1692, William Fuller seeks to present ‘evidence’ pertaining to the truth of ‘The Warming Pan Scandal’ to Parliament

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1690s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, William Fuller, gentleman. SP 32/4 f. 26 (1692).

To the honourable knights cittizens and burgesses in Parliament assembled

The humble petition of William Fuller gentleman


That your petitioner hath long groaned under intolerable misfortunes occasioned through the immaturity of his judgment, which was so easily imposed on by the perfidies of Collonel Thomas Dalleval, and Master George Hays, for whose appearance the petitioner engaged to the honourable House of Commons (intentionally for the nation’s service) tho the event proved contrary, and for their failure, the petitioner incurred the displeasure of the house

Your petitioner presumes, that most of the present members of the House of Commons were present when his informations were read in the house in the year 1691 when also the Lord Preston and Master Matthew Crone’s confessions were laid the same day before the house, and it is evident that the said Lord Preston and Master Crone do confirm on oath all the petitioners said informations.

Your petitioner, with humble submission, flings himself on the justice and wisdom of the high court of Parliament now assembled, begging your mature consideration of his unhappy case, by which your petitioner was insnared by the artifices of the late King and his adherents employed for that purpose with a design to prevent the petitioners discoveries of the true mother of the pretended Prince of Wales, and to invalidate his informations concerning their horrid and bloody designs against his present majesty

And forasmuch as Master Thomas Jones is now in England, was was privy to that intrigue of Dalleval and Hays, and was ordered to attend the House of Commons with them, February 23d 1691/2 but that same day made his escape to France with them by the help of a pass: the petitioner is ready to produce the said Jones and the pass, as also undeniable witnesses to prove that Master Jones paid five hundred guineas at the secretaries office for the said pass, and severall other summes of money in all to six thousand pounds by order of the late King James and his queen in order to the baffling this petitioner.

Your petitioner humbly wishes, that for the nation’s satisfaction, as well as future peace and security, he may have leave to lay before both, or either house of the present Parliament, the affidavits of forty five persons of honour and worth, all ready made before severall justices of the peace, and given voluntarily by the deponents to the petitioner which do all prove the management of the supposititious birth of the pretended Prince of Wales

Your petitioner is also very ready to lay before the Parliament, the names and particular places of abode of each deponent your petitioner beggs leave to repeat what he has evidently proved; and the truth is known to many, that this petitioner was the first who discovered to King William, Collonel Parker’s and the Chevalier Grandvil’s design of assassinating his sacred majesty in Flanders; where the latter suffered for the same, and confessed his horrid intentions

This petitioner has long been reduced to great extremity, and some great men have gained honour and large advantages to themselves by the petitioner’s discoveries, and suffered him to be starving even for want of what monyes he had disburst in the nation’s service in order to secure the peace and safety of the same, as his grace the Duke of Shrewsbury has sufficiently certified by his own hand.

That your petitioner has for severall years been the object of the most inveterate hatred of the late King and his adherents both here and in France and hath been falsly and maliciously abused by severall scandalous libells writt by William Pettis for Abell Roper and Chantry booksellers published by John Nutt and advertised by Benjamin Beardwell in his post boy, sending to deceive the good people of the land (as by the title and subject of the said libell appears) by pretending to justify the legitimacy of the pretended Prince of Wales (which William Pettis has publickly owned himselfe to be the author of) and that he is resolved and proud to vindicate that impostor whom he termes King James the third.

Your petioner can prove himself innocent of the crimes layd to his charge

Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that there may be such a consideration of his case, as is consistent with the justice and wisdom of the nation in Parliament assembled that truth may appear on every side, and that your petitioner may be made as dreadfull an example as the greatest impostor that ever lived provided he makes not a full proof and performance of each particular humbly offered in this case. And that your said petitioner may have leave to publish the depositions of Thomas Jones and Thomas Witherington esquires at length with the names of those mentioned therein who have taken bribes from France, to ruin this nation

And your petitioner as in duty bound shall ever pray etc

William Fuller 

Report by Howard Greenwood

In his petition, William Fuller referred to those making claims and counter-claims surrounding the birth of James, Prince of Wales in 1688, sometimes described as ‘The Warming Pan Scandal’.[1] There were many rumours which circulated at the time, though most were clearly driven by anti-Catholic sentiment and political/personal opportunism. Fuller refers to his ‘proofs’ of one such story – that the Prince was an imposter. He outlined a number of conspiracies, directed at himself, in order to prevent him bringing his disclosures before the House. He asked for the opportunity to explain his case and disprove the charges against him.

Fuller made an earlier attempt to present his ‘evidence’ to the House of Commons, in December 1691. The title given to the record – ‘Fuller’s pretend Discoveries’ – says much of the view at that point.[2]  He was nevertheless voted an allowance from the crown in 1691, followed by another from the House of Commons. By February 1692 however (at the time he submitted this petition), the House resolved he was an impostor, cheat and false accuser. He was prosecuted, convicted, sentenced to stand twice in the pillory and fined, as a result of which he landed in a debtor’s goal.[3]

This setback does not appear to have discouraged Fuller. In various letters dating from 1695-96 he outlined a conspiracy originating from Sir John Fenwick.[4] Sir John was indeed exposed as a Jacobite (a supporter of James II and his descendants), became the subject of an Act of Attender and was subsequently executed.[5]

Fuller clearly persisted in trying to take advantage of his knowledge. Things came to a head in 1702 after Fuller had been selling his story, in pamphlet form, at six-pence each.[6]

In January he was examined by the House of Lords about his witness, Thomas Jones, who he had been unable to produce. By the end of the examination his pamphlets were censured, and he was committed as a prisoner to the Fleet Prison.[7]

It didn’t get any better in February when he was to be prosecuted with the utmost severity.[8] He was convicted of criminal libel and sentenced to stand in the pillory at three places, to be whipped at Bridewell, and to pay a fine of 1000 marks.[9]

At this point one might feel some sympathy for Fuller and be inclined to wonder if he was the victim of a conspiracy within the ruling classes. However, there was more to William Fuller than this, as was shown in various contemporary pamphlets, published in opposition to his own (as mentioned in his petition) and, perhaps most notably – Imposter at the Bar, a much later biography by George Campbell.[10] Campbell draws some comparisons between Fuller and his better remembered contemporary, Titus Oates, instigator of the “Popish Plot”, a fabrication which had already stoked up a storm of anti-Catholic feeling in the late 1670s.[11] Fuller lodged with Oates in the summer of 1691.[12] Fuller does not seem to have been discouraged by Oates’s earlier experience. Yet the outcomes were similar since they both men ended up pilloried and imprisoned as a result of the tales they told.

According to Campbell, William was born in 1670 in Milton, near Sittingbourne, Kent.[13] While Fuller published an account of his own life in 1703 (The Whole Life of Mr William Fuller) he is far from a reliable witness and much of what he says may be inaccurate. While he claimed to have become a member of the court of James II (so learning about the events surrounding the birth of James’s son), his first confirmed appearance in contemporary sources is during the trial of Matthew Crone in 1690 (which is also referenced in his petition).[14] Fuller also has an entry on Wikipedia which concentrates on his accusations, labelling him ‘Imposter’ but makes little mention of his parallel career as a fraudster.[15]

The records of the Old Bailey show a case in 1717 where Fuller (also known as Evidence Fuller) was convicted of two offences of fraud. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined £50.[16] Campbell asserts that he did not actually die until 1733, but that he remained in Newgate gaol having been unable to pay off the fine to gain his freedom.[17] He describes Fuller’s career as a spy, double agent and confidence trickster. It is this latter aspect of Fuller’s life that is the subject of his appearance in Jerry White’s book on eighteenth-century London. He quotes Fuller being called ‘Cheat-Master-General of Great-Britain’ in 1718 and goes on to describe some of his frauds which include the Old Bailey cases.[18]


[1] J. McTague, ‘Anti-Catholicism, Incorrigibility and Credulity in the Warming-Pan Scandal of 1688-9’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 36.3 (2013), 433–48, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1754-0208.12011;

‘James Francis Edward Stuart’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Francis_Edward_Stuart;

‘The Warming Pan Scandal’, Stuarts Online, http://stuarts-online.com/resources/films/the-warming-pan-scandal/.

[2] ‘House of Commons Journal Volume 10: 9 December 1691’, in Journal of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1688-1693 (1802), pp. 579-580. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/commons-jrnl/vol10/pp579-580.

[3] C. E. A. Cheeseman, ‘Fuller, William (1670-1733), government agent and controversialist’, in H.C.G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004),https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-10241?rskey=yxW3Ko&result=4.

[4] ‘Mr Fuller’s Appeal to Both Houses of Parliament, with Letters Relating to Sir John Fenwick and Himself by William Fuller’, Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership,https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A40695.0001.001/1:1?rgn=div1;view=fulltext.

[5] ‘Sir John Fenwick, 3rd Baronet’, Wikipedia,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_John_Fenwick,_3rd_Baronet.

[6] ‘Fuller, William’, ODNB.

[7] ‘House of Lords Journal Volume 17: 19 January 1702’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 17, 1701-1705 (1767-1830), pp. 17-19. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol17/pp17-19.

[8] ‘House of Lords Journal Volume 17: 11 February 1702’, in Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 17, 1701-1705 (1767-1830), pp. 32-33. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol17/pp32-33.

[9] ‘Fuller, William’, ODNB.

[10] George Archibald Campbell, Imposter at the Bar – William Fuller 1670-1733 (1961).

[11] ‘Popish Plot’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popish_Plot.

[12] ‘Fuller, William’, ODNB.

[13] Campbell, p. 13.

[14] ‘Matthew Crone. Royal Offences: Treason. 5th June 1690’, The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t16900605-22&div=t16900605-22&terms=Matthew_Crone#highlight.

[15] ‘William Fuller (imposter)’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Fuller_(imposter).

[16] ‘Old Bailey Proceedings Supplementary Material. William Fuller. Deception: Fraud, Deception: Fraud. 6th June 1717’, The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=o17170606-1&div=o17170606-1&terms=Evidence_Fuller#highlight.

[17] Campbell, p. 238.

[18] J. White, London in the Eighteenth Century – A Great and Monstrous Thing (2012), p. 406.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of James II, William III and Mary II, 1685-1699’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.