Saturday, July 13, 2013

Titus Oates, RIP, July 13, 1705

Titus Oates died in 1705 on July 13, after marrying and becoming a Baptist minister (and then being defrocked); relatively obscure and with his fame forgotten--but still receiving a pension from the British government. BBC History Magazine selected Titus Oates as the Worst Briton of the 17th century and the third worst Briton in last one thousand years in 2006.

With the so-called Popish Plot, Oates implicated and caused the deaths of 15 Catholic priests and laity who were certainly not guilty of any plot to kill King Charles II--since there was no plot. Before the horror of those three years, however, Titus Oates also indicated an inability to decide which Church he belonged to, a propensity to immorality, and a previous charge of perjury. Although he failed at two colleges at the University of Cambridge, he was ordained in the Church of England and served in a parish and as chaplain on a ship, during which service he was accused of sodomy.

After joining the household of the Catholic Duke of Norfolk as a chaplain to the Anglicans in that household, he became a Catholic in 1677. At the same time, however, he was writing anti-Catholic pamphlets.

He studied for a time with the Jesuits in the seminary at Valladolid in Spain, later claiming just to have been there as a spy--he was indeed kicked out in 1678. By September of that same year, Oates was testifying to the King's Council about the Jesuit's plot to murder the Anglican Charles so that Charles' brother James, the Catholic Duke of York could succeed him.

Charles soon figured out that Oates was making some things up, at least, when he caught him in several lies and inaccuracies. He had Oates arrested, but Parliament forced his release. Oates was soon in posh apartments with a nice annual stipend. After a time, however, Judge William Scroggs, who had been subjecting the Catholic defendants to horrible verbal abuse in addition to sentencing them to death, began to turn his scorn upon those testifying against them, and declared the midwife Elizabeth Cellier and Lord Castlemaine, the husband of one of Charles II's mistresses, Barbara, innocent in their trials. In Cellier's trial, he sentenced her accuser to prison for perjury.

Finally, in 1681, Oates was disgraced--kicked out of his nice pad, charged and convicted of sedition, and put in prison. When the Duke of York did succeed his brother, James II had Oates retried, convicted of perjury and sentenced to annual pillory, as pictured above.

During the reign of William and Mary Oates was pardoned and granted another pension.

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