Conspiracy Culture in Stuart England
Title Details

284 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

9 b/w illus.

Series: Studies in Early Modern Cultural, Political and Social History

Series Vol. Number: 48

Imprint: Boydell Press

Conspiracy Culture in Stuart England

The Mysterious Death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey

by Andrea McKenzie

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  • Contents
  • Author
The death of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey has baffled scholars and armchair detectives for centuries; this book offers compelling new evidence and, at last, a solution to the mystery.

On a cold October afternoon in 1678, the Westminster justice of the peace Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey left his home in Charing Cross and never returned. Within hours of his disappearance, London was abuzz with rumours that the magistrate had been murdered by Catholics in retaliation for his investigation into a supposed 'Popish Plot' against the government. Five days later, speculation morphed into a moral panic after Godfrey's body was discovered in a ditch, impaled on his own sword in an apparent clumsily staged suicide.

This book presents an anatomy of a conspiratorial crisis that shook the foundations of late Stuart England, eroding public faith in authority and official sources of information. Speculation about Godfrey's death dovetailed with suspicions about secret diplomacy at the court of Charles II, contributing to the emergence of a partisan press and an oppositional political culture in which the most fantastical claims were not only believable but plausible. Ultimately, conspiracy theories implicating the king's principal minister, his queen and his brother in Godfrey's murder stoked the passions and divisions that would culminate in the Exclusion Crisis, the most serious challenge to the British monarchy since the Civil War.
Introduction. The Bottomless Pit: Conspiracy Theories & the Death of a Westminster JP
Historical, political and conspiratorial perspectives
Chapter summary

1. The Usual Suspects: the Case against the Catholics
The English anti-Catholic conspiracist tradition
Rumours, hearsay and the corpus delicti
Accusers and accused

2. An Inside Job? The Earl of Danby and other Court Suspects
A constitutional and conspiratorial crisis
Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby
An Anglican Plot? Israel Tonge's 'very honourable friends'
Plots and counterplots: Danby in the Tower

3. 'The Devil in his Clothes': Suicide Theories, Then and Now
Early suicide theories
Roger L'Estrange's crime scene investigation
'Master of a dangerous secret ': Godfrey's mental state
Spectral sightings: tracking Godfrey's last movements
Ockham's razor?

4. 'Managery... behind the Curtain'? Oppositional Plots and Whig Lords
True crime, false leads and tall tales
Shaftesbury and subornation
Whig suspects and oppositional secrets

5. 'Horrible Secrets...not for his Majesty's Service': William Lloyd's Shorthand
The correspondence of Roger L'Estrange and William Lloyd
Royal suspects and secrets
'Died Abner as a fool dieth '? What William Lloyd believed

Conclusion. A Bipartisan Martyr? In Search of the Real Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey
'Keeping faire with boeth sides': Godfrey as critic, courtier, mediator and sleuth
A plausible suspect: the secrets of 'a certain great man'
A possible murder scenario

Select Bibliography
Index

ANDREA MCKENZIE is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Victoria, Canada

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9781783277629

December 2022

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Title Details

284 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

9 b/w illus.

Series: Studies in Early Modern Cultural, Political and Social History

Series Vol. Number: 48

Imprint: Boydell Press