Titus Oates – 17th Century Psychopath? by guest author Kate Braithwaite
I am happy to introduce you to my fellow author Kate Braithwaite. Kate is a Britiash author living in the USA who writes gripping historical crime fiction.
I’m imagining that readers of Val Penny love excellent crime fiction andso although I’m a historical novelist, it seemed like a good ideato focus on the criminal side of my latest novel TheRoad to Newgate onmy visit to her blog this week.
In brief, TheRoad to Newgate isa historical thriller based on the real life events of the Popish Plot and the still unsolved murder of a London magistrate, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey. I came to the story, as I hope you will after readingthis, because I stumbled across Titus Oates, a man I’d never heard of in any history I’d learned at school, but who was apparently one of the worst Britons in history.
Titus Oates was born in 1649. The first biography I read about him says inits opening paragraph that England suffered two national tragediesthat year: “the execution of King Charles the First, and the birth of Titus Oates.”
That might seem a bit over the top, but I’ve read everything I can about him and have no doubt that he was a truly terrible person – cruel,spiteful, arrogant, crude… you name it. In 1678, Oates went from being practically destitute to living it up with rooms in Whitehall and politicians hanging on his every word, even though his wild claims that Catholics were out to assassinate Charles II and invade the country were pure fabrication. He lodged his narrative of the plots against the King with the magistrate, Edmund Godfrey, and when Godfrey was found murdered, it seemed as if Oates’ revelations were true. Numerous men were arrested – including prominent Catholic Lords and priests and at least twenty were executed on the basis of Titus Oates’ completely false evidence.
WhenI think of Oates, I always see him drinking with his cronies in atavern. I’d love to jump into the skin of one of those sycophants, maybe just for half an hour or so, and marvel at Titus Oates in theflesh. He was supposedly super ugly and had a strange high-pitched voice. I’d love to see how the real Titus Oates matches up with theone in my imagination. There’s a wonderful book by Jon Ronsoncalled ThePsychopath Test that includes a list of 20 ways to spot a psychopath originally compiled by psychologist Robert Hare. Titus fits at least these ten (and may be more):
- pathological lying
- grandiose sense of self
- cunning and manipulative
- lack of remorse or guilt
- shallow emotional response
- callousness and lack of empathy
- parasitic lifestyle
- poor behavioral controls
- sexual promiscuity
- early behavior problems
Having said that, Titus was a real person and even real villains can sometimes elicit sympathy. In some ways, Titus was a victim of the times. He came to prominence because politicians, like the Earl of Shaftesbury, wanted to use him and his narrative to support their ownaims of preventing Charles II’s brother from succeeding him because he was a Catholic. Without the support of politicians and bigots whoblamed the Catholic population for every ill, I doubt that Oateswould ever have been taken seriously. And having begun his lies, it’snot hard to imagine that he felt he had no choice but to continue inthem, especially when for years he was rewarded, called the Saviourof the Nation and given lodgings and accorded great status in London society.
Was he an out-and-out villain with no redeeming features? Why not readTheRoad to Newgate tofind out?
Thanks for hosting me, Val, and here are some ways to connect with me and find my books xxx
Twitter – https://twitter.com/KMBraithwaite
Website/blog – http://www.kate-braithwaite.com
Blurb for The Road to Newgate
What price justice?
Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real.
Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.
When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’sintegrity, the consequences threaten them all.
KateBraithwaite was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her firstnovel, Charlatan, was longlisted for the Mslexia New Novel Award andthe Historical Novel Society Award. Kate lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.