The murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey 1678: a memorial dagger

This dagger commemorates the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey in 1678. Godfrey was the Protestant magistrate who interrogated Titus Oates, the man at the centre of the elaborate fabricated conspiracy known as the Popish Plot. The discovery of his mutilated body, strangled and stabbed with his own sword, intensified the atmosphere of prejudice, panic and fear in which rumours of a scheme to assassinate Charles II and to massacre Protestants germinated and spread. Parliament and the populace at large reached a new peak of anti-Catholic anxiety. As well as portrait medals of the martyr, an enterprising London cutler manufactured special ‘Godfrey’ daggers. Inscribed with the image of a skull, a classic symbol of mortality, the legend written on one side reads ‘MEMENTO GODFREY CAESVS OCTO: 12 1678’ and on the other ‘PRO RELIGIONE PROTESTANT’. These commemorative weapons sold quickly and it was said that ladies of high degree carried them about their persons and laid them beneath their pillows while they were asleep. Another, ornamented with a gilt handle, was reputedly sent to the Duke of York. It is unknown when and why this particular example came into the possession of Lambeth Palace. AW

Dagger commemorating the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey 1678


Further Reading

Alan Marshall, ‘Godfrey, Sir Edmund Berry (1621–1678)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004; online edn. 2008), (accessed 28 July 2017).

John Kenyon, The Popish Plot (London, 1972), pp. 264-70.

For another commemorative dagger of the same date, complete with a leather sheath, see British Museum, no. 1931, 1113.1.

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