TITLE: The Truth About Titus Oates
GENRE: Historical Fiction
Nat Thompson blames the loss of his post on Titus Oates, a preacher who sent Restoration London into crisis with revelations of a Catholic plot. Against all advice Nat attacks Oates in the press and is arrested for treason. To clear his name Nat must prove the Popish Plot is a complete fiction and reveal the truth about Titus Oates.
First they tie him to a chair.
The chair is nailed to a rough platform of wood and juggled up onto the shoulders of six willing men ready to be paraded through the streets of London. Horses trample past, obscuring my view, filling my ears with snorts and the hard smack of hooves on cobble stones. Men bellow orders as they shuffle and stir the procession into shape. I have never seen such a profusion of purple, such glorious rich deep velvets. All around us young men shrug on priests’ clothes and grab crucifixes and altar books from a cart brimming with goods.
My plan is to stand still and not panic. I promised Henry and William I would not. My fingers rub the smooth ivory tip of Martha’s rattle. I want to touch something of her, to keep her close. I will not panic. I know it is not my living, breathing, husband Nat they’ll burn. This is only a straw man, an effigy, thank God. But I cannot drag my eyes from it, all the same.
He – it – wears tight black breeches and a many-buttoned waistcoat. It sports a grubby neckerchief and a dingy coat that has seen better days. They have given it stockings even, although only of wool: worn, nubby and poorly patched, with threads left dangling. Its wig hangs limp, while the hat looks as though it has been kicked across the cobbles before being crammed upon his head. Probably because it has.