand, and was made of LIGNUM VITAE, or
rather, as the poet termed it, MORTIS."

One day, whilst the town was in this state of consternation,
Tonge sent for Dr. Burnet, who hastened to visit him in the
apartments allotted him and Oates at Whitehall. The historian
says he found Tonge "so lifted up that he seemed to have lost the
little sense he had. Oates came in," he continues, "and made me
a compliment that I was one that was marked out to be killed. He
had before said the same to Stillingfleet of him. But he had
made that honour which he did us too cheap, when he said Tonge
was to be served in the same manner, because he had translated
'The Jesuits' Morals' into English. He broke out into great fury
against the Jesuits, and said he would have their blood. But I,
to divert him from that strain, asked him what were the arguments
that prevailed on him to change his religion and to go over to
the Church of Rome? He upon that stood up, and laid his hands on
his breast, and said, 'God and His holy angels knew that he had
never changed, but that he had gone among them on purpose to
betray them.' This gave me such a character of him, that I could
have no regard to anything he said or swore after that."

The agitation now besetting the public mind had been adroitly
fanned into flame by the evil genius of Lord Shaftesbury.
Eachard states that if he was not the original contriver of this
disturbance, "he was at least the grand refiner and improver of
all the materials. And so much he seemed to acknowledge to a
nobleman of his acquaintance, when he said, 'I will not say who
started the game, but I am sure I had the full hunting of it.'"
In the general consternation which spread over the land he beheld
a means that might help the fulfilment of his strong desires.
Chief among these were the exclusion of the Duke of York from the
throne, and the realization of his own inordinate ambition. A
deist in belief, he abhorred catholicism; a worshipper of self,
he longed for power. He had boasted Cromwell had wanted to crown
him king, and he narrated to Burnet that a Dutch astrologer had
predicted he would yet fill a lofty position. He had long
schemed and dreamed, and now it seemed the result of the one and
fulfilment of the other were at hand. The pretended discovery of
this plot threatened to upheave the established form of
government, for the king was one at heart with those about to be
brought to trial and death. A quarter of a century had not
passed since a bold and determined man had risen up and governed
Great Britain. Why should not history repeat itself in this
respect? the prospect was alluring. Possessing strong
influence, great vanity, and an unscrupulous character,
Shaftesbury resolved to stir the nation to its centre, at the
expense of peace, honour, and bloodshed.

On the 21st of October, Parliament assembled, when Lord Danby,
much against his majesty's inclination, brought the subject of
the plot before the Commons. This was a movement much
appreciated by the House, which, fired by the general
indignation, resolved to deal out vengeance with a strong hand.
As befitted such intention, they began by requesting his majesty
would order a day of general fasting and prayer, to implore the
mercy of Almighty God. The king complying with this desire, they
next, "in consideration of the bloody and traitorous designs,"
besought him to issue a proclamation "commanding all persons
being popish recusants, or so reputed," to depart ten miles from
the city. Accordingly, upwards of thirty thousand citizens left
London before the 7th of the following month, "with great
lamentations leaving their trades and habitations." Many of them
in a little while secretly returned again. A few days before
this latest petition was presented to the monarch, Oates had been
examined before the House for over six hours; and so delighted
was he by the unprejudiced manner in which his statements were
received, that he added several items to them. These were not
only interesting in themselves, but implicated peers and persons
of quality to the number of twenty-six. The former, including
Lords Stafford, Powis, Petre, Bellasis, and Arundel of Wardour,
were committed to the Tower, the latter to Newgate prison.

At the end of his examination he was several times asked if he
knew more of the plot, or of those concerned with it, to which he
emphatically replied he did not. Three days later he remembered
a further incident which involved many persons not previously
mentioned by him.

Both Houses now sat in the forenoon and afternoon of each day;
excitement was not allowed to flag. Oates seldom appeared before
the Commons without having fresh revelations to make; but the
fertility of his imagination by no means weakened the strength of
his evidence in the opinions of his hearers. "Oates was
encouraged," writes John Evelyn, "and everything he affirmed
taken for gospel." Indignation against the papists daily
increasing in height, the decrees issued regarding them became
more rigorous in severity.

On the 2nd of November the king, in obedience to his Parliament,
offered a reward of twenty pounds for the discovery of any
officer or soldier who, since the passing of the Test Act, "hath
been perverted to the Romish religion, or hears mass." Two days
later a bill was framed "for more effectually preserving the
king's person and government, by disabling papists from sitting
in either House of Parliament." As it was feared a clause would
be inserted in this, excluding the Duke of York, the enemies of
his royal highness more plainly avowed their object by moving
that an address be presented to the king, praying his brother
should "withdraw himself from his majesty's person and counsels."
This was the first step towards the Bill of Exclusion from
Succession which they hoped subsequently to obtain. The monarch,
however, determined to check such designs whilst there was yet
time; and accordingly made a speech to the peers, in which he
said to them, "Whatever reasonable bills you shall present to be
passed into laws, to make you safe in the reign of my successor,
so they tend not to impeach the right of succession, nor the
descent of the crown in the true line, shall find from me a ready

The intended address was therefore abandoned for the present; but
the bill for disabling catholics from sitting in either House of
Parliament, having a clause which excepted the Duke of York from
that indignity, passed on the 30th of November.


Reward for the discovery of murderers.--Bedlow's character and
evidence.--His strange story.--Development of the "horrid plot."
--William Staley is made a victim.--Three Jesuits hung.--Titus
Oates pronounced the saviour of his country.--Striving to ruin
the queen.--Monstrous story of Bedlow and Oates.--The king
protects her majesty.--Five Jesuits executed.--Fresh rumours
concerning the papists.--Bill to exclude the Duke of York.--Lord
Stafford is tried.--Scene at Tower Hill.--Fate of the

Before the remains of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey were laid to rest, a
proclamation was issued by the king, offering a reward of five
hundred pounds for discovery of the murderers. If one of the
assassins betrayed those who helped him in the deed, he should
receive, not only the sum mentioned, but likewise a free pardon,
and such protection for his security as he could in reason
propose. Two days after this had been made public, a man named
William Bedlow put himself in communication with Sir William
Coventry, Secretary of State, declaring he had a certain
knowledge of the murder in question.

Archdeacon Eachard tells us this man "was one of a base birth and
worse manners, who from a poor foot-boy and runner of errands,
for a while got into a livery in the Lord Bellasis's family; and
having for his villainies suffered hardships and want in many
prisons in England, he afterwards turned a kind of post or letter
carrier for those who thought fit to employ him beyond sea. By
these means he got the names and habitations of men of quality,
their relations, correspondents, and interests; and upon this
bottom, with a daring boldness, and a, dexterous turn of fancy
and address, he put himself into the world. He was skilful in
all the arts and methods of cheating; but his masterpiece was his
personating men of quality, getting credit for watches, coats,
and horses; borrowing money, bilking vintners and tradesmen,
lying and romancing to the degree of imposing upon any man of
good nature. He lived like a wild Arab upon prey, and whether he
was in Flanders, France, Spain, or England, he never failed in
leaving the name of a notorious cheat and impostor behind him."

On the 7th of November, Bedlow was brought before the king, and
examined by two Secretaries of State. Here he made the
extraordinary declaration that he had seen the body of the
murdered magistrate lying at Somerset House--then the residence
of the queen; that two Jesuits, named La Faire and Walsh, told
him they, with the assistance of an attendant in the queen's
chapel, had smothered Sir Edmondbury Godfrey between two pillows;
that he had been offered two thousand guineas if he would safely
remove the body, which on his refusal was carried away, a couple
of nights after the murder, by three persons unknown to him, who
were servants of the queen's household. Hearing this statement,
Sir William Coventry asked him if he knew anything of the popish
plot, when he affirmed on oath he was entirely ignorant regarding
it; he likewise swore he knew no such man as Titus Oates.

That night he was lodged in Whitehall, in company with Tonge and
Oates; and next morning appeared before the House of Lords, when
it was evident his memory had wonderfully improved since the
previous day. His story now assumed a more concise form. In the
beginning of October, he stated, he had been offered the sum of
four thousand pounds, to be paid by Lord Bellasis, provided he
murdered a man whose name was withheld from him, This he refused.
He was then asked to make the acquaintance and watch the
movements of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey. With this he complied.
Soon after dusk on the 12th of October, the magistrate had been
dragged into the court of Somerset House by the Jesuits, and
asked if he would send for the documents to which Oates had
sworn. On his refusal he had been smothered with a piece of
linen cloth; the story of suffocation by pillows, being at
variance with the medical evidence, was now abandoned. One of
the Jesuits, La Faire, had asked Bedlow to call at Somerset House
that night at nine o'clock; and on presenting himself, he was
conducted through a gloomy passage into a spacious and sombre
room, where a group of figures stood round a body lying on the
floor. Advancing to these, La Faire turned the light of a
lantern he carried on the face of the prostrate man, when Bedlow
recognised Sir Edmondbury Godfrey. He was then offered two
thousand guineas if he would remove the body, which was allowed
to remain there three days. This he promised to accomplish, but
afterwards, his conscience reproving him, he resolved to avoid
the assassins; and rather than accept the sum proffered, he had
preferred discovering the villainy to the Government.

This improbable story obtained no credit with the king, nor
indeed with those whose minds were free from prejudice. "His
majesty," writes Sir John Reresby, "told me Bedlow was a rogue,
and that he was satisfied he had given false evidence concerning
the death of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey." Many circumstances
regarding the narrator and his story showed the viciousness of
the one and the falsity of the other. The authority just
mentioned states, when Bedlow "was taxed with having cheated a
great many merchants abroad, and gentlemen at home, by
personating my Lord Gerard and other men of quality, and by
divers other cheats, he made it an argument to be more credited
in this matter, saying nobody but a rogue could be employed in
such designs." Concerning the murder, it chanced the king had
been at Somerset House visiting the queen, at the time when,
according to Bedlow, the deed had been committed. His majesty
had been attended by a company of guards, and sentries had been
placed at every door; yet not one of them had witnessed a
scuffle, or heard a noise. Moreover, on the king sending Bedlow
to Somerset House, that he might indicate the apartment in which
the magistrate's remains had lain three days, he pointed out a
room where the footman waited, and through which the queen's
meals were daily carried.

But the dishonesty of his character and falsity of his statements
by no means prevented the majority of his hearers from believing,
or pretending to believe, his statements; and therefore,
encouraged by the ready reception they met, he ventured to make
fresh and startling revelations. Heedless of the oath he had
taken on the first day of his examination, regarding his
ignorance of the popish plot, he now asserted he was well
acquainted with all its details. For some four years he had been
in the secret employment of the wicked Jesuits, and knew they
intended to stab and poison his majesty, establish catholicity in
England, and make the pope king. So far, indeed, had their evil
machinations been planned, that several popish peers already held
commissions for posts they expected to fill in the future. Lord
Bellasis and Lord Powis were appointed commanders of the forces
in the north and south; whilst Lord Arundel of Wardour had
permission to grant such positions as he pleased. Then the Dukes
of Buckingham, Ormond, and Monmouth, with Lords Shaftesbury and
Ossory, together with many others, were to be murdered by forty
thousand papists, who were ready to rise up all over the country
at a moment's notice. "Nor was there," he added, "a Roman
Catholic of any quality or credit but was acquainted with these
designs and had received the sacrament from their father
confessors to be secret in carrying it out."

It by no means pleased Oates that Bedlow should surpass him in
his knowledge of this hellish plot. Therefore, that he might not
lose in repute as an informer, he now declared he was also aware
of the commissions held by popish peers. He, however, assigned
them in a different order. Arundel was to be made chancellor;
Powis, treasurer; Bellasis general of the army; Petre,
lieutenant-general; Ratcliffe, major-general; Stafford,
paymaster-general; and Langhorn, advocate-general. Nay, his
information far outstripped Bedlow's, for he swore that to his
knowledge Coleman had given four ruffians eighty guineas to stab
the king, and Sir George Wakeham had undertaken to poison his
majesty for ten thousand pounds. When, however, he was brought
face to face with these men, he was unable to recognise them, a
fact he accounted for by stating he was exhausted by prolonged

All England was scared by revelations so horrible; "the business
of life," writes Macpherson, "was interrupted by confusion,
panic, clamour, and dreadful rumours." In London, two thousand
catholics were cast into prison; houses were daily searched for
arms and treasonable documents; and in good time merciless
executions filled up the sum of bitter persecutions.

One of the first victims of this so-called plot was William
Staley, a catholic banker of fair renown. The manner in which
his life was sacrificed will serve as an example of the injustice
meted to those accused. One day, William Staley happened to
enter a pastrycook's shop in Covent Garden, opposite his bank,
where there chanced to stand at the time a fellow named
Carstairs; one of the infamous creatures who, envious of the
honours and riches heaped on Oates and Bedlow, resolved to make
new discoveries and enjoy like rewards. At this time he was, as
Bishop Burnet states, "looking about where he could find a lucky
piece of villainy." Unfortunately the banker came under his
notice, and Bedlow and an associate pretended to have heard
Staley say the king was a rogue and a persecutor of the people
whom he would stab if no other man was found to do the deed.
These words Carstairs wrote down, and next morning called on the
banker, showed him the treasonable sentence, and said he would
swear it had been uttered by him, unless he, Staley, would
purchase his silence. Though fully aware of his danger, he
refused to do this; whereon Carstairs had him instantly arrested
and committed for trial. Hearing of his situation, and knowing
the infamous character of his accusers, Dr. Burnet thought it his
duty to let the lord chancellor and the attorney-general know
"What profligate wretches these witnesses were." His
interference was received with hostility. The attorney-general
took it ill that he should disparage the king's evidence; Lord
Shaftesbury avowed those who sought to undermine the credit of
witnesses were to be looked on as public enemies; whilst the Duke
of Lauderdale said Burnet desired to save Staley because of the
regard he had for anyone who would murder his majesty.
Frightened by such remarks at a time when no man's life or credit
was safe, Burnet shrank from further action; but rumour of his
interference having got noised abroad, it was resented by the
public to such an extent, that he was advised not to stir abroad
for fear of public affronts.

Within five days of his arrest, William Staley was condemned to
death. In vain he protested his innocence, pointed out the
improbability of his using such words in a public room, and
referred to his character as a loyal man and worthy citizen. He
was condemned and executed as a traitor.

The next victim was Coleman. He denied having hired assassins to
murder his majesty, or entertained desires for his death; but
honestly stated he had striven to advance his religion, not by
bloodshed, but by tolerance. Whilst lying in chains at Newgate
prison under sentence of death members of both Houses of
Parliament visited him, and offered him pardon if he confessed a
knowledge of the plot; but, in answer to all persuasions and
promises, he avowed his innocence; protesting which, he died at

A little later, three Jesuits, named Ireland, Whitehead, and
Fenwick, and two attendants of the queen's chapel, named Grove
and Pickering, were executed on a charge of conspiracy to kill
the king. Oates and Bedlow swore these Jesuits had promised
Grove fifteen hundred pounds as price of the murder; Pickering
chose as his reward to have thirty thousand masses, at a shilling
a mass, said for him. Three times they had attempted this deed
with a pistol; but once the flint was loose, another time there
was no powder in the pan, and again the pistol was charged only
with bullets. These five men died denying their guilt to the

Meanwhile, Dr. Tonge, the ingenious inventor of the plot, had
sunk into insignificance by comparison with his audacious pupil.
Not only did the latter have apartments at Whitehall allotted
him, and receive a pension of twelve hundred a year, but he was
lauded as the saviour of his country, complimented with the title
of doctor of divinity, honoured in public, and entertained in
private. Eachard mentions "a great supper in the city," given in
compliment to Oates by "twenty eminent rich citizens;" and Sir
John Reresby writes of meeting him at the dinner-table of Dr.
Gunning, Bishop of Ely. Nothing could exceed the insolence and
arrogance of the impostor. He appeared in a silk gown and
cassock, a long scarf, a broad hat with satin band and rose, and
called himself a doctor of divinity. No man dared contradict or
oppose him, lest he should be denounced as a conniver of the
plot, and arrested as a traitor. "Whoever he pointed at was
taken up and committed," says North. "So that many people got
out of his way as from a blast, and glad they could prove their
last two years' conversation. The very breath of him was
pestilential, and if it brought not imprisonment, it surely
poisoned reputation." Sir John, speaking of him at the bishop's
dinner-table, says "he was blown up with the hopes of running
down the Duke of York, and spoke of him and his family after a
manner which showed himself both a fool and a knave. He
reflected not only on him personally, but upon her majesty;
nobody daring to contradict him, for fear of being made a party
to the plot. I at least did not undertake to do it, when he left
the room in some heat. The bishop told me this was his usual
discourse, and that he had checked him formerly for taking so
indecent a liberty, but he found it was to no purpose."

The impostor's conversation on this occasion furnishes the key-
note of a vile plot now contrived to intercept the lawful
succession, either by effectually removing the queen, and thereby
enabling the king to marry again; or otherwise excluding the Duke
of York by act of parliament from lawful right to the crown.
Though Shaftesbury's hand was not plainly seen, there can be no
doubt it was busily employed in working out his favourite design.

The blow was first aimed at her majesty by Bedlow, who, on the
25th of November, accused her of conspiring to kill her husband.
About eighteen months previously, he said, there had been a
consultation in the chapel gallery at Somerset House, which had
been attended by Lord Bellasis, Mr. Coleman, La Faire, Pritchard,
Latham, and Sheldon, four Jesuits, and two Frenchmen whom he took
to be abbots, two persons of quality whose faces he did not see,
and lastly by her majesty. The Jesuits afterwards confided in
him as a person of trust, that the queen wept at a proposal to
murder the king which had been made, but subsequently yielding to
arguments of the French abbots, had consented to the design.
Indeed, Bedlow, who was in the sacristy when her majesty passed
through at the termination of this meeting, noticed her face had
much changed. Here his story ended; but, as was now usual, it
was taken up and concluded by Oates.

Appearing at the Bar of the House of Commons, this vile impostor
cried out, "Aye, Taitus Oates, accause Caatharine, Quean of
England, of haigh traison." Then followed his audacious
evidence. In the previous July, Sir George Wakeham, in writing
to a Jesuit named Ashby, stated her majesty would aid in
poisoning the king. A few days afterwards, Harcourt and four
other Jesuits having been sent for, attended the queen at
Somerset House. On that occasion Oates waited on them; they went
into a chamber, he stayed without. Whilst there he heard a
woman's voice say she would endure her wrongs no longer, but
should assist Sir George Wakeham in poisoning the king. He was
afterwards admitted to the chamber, and saw no woman there but
her majesty; and he heard the same voice ask Harcourt, whilst be
was within, if he had received the last ten thousand pounds.

The appetite of public credulity seeming to increase by that on
which it fed, this avowal was readily believed. That the
accusation had not been previously made; that Oates had months
before sworn he knew no others implicated in the plot beyond
those he named; that the queen had never interfered in religious
matters; that she loved her husband exceeding well, were facts
completely overlooked in the general agitation. Parliament "was
in a rage and flame;" and next day the Commons drew up an address
to the king, stating that "having received information of a most
desperate and traitorous design against the life of his sacred
majesty, wherein the queen is particularly charged and accused"
they besought him that "she and all her family, and all papists
and reputed papists, be forthwith removed from his court."
Furthermore, the House sent a message to the Peers, desiring
their concurrence in this request; but the Lords made answer,
before doing so they would examine the witnesses against her
majesty. This resolution was loudly and indecently protested
against by Lord Shaftesbury and two of his friends.

The king had discredited the story of the plot from the first;
but remembering the unhappy consequences which had resulted upon
the disagreement of the monarch and his parliament in the
previous reign, he weakly resolved to let himself be carried away
by the storm, other than offer it resistance. On the
condemnation of the Jesuits, he had appeared unhappy and
dissatisfied; "but," says Lord Romney, "after he had had a little
advice he kept his displeasure to himself." The Duke of York
states, in the Stuart Papers, that "the seeming necessity of his
affairs made his majesty think he could not be safe but by
consenting every day to the execution of those he knew in his
heart to be most innocent." Now, however, when foul charges were
made against the queen, calculated not merely to ruin her honour
but destroy her life, he resolved to interfere. He therefore
requested she would return to Whitehall, where she should be safe
under his protection; and feeling assured Oates had received
instructions from others more villainous than their tool, he
ordered a strict guard to be kept upon him. This he was,
however, obliged to remove next day at request of the Commons.

On the examination before the House of Lords of Oates and Bedlow,
their evidence proved so vague and contradictory that it was
rejected even by the most credulous. When Bedlow was asked "why
be had not disclosed such a perilous matter in conjunction with
his previous information touching the murder of Sir Edmondbury
Godfrey," he coolly replied, "it had escaped his memory." On
Oates being sent to point out the apartment in which he had seen
her majesty and the Jesuits, he first selected the guard-room,
and afterwards the privy chamber, places in which it would have
been impossible to have held secret consultation. Aware that the
king was resolved to protect her majesty, and conscious the
evidence of her accusers was more wildly improbable than usual,
the Lords refused to second the address of the Commons, when the
charge against this hapless woman was abandoned, to the great
vexation of my Lord Shaftesbury.

Though the queen happily escaped the toils of her enemies, the
reign of terror was by no means at an end. At request of the
king, the Duke of York left England and took refuge in Brussels;
the catholic peers imprisoned in the Tower were impeached with
high treason; Hill, Green, and Berry, servants of her majesty,
charged with the murder of Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, were, without
a shadow of evidence, hurried to the scaffold, as were soon after
Whitebread, Fenwick, Harcourt, Gavan and Turner, Jesuits all, and
Langhorn, a catholic lawyer, for conspiring to murder the king.
On the morning when these unfortunate men stood ignominiously
bound to the gallows at Tyburn, the instruments of death before
their eyes, the angry murmurs of the surging mob ringing in their
ears, suddenly the sound of a voice crying aloud, "A pardon! a
pardon!" was heard afar off, and presently a horseman appeared
riding at full speed. The soldiers with some difficulty making
way for him through a line of excited people, he advanced to the
foot of the scaffold, and handed a roll of paper bearing the
king's seal to the sheriff, who, opening it, read a promise of
pardon to those now standing face to face with death, provided
"they should acknowledge the conspiracy, and lay open what they
knew thereof." To this they replied they knew of no plot, and
had never desired harm to the king; and, praying for those who
had sought their lives, they died.

The firmness and patience with which the victims of judicial
murder had one and all met death, refusing bribes, and resisting
persuasions to own themselves guilty, could not fail in producing
some effect upon the public mind; and towards the middle of the
year 1679 the first signs of reaction became visible, when three
Benedictine monks and the queen's physician were tried for

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