Thursday, November 10, 2005

The murder of Godfrey

Two coincidences seemed to dispel all doubts about the conspiracy.

On 12 October 1678 Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey disappeared. Five days later his body was discovered in a ditch at the foot of Primrose Hill; he had been strangled several days before and subsequently run through with his own sword. No-one knows why he was murdered or who murdered him, but it was widely believed that he had been killed by Catholics because he knew too much. A coroner’s jury brought in the verdict of ‘wilful murder by some person or persons unknown’. For this formula the popular mind substituted ‘the Papists’.

Even more convincing was the fact that Oates had implicated, Edward Coleman, the duchess of York’s secretary. His house was searched and when his papers were seized, he was found to have engaged in wild schemes with Jesuits and French agents. For example, he wrote to Louis XIV’s confessor, Père Lachaise :
‘We have here a mighty work upon our hands, no less than the conversion of the three kingdoms and by that perhaps the subduing of a pestilent heresy which has domineered over part of this northern world a long time’.
On 1-2 November the two Houses of the Cavalier Parliament recorded their unanimous conviction that ‘there hath been and still is a damnable and hellish’ popish plot to assassinate the king. On 4 November it was proposed by the Commons that Coleman’s master, the duke of York, be banned from the king’s presence.