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Thomas Godden

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(True name Tylden.)

Born at Addington, Kent, 1624; died in London, 1 Dec., 1688. His father, William Tylden, was able to provide a liberal education for his son and Thomas was sent first to a private school in Holburg, conducted by a Mr. Gill, and in his fifteenth year entered Queen's College, Oxford. The next year found him at St. John's College, Cambridge, and in 1640 he was made a Billingsley scholar. He proceeded B.A. in 1641, but the influence of John Sargeant, with whom he became acquainted during his college course, had induced him to enter the Catholic Church, and in 1642 the two set out for the English College at Lisbon. In due course Godden was ordained, and so distinguished himself by his scholarship and controversial ability that in 1650 we find him lecturing in philosophy in the college. He rapidly ascended the ladder of academic distinction, and after being successively professor of theology, prefect of studies, and vice-president, succeeded Dr. Clayton as president of the college in 1655. Five years later he was thought worthy of the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and had established so general a reputation for eloquence and piety that the Princess Catherine of Braganza, about to become the bride of Charles II, brought Godden to England with her, as her private chaplain. He was well received in his native country and enjoyed every evidence of royal favour.

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The disturbances caused by Oates' plot, however, affected Godden very seriously. The perjured Miles Prance, upon being examined on the murder of Sir Edmund Barry Godfrey, swore that Godden and his servant Lawrence Hill had been concerned in the crime, and that Godfrey's corpse had been concealed for a time in Godden's apartments. Public indignation was running too high against everything Catholic to hope for a sober and impartial investigation, and Godden managed to escape to the Continent, and took refuge in Paris. His lodgings in Somerset House were searched and Hill, despite the testimony of witnesses who swore he was elsewhere at the time of the murder, was convicted and executed at Tyburn, 21 Feb., 1679. Later evidence, tending to show that Godden was in no way connected with Godfrey's death, altered public feeling, and in the reign of James II, he returned to his former post as almoner to the queen dowager. From this time until his death he took a prominent part in the religious controversies in England, and in 1686, with Dr. Giffard, defended the doctrine of the Real Presence, before the king, against Dr. William Jane and Dr. Simon Patrick. He was buried under the royal chapel in Somerset House.

Godden's printed works are for the most part controversial and religious. They include: "Catholicks no Idolaters; or a full refutation of Dr. Stillingfleet's Unjust Charge of Idolatry against the Church of Rome" (London, 1671); "A Just Discharge to Dr. Stillingfleet's Unjust Charge of Idolatry against the Church of Rome. With a discovery of the Vanity of his late Defence . . . By way of a dialogue between Eunomius, a Conformist and Catharinus, a non-Conformist" (Paris, 1677); "A Sermon of St. Peter, preached before the Queen Dowager . . . on 29 June, 1686" (London, 1686); "A Sermon on the Nativity of Our Lord, preached before the Queen Dowager . . . at Somerset House" (London, 1686). He also left a manuscript treatise on the Oath of Supremacy.


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