[St.] Oliver Plunkett (1629-1681)

[formerly Blessed Oliver Plunkett]; b. 1 Nov., Loughcrew [var. Loughcreen], Oldcastle, Co. Meath; related to Earls of Fingall and Roscommon; ed. Rome, 1647 [var. 1645]; ord. Rome, 1654; doctorate in canon and civil law; professed theology at College of Propaganda, 1657; procurator, and representative of Irish hierarchy in Rome; made titular Archbishop of Armagh by Clement IX, 1669, and consecrated Bishop of Ghent for diplomatic reasons [but vide Peter Talbot]; travelled to Dublin, 1670; disputed primacy with Peter Talbot, Arch. of Dublin, 1670-78, issuing The Ancient Right and Pre-Eminency of the See of Armagh (1672), before submitting to the adjudication of Bishop John O’Molony of Killaoe;
reorganised the clergy, then chiefly drawn from unlettered peasantry, and reformed the diocese; decided in favour of the Dominicans against the Franciscans on questing rights in northern provinces, causing resentments that were sounded as far as Rome, where John MacMoyer and Hugh Duffy, students, struck the head from his bust in the Irish Franciscan House; established Jesuit order in Drogheda; worked against Jansenism in Ireland; forced into hiding at passing of Test Act, 1673, Bishop Henry Jones [q.v.] taking a large part in his persecution; falsely accused of instigating Irish Popish Plot in league with Titus Oates, 1678; arrested, 1679 [var. 1678 ODNB]; removed to London;
arraigned at the King’s Bench Bar for high treason, endeavoring to compass the King’s death [see note], levying war in Ireland, altering the religion there, raising an army to support the French invasion’, tried on doubtful evidence supplied by MacMoyer and Duffy; sentenced and executed by hanging, drawing, and quartering, 1 July, 1681 (O.C. 11 July); his relics are kept at Downside Abbey; his head his preserved in St. Peter’s Church, Drogheda; Plunkett was deemed a conservative in theology; he was beatified in 1920 and canonised on 12 Oct. 1975; a portrait by Garret Morphey (c.1650-1716) was painted while in the 1670s and copied by the artist in several versions London after 1681. DIB

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Jus primatiale: or, The Ancient Right and Preheminency of the See of Armagh ([London] 1672), 8°. [Wing P2623]; The Tryal and Condemnation of Dr Oliver Plunket ... for High Treason (Dublin: Joseph Ray for Eliphal Dobson 1681), 4° [Wing T2139; Dix 183]. Both he foregoing held in Marsh’s Library, Bishop Stearne Collection.

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George Crolly, The Life and Death of Oliver Plunkett (1850); Patrick F. Moran, Memoirs of the Rev. Oliver Plunkett (1861); Emmanuel Curtis, Blessed Oliver Plunkett (1963); Tomás Ó Fiaich, Oliver Plunkett: Ireland’s New Saint (1975); Desmond Forrestal, Oliver Plunkett in His Own Words [rep. edn.] (Dublin: Veritas 2001), 109pp.

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Trial & sentence [1]: Plunkett was arraigned for ‘for high treason: for endeavoring and compassing the King’s death, to levy war in Ireland, and to alter the religion there, and to raise an army of 70,000 men to support the French invasion, and kept in house 100 priests to take charge of the French landing.’ In response to those charges, he said: ‘It is well known that in all the province, take men, women, and children of the Roman Catholics, they could not make up 70,000 ... As I am a dying man and hope for salvation by my Lord and Saviour, I am not guilty of one point of treason they have sworn against me, no more than the child that was born yesterday’. After sentencing, he said: ‘God Almighty bless your lordship. And now, my lord, as I am a dead man to this world, I was never guilty of any of the reasons laid to my charge, as you will hear in time.’

Trial & sentence [2]: The sentence pronounced by the Lord Chief Justice ran as follows: ‘Therefore, you must go from hence to the place from whence you came, that is to Newgate, and from thence you shall be drawn through the City of London to Tyburn, there you shall be hanged by the neck, but cut down before you are dead, your bowels shall be take out, and burnt before your face, your body be divided into four quarters, and be disposed of as His Majesty pleases.’ (The foregoing quoted in Rev. P. J. Kirwan, Catholic Ireland: How Ireland Became and Catholic and How Ireland has remained Catholic (Dublin: CTS 1908) [see online; accessed 09.03.2011.]

Titus Oates (1649-1705) was the author of “A True and 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 (1679) - a stating the charges that he laid against some eighty-one purported conspirators in the Popish Plot to assassinate King Charles. Among those accused, and ultimately executed on the strength of his charges, was Archbishop Plunket. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, the deposition is composed of a series of“clumsy, puerile, ill-written, disjointed libels, hardly worth notice but for the frenzied anger they aroused.” Further:

The chief items tell of a design to assassinate the king, or rather a complication of plots to do away with“48” or “the Black Bastard” - His Majesty’s supposed designations among the Catholic conspirators. Pickering, a Benedictine lay brother, and Grove (Honest William), a Jesuit servant, are told off to shoot him with“jointed carabines” and silver bullets, in consideration of £1,500 to be paid to Grove and 30,000 Masses to be said for Pickering’s soul. To make more certain of the business, the king is to be poisoned by Sir George Wakeman, the queen’s physician, at a cost of £15,000. Furthermore he is to be stabbed by Anderton and Coniers, Benedictine monks. All these methods failing, there are in the background four Irish ruffians, hired by Dr. Fogarthy, who“were to mind the King’s Postures at Winsor” and have one pound down and £80 afterwards in full discharge of their expenses. There is some frivolous talk of other assassinations-of the removal of the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Ormonde, Herbert, Lord Bishop of Hereford and some lesser fry. And Oates himself is offered and actually accepts £50 to do away with the terrible Dr. [Israel] Tonge,“who had basely put out the Jesuits’ morals in English”. (See Cath. Encyc., at New Advent website - online; accessed 02.01.2012.)

Oates swore to the truth of his charges before the Sir Edmund-Bury Godfrey [Lord Chief Justice], who sent him before a Privy Council where he produced a genuine letter from Edward Coleman, secretary to Mary of Modena (Duchess of York and wife of James II) to Father La Chaise, personal confessor to Louis XIV. After the discovery of the Godfrey’s body, strangled and impaled on his own sword on Primrose Hill (London), Oates was given charge of the prosecution of the“traitors”, arresting as many as he himself accused. Edward Coleman was hanged, drawn and quartered after a trial lasting fifteen minutes; thirty-four others, including some Catholic priests and Archbishop Oliver Plunkett, were executed. When the tide of public opinion turned against Oates he was tried for perjury in 1685 and condemned to 1,000 lashes at Tyburn, being placed in the stocks in several towns thereafter. With the accession of William III he was set free and went on to hold a post as a Baptist minister and was the author of numerous pamphlets, often seen in the public gallery of the Westminster law courts. (See John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, The QI Book of the Dead, Faber & Faber 2009, pp.275-81.)

Cf. Cath. Encyc: ‘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. the names of those executed for the plot are: in 1678 Edward Coleman (Dec. 3); in 1679, John Grove, William Ireland, S.J. (Jan. 24), Robert Green, Lawrence Hill (Feb. 21), Henry Berry (Feb. 28), Thomas Pickering, O.S.B. (May 14), Richard Langhorn (June 14), John Gavan, S.J., William Harcourt, S.J., Anthony Turner, S.J., Thomas Whitebread, S.J., John Fenwick, S.J. (June 20); in 1680, Thomas Thwing (Oct. 23), William Howard, Viscount Stafford (Dec. 29); in 1681, Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh (July 1). Those executed as priests were: in 1679, William Plessington (July 19), Philip Evans, John Lloyd (July 22), Nicholas Postgate (Aug. 7), Charles Mahony (Aug. 12), John Wall (Francis Johnson), O.S.F., John Kemble (Aug. 22), Charles Baker (David Lewis) S.J. (Aug. 27).’

Bibliography: Titus Oates, A true narrative of the horrid plot and conspiracy of the popish party against the life of his sacred majesty [Charles II], the government, and the Protestant religion: with a list of... the conspirators... published by the order of... the Lords in Parliament, etc. (London: for Thomas Parkhurst & Thomas Cockerill, 1679), [ix,] 68pp. [2do in twos, 29 cm.]; An exact discovery of the mystery of iniquity as it is now in practice amongst the Jesuits and other their emissarie: with a particular account of their antichristian and devillish policy / Composed in the Italian tongue ... translated into English, and now newly published by Titus Oates D.D. [trans. of Instruttione a prencipi della maniera con la quale si governano li padri giesuiti] (London: printed by Tho. James for Benj. Harris, 1679), [6], 30pp. [4°, 23cm.] (See COPAC listing on contemporary works by and about Oates - online; accessed 03.01.2012.)

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