A noted London midwife, who came into prominence through the pretended "Meal-Tub Plot" of 1680. Nothing seems known of her life till her marriage with Peter Cellier, a Frenchman, and her conversion from Anglicanism. In 1678 the prisons were filled with Catholics in consequence of the national alarm caused by the fabricated plots of Titus Oates. Mrs. Cellier's charity led her to visit and relieve these prisoners, and as her profession procured for her the acquaintance of many leading Catholic ladies, she often became the channel of their charity towards the prisoners. Among these ladies was the Countess of Powis, whose kindness was shown to, among others, a clever imposter, Thomas Dangerfield. Becoming aware of this man's true character, Lady Powis ceased to assist him further, and he, in revenge, decided to denounce her to the Government as concerned in a new popish plot. His story was that he had been released from prison through the good offices of Lady Powis and Mrs. Cellier, on condition that he would assassinate the king, Lord Shaftesbury, and others. He further pretended that he was to be engaged in manufacturing false plots to be foisted on those who were known to be unfavourable to the Catholic cause. One of these shams was to be based on a document which, he alleged, was hidden in a meal-tub in Mrs. Cellier's house. Search was made, and in a meal-tub the paper in question was found. It charged with treason most of the leading Protestants, including the king's natural son, the Duke of Monmouth, the Earl of Shaftesbury, and Sir Thomas Waller, who was the very official charged with the search. In consequence of Dangerfield's accusation founded on this document, Lady Powis and Mrs. Cellier were arrested, as well as some other Catholics, among them the Earl of Castlemain. Mrs. Cellier's trial took place on 11 June, 1680. She was charged with high treason, but practically the only evidence against her was that of Dangerfield himself, and she had little difficulty in proving him a witness entirely unworthy of credence. She was found not guilty, and Dangerfield himself was arrested on account of a felony, for which he had been previously outlawed. After her acquittal she published a brief relation of the whole affair, under the title of "Malice Defeated". This led not only to a long series of pamphlets for and against her, but also to her second prosecution. The charge this time was that of libel against the king and ministry, because she alleged that two witnesses in the Edmundbury Godfrey case had been tortured. But the real object of this prosecution, according to Roger North, was to prevent her from giving evidence in favour of the imprisoned Catholic peers. For this she was sentenced to pay a fine of £1,000 and to stand three times in the pillory. During the reign of James II she planned the foundation of a corporation of skilled midwives and a foundling hospital. It is stated that she is buried in Great Missenden Church, Buckinghamshire. She wrote: (1) "Malice Defeated; or a brief relation of the Accusation and Deliverance of Elizabeth Cellier" (London, 1680); (2) "A scheme for the Foundation of a Royal Hospital and raising a revenue of £5000 or £6000 a year by and for the maintenance of a Corporation of skilful midwives " (London, 1687), printed in the "Harleian Miscellany" (IV, 142) and in the "Somers Tracts" (II, 243); (3) "To Dr. ______, An answer to his Queries concerning the College of Midwives" (London, 1687-88).
More Catholic Encyclopedia
Browse Encyclopedia by Alphabet
The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.
Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.
No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.
Browse the Catholic Encyclopedia by Topic
Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912
Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online