Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Lay Victim of The Popish Plot

Blessed Richard Langhorne (c. 1624 – 14 July 1679) was a barrister executed as part of the Popish Plot. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in May 1647 and called to the bar in November 1654. He provided legal and financial advice for the Jesuits.

His wife, Dorothy, was a Protestant from Havering in Essex. His sons Charles and Francis were both priests. When, in October 1677, Titus Oates was expelled from the English College at St Omer "for serious moral lapses", Charles Langhorne entrusted Oates with a letter to his father. Oates returned to St Omer with a letter from Richard thanking the Jesuits for all they had done for his sons.

When Oates and Israel Tonge unleashed their Popish Plot in September 1678, three Jesuits and a Benedictine were arrested. Langhorne was arrested a week later, imprisoned at Newgate and charged with Treason. Oates claimed, corroborated by William Bedloe, that Langhorne's earlier correspondence dealt with treason.

He was found guilty of High Treason. As the result of a petition by his wife, a ‘true Protestant’, he received a month's reprieve to tidy the affairs of his clients. He was executed at Tyburn, London, on 14 July 1679. According to the Benedictines at Tyburn Convent, "He declared on the scaffold at Tyburn, that not only a pardon, but many preferments and estates had been offered to him if he would for sake his religion.As the hangman was placing the rope round his neck, he took it into his hands and kissed it."

On 15 December 1929, he was beatified by Pope Pius XI.

As I've noted before on this blog when discussing the Popish Plot, England's justice system benefitted the accuser and gave little leeway to a defendant trying to prove a negative: Langhorne could not prove their interpretation of his letters was wrong. Samuel Pepys and other defendants finally received some measure of justice because Judge Scrogg figured out Oates' and his confreres' perjury. Samuel Pepys was accused that same year of giving naval secrets to the French and of being a Catholic, just because of his loyalty to James, the Duke of York. He spent six months in the Tower of London and eventually established, not his innocence per se, but his accuser's guilt. Pepys was cleared of charges and reinstated as Secretary to the Admirality--in 1684!

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