Porter, George (fl.1695) (DNB00)

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PORTER, GEORGE (fl. 1695), conspirator, is described in all contemporary accounts as a Roman catholic, a man of pleasure, and a haunter of Jacobite taverns. He may be identical with George, son of Thomas Porter [q. v.] On 10 Dec. 1684 a true bill of manslaughter was brought in against him for causing the death of Sir James Halkett during a fracas at a theatre, but he escaped punishment (cf. Middlesex County Records, iv. 253). In 1688 he was a captain in Colonel Slingsby's regiment of horse (Dalton, Army Lists, ii. 185). In May 1692 he was mentioned in the proclamation as a dangerous Jacobite, but he soon felt it safe to return to his old haunts, and in June 1695 he was temporarily taken into custody for rioting in a Drury Lane tavern and drinking King James's health. After the death of Queen Mary, Porter associated himself more closely with Sir George Barclay, Robert Charnock, and other Jacobite conspirators; and in December 1695 the intention to secure the person of William III, alive or dead, was communicated to him by Charnock. Porter brought his servant Keyes into the plot, and it was he who, with much ingenuity, organised the details of the plan, by which William was to be surprised in his coach in a miry lane between Chiswick and Turnham Green, while his guard was straggling after the passage of Queensferry. It was arranged that Porter should be one of the three leaders of the attack upon the guards. On the eve of the intended assassination, 21 Feb. 1696, the conspirators assembled in the lodging that Porter shared with Charnock in Norfolk Street, Strand. The plot having been revealed, Porter and Keyes were pursued by the hue and cry and captured at Leatherhead. Fortunately for Porter, Sir Thomas Prendergast [q. v.], the informer, who was under great obligation to him, stipulated for his friend's life. Porter basely turned king's evidence, and thus procured his pardon and a grant from the exchequer (1 Aug. 1696). His testimony greatly facilitated the conviction of Charnock, King, Friend, Parkyns, Rookwood, Cranbourne, and Lowicke. More abominable was Porter's betrayal of his servant Keyes, whom he had inveigled into the plot.

In November 1696 Sir John Fenwick was so alarmed at the amount of information possessed by Porter as to the ramifications of this and previous plots, that he made a strenuous effort to get him out of the country. On condition that he forthwith transported himself to France, he promised Porter three hundred guineas down, a handsome annuity, and a free pardon from James. The negotiations were conducted through a barber named Clancy. Porter reported the intrigue to the authorities at Whitehall. On the day proposed for his departure to France, he met Clancy by arrangement at a tavern in Covent Garden. At a given signal Clancy was arrested, and subsequently convicted and pilloried. Later in the month Porter gave evidence against Fenwick (Luttrell, iv. 140 sq.) He probably retired at the end of the year upon substantial earnings. In June 1697 a woman was suborned to bring a scandalous charge against him. His successes doubtless excited the envy of the confraternity of professional scoundrels to which he belonged.

[Luttrell's Diary, vols. i. ii. iii. and iv. passim; Macaulay's Hist. of England, chap. xxi.; Boyer's William III, pp. 448–56; Burnet's Own Time, 1766, iii. 232–6; Life of James II, ii. 548; Ranke's Hist. of England, v. 125; Howell's State Trials, xiii. See also arts. Barclay, Sir George; Charnock, Robert; Parkyns, Sir William.]

T. S.