Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Please welcome, friend and author, Kate Braithwaite...

...to the blog today.  Hello, Kate, and thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here and I believe you have a very interesting story for us...

The story of how I came to write The Road to Newgate begins with me stumbling around the internet and coming across the Wikipedia page for a man called Titus Oates.  I was researching an entirely different novel, Charlatan, which is set in late 1670’s and early 1680’s Paris, a time when the court of Louis XIV was rocked by a poisoning scandal.  But here was a distraction.  I was intrigued to discover that at precisely the same time as my French story was unfolding, this Titus Oates, a person I had never heard of before, had London in an uproar with revelations of a catholic conspiracy to overthrow Charles II.
Research for historical novels is full of divergences and red herrings.  There are always things to find out and rabbit holes of information to disappear into. Titus Oates had nothing to do with my work in progress but a few clicks later, when I found him sitting smugly at number 7 in a BBC History Extra article about the “10 worst Britons in History,” I knew I was onto something. Fortunately… or unfortunately… it was something pretty complicated.
The Popish Plot consumed London life between 1678 and 1682.  Titus Oates was really a nobody before he and a friend, Israel Tonge, revealed a vast narrative of plots against Charles II which they lodged with a well-known magistrate, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey.  Their story was the kind of wild conspiracy that in other times would have gone nowhere, but bigotry and suspicion of Catholics was rife amongst Londoners, many of whom believed Catholics were behind the Great Fire of 1666, only twelve years earlier. Parliament was also at loggerheads with King Charles.  Yes, the monarchy had been restored but much of Charles’ reign was consumed with a struggle for power between himself and the elected members of Parliament in the House of Commons who had invited him back in 1660.  And then there was the question of the succession.  Charles had several children, but none were legitimate offspring from his marriage to Catherine de Braganza.  His heir was his brother James, a Catholic, setting the scene for the looming Exclusion Crisis when Parliament sought to deny James the right to succeed to his brother’s throne.  Add to that the fact that party politics were emerging. Journalism and the production of political newspapers and pamphlets were exploding into action, carrying news of all kinds, true and untrue.  Titus Oates was the right man in the right place at the right time – at least from his perspective.
But how does this make him one of the 10 worst Britons?  Quite simply because none of his claims were true.  Even with all the conditions outlined above, Titus Oates still may not have been taken seriously but for two key events.  Firstly, one of the many, many people he claimed were plotting against the King in his depositions to the magistrate Edmund Godfrey, was actually guilty as charged.  That man, Edward Coleman, was Charles’s brother James’s secretary and papers were found in his rooms proving he had corresponded with French contacts hoping to see James become King and England a Catholic country again.  And then the magistrate, Edmund Godfrey, was found dead in a ditch, strangled and with his own sword thrust through his chest.  The public outcry at his apparent murder was instantaneous.  Oates was deemed the Saviour of the Nation, installed in Whitehall and allowed to arrest anyone and everyone named in his deposition, whether they were Lords of the realm or ordinary men and women.  Trials and executions followed.  But it was all based on lies.
about the book...  What price justice?
London 1678.
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’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.

about the author...  Kate Braithwaite was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Her first novel, Charlatan, was longlisted for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Award.  Kate lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. 

You can follow Kate on   Facebook  Twitter her Website  and  on her Blog  
You can get her book  Here

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