7 October 1573 A.D. Arch-goat Billy Laudobate Born—76th of 105 Archbishops of Canterbury
Lord Brougham. Old England’s Worthies. London: James Sangster and Company, c. 1880. http://www.amazon.com/Englands-Worthies-original-bographies-statesmen/dp/B00BNVBR34/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1401473810&sr=8-2&keywords=Lord+Brougham+Old+England%27s+Worthies
No author. “Biography of William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury.” Britannia.com. N.d. http://www.britannia.com/bios/wmlaud/reflect.html. Accessed 30 May 2014.
Biography of William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury
W I L L I A M
L A U D
Part 1: Introduction
W I L L I A M
L A U D
Part 1: Introduction
The history of William Laud is in a manner the history both of church and state in England for some twenty or more most memorable years. If it were to be written with a copiousness corresponding to the quantity of the materials, volumes on volumes might be filled with it. Indeed it does actually stand recorded in several folios, besides State Trials and Parliamentary History, and Strafford Letters and other collections of State Papers, in which he fills much space. There is the history of his 'Life and Death' in one folio volume by Dr. Peter Heylin and that of his 'Troubles and Trial' in another, considerably larger, edited from his own papers by the learned Henry Wharton. We have his own Diary besides many of his letters and a mass of other authentic documents. The facts of the greater part of his history therefore are before us in extraordinary distinctness. Whatever we may think of him, there he is, the man and his acts, still, if we choose, almost as plainly to be seen by us as by his contemporaries. Some things respecting him, indeed, we know better than they did. His life was more than most lives passed in the light, and few have had the light so unsparingly let in upon them as he has had even in his deepest privacies. We have his written words intended only for the eye of the most intimate friendship or for no eye but his own. We ought not to forget, in judging him, this trying ordeal through which it has been his fate to be made to pass.
Part 2: Family Background
Curiously enough, Laud, in his own Diary, has not included details of his parentage, though it is well known from other records. The Diary begins by telling us merely that he was born on the 7th October 1573, at Reading in Berkshire, as if he had been literally an autochthon, terrae filius, or "gum of the earth," as one of his brother bishops, Field of Llandaff, calls himself in a begging letter to the universal patron, the Duke of Buckingham. This is preserved in the Cabala and is one of the greatest curiosities which have come down to us from that age. "Myself, a gum of the earth," says Field insinuatingly, "whom some eight years ago you raised out of the dust for raising but a thought so high as to serve your highness." But Laud was not of this self-abasing temper. He had no pleasure in looking back from his elevated fortunes upon the comparative humility of his origin. His biographer Heylin tells us that the libellers, who no doubt knew what would sting him, used frequently to upbraid him in the days of his greatness with his mean birth. Once Heylin found him walking in his garden at Lambeth "with more than ordinary trouble in his countenance," "of which," continues our author, "not having confidence enough to inquire the reason, he showed me a paper in his hand, and told me it was a printed sheet of a scandalous libel which had been stopped at the press, in which he found himself reproached with so base a parentage as if he had been raked out of the dunghill. Adding withal, that though he had not the good fortune to be born a gentleman, yet he thanked God he had been born of honest parents who lived in a plentiful condition, employed many poor people in their way and left a good report behind them." After some little time, seeing his countenance beginning to clear up, ready Heylin told him the story of Pope Sixtus the Fifth who used to say that he was domo natus illustri, "because the sunbeams, passing through the broken walls and ragged roof, illustrated every corner of that homely cottage in which he was born." The Latin words, which would be naturally translated born of an illustrious house or family, will also bear this other interpretation, however strange it may sound to the English reader. And the facetious anecdote, thus aptly applied, quite succeeded, we are assured, in restoring the equanimity of the ruffled prelate.
Laud's father, William Laud Senior, was a master cloth-worker and is described as having been well to do in the World. "He kept," says Heylin, "not only many looms in his house," a building in Broad Street, Reading, long pulled down, "but many weavers, spinners and fullers at continual work; living in good esteem and reputation amongst his neighbours to the very last." He was active in public life and held every office in the prosperous Berkshire town except that of mayor. Laud Senior's son, named William after him, was his only child; but his wife had been married before to another Reading clothier, John Robinson, by whom she had had a family. She was one Lucy Webb, sister to Sir William Webb, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1591. Of her children by Robinson, half-brothers and half-sisters of the Archbishop, his biographer mentions a William, the youngest son, who became a doctor of divinity, prebend of Westminster and Archdeacon of Nottingham; and two daughters, married, the one to a Dr. Cotsford, the other to a Dr. Layfield. It is possible that these relations of Laud's may have prospered the better in the World for their connection with him; but his uncle, at least, the Lord Mayor, had made his way to eminence long before the great churchman had got upon the ladder of preferment. It is more likely that he may have been of service to some later Webbs and Robinsons: Heylin speaks of a grandson of the Lord Mayor, also a Sir William Webb, as having died not long before he wrote, that is to say, perhaps, about the time of the Restoration; and his book, published posthumously, in 1671, is dedicated by his son to a Sir John Robinson, Bart., his Majesty's Lieutenant of the Tower of London, who is addressed as nearly related to the subject of it and who may therefore be presumed to have been a descendant of Laud's mother's first husband.
Part 3: Popish Notoriety
Laud, who appears to have been designed for the church from his boyhood, was sent first to Reading School, the free grammar-school of his native town. Whence, in July 1589, before he was sixteen, "which," Heylin remarks, "was very early for those times," he was sent to Oxford, and entered as a commoner of St. John's. Here his tutor was Mr. Buckeridge, one of the fellows and a zealous opponent of Puritanism. The seed of this popular following had been sown in the Church almost at the beginning of the Queen Elizabeth's reign and, for all that could be done to keep it down, was evidently enough growing stronger every day. Buckeridge's teaching was not thrown away upon Land.
The events noted in Laud's Diary for the next ten or twelve years are: that he was chosen a scholar of his college in June 1590 and admitted a fellow in June 1593; that his father died on Wednesday 11th April 1594; that he proceeded bachelor of arts in June of that year; that, in 1596, he had a great sickness and, in 1597, another (he had also been brought to death's door by an illness in his infancy); that, in July 1598, he took his degree of master of arts and the same year was grammar reader; that, at the end of that year, he fell into another great sickness; that his mother died on 24th November 1600; that, on 4th January 1601, he was ordained deacon, and priest on the 5th of April thereafter.
He had already obtained a considerable academic reputation and, having been admitted in 1602 to read a divinity lecture then maintained in his college in which he acquitted himself to general satisfaction, he became, next year, a candidate for the proctorship of the university, and obtained it. In this year, 1603, Heylin says he publicly maintained, either in his divinity lecture or in some other chapel exercise, "his famous doctrine of the perpetual visibility of the church, as derived from the Apostles to the Church of Rome, and continued in that church till the Reformation." The proclamation of these opinions brought him at once into open collision with the dominant Calvinistic party in the University, headed by Dr. George Abbot, Master of University College (afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury), who was then Vice-Chancellor. Abbot did not profess to deny the constant visibility of the church, or the apostolical succession, but he held a different theory of it, "tracing it," says Heylin contemptuously, "as well as he could from the Berengarians to the Albigenses, from the Albigenses to the Wycliffists, from the Wycliffists unto the Hussies, and from the Hussites unto Luther and Calvin." From the two systems sprung what were called High Church and Low Church principles and parties at a later date. Heylin affirms, on the authority of Laud himself, that he was so violently persecuted by Abbot. He was so openly branded by him for a papist, or at least one very popishly inclined, "that it was almost made a heresy for anyone to be seen in his company, and a misprision of heresy for anyone to give him a civil salutation as he walked the streets." Laud had followed up his lecture or sermon of 1603 by maintaining, the next year, in his exercise for bachelor of divinity, the necessity both of baptism and of bishops. Again, by a sermon preached in St. Mary's Church, Oxford on 21st October 1606, he was called to account by Dr. Airy, then Vice-Chancellor, for making, in some passages, a declaration of downright popery. "The good man," says Helyin, took "all things to be a matter of popery which were not held forth unto him in Calvin's Institutes."
Part 4: The Earl of Devonshire's Marriage
Shortly before this Laud had got into a scrape of another kind. Under the year 1605, we find him noting in his Diary: "My cross about the Earl of Devon's marriage," with a very particular specification of the day, as 26th December, a Thursday. He had, in September 1603, been made chaplain to Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, recently created Earl of Devon; and had been persuaded on that St. Stephen's Day, two years after, to solemnize a marriage between his noble patron and the beautiful Lady Rich, divorced from the Lord Rich for adultery with the Earl. It is quite clear, whatever Heylin may endeavour to make out, that herein Laud acted against his principles, or convictions of what was right. He confesses as much in the penitential prayer which his apologist quotes: "Behold," he there says, "I am become a reproach to thy holy name, by serving any ambition and the sins of others; which though I did by the persuasion of other men, yet my own conscience did cheek and upbraid me in it." There can be no reasonable doubt that, in consistency with the rest of his theological system, he held the doctrine of the absolute indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, and he must therefore be considered to have performed that solemnity between Lord Devon and Lady Rich, and so sanctioned their living together, while he believed her to be the wife of another man. He was afterwards accustomed to observe the festival of St. Stephen as a day of fasting and humiliation; but even from the account of his eulogistic biographer it would rather appear that he did not arrive at this clear sense of his fault till after all his expectations from his noble patron had been brought to an end by the Earl's death, which took place before the end of the following year. Notwithstanding his repentance, the affair was long a standing reproach against him and, his biographer intimates, materially retarded his preferment.
Part 5: Rise through the Church
Despite his controversial involvement in the Earl of Devon's marriage, Laud cannot be said to have been entirely neglected. In November 1607, he was inducted into the vicarage of Stanford in Northamptonshire. The advowson of North Kilworth in Leicestershire was given to him, as he records, in April 1608, in which year he proceeded as Doctor of Divinity and became chaplain to Bishop Neile of Rochester. In 1609, he exchanged North Kilworth for West Tilbury in Essex, to be near his new patron, and, in September of the same year, he made his debut as a courtier, by preaching before the King at Theobalds. In May 1610, his friend, the Bishop of Rochester, preferred him to the rectory of Cuckstone in Kent which he exchanged, in November, for Norton in the same county, as a healthier residence. Meanwhile, Neile had, in September, been translated to Lichfield and, in October, Laud resigned his fellowship, "that so," says his biographer, " he might more fully apply himself to the service of his lord and patron, whose fortunes he was resolved to follow toll God should please to provide otherwise for him." Neile had held the Deanery of Westminster in commendam with his late bishopric. Before resigning it he obtained for his friend, from the king, the reversion of a prebend in that church; "which," says Heylin " though it fell not to him till fell years after, yet it fell at last, and thereby neighboured him to the court." But Neile's translation proved also immediately beneficial to Laud. For the new Bishop of Rochester was his old tutor and steady friend, Buckeridge who was able to influence Laud's election as his successor in the presidentship of St. John's. Despite the opposition of Abbot (now Bishop of London and within a few months to be elevated to the primacy), he obtained this office in May 1611 and in November of the same year he was sworn in as one of his Majesty's chaplains in ordinary. It is true that he appears also to have met with some crosses and disappointments in the course of these years. We read in his Diary of his "unfortunateness with T" and of his "next unfortunateness with EM" and of a third "unfortunateness by SB" with sundry other notices of stays and troubles, and fits of sickness. The first entry, under date of' 1612, is of another "unfortunateness by SB" and the second, of another with AD. In January 1613, began his "great business with GR" which "settled as it could in March" and April 1614 was signalized by the beginning of his "great misfortune by MG" and also by "a most fierce salt rheum" in his left eye, "like to have endangered it." But on the other side of the account, we find him noting that in the same month his friend, Neile, now Bishop of Lincoln, gave him the prebend of Bugden in that church. Heylin informs us that the Bishop did this "to keep him up in heart and spirit," when he was sinking under the disappointment of his hopes of court preferment. For, it seems, "whenever any opportunity was offered for his advancement, Archbishop Abbot would be sure to cast somewhat in his dish: sometimes inculpating to him (that is, objecting against him to the King) all his actings at Oxford and sometimes rubbing up the old sore of his unfortunate business with the Earl of Devonshire." In his despair, Laud was upon the point of returning to his college, but Neile prevailed with him to try one year longer and, for further encouragement, in December 1615, conferred upon him the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon. At last, "before the year of expectation was fully ended," to adopt Heylin's words, "his Majesty began to take him into his better thoughts and, for a testimony thereof, bestowed upon him the Deanery of Gloucester." The King gave him this in November 1616, and he now resigned his parsonage of Tilbury.
In March 1617, James set out on a visit to his native kingdom. His main object being to bring the Scots to conformity with the English model in regard to religion. "A matter," observes Heylin, "of consequence and weight, and therefore to be managed by able ministers such as knew how to wind and turn the Presbyterians of that kingdom, if matters should proceed to a disputation." Laud, esteemed as a person of eminent theological learning and polemical ability, was one of those selected to accompany his majesty. However, when James came to Edinburgh, "he soon found," says Heylin, "that he might have saved himself a great part of his care, and taken such of his chaplains with him as came next to hand; the Presbyterian Scots not being to be gained by reason, as he had supposed. For he was scarce settled in that city when the Presbyters, conceiving that his coming was upon design to work a uniformity between the churches of both kingdoms, set up one Struthers to preach against it, who laid so lustily about him in the chief church of Edinburgh, that he not only condemned the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, but prayed God to save Scotland from the same. Laud, and the rest of the chaplains who had heard the sermon, acquainted his Majesty with those passages: but there was no remedy. The Scots were Scots and resolved to go their own way, whatsoever came of it." Laud returned in the autumn and, on his way home, was inducted into the Rectory of Ibstock in the county of Leicester, a living in the patronage of his friend, Bishop Buckeridge, who let him have it in exchange for Norton.
Part 6: Bishop of St. David's
He then rested as he was, for some time. At last, in January 1621, he came into the enjoyment of the prebendal stall in Westminster, of which he had secured the reversion ten years before. And greater things followed fast. His own statement is that, on 3rd June, his Majesty made a gracious speech to him concerning his long service, being pleased to say that he had given him nothing but Gloucester, which he well knew was a shell without a kernel. The sequel was his receiving a grant of the Bishopric of St. David's on 29th of the same month. But the most particular and curious account of the way in which the affair was managed is given in Bishop Hacket's 'Life of Archbishop Williams'. Williams, who was Dean of Westminster, had recentIy been made Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and had soon after been raised to the Bishopric of Lincoln. He held the deanery in commendam and also retained his other preferments of a prebend and residentiary canonship in the Cathedral of Lincoln and the Rectory of Walgrave in Northamptonshire. "So that," as Heylin puts it, "he was a perfect diocese within himself; as being Bishop, Dean, Prebend residentiary and Parson, and all these at once. Williams, in this the height of his court favour (for it was the King himself who had selected him for the great seal), was earnestly applied to by the Marquis of Buckingham, to whom Laud, like everybody else, had paid court, to commend the latter to his Majesty. Buckingham's instructions to Williams were that he should not fear giving offence by urging this suit and not desist despite a stormy reception. Having watched his opportunity, "when the King's affections," says Hacker, "were most still and pacificous," Williams besought his majesty to think considerately of his chaplain, the doctor, whose merits he urged with much earnestness. "Well," said the King, "I perceive whose attorney you are. Stenie [Buckingham] hath set you on. You have pleaded the man a good Protestant and I believe it. Neither did that stick in my breast when I stopped his promotion. But was there not a certain lady that forsook her husband and married a Lord that was her paramour? Who tied that knot? Shall I make a man a prelate, one of the angels of my church, who hath a flagrant crime upon him?"" Williams declared that the doctor was heartily penitent for his share in this transaction. Besides, he asked James, who would dare to serve him, good master as he was, if he would not pardon one fault, even if it should be of a scandalous magnitude? "You press well," replied his Majesty, "and I hear you with patience. Neither will I revive a trespass anymore which repentance hath mortified and buried; and because I see I shall not be rid of you unless I tell you my unpublished cogitations, the plain truth is, that I keep Laud back from all place of rule and authority because I find he hath a restless spirit, and cannot see when matters are well, but loves to toss and change, and to bring things to a pitch of reformation floating in his own brain, which may endanger the steadfastness of that which is in a good pass, God be praised. I speak not at random. He hath made himself known to me to be such a one. For three years since, I had obtained of the Assembly of Perth to consent to five articles of order and decency in correspondence with this Church of England. I gave them promise, by attestation of faith made, that I would try their obedience no farther in ecclesiastic affairs nor put them out of their own way, which custom has made pleasing unto them, with any new encroachments. Yet this man hath pressed me to invite them to a nearer conjunction with the liturgy and canons of this nation; but I sent him back again with the frivolous draught he had drawn....For all this, he feared not mine anger, but assaulted me again with another ill-fangled platform to make that stubborn kirk stoop more to the English pattern. But I durst not play fast and loose with my word. He knows not the stomach of that people; but I ken the story of my grandmother, the Queen-Regent, that, after she was inveigled to break her promise made to some mutineers at a Perth meeting, she never saw a good day. But, from thence, being much beloved before, was despised of all the people. And now your importunity hath compelled me to shrive myself thus unto you. I think you are at your farthest and have no more to say for your client." Williams, however, as he had been instructed, did not allow this characteristic oration to put him down. He still urged that Laud, notwithstanding "the very audacious and very unbecoming attempt" mentioned by his Majesty, was "of a great and tractable wit" and, if he fell into an error, would, at least as soon as any man, find a way to get out of it. And his pertinacity was successful. James, impatiently asking if there was nothing he could say that was not to have its answer, exclaimed, "Here, take him to you, but on my soul you will repent it." "And so," concludes Hacket, "went away in anger, using other fierce and ominous words, which were divulged in the court and are too tart to be repeated."
Thus was Laud at last made a bishop. He was formally elected by the Chapter on 10th October 1621, a few days after entering his forty-ninth year. The King had given him leave to hold the Presidentship of St. John's in commendam with his bishopric. "But by reason," he writes in his Diary, "of the strictness of that statute, which I will not violate, nor my oath to it under any colour, I am resolved before my consecration to leave it." And he did resign it accordingly. It is worth noticing that Laud's great enemy, Prynne, in the edition of the Diary which he very unhandsomely published in September 1644 while the archbishop yet lived, had the dishonesty to omit all notice of this resignation. So that even Laud's biographer, Heylin, who wrote before the Diary was published in its integrity by Wharton, in 1695, represents him as retaining his college office with his bishopric. Laud himself, with all his passion, precipitation and short-sightedness, never committed anything so thoroughly base as this suppression of the truth by the great Puritan lawyer and patriot.
Part 7: Associations with Buckingham
In the next year, 1622, Laud obtained much reputation by a conference or disputation which he maintained on 24th May in the presence of his Majesty and other distinguished personages, with Fisher the Jesuit. Fisher had been, for some time, attempting to make a Roman Catholic of the Countess of Buckingham, mother of the Duke (or rather Marquis only, as yet). It was generally thought that, if he should succeed, her son also would be very likely to go over to the old religion. However, both at this public conference at which the Countess and the Marquis were present, and in private discourse with the lady, Laud acquitted himself so ably as to satisfy her upon every point of religious question. Thus, he averted what was looked upon by many as a serious national danger. Buckingham also, from this time, took him into his most intimate confidence. "Being Whit-Monday," he records, under the date of June 9th, "My Lord Marquis of Buckingham was pleased to enter upon a near respect to me. The particulars are not for paper." And under June 15th, he enters, "I became C. to my Lord of Buckingham" (meaning, it is supposed, confessor). All the notices in the Diary of this affair are carefully suppressed by Prynne, one of whose objects was to represent the later Archbishop as having been, all his life, a thorough papist. Laud himself published, in 1624, an account of his argument with Fisher. He notes that he had not previously appeared in print.
In January 1623, Laud was inducted into the parsonage of Creeke in the Diocese of Peterborough which he was permitted to hold in commendam with his not very well endowed Welsh bishopric. But the new reign, which began in March 1625, when he was in his fifty-second year, was the beginning for him of new fortunes.
Yet his own account informs us that attempts were, at first, made to prejudice the Royal mind against him. Under date of Saturday 9th April, he writes, "The Duke of Buckingham, whom, upon all accounts, I am bound forever to honour, signified to me that a certain person, moved through I know not what envy, had blackened my name with his Majesty King Charles. They laid hold, for that purpose, of the error into which, by I know not what fate, I had formerly fallen in the business of Charles, Earl of Devonshire, 26th December 1605". He was too strong, however, in the favour of the Royal favourite and most powerful man in the Kingdom to be injured now by this stale story. At the Coronation, on 2nd February 1626, he officiated as Dean of Westminster, in place of Bishop Williams who had, for the present, passed into the shade and whom Charles would not have to take part in the ceremony. So he was obliged to make Laud, whom he cordially hated, his deputy. On 6th March thereafter, he resigned his parsonage of Ibstock. On 20th June, he was nominated to the Bishopric of Bath and Wells. At the beginning of October, he was appointed to the office of Dean of the Chapel Royal vacant by the death of Bishop Andrews. By the end of April 1627, he was sworn in as a privy counsellor which, in those days, implied that he was to take an actual share in the government of the Kingdom. In July 1628, King Charles succeeded in having him placed in the See of London, though not till after some months had been spent in getting room made for him by the removal of Bishop Mountain. This proved almost as difficult as if he had been a real mountain that had to be removed from his path. The scheme was that Mountain should go to Durham, from which Neile, Laud's friend, was transferred to succeed Andrews at Winchester. However, having spent a great part of his life, as Heylin expresses it, "in the air of the court," he looked upon such a relegation to the cold regions of the North as "the worst kind of banishment, next neighbour to a civil death". Before he became Bishop of Durham more than in form, the death of Dr. Toby Matthews, Archbishop of York, made another opening for him, with which he was better satisfied. So that he presided over three sees in succession in that year and he died before the end of it.
Part 8: Bishop of Bath & Wells
By the time laud became Bishop of Bath & Wells, he had already made himself unpopular by his apparent preference for ceremonies to spiritual religion and his severe, not to say violent measures, against Puritanism, as well as by his intimate connections with Buckingham. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the House of Commons fell upon the Duke, in March 1628, and voted him to be the great cause of all the grievances in the Kingdom, they also drew up a remonstrance to the King against Laud. Both he and his friend, Neile, were denounced as unsound in their theological opinions and declared the authors or principal promoters of sundry innovations of a Romish character in the services of the Church. To this admonition, however, he paid no heed. The parliament rose on 26th June and, on 23rd August, Buckingham was assassinated. In April 1636, Laud was chosen their Chancellor by the University of Oxford. A few months later occurred the first of several notorious cases of Laud's ferocity of procedure in the High Commission Court. That of Dr. Alexander Leighton, "a Scot by birth, a doctor of physic by profession, a fiery Puritan in faction" is Heylin's description of him. He was brought before the court for publishing a tract entitled 'An Appeal to the Parliament or Zion's Plea against Prelacy'; and was sentenced to pay a fine of £10,000, to be twice set in the pillory and whipped, to have his ears cut off and his nose slit, to be branded in the face with the letters SS (for Sower of Sedition) and to be imprisoned in the Fleet Prison (London) for the remainder of his life. This barbarous sentence was executed in all its parts and Leighton (who was father of the learned, eloquent and admirable Archbishop Leighton, who held the see of Glasgow in the next age) lay in prison for ten years. On Sunday 16th January of the next year, 1630, took place Laud's famous consecration of the Church of St. Catherine Cree, London, on the north side of Leadenhall Street. Prynne's satirical, and probably somewhat exaggerated, account of which, in his 'Canterbury's Doom ' (1646), has been in substance incorporated by Hume in his History and is well known. As a sample, both of Laud and of Prynne, we will quote the concluding paragraph in the original words. "When the Bishop approached near the communion-table, he bowed with his nose very near the ground six or seven times. Then he came to one of the corners of the table and there bowed himself three times. Then to the second and third, bowing at each three times. But when he came to the side of the table where the bread and wine were, he bowed himself seven times, and then, after the reading of many prayers by himself, and his two fat chaplains which were with him, and all this while upon their knees by him in their surplices, hoods and tippets, he himself came near the bread, which was laid in a fine napkin. And then he gently lifted up one of the corners of the napkin, like a boy that peeped into a bird's nest in a bush, and presentIy clapped it down again and flew back a step or two, and then bowed very low three times towards it and the table. When he beheld the bread, then he came near and opened the napkin again, and bowed as before. Then he laid his hand upon the gilt cup, which was full of wine, with a cover open it. So soon as he had pulled the cup a little nearer to him, he let the cup go, flew back and bowed again three times towards it. Then he came near again and, lifting up the cover of the cup, peeped into it. And, seeing the wine, he let fall the cover on it again, flew nimbly back and bowed as before. After these, and many other apish antic gestures, he himself receded and then gave the sacrament to some principal men only, they devoutly kneeling near the table. After which, more prayers being said, this scene and interlude ended." Impossible as it may be for most modern readers to enter fully into the spirit of the kind of devotion practised on this and other occasions by Laud, and discordant with the reigning popular feeling as it was even in his own day, so that his attempt to revive it was a great miscalculation and blunder, it is to our taste, we confess, at least as respectable as Prynne's wit.
Part 9: friends & Enemies
Prynne, it must be confessed, had had something to make his bitterness of Laud and those of a near-papist stance excusable. For his famous 'Histrio-mastix,' an attack upon stage-plays in one passage of which he was accused of having reflected upon the Queen, he was, in 1633, sentenced in the Court of Star-Chamber to pay a fine of £5,000. He was to be expelled from the University of Oxford and the Society of Lincoln's Inn, to be degraded and forever disabled from exercising his profession of the law, to stand twice in the pillory, to have both his ears cut off and to suffer perpetual imprisonment. After he had had his ears sewed on again, he was a second time brought up before the same court, in June 1637, for a pamphlet which he had published since his incarceration. He was sentenced to have his ears again shorn off, to stand in the pillory as before and to be branded on both cheeks with the letters SL (for Schismatical Libeller). He was accordingly consigned to Caernarfon Castle, whence he was afterwards removed to Mount Orgueil Castle in the Isle of Jersey. There he lay till he was released, with other victims of the Star Chamber and the Court of High Commission, by an order of the House of Commons in November 1640. It was at the same time that Prynne received his second sentence that similar sentences were passed upon Dr. John Bastwick, a physician (who had also been fined and otherwise punished for a former book in 1633), for a publication in which he had reflected upon the bishops. And also upon the Rev. Henry Burton, Rector of St. Matthew's Church, Friday Street, London, for two sermons which he had preached and a pamphlet which, after he had been thrown into prison on account of the sermons, he had published in their vindication. Bastwick lay in one of the Scilly Isles and Burton in the Island of Guernsey, until they were released along with Prynne.
Meanwhile, Laud had been mounting higher and higher. In June 1632, he had got his dependant, or at least his intimate friend, Sir Francis Windebank, made Secretary. He notes in his Diary that he had obtained the place for him from the King. We may mention here that Windebank was afterwards charged by the parliament with having been a confederate of Laud's in his tyrannical and papistical system, but escaped destruction by flying to the Continent. About three weeks after Windebank's appointment, he obtained another firm ally in Dr. Juxon, Dean of Worcester, who was made Clerk of the Closet. Laud had sued for this, he tells us, so that he might have someone whom he could trust near his Majesty, if he should himself grow weak and infirm: "as," he adds, "I must have a time." In 1633, he attended the King on his visit to Scotland. On 15th June, he was sworn onto the Privy Council of that country and, on 4th August, a few days after his return to London, news came to court of the death, that morning, of Abbot, Archbishop of' Canterbury. On which, Laud tells us, the King resolved presently to give him the place. "That very morning," he also states, "at Greenwich, there came one to me seriously, and that avowed ability to perform it, and offered me to be a cardinal. I went presently to the King and acquainted him both with the thing and the person." About a fortnight afterwards, this offer was renewed but," says he, "my answer again was that something dwelt within me which would not suffer that till Rome were other than it is." On 14th September, he was chosen Chancellor of the University of Dublin and, on 19th of the same month, he was translated to the Archbishopric and the Primacy of the English Church.
Part 10: The Reforming Archbishop
To Laud's many ecclesiastical and academical preferments and honours were added others of a less professional sort. On 5th February 1635, he was made a member of the Committee of Trade and Revenue. On 14th March, upon the death of the Lord Treasurer, the Earl of Portland, he was named one of the Commissioners for the Exchequer and, two days after, he was called by the King into the Foreign Committee, that is, into the Committee of the Privy Council for Foreign Affairs. But his crowning triumph was achieved when, on 6th March in the following year, 1636, he got his friend, Juxon, already Bishop of London, appointed to the office of Lord High Treasurer of England. "Churchman," he writes with manifest satisfaction, had "had it since Henry VII's time. I pray God bless him to carry it so that the Church may have honour and the King, and the State, service and contentment by it. And now, if the Church will not hold up themselves, under God I can do no more."
Laud was now all-powerful in both Church and State. He set about using his authority to impose, on England, the religious ceremonies and practices which he held so dear, but which were thought "popish" by the majority of the Nation. Sir Nathaniel Brent, his Vicar-General, was sent throughout the land, to note all deviations and irregularities. The pulpit was to be replaced by the communion table as the chief feature of the church. Puritan lecturers were suppressed and the reissue of the Book of Sports supported. He insisted that English soldiers in Holland use the prayer-book and that even merchant adventurers in Delft conform, though his efforts with colonists in New England were less successful. He tried to force the Dutch and French refugees in the country to unite with the Church of England, threatening double taxation if they refused. He urged his associate, the Earl of Strafford, to impose these same reforms in Ireland, while he himself turned to Scotland. With the Scottish bishops, a new prayer-book and canons were drawn up and their use enforced. This was seen as an all out attack on Scottish independence. Laud further brought in the et cetera oath by which whole classes of men were to be forced to swear allegiance to the "government of this church by archbishops, bishops, deans and archdeacons, etc". He was immediately attacked and derided and blamed for all the troubles then current between the King and Parliament. King Charles had the oath suspended in October 1640 and Laud's greatness was to follow soon after.
Part 11: Imprisonment & Execution
Increasing opposition to the King and the Church in Scotland led to open rebellion. In a desperate bid to for money to suppress the insurrection, Charles broke his eleven year rule without a parliament and the summoned the body he hated so. Some of the first proceedings of the ever-memorable Long Parliament, which assembled on 3rd November 1640, included moves against Archbishop Laud; and on 18th December, Denzil Hollis, by order of the House of Commons, impeached him for high treason and other high crimes and misdemeanours, at the bar of the House of Lords. On 26th February 1641, the articles of impeachment, twenty-six in number, were brought up by Sir Harry Vane the younger. Laud was specially charged with having advised his Majesty that he might levy money on his subjects without consent of parliament; with attempting to establish absolute power not only in the King, but in himself and other bishops, above and against the laws; with perverting the course of justice by bribes and promises to the judges; with the imposition of divers new ecclesiastical canons, containing matters contrary both to the laws and the Royal prerogative; with assuming a papal and tyrannical power in matters both ecclesiastical and temporal; with endeavouring to subvert the true religion and to introduce popish superstition; and with being the principal adviser and author of the late war against the Scots. On 23rd October, at the instigation of his old enemy Williams, now become a great man again, Laud's archiepiscopal jurisdiction was sequestered by the House of Lords and made over to his inferior officers. About a year after, all the rents and profits of his Archbishopric, in common with those of all other archbishoprics, bishoprics, deaneries and cathedral offices, were sequestered for the use of the Commonwealth. By November 1642, Civil War had broken out between the King and parliament and Laud's fate seemed to have been sealed. On 9th May 1643, all his goods in Lambeth Palace, his books included, were seized. Soon after, his room and person were searched by Prynne, under the authority of a warrant from the House of Commons and his Diary and all his other papers taken from him. All this while, with the exception of a few months at first, during which he was left in the custody of Mr. Maxwell, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, he had been confined in the Tower. At last, on 12th March 1644, he was brought to trial before the House of Lords assembled, as usual, in Westminster Hall. Prynne says in his 'History of the Trial,' that "he made as full, as gallant, as pithy a defence of so bad a cause and spake as much for himself as was possible for the wit of man to invent. And that with much art, sophistry, vivacity, oratory, audacity and confidence, without the least blush or acknowledgement of guilt in anything." It seemed very doubtful if the Lords, overawed as they were, would have consented to condemn him. At the end of the trial, which lasted twenty days, they adjourned without coming to a vote on the question of his guilt or innocence; and in this state matters remained till the Commons, abandoning their impeachment, resorted to another method of effecting their object. An ordinance, or bill, for his attainder was brought into the House on 13th November and, two days after, was passed and immediately sent up to the Lords. They too, at last, passed it, in a very thin house, on 4th January, and, on 10th, Laud was, in conformity with this law over riding all law, beheaded on Tower Hill. He met his death with great firmness.
Part 12: Reflections
Thus fell Laud and, as Heylin observes, the church fell with him. "Of stature," writes that sympathizing, but not indiscriminatingly admiring biographer, towards the close of his narrative, "he was low, but of a strong composition. So short a trunk contained so much excellent treasure....His countenance cheerful and well bloodied: more fleshy, as I have often heard him say, than any other part of his body; which cheerfulness and vivacity he carried with him to the very block, notwithstanding the afflictions of four years' imprisonment and the infelicity of the times....A gallant spirit being for the most part like the Sun, which shows the greater at his setting....Of apprehension he was quick and sudden, of a very sociable wit and a pleasant humour, and one that knew as well how to put off the gravity of his place and person when he saw occasion, as any living man whatsoever. Accessible enough at all times, but when he was tired out with multiplicity and vexation of business, which some who did not understand him ascribed unto the natural ruggedness of his disposition." He was a munificent benefactor to the University of Oxford in various ways. And, in his native town of Reading, he gave lands to the town corporation and left money for the apprenticeship of poor boys and the endowment of St. Laurence's Church and Reading School. Heylin mentions that these good works exhausted all the fortune he had made himself master of "in so long a time of power and greatness, wherein he had the principal managing of affairs both in Church and State."
Archbishop Laud's literary works, besides his account of the conference with Fisher, already mentioned, are: Seven Sermons, originally published separately and then collected and printed together in one volume, at London, in 1651; his Diary and History of his Troubles and Trial, together with some other pieces, published by Wharton in 1695; and his History of his Chancellorship of Oxford, forming the second volume of that work, published in 1700.
Edited from Lord Brougham's 'Old England's Worthies' (1857).