Titus Oates (1649-1705)
Early Life and Family Ties
Titus Oates was born to Samuel Oates, an Anglican priest who had previously served as the chaplain to Oliver Cromwell's Model Army in Oakham. After Charles I's execution, the Oates family moved southward, settling in Hastings. Samuel Oates took on the role of a schoolmaster at what was then known as Hastings Grammar School, he also served as the vicar of All Saints Church.
Oates was baptised with his brother, Constant at All Saints Church on the 20th of November 1660. Oates would appear to have been a sickly child, in his own words - "being much troubled with convulfion-fits and fmall hope of life"
Education and Controversy
Educated at Merchant Taylor’s School in 1655, Oates was expelled in his first year. Titus' educational journey then took him to Cambridge University as a poor scholar in 1667, where he faced academic difficulties and ultimately failed to achieve success in his studies. During this period, he garnered a reputation for controversial behavior, particularly regarding allegations of perverse conduct; according to his tutor, Dr Thomas Watson -
“He was a great dunce, ran into debt; and, being sent away for want of money, never took a degree.”
Return to Hastings
Following his unsuccessful stint at Cambridge, Titus returned to Hastings, where his father intervened to secure him a position as his curate at the Grammar School. However, Titus quickly found himself embroiled in controversy once again. Acting with his father, he falsely accused both the headmaster, William Parker, and the Mayor of Hastings, also named William Parker, of engaging in buggery. This accusation was made with the ulterior motive of securing the position of headmaster at the Grammar School
This false accusation of buggery led to legal proceedings which led to both being charged with perjury; Oates senior losing his living, Titus being fined £1,000 and thrown into prison at Dover. However, he managed to escape from custody and fled to the sea..
Aboard HMS Adventure
Titus Oates' life took an unexpected turn when he joined HMS Adventure, a Royal Navy ship, in the capacity of a curate. Unfortunately, his troubled past caught up with him once more. Onboard the ship, he faced accusations of buggery, which ultimately led to his dismissal from the Royal Navy. This escape from a potential death sentence (the offence potentially being a capital one at the time) marked the end of his naval career.
References & Notes
- Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-22 for Titus Oates Supplement (Vol 22)
- Oates, Titus (1649–1705), informer | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessdate: 6 September 2020
- From Bedroom to Study The Popish Plot