Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey

(1621—1678) magistrate

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Titus Oates (1649—1705) informer

Popish Plot


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(1621–78). On 17 October 1678, in the middle of lurid allegations by Titus Oates of a Popish plot to assassinate Charles II, the body of Godfrey, the magistrate who had taken Oates's evidence, was found on Primrose Hill (London). He had been missing for five days. Godfrey, a tall, stooping man, was a prosperous London wood merchant, educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and knighted for his exertions during the plague year. Money and jewellery had been left untouched and Godfrey had been run through with his own sword, though death appeared to have been by strangulation. It was readily assumed that he had been done to death by papists and a catholic silversmith, Miles Prance, was taken up and confessed. Three fellow-conspirators were then hanged. But in 1686, after the accession of James II, Prance was convicted of perjury and pilloried. Godfrey had predicted prior to his disappearance that he would be knocked on the head. Suicide seems improbable. Murder by Oates's friends to fan the flames of suspicion is possible. Pollock suggested that Godfrey had been murdered by catholics to suppress secrets that he knew, through his friendship with Edward Coleman, about the future king. A last possibility is that the murder was not political or connected with the plot at all.

From The Oxford Companion to British History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: British History.

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