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Edward Coleman

Controversialist politician, and secretary of the Duchess of York (executed 1678)

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Coleman, EDWARD, controversialist politician, and secretary of the Duchess of York, date of birth unknown; executed at Tyburn, December 3, 1678. He was the son of a Suffolk clergyman and, after a distinguished career at Cambridge, became a Catholic and was employed by the Duchess of York. As her secretary he became acquainted with continental states-men from whom he sought pecuniary help when in difficulties. In 1675 he offered his services in favor of Catholicism to Pere La Chaise, the confessor of Louis XIV; again in 1676 he was in communication with Father Saint-Germain, offering his assistance to prevent a rupture between England and France. These attempts to procure money failed, but he succeeded later in obtaining £3500 from three successive French ambassadors whom he supplied with daily information regarding the proceedings of Parliament. He became a suspected character, and on the discovery of the Titus Oates Plot, conceived in 1678 for the ruin of the Duke of York whose Catholicity was suspected, Coleman was named as one of the conspirators. Conscious of his innocence he took no steps to protect himself, allowed his papers to be seized, and gave himself up for examination. He was tried November 28, 1678, being accused of corresponding with foreign powers for the subversion of the Protestant religion, and of consenting to a resolution to murder the king. His defense was that he had only endeavored to procure liberty of conscience for Catholics constitutionally through Parliament, and had sought money abroad to further this object. He denied absolutely any complicity with the plot against the king’s life. His foreign correspondence of 1675 and 1676, when examined, proved him to be an intriguer, but contained nothing that could connect him in any way with designs on the king’s life. However, in spite of the flagrantly false testimony of Oates and Bedloe, he was found guilty, drawn to Tyburn, and there executed. He was a good linguist, writer, and controversialist. His controversy with Drs. Stillingfleet and Burnet resulted in the conversion of Lady Tyrwhit to the Catholic religion. His writings were: “Reasons for Dissolving Parliament”; Two Letters to M. La Chaise, the French King’s Confessor” (London, 1678, reprinted in Cobbett’s “Parliamentary History”); “The Tryal of Edward Coleman” etc. (London, 1678); “Legacies; a Poem”, etc. (London, 1679).


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