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Trial and Death of Oliver Plunkett (Saint) Canonised 12/10/75 Paul VI (Montini)

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  • Author: Richard Michael Lamb


The Catholic Irish prelate who stood up to the Stuart apparatus of the late 17th century Protestant England.

Put to death: Tyburn London: 1st July 1681 aged 51 years. Hung, drawn, quartered and beheaded. (Punishment for Treason). It can legitimately be said he was the last Roman Catholic to die for his faith in England. Why?


(There may have been Jesuits who died slightly later in the Popish plot saga). But Plunkett was the highest ranking priest to die in 17th Century and not in Popish plot saga 1678-81).


Plunkett because of his high Ecclesiastical office was the target of the prosecution (Crown Agents) servants who endeavoured to prove his complicity in Betrayal, Treason, Treachery as opposed to the simple plot to kill the King: Charles II which was all hot air. (Popish plot).


With Plunkett there was no going back. The Popish Plot was disproved and Titus Oates its architect convicted of perjury. The alleged Catholic plotters were acquitted and vindicated. The King Charles II himself doubted Titus Oates veracity from the outset: The Popish plot was based on flimsy evidence.


There was no doubt no one of Plunkett’s rank in the Catholic Church had been put to death in England in the 17th Century or later. You have to go back to SS John Fisher and Thomas More for a parallel in the 1530’s under the Henrician Tyranny. (Fisher was Bishop of Rochester).


If a Jesuit priest made it to death after Plunkett so be it. (in Popish plot). In 1681 after 1st July. I doubt it.


Plunkett died not on a puffed up “assassination” accusation but on the most gravely laid allegation of all namely waging war against his own country. Ireland was united to England in the 17th Century. You cannot trump up Treason and Treachery against an Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church at that era even though Plunkett was an Irish Prelate: It had to have substance: The case for the Crown could not fail in London.


It was impossible in England for that Primate of All Ireland to successfully defend those Counts of Treason as the most Senior Catholic Bishop in England and Ireland with the Catholic French threat to the non-Catholic English regime under Charles II reign. Thus any Catholic of Plunkett’s rank was fair game in the stage set and backdrop for the English Attorney General and his subalterns. Plunkett was the appointed Pope’s Representative in Ireland and the Law Officers of Charles II made him the “Pope’s Representative” in England by moving him to ‘England and putting him on trial there.


Without doubt Plunkett suffered for his priestly highly esteemed office but above all for his Roman Catholicism. We will not omit him from our daily prayers.


The trial and sentence of death carried out upon Plunkett fixed him with the especial honour of being the last Catholic to die for his Catholicism on English soil where the Forty Martyrs died in years gone by. There can be no doubt about this result and Plunkett’s achievement. (See Wikipedia printed off on 3/6/13). Truly your branches were pruned and bore more fruit Plunkett. You lost your life in this world for Christ’s sake and saved it in the next world. We will follow your example and in your steps. We will not neglect our devotion to your soul’s journey. Long live Saint Oliver of Ireland and England, never to be out done.


Plunkett was a Roman Catholic prelate made remarkable by his position in the Church – he was raised up by the Papacy in to the top See in Ireland advisedly. It was not so much what he wrote and preached which mattered and made him famous but what he represented which made him the target of that non-Catholicism of his contemporaries. He stood up for his Roman Catholic religion and would not bow to the power of the English Crown in late 17th Century England under Charles II. He was the great example of Catholicism at work in England and Ireland in the 1670’s and 1680’s.