Almost as soon as the fire began rumours spread that it was a deliberate act of arson by the French or Dutch, with whom the country had recently been at war, or by Catholics wanting to punish London as a Protestant city. Mobs roamed the streets in search of foreigners and attacked anyone they suspected. Cornelius Riedtveldt, a Dutch baker from Westminster, was set upon and his bakery looted. There was wide-spread panic about the possibility of a French invasion. The king himself went to speak to London’s refugees at Moorfields to assure them the fire was not a plot.
After the fire an official enquiry was set up as to the cause. Before any conclusion was reached, a Frenchman, Robert Hubert, confessed to the crime and was hanged on 27 October 1666. Apparently the jury believed him to be a confused innocent but he was a convenient scapegoat. Thomas Farriner, the baker in whose shop the fire started, seems to have escaped blame and even signed Hubert’s confession.
Why was it claimed that the fire was started by a Catholic conspiracy?