Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turberville, Edward

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TURBERVILLE or TURBERVILE, EDWARD (1648?–1681), informer, born about 1648, came of an ancient Glamorganshire family, his father being a native of Skerr, Glamorganshire. A Roman catholic and a younger brother (his elder, Anthony, being a monk at Paris), he entered the family of Lady Molyneux, daughter of William Herbert, earl and afterwards first marquis of Powis [q . v.], and remained in that household until the close of 1675. It was then proposed that he should assume the tonsure, but upon crossing the Channel he took service as a trooper in the French army, receiving his discharge at Aire after six months' service in August 1676. After this he went to Douai to the English College, and then to Paris, where he alleged that he met Lord Stafford and was importuned by him to return to England upon a design of killing Charles II. This improbable story he first told at the bar of the House of Commons on Tuesday, 9 Nov. 1680, when they were hearing any evidence that might be forthcoming against the five popish lords. Bedloe having recently died, anxiety was expressed as to Turberville's safety, and, as a measure of precaution, application was made to the king to grant the witness a general pardon for all treasons, crimes, felonies, and misdemeanours that he might have committed. Nine days later it was noticed with suspicion that the word 'misdemeanour ' had been omitted from the pardon, and this oversight was rectified upon a resolution of the house (Grey, Debates, 1769, vii. 438, viii. 31). In the meantime 'The Information of Edward Turbervill' had been printed in quarto by command of the house (imp. 10 Nov.) In the follow- ing month Turbervill gave evidence at the trial of Lord Stafford. His evidence was open to very serious objection, for his dates differed materially from those printed in the affidavit. With a view, like Oates, of supplying local colour, he swore that Stafford was suffering from gout at the time of their interviews, whereas it was shown that the earl had never been so afflicted. Above all, though this was not known to the court, when Turbervill was converted to protestantism he expressly told Bishop Lloyd [see Lloyd, William, 1627-1717] that, apart from a few vague rumours, he knew nothing whatever of the details of catholic intrigue. He was very poor in 1680, and was stated at Stafford's trial to have recently remarked to a barrister named Yalden that no trade was good but that of a 'discoverer.' Early in 1681, after Stafford's execution, one of Turbervill's friends, John Smith, who was also well known as an informer, wrote a vindication of his evidence called 'No Faith or Credit to be given to Papists ' (London, 1681, fol.) After the trial of Fitzharris, Turbervill read the signs aright, or, as Burnet expressively puts it, he and other witnesses came under another management.' On 17 Aug. 1681 he felt constrained to give evidence against Stephen College in opposition to his old ally, Titus Oates. Oates, whom Turbervill now called 'an ill man,' explained the situation by some words that he had heard Turbervill let fall to the effect that 'the protestant citizens having deserted him, goddamn him he would not starve.' He was one of the eight witnesses against Shaftesbury at his trial on 24 Nov. 1681. A few days later he fell ill of smallpox, and died on 18 Dec., thus fulfilling Lord Stafford's prediction to Burnet. It has been stated that he died a papist, but this is confuted by the fact that he was ministered to on his deathbed by the rector of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, and future Archbishop Thomas Tenison [q. v.] (see Throckmorton MSS., ap. Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. App. iv. 174). He made no confession of his perjuries.

[Nicholas's Glamorganshire, 1874, p. 64; Intrigues of the Popish Plot laid open, 1680; Burnet's Own Time, i. 488-509; Eachard's History, p. 1012; Howell's State Trials, vols. vii. and viii.; North's Examen, 1740, pt. ii. chap. iv.; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation, vol. i.; Hazlitt's Collections and Notes, 1876, p. 429; Irving's Jeffreys, 1898, pp. 135-9, 144; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. vii. 176; Yalden's Narrative of a Gent, of Gray's Inn, 1680; and see arts. College, Stephen, and Dugdale, Stephen.]

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