Titus Oates

[Titus Oates]

A notorious informer during the reign of King Charles II of England. Oates pretended to have discovered a so-called “Popish Plot” now commonly known as “Oates’s Plot” or “The Titus Oates Plot”.

Oates was expelled from practically every school he ever attended. In 1667 he was entered as a sizar at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, but soon migrated to Saint John’s, where Dr Watson wrote of him

“He was a great dunce, ran into debt, and, being sent away for want of money, never took a degree.”

Later “he slipped into Orders,” but his dishonesty again brought him into trouble on several occasions, and he was finally sent to prison at Dover to await trial. Having escaped to unpursued to London, England, he obtained an appointment as chaplain on board a king‘s ship sailing for Tangier, but within a year he was expelled from the navy. Mingling with Catholics and pretending conversion, he was received into the Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday in 1677. Admitted on trial. by the Jesuits to the English College at Valladolid, after five months he was expelled and was sent back to London. Father Strange, the Jesuit provincial, was persuaded to give him a second trial, and in December 1677 he was admitted into the seminary at Saint Omers. There he remained as “a younger student” until 23 June 1678 when he was once again expelled. After this last expulsion he met Israel Tonge, an Anglican divine, with whom he concocted the story of the so-called “Popish Plot.” Tonge seems to have been the real inventor of the Plot, and to have used Oates as his dupe. Oates’ depositions, as contained in his True and Exact Narrative of the Horrid Plot and Conspiracy of the Popish Party against the Life of His Sacred Majesty, the Government, and the Protestant Religion, etc., published by the Order of the Right Honorable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, tell of a series of plots to assassinate the king. Oates declared,

“The General Design of the Pope, Society of Jesus, and their Confederates in this Plot, is the Reformation, that is (in their sense), the Reduction of Great Britain and Ireland, and all His Majestie’s Dominions by the Sword (all other wayes and means being judged by them ineffectual) to the Roman Religion and Obedience.”

Unfortunately for the Catholics in general and for the Jesuits in particular, at this time Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, the magistrate before whom Oates’s depositions had been sworn, died mysteriously, and the Whig Party, under the leadership of Lord Shaftesbury, laid the blame on the Catholics, accusing them of murdering a good Protestant. The fact is that Godfrey had been a friend to Catholics, and had made use of the information received from Oates to do them a service. Macaulay says: “The capital and the whole nation went mad with hatred and fear.” The penal laws were enforced with renewed severity, the city was fortified and patrolled by armed guards, and all the gaols were filled with Papists. The courts of law were blind and deaf to everyone and everything save the contradictions and lies of Oates and well-paid witnesses. Macaulay writes:

“Bedloe, a noted swindler, follows (Oates), and soon from all the brothels, gambling-houses, and spunging-houses of London, false witnesses poured forth to swear away the lives of Roman Catholics.”

Sixteen innocent men were executed in direct connection with the Plot, and eight others were brought to the scaffold as priests in the persecution of Catholics which followed from it. Impartial historians admit that the entire Plot was a pure fabrication, a mere creature of the frenzied imagination of Titus Oates or of Tonge. A calm perusal of all the testimony reveals the most glaring contradictions, lies, and impossibilities, which the turbulent mob, aroused to religious frenzy, and urged on by the Whig Party, refused to consider or to allow the courts to consider. Oates’s popularity soon began to wane, and in May 1680, he was tried for perjury and condemned to be whipped, degraded, pilloried, and imprisoned for life. Judge Jeffreys said of him: “He has deserved more punishment than the laws of the land can inflict.” Later, in the reign of William and Mary, he obtained a royal pardon and a pension, which was withdrawn in 1693 at the instance of Queen Mary. In 1690 he was taken up by the Baptists, only to be again expelled from the ministry for dishonesty. In 1691 he attempted another fraudulent plot, but it came to nothing.



Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Titus Oates“. CatholicSaints.Info. 15 February 2009. Web. 21 June 2021. <>