Oates, Titus

Oates, Titus, 1649–1705, English conspirator. An Anglican priest whose whole career was marked with intrigue and scandal, he joined forces with one Israel Tonge to invent the story of the Popish Plot of 1678. Oates, who had been briefly a convert to Roman Catholicism, claimed that there was a Jesuit-guided plan to assassinate Charles II and to hasten the succession of the Catholic James, duke of York (later James II). The account was completely fabricated, and Oates, examined by the privy council, would perhaps have been immediately exposed had not treasonous letters from Edward Coleman, secretary of the duchess of York, to the French Jesuit, François La Chaise, been discovered as a result of his accusations. The unexplained death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, the judge to whom Tonge and Oates first told their story, was attributed without evidence to the Catholics, and three innocent men were hanged for it. A frenzy of anti-Catholic hatred swept through England, resulting in the judicial murder of a number of Roman Catholic peers and commoners and in the arrest and persecution of many others. Oates enjoyed temporary eminence and even accused Queen Catherine of plotting to poison the king. In 1685, Oates was convicted of perjury, severely flogged, and imprisoned. Under William III he was released and pensioned.

See J. Kenyon, The Popish Plot (1972).

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