Wakeman, George (DNB00)

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WAKEMAN, Sir GEORGE (fl. 1668–1685), 'doctor of physic' and physician in ordinary to Queen Catherine of Braganza, was the son of Edward Wakeman (1592-1659) of the Inner Temple, by Mary (d. 1676), daughter of Richard Cotton of Warblington, Sussex. The father was the grandson of Richard Wakeman (d. 1597) of Beckford, Gloucestershire, nephew of John Wakeman [q. v.], last abbot of Tewkesbury and first bishop of Gloucester (cf. Dyde, Hist. of Tewkesbury, 1803, p. 116).

George Wakeman, who was a zealous Roman catholic, was educated abroad, probably in Paris, where he possibly graduated in medicine. Like his elder brother Richard (d. 1662), who raised a troop of horse for the king, he was a staunch royalist, and upon his return to England he became involved in a plot against the Protector, and was imprisoned until the eve of the Restoration. On 13 Feb. 1661, as Wakeman of Beckford, he was created a baronet by Charles II, though it seems that the patent was never sealed (Wotton, Baronetage, 1741, iv. 277). The first trace of Sir George's professional activity is in August 1668, when he appears have been attending Sir Joseph Williamson (see Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1668, p. 524). He seems to have owed his appointment some two years later as physician in ordinary to Queen Catherine of Braganza mainly to the fact that he enjoyed the best repute of any Roman catholic physician in England. In their perjured 'Narrative' of the 'popish plot' Titus Oates and Israel Tonge declared at Wakeman had been offered 10,000l. to poison Charles II's 'posset.' It was pointed it that he could easily effect this through the agency of the queen. Wakeman, however, obstinately refused the task, and held out until 15,000l. was offered him. The temptation then, according to the 'Narrative,' proved too strong; he attended the Jesuit consult on 30 Aug. 1678, received a large sum of money on account, and, the further reward of a post as physician-general in the army having been promised him, he definitely engaged to take off the king by poison. Wakeman was a man of very high reputation, and from the first the charge against him was repugnant to men of sense like John Evelyn. The government, too, were reluctant to allow any steps to be taken against him. But after their successes in the trials of the early part of 1679 the whig leaders were eager to fly at higher game, and in aiming at Wakeman their object was to strike the queen. The government was constrained to yield to the pressure. Both parties felt that the trial would be a test one, and it proved most important in determining the future of the agitation of which the 'plot' was the instrument.

Wakeman was indicted for high treason at the Old Bailey on 18 July 1679, the case being tried by Lord-chief-justice Scroggs. The chief witnesses for the prosecution were Bedloe and Oates, who swore that he had seen the paper appointing Wakeman to the post of physician-general and also his receipt for 5,000l. (on account of the 15,000l.), though it was elicited from him in the course of the proceedings that he was incapable at the time alluded to of identifying either Wakeman's person or his handwriting. Scroggs animedverted severely upon the character of the evidence, and the jury, after asking if they might find the prisoners guilty of misprision of treason, and being told they could not, found all the prisoners 'not guilty.' The effect of the acquittal was considerable in dealing a direct blow at the plot and the credibility of its sponsors, and at the same time in freeing the queen from an odious suspicion. On the day following the trial the Portuguese ambassador called and thanked Scroggs. Five days later Wakeman entertained several of his friends at supper. The next day ‘he went to Windsor to see her Majesty, and (they say) kissed the king's hand, but is now gone beyond sea to avoid being brought again into trouble’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. App. i. 477). The verdict was supported in a pamphlet of ‘Some Observations on the late Trials by Tom Ticklefoot;’ but this was answered in a similar production, entitled ‘The Tickler Tickled,’ and there is little doubt that the verdict was unpopular. It was openly said that Scroggs had been bribed, while Bedloe and Oates complained bitterly of the treatment they had received in the summing-up. Scroggs was ridiculed in ‘A Letter from Paris from Sir George Wakeman to his Friend Sir W. S.’ (1681). The jury was termed an ‘ungodly’ one, and the people, says Luttrell, ‘murmur very much.’ It is noteworthy that in the course of evidence given at subsequent trials Oates entirely ignored the verdict, and continued to speak of the bribe offered to and accepted by the queen's physician. Wakeman was back in London before 1685, when he was seen by Evelyn at Lady Tuke's; and he had the satisfaction of giving evidence against Titus Oates on 8 May 1685, on the occasion of his first trial for perjury. Nothing is known of his further career.

A William Wakeman, who was most probably a connection of the physician's family, was an active shipping and intelligence agent of the government at Barnstaple during Charles II's reign (Cal. State Papers, Dom. passim).

[The Tryals of Sir George Wakeman, W. Marshall, W. Rumley … for High Treason, 1678, fol.; Burnet's Own Times, 1823, ii. 221; Howell's State Trials, vii. 591–687; Willis Bund's Selections from State Trials, ii. 816–918; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation, i. 17, 29, 50, 74, 342; Eachard's Hist. of England, 1718, iii. 459, 561, 738; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1847, ii. 1484; Lingard's Hist. of England, 1849, ix. 441–442; Ranke's Hist. of England, iv. 88; Evelyn's Diary, ii. 221; Bramston's Autobiography (Camd. Soc.), p. 181; Twelve Bad Men, ed. Seccombe, pp. 168–76; Strickland's Queens of England, v. 638, 655; Irving's Life of Judge Jeffreys, 1898; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.273
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
1 i 14 Wakeman, Sir George: for was educated abroad read studied at St. Omer 1647 and Pavia, and
2 i 24  for (1681) read (1681, and in Harleian Misc. 1810, vol. vi.)