Nathaniel Thompson – Licenser of the Presses, pamphleteer, newsmonger, frequenter of coffee shops, and husband to the lovely Anne, is one of the three narrators of The Road to Newgate. Unlike many other characters, however, he is fictional.
There was a real person called Nathaniel Thompson who published pamphlets against Titus Oates but he didn’t have the central role in the chase for the truth about Sir Edmund Godfrey’s death, or efforts to have Oates brought to justice, that he assumes in my version of events. Instead the man most responsible for challenging Oates was Sir Roger L’Estrange. Here he is:
L’Estrange lived from 1616 to 1704. In 1678, when the Popish Plot began, he was 52 years old. Hmm. I didn’t want to write a story about a 52 year old man. And I’d just written a book with a character called Lesage which sounded a bit too like L’Estrange in my mind.
But L’Estrange was a tenacious character, dedicated and resolute in his pursuit of Titus Oates. I wondered what it would be like to be married to a man like that, in a time of great turbulence. L’Estrange had a wife called Anne, although very little is known about her. He was also the Licenser of the Presses for Charles II and a staunch monarchist.
Much of what happens to my fictional Nat, did happen to Roger L’Estrange. The story line involving Dr Choquex and Simpson Tonge is taken from the historical record as was Miles Prance’s appearance in front of the Privy Council to falsely claim that L’Estrange was a Catholic. He did have to leave London for a time and was burned in effigy in Pope-burning processions for several years in succession. His paper, The Observator, was ground-breaking and influential – as well as being a significant thorn in Titus Oates’s side.
In his work – his determined pursuit of Oates and his investigation into the death of Sir Edmund Godfrey – Nathaniel Thompson really is Roger L’Estrange. But in his personality, his marriage and his friendships with Henry and William Smith, Nat is no-one but himself.