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'the insolent carriage of the Popish Recusants ...'

CHARLES II (1630-1685). King of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Fine Letter Signed, addressed to the commissioners of the lieutenancy of the City of London, 2 pages folio with address-leaf and papered seal, whitehall, 24 November 1666. Written in the immediate aftermath of the Great Fire of London, for which Catholics were widely held to have been responsible, order the disarmament of all Catholics in London.
'... Whereas our two houses of Parliament now assembled at Westminster having received during this session divers informations of the insolent carriage of the Popish Recusants of Late in severall parts of this our Kingdome, and apprehending least those exorbitancies, if not timely prevented should at lenght (sic) breake out into a Publique disturbance of our Goverment, have by their late addresse humbly moved us, that for prevention thereof all Popish Recusants or such as being suspected to be so, should refuse to take the Oathes of Supremacy and allegeance might be forthwith so disarmed as to remove all apprehensions from our good subjects of their possibility to disturbe the Publique peace, Wee having taken the same into our Princely consideration and accepting very gratiously the zeale and care of our said houses of Parliament in what concernes the good of our People and the safety and quiet of our Government, have thought fit with the advise of our Privy Counsell hereby to signify our will and pleasure to you, that forthwith upon receipt hereof, you give effectuall order that all Popish Recusants within your Lieutenancy ... be forthwith so disarmed as to remove all apprehensions of their possibility to disturbe the Publique Peace, which wee recom'end to your especiall care and vigilance to preserve in all occasions against the malitious contrivances and disignes of thos whose interest it may be to disquiet the same, whereof wee shall expect from time to time an accompt from you and particularly how armed you have found the said Recusants; And ... that you receive into your owne hands the armes you shall by vertue of this our Letter be possessed of ...'
It is now generally known that the Great Fire which destroyed a large part of London in September 1666 was accidentally started in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane. There was, however, in the days following the fire a widespread belief that Catholics and Frenchmen were behind the conflagration. This supposition was not helped by a hapless Frenchman, one Robert Hubert, who, although himself a protestant, confessed to starting the fire as an agent of the pope. His confession, contradictory and implausible, was not believed by most of those present at his trial but he was nevertheless found guilty and executed at Tyburn on 29 September 1666, his body being then torn apart by the crowd.
Countersigned by (Sir) William Morice (1602-1676, politician), the address reading 'To our Trusty and welbeloved Our / Com'issioners of the Lieutenancy of / Our Citty of London.' An endorsement to the address-leaf reads: '24o Nov 1666 / His Ma:ties L're for disarming / of Popish Recusants.'
[No: 24794]

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