Item of the Week: The Popish Plot at the Clark

Published: March 9, 2011

From Library Assistant Lauren Zuchowski

Titus Oates was a clergyman with a knack for perjury and by the end of his life was known as a shame to mankind. Oates, the man behind the Popish Plot, was responsible for creating anti-Catholic hysteria in London from 1678-1681.  During this period fifteen innocent men were executed and Catholics all over the city we forced to flee London as well as the surrounding areas.  Oates and his partner in crime, Israel Tonge, created a large manuscript that accused the Roman Catholic Church of supporting the assassination of Charles II, listed 100 Jesuits that were in on the plan and continued to claim that the listed Jesuits were residing in London as sleeper cells to carry out the plan.  This manuscript was completely fictitious and a result of the Protestant community’s growing fear of the Roman Catholic Church’s influence in London.

At the Clark we have a wide variety of materials covering the Popish Plot, from pamphlets to letters and manuscripts.  A particularly interesting volume from our rare books stack is The dreadful apparition; or, The Pope haunted with ghosts. In relation to Sir Edmundbury-Godfrey’s murther, and the visitations of the late sainted traytors, who suffered for the Romish-cause. The figure being by the verses at large explained., covering the mysterious murder of Sir Edmundbury-Godfrey.  Unlike Oates, Edmundbury-Godfrey was a well respected man involved with Westminster’s justice of peace.  He was also awarded knighthood for his bravery and service during the Great Plague.  When Oates began his crusade against Catholicism in London he came to Edmundbury-Godfrey and asked him to take an oath that his Catholic conspiracy documents were true.  Edmundbury-Godfrey demanded the documents of him, eventually taking the evidence but also allegedly warning people of the accusations.  In October of 1678 Edmundbury-Godfrey did not return home and his body was found five days later in a roadside ditch stabbed with his own sword.  Oates used it to his advantage, claiming it was the work of the dreaded Jesuits.

The dreadful apparition is a memoir of the life and death of Edmundbury-Godfrey, focusing on the murder investigation, eventual trials and the lies that the Popish Plot presented to the public. This book is just one of the many treasures within our stacks that cover the completely fake conspiracy created by Oates.

The Pope haunted by the ghosts of Popish Plot victims
Sir Edmondbury Godfrey

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