Thursday, October 11, 2012

14: William Laud (1573-1645), Martyr among the Caroline Divines

Archbishop William Laud, after Sir Anthony Van Dyck, ca 1636

Patrick Comerford

William Laud (1573-1645) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645. One of the Caroline Divines, he opposed radical forms of Puritanism. He was successively Archdeacon of Huntingdon (1615), Dean of Gloucester (1616), Bishop of St Davids (1621), Bishop of Bath and Wells (1626), Bishop of London (1628) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1633), and was also Chancellor of the University of Oxford and the University of Dublin.

Laud was one of the senior advisers to King Charles I, and paid for this loyalty with his life when he was executed on Tower Hill at the height of the English Civil War. Trevor-Roper describes him as the heir of Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes, and many see him as the first martyr among the Caroline Divines.

William Laud was born on 7 October 1573 in a house on Broad Street, Reading, Berkshire. His father, also William Laud, was a wealthy prosperous cloth merchant; his mother Lucy (née Webb), was a sister of Sir William Webb, who became Lord Mayor of London in 1591. However, Laud remained sensitive about his humble origins throughout his career.

He was baptised at Saint Laurence’s Church, Reading, and was educated at Reading Free School (Reading Grammar School). On 17 October 1589, at the age of 16, he matriculated at Saint John’s College, Oxford.

Saint John’s College Oxford … William Laud was an undergraduate here, and later President (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint John’s was a Catholic foundation of the reign of Mary Tudor and had stood out against the dominant Puritanism in Oxford. It was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas White, a Reading-born former Lord Mayor of London, to provide educated Roman Catholic priests to support the Counter-Reformation, and it is now said to be the wealthiest college in Oxford. At Saint John’s, Laud’s was John Buckeridge, one of a group of theologians who led a reaction against Calvinism and who influenced Laud’s later policies for the reform of church liturgy.

Laud gained a scholarship in Saint John’s in 1590, and was elected to a fellowship in 1593. He graduated BA on 1 July 1594, and later proceeded MA (26 June 1598), BD (6 July 1604) and DD (1 June 1608).

Laud was ordained on 5 April 1601, and in 1603, he became chaplain to Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire. But he was soon associated with the small clerical group, followers of the patristic scholar Lancelot Andrewes, who, in opposition to Puritanism, stressed the continuity of the visible church and the necessity, for true inward worship, of outward uniformity, order, and ceremony.

He also took an early an early against the Calvinistic party in the Church of England. In 1604 was reproved for his affirmation of apostolic succession for maintaining in his BD thesis “that there could be no true church without bishops,” and again for advocating “popish” opinions in a sermon he preached in Saint Mary’s University Church, Oxford on 21 October 1606.

In 1605, somewhat against his will, he obliged his patron, Lord Devonshire, by conducting his marriage to his mistress, a divorcée, Penelope, Lady Rich. He became Vicar of Stanford, Northamptonshire in 1607, Rector of North Kilworth, Leicestershire (1608), and Rector of West Tilbury, Essex (1609). In 1608 he became chaplain to Richard Neile, Bishop of Rochester and later Bishop of Lichfield, who introduced Laud to the court of King James I. Neile also appointed Laud in 1610 as Rector of Cuxton, Kent, when he resigned his fellowship at Saint John’s College, Oxford. He exchanged Cuxton later in 1610 to become Rector of Norton.

He was appointed king’s chaplain in 1611, and – despite the opposition of the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot and the Lord Chancellor, Ellesmere – he became president of St John’s College, Oxford, that year. His tutor and friend, John Buckeridge, had been President of Saint John’s until becoming Bishop of Rochester in 1611, and nominated Laud as his successor. It was a stormy election as by now Laud had a reputation as a trouble-shooter, and he remained president of his college for the next ten years.

A plaque on the walls of Saint Mary’s Church in the Market Square, Lichfield, recalling Edward Wightman who was burned at the stake in 1612 … he was interrogated by William Laud, one of the eight clerics who preached in Lichfield Cathedral at the end of his trial (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Edward Wightman, the last person burned at the stake for heresy in England, was executed in the Market Place, Lichfield, on 11 April 1612. He had spent several months in prison and interrogated at intervals by William Laud, the Bishop of Lichfield, Richard Neile, and others. Laud, who was then Neile’s chaplain, was one of the eight clerics who preached in Lichfield Cathedral against Wightman on the final day of his trial.

Meanwhile, in quick succession, Laud was appointed the Prebendary of Buckden in Lincoln Cathedral (1614) Archdeacon of Huntingdon (1615), Dean of Gloucester (1616), and a canon of Westminster Abbey (1621-1628). As Dean of Gloucester, he repaired the fabric of the cathedral, and aroused great religious controversy when he moved the communion table from the centre of the choir to the east end. This was a characteristic tactless exercise of power that offended the bishop, Miles Smith, who refused to enter the cathedral from then on.

In 1617, he accompanied King James I on a visit to Scotland, and aroused hostility by wearing the surplice. Laud returned to England that autumn and, on his way home, was inducted into the Rectory of Ibstock in of Leicestershire, a living in the patronage of his friend and former tutor, Bishop Buckeridge, who let him have it in exchange for Norton. However, after the visit to Scotland King James I distrusted him, predicting that he would in time cause great trouble in the Church, and held him back for several years, despite the urgings of the future Charles I, who admired Laud.

As Bishop of Durham, Richard Neile moved the Communion Table at Durham Cathedral into an altar-wise position, and around 1620 replaced the wodden table with a stone altar. By then, Laud was part of the so-called Durham House Group that formed around Neile and that included John uckeridge of Rochester, John Howson, Bishop of Oxford, and Richard Montagu, later Bishop of Chichester.

In April and May 1622, on the king’s orders, Laud took part in a controversy with Percy, a Jesuit, known as John Fisher. In a way, this was a re-run of the published debate between Lancelot Andrewes and Cardinal Bellarmine. The aim was to prevent the conversion to Roman Catholicism of the Countess of Buckingham, the mother of the king’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham. Laud’s opinions in this debate show considerable breadth and comprehension. While he refused to acknowledge the Roman Catholic Church as the true church, he allowed it to be a true church and a branch of the Catholic body, at the same time emphasising the perils of knowingly associating with error.

With regard to the Church of England, Laud denied that it was necessary to accept all 39 of the Articles of Religion. The argued that the foundation of belief was the Bible, not any one branch of the Catholic Church arrogating infallibility to itself, and when dispute on matters of faith arose, “a lawful and free council, determining according to Scripture, is the best judge on earth.”

As a consequence of the debate, a close friendship developed between Laud and the Duke of Buckingham, and this friendship was the chief instrument of Laud’s subsequent advancement. In 1621, he was consecrated Bishop of St Davids and resigned as President of Saint John’s College. While he was Bishop of St Davids, he also became Chancellor in the Collegiate Church of Abergwilly (afterwards Brecon) in St Davids (1622) and Rector of Crick, Northamptonshire, in the Diocese of Peterborough (1623).

With the death of James I in 1625, and the accession of Charles I, Laud’s ambitions were given free rein. He immediately prepared for the king a list of the clergy in which each name was labelled “O” or “P” distinguishing the Orthodox to be promoted from the Puritans to be suppressed. Laud defended Richard Montague, who had aroused the wrath of the parliament by his pamphlet against Calvinism. His influence soon extended into the domain of the state.

He supported the king’s prerogative throughout the conflict with the parliament, preached in favour of it before Charles I’s second parliament in 1626, and assisted in Buckingham’s defence. In 1626, Laud was translated to Bath and Wells and in that same year he received the degree DD at the University of Cambridge, by incorporation from Oxford.

With Charles I on the throne, Laud’s political power grew. He officiated at the coronation of King Charles coronation in place of Bishop Williams, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, who had fallen from favour, and preached sermons at the opening of the parliaments of 1625 and 1626. Laud regularly preached that King Charles rule by Divine Right, a view shared by the king.

When Lancelot Andrewes died in September 1626, Laud succeeded him as the Dean of the Chapel Royal, and he was made a member of the Privy Council in April 1627.

In July 1628, Laud became Bishop of London. The assassination of the Duke of Buckingham a month later on 23 August 1628 further extended the influence of Laud, who stated that those who failed to support the king were simply bad Christians. As Bishop of London, Laud now effectively ran the Church of England owing to the sequestration of the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, who had been injured in a shooting incident while hunting.

In London, he pursued a policy to silence Calvinist preaching at Saint Paul’s Cross, beside Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
The Divinity Schools, Oxford … as Chancellor of Oxford University, Laud insisted on examinations as a requirement for degrees (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

He became the Chancellor of the University of Oxford on 12 April 1629 and held that office until 1641. As chancellor, he was more closely involved in the affairs of the university than many of his predecessors. Perhaps Laud’s most significant contribution to Oxford was the creation of a new set of statutes for the university, a task completed in 1636, and as Chancellor he initiated a cycle for the election of proctors.

His reforms at Oxford included the statute by which public examinations became obligatory for university degrees, the ordinance for the election of proctors, the revival of the college system and academic dress.

He founded or endowed the office of public orator and the Chair of Hebrew and was instrumental in establishing the Laudian Chair of Arabic at Oxford

The Bodleian Library, Oxford … Laud obtained over 1,300 manuscripts for the Bodleian Library, adding a new wing to the building to hold his donations (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

His time at Oxford was marked by a great increase in the number of students, and he encouraged English and foreign scholars, such as Voss, Selden and Jeremy Taylor.

He founded the university printing press, procuring in 1633 the royal patent for Oxford, and at some personal expense he acquired two Arabic script printing sets from the Netherlands, first publishing in Oxford in 1639.

He obtained over 1,300 manuscripts for the Bodleian Library, adding a new wing to the building to hold his donations. He took a particular interest in acquiring Arabic manuscripts for the Bodleian Library.

The Canterbury Quadrangle, one of the seven quads in Saint John’s College, Oxford (Photograph: Nigel Cox/Wikipedia)

In his own college, Laud erected new buildings, and is regarded as the second founder of Saint John’s, alongside Sir Thomas White. The Canterbury Quadrangle, one of the seven quads in Saint John’s College, was commissioned by Laud, designed by Adam Browne and built between 1631 and 1636. It is the first example of Italian Renaissance architecture in Oxford. Much of the college library is here, including the Old Library on the south side, and the Laudian Library (1631-1635) above the eastern colonnade, overlooking the garden.

Laud also showed his liberality and his zeal for reform as an active visitor of Eton and Winchester, and he endowed the grammar school at Reading where he was educated. In London he procured funds for the restoration of the dilapidated Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Meanwhile, in 1629, Charles introduced the “Instructions” forbidding preaching “without cure of souls,” so-called lecturers, and enforcing the use of The Book of Common Prayer and the surplice. Puritans violently interrupted services at which the surplice was worn. In Oxford, a group of Puritans broke into a church the night before a service and stole the surplices, which they thrust into the dung-pit of a privy. In Lichfield, a woman marched into the cathedral, accompanied by the town clerk and his wife, and ruined the altar hangings with a bucket of pitch.

Laud was also able to put his own nominees in positions of authority within the church in the late 1620s and early 1630s. As a judge, he showed a tyrannical spirit both in the Star Chamber and the High-Commission court, threatening Felton, the assassin of Buckingham, with the rack, and showing special activity in procuring a cruel sentence in the Star Chamber in June 1630 imposed on Alexander Leighton (1587-1644), who was whipped, branded, and had his ears and nose severed, and imposing a severe fine on Henry Sherfield (1572-1634) in 1633.

When George Abbott died in 1633, Laud succeeded him as Archbishop of Canterbury. In that office, he was prominent in government on the side of the King and Lord Wentworth, and it is believed that he wrote the controversial Declaration of Sports issued by King Charles in 1633, allowing sports and other games to be played on Sundays.

Trinity College Dublin … Archbishop Laud was Chancellor of the University of Dublin from 1633 until his death in 1645 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the same year as he became Archbishop of Canterbury, Laud also became the fifth Chancellor of the University of Dublin, and continued to hold that office until his execution in 1645.

The Archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher (1581-1656), deliberately obstructed plans by Laud and Strafford to replace the 1615 Articles of the Church of Ireland with the 39 Articles of the Church of England, recently republished in support of Laud’s policies. In 1635, Bishop John Bramhall of Derry, later Archbishop of Armagh, blocked Ussher’s attempts to confirm the Irish canons.

Laud respected Ussher’s learning and character, but found him uncooperative and negligent, and Ussher’s refusal to remove the ostentatious Boyle monument from the east end of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was just one of many points of conflict.

The most direct confrontation between Laud and Ussher was at Trinity College, Dublin, were Laud was Chancellor and Ussher was Vice-Chancellor. In their disputes, Laud relied on the saintly William Bedell, Provost of Trinity College. Ussher berated Bedell for learning the Irish language and preaching to the Irish people in their own language.

When Laud secured Bedell’s appointment as Bishop of Kilmore in 1629, he out-manoeuvred in having Bedell replaced in Trinity by William Chappell, Dean of Cashel, later rewarded by Laud by being made Bishop of Cork.

Finally, Laud persuaded Charles I to offer Ussher lodgings in the deanery at Westminster Abbey in 1640. He never returned to Ireland and spent the next 15 years in England, and died on 21 March 1656.

The Backs at King’s College, Cambridge … in 1636, the Privy Council ruled in favour of Laud’s claims as visitor at both Cambridge and Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1636, the Privy Council decided in his favour his claim of jurisdiction as visitor over both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. Soon after, he was placed on the Commission of the Treasury and on the committee of the Privy Council for foreign affairs.

That year, Laud was greatly delighted with the appointment of William Juxon, Bishop of London, as Lord Treasurer in 1636, declaring: “No churchman had it since Henry VIII’s time ... and now if the Church will not hold up themselves under God, I can do no more.”

By now, Laud was all-powerful in both church and state. The 11 years of personal rule by Charles I and the suspension of Parliament gave Laud the opportunity to reshape the Church of England in the way he wanted. He brought an end to reforms within the Church of England that he believed had already gone too far by the early 1630s. This approach angered the Puritans who believed Laud was too Catholic in his approach.

He proceeded to impose by authority the religious ceremonies and usages to which he attached so much importance. His vicar-general, Sir Nathaniel Brent, went through the dioceses of the Province of Canterbury, noting every dilapidation and irregularity. The pulpit was no longer to be the chief feature in the church, but the communion table, and rails should be put before the altar, “so thick with pillars that dogs may not get in.” However, rails also implied that Holy Communion should be received kneeling, and this too provoked Puritan reaction.

Although at first Laud opposed to the sitting of convocation, after the dissolution of parliament he used convocation to pass new canons that enforced his ecclesiastical system. With the “etcetera oath,” many were forced to swear perpetual allegiance to the “government of this church by archbishops, bishops, deans and archdeacons, &c.”

In 1632, he severely reprimanded the Chief Justice, Sir Thomas Richardson, for his interference with the Somerset wakes, and so humiliated Richardson in public that the judge left the room in tears.

The pun “give great praise to the Lord, and little Laud to the devil” is a warning to King Charles attributed to the court jester, Archibald Armstrong. Laud was known to be touchy about his diminutive stature. He was almost 60 when he became archbishop, and having waited with increasing impatience for a decade to replace Abbot, was no longer prepared to compromise on any aspect of his policy.

Laud’s main priority was “decent order” and unity within the Church. He dismissed Puritanism as a “wolf held by the ears” and he believed that the very existence of Puritans threatened the stability of the Church. Whereas Strafford saw the political dangers of Puritanism, Laud saw the threat to the episcopacy.

His instruction to replace wooden communion tables with stone altars infuriated Puritans who saw this as being a blatant move towards Catholicism. He sought to have stained glass windows restored in churches and wanted the altar moved from the centre of a church to the east end.

Lambeth Palace … as Archbishop of Canterbury, Laud made many alterations to the Chapel, installing the black-and-white marble chequered flooring and new decorative windows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On his arrival at Lambeth Palace, Laud made many alterations to the Chapel, including the installation of black and white marble chequered flooring and the decoratively carved screen. He found the chapel windows inadequate, describing them as “all shameful to look on, all diversely patched like a poor beggar’s coat.” However, the decorative design of his new windows was not popular with Puritans who later smashed every pane.

He sought the financial independence of the clergy, so that a priest was not dependent on the support he received from the local squire. He proposed restoring to the Church some of the Church lands seized by Henry VIII and given or sold to various nobles and members of the gentry. The proposal never reached the stage of discussion about details, so it was not clear how compensation would be handled, but the proposal was enough to make landholders throughout England feel threatened.

He insisted on the use of The Book of Common Prayer among English soldiers in Holland, and forced strict conformity on the church of the merchant adventurers in Delft, He tried even to reach the colonists in New England.

William Laud’s coat-of-arms as Archbishop of Canterbury

Laud also tried to compel the Dutch and French refugees in England to unite with the Church of England, advising double taxation and other forms of persecution. In 1634, a year after Laud’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, the justices of the peace were ordered to enter houses to search for people holding conventicles and to bring them before the commissioners. He took pleasure in displaying his power over the great, and in punishing them in the spiritual courts for moral offences.

In 1634, the ship Griffin left for America, carrying religious dissidents such as Anne Hutchinson, the Revd John Lothropp and the Revd Zechariah Symmes.

Three Puritans, John Bastwick, Henry Burton and William Prynne, were arrested on the orders of Laud in 1637, and were convicted of seditious libel. Their ears were cut off and they were branded on the cheeks for writing pamphlets criticising Laud’s beliefs and decisions. Prynne reinterpreted the “SL” (“Seditious Libeller”) branded on his forehead as Stigmata Laudis.

In the same year, Laud also took part in the prosecution of the Bishop of Lincoln and former Lord Chancellor, John Williams (1582-1650), who was also Dean of Westminster Abbey.

Laud’s one constant ally was Thomas Wentworth, later the Earl of Strafford and from 1633 Lord Deputy of Ireland. Laud and Wentworth corresponded regularly and frankly on their joint struggle to establish “thorough,” as their rigorous policy came to be called and Laud urged Strafford to carry out the same reforms in Ireland.

A new Prayer Book and canons were drawn up by the Scottish bishops with his assistance and enforced in Scotland in 1637. The Presbyterians were angered and made it clear they were willing to fight to preserve their rights. In February 1638, Scottish leaders signed the National Covenant, by which they pledged themselves to uphold the Puritan position by force, and by the end of the year they had voted to depose and excommunicate every bishop in Scotland.

In 1639, a Scottish army crossed the border, attacked north-east England and occupied the coalfields near Newcastle. Unable to muster an army capable of countering this invading army, Charles I was forced to recall Parliament to raise funds to counter the Scots.

William Laud ... he was accused of treason in 1640 and was arrested in 1641

After 11 years in which Parliament was in recess, MPs were in an unforgiving mood and used the financial weakness of the king to extend their political powers. They demanded control over the king’s ministers, and Laud was their first target. His enemies accused him of “Popery.” However, it was the broad concept of “Laudism” that most aroused fear and anger. It seems Laud most angered the older generation of the time. In the Long Parliament, his opponents were about ten years older than those who supported the King, and it was the older generation of MPs that led the campaign against Laud and his policies.

The Long Parliament of 1640 accused Laud of treason, and, in the Grand Remonstrance of 1641, called for his imprisonment. Laud was arrested imprisoned in the Tower of London on 1 March. On 12 May 1641, at Strafford’s request, the archbishop appeared at the window of his cell to give him his blessing on his way to execution, and fainted as he passed by.

Laud remained in the Tower throughout the early stages of the English Civil War, and apart from a few personal enemies like William Prynne, Parliament showed little anxiety to proceed against him. Indeed, given his age, most MPs would probably have preferred to leave him to die of natural causes, and for some time he was left unnoticed in the Tower.

Although he was granted a royal pardon in April 1643, it was to no effect. On 31 May, Prynne received orders from the parliament to search his papers, and published a mutilated edition of his diary. Parliament eventually passed a Bill of Attainder to prosecute Laud, who was accused of trying to subvert the laws of England and endangering the Protestant faith.

Once of the accusations against him at his trial was that he used incense and wafer bread in his private chapel. He denied both charges, but pointed out that Lancelot Andrewes and John Cosin had practised both.
The articles of impeachment were sent the Lords in October, and his trial began on 12 March 1644. However, the charge of high treason was not proved, and the trial ended without a verdict. An Act of Attainder was substituted and sent to the House of Lords on 22 November. On 4 January 1645, the Lords yielded to the Commons, and he was sentenced to death.

William Laud facing his executioners on Tower Hill in London

With some reluctance, his petition to be executed with the axe, instead of undergoing the ordinary brutal punishment for high treason, was granted. He was beheaded on Tower Hill on10 January 1645.

Laud died with courage and with dignity, unwavering in his religious beliefs. In his last words on the scaffold he alludes to the dangers and slanders he had endured labouring to keep uniformity in the Church in the external service of God. Before the final blow was struck, he asserted his innocence of any offence known to the law. He died repudiating the charge of “Popery” and declaring that he had always lived in the Protestant Church of England. His final prayer was: “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy on me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”

He was buried in the chancel of All Hallows’ Church, Barking, but his body was removed on 24 July 1663 to the chapel of Saint John’s College, Oxford.

William Laud is remembered in the calendars of both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church on 10 January.

Archbishop Laud was joint editor with John Buckeridge of the Ninety-six Sermons of Lancelot Andrewes (1629). This collection was commissioned by King Charles I, and is still regarded as the embodiment of classical Anglicanism.

In 1639, Laud published A Relation of the Conference between William Laud and Mr Fisher by command of King James.

His Summarie of Devotions was published after the Restoration in 1667. Unlike the prayers of Lancelot Andrewes, William Laud’s prayers are simple, in the style of The Book of Common Prayer, and include the prayer Laud composed commending himself to God before his death.

His other works include his Seven Sermons, originally published separately and collected and printed together in one volume in 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.

Assessing Laud

Laud was never much liked, even by his allies. A humourless, dwarf-like figure, uninterested in court pleasures, unmarried, tactlessly impartial in his condemnations, he could never establish a party of influential supporters. Thomas Fuller describes him as “low of stature, little in bulk, cheerful in countenance (wherein gravity and quickness were all compounded), of a sharp and piercing eye, clear judgment and (abating the influence of age) term memory.”

Towards the end of his life, Charles I admitted that he had put too much trust in Laud, and allowed his “peevish humours” and obsession with points of ritual, to inflame divisions within the Church. Laud, on his side, could not forgive the king for allowing Strafford’s execution and dismissed him as “a mild and gracious Prince, that knows not how to be or be made great.”

During the English Civil War and interregnum, royalists and peacemakers generally preferred to forget him. At the Restoration, in 1660, outward Laudian forms were accepted, but by then the Church of England had become less significant.

Few in the 18th century saw Laud as a martyr. In the 19th century Thomas Babington Macaulay’s contempt for the “ridiculous old bigot” inspired the schoolbooks of many generations. In the 1840s, the Oxford Movement sought to re-establish him as a religious leader, and High Anglicans ever since have remained his principal supporters.

At the turn of the 19th century, the Civil War historian SR Gardiner stressed Laud’s abilities and integrity and regarded the links with authoritarian politics as his “misfortune.” In the 20th century, Hugh Trevor-Roper contrasted his narrow-minded methods with the comprehensive idealism of his social policy, “coloured over by the accepted varnish of an appropriate religious doctrine.”

Laud followed Andrewes in rejecting transubstantiation in favour of a middle road that affirmed the real presence of Christ in the elements but that at the same time placed due emphasis on faithful reception. In one of his prayers, he says: “His [Christ’s] mercy hath given it, and my faith hath received it into my soul.”

Laud’s devotion to a coherent purpose and his repudiation of hypocrisy, compromise and corruption in allies and enemies, of whatever class, were rare qualities for his time.

JP Kenyon says Laud gave the Church of England a decisive and aggressive leadership after he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. However, it was this aggressive approach that upset and angered many.

Laud has been called “a public man without a private life.” He seems to have lived entirely for his work, had no pastimes or recreation, remarkably few friends, and never married.

Because of the bitter religious conflicts with which he is associated, Laud has rarely been judged impartially. His severities were the result of a narrow mind and not of a vindictive spirit, and they have been exaggerated.

However, his life was marked by uprightness, piety, devotion to duty, courage and consistency. He held fast to the great idea of the catholicity of the Church of England, regarding it as a branch of the whole Christian Church, and emphasising its historical continuity and identity from the Apostolic times. The charge of partiality for Rome is unfounded – Laud says he was twice offered and refused the office of cardinal.

He paid attention to countless details, to the most trivial of which he attached excessive importance. Yet the one element in the Church which he regarded as essential was its visibility. For Laud, therefore, the Puritan concept of the Church, offered no tangible or definite form. He emphasised unity in ritual and ceremony in contrast to dogma and doctrine. For Laud, the external form was the essential feature of religion, preceding the spiritual conception.

In Laud’s opinion, spiritual influence was not enough for the Church. The church as the guide of the nation in duty and godliness, even extending its activity into state affairs as a mediator and a moderator, was not sufficient. Its power must be material and visible, embodied in places of secular administration and enthroned in the high offices of state.

After Laud at Lambeth Palace

The Chapel at Lambeth Palace was eventually restored by Archbishop Juxton, following the succession of Charles II. A vaulted ceiling installed by Edward Blore in 1846 replaced the flat ceiling, complete with archbishop’s crest that had been a part of Laud’s innovations.

One of the more unusual artefacts on display at Lambeth Palace is the shell of a tortoise that once belonged to Archbishop Laud. Laud brought the tortoise to Lambeth in 1633 as a pet, given to him as a gift from his college at Oxford. Ultimately the tortoise outlived Laud by over 100 years. It was accidentally killed at the age of 120, when it was dug up out of hibernation in the palace garden by a careless labourer in 1753 and subsequently died of frost exposure.

Laud’s College is a fictitious Cambridge College in Susan Howatch’s Glittering Images

Laud’s College is a fictitious Cambridge College in Susan Howatch’s Starbridge novels, and contains the (fictitious) Cambridge Cathedral. In Glittering Images Canon Charles Ashworth is a Fellow of Laud’s College, a Lecturer in the Theology and a canon of the cathedral. There is a Laud House, named after Archbishop Laud, at the King’s School, Gloucester.

Archbishop Laud’s Prayer:

O Gracious Father,
we humbly beseech thee for thy Holy Catholic Church;
fill it with all truth in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purge it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in anything it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, strengthen and confirm it;
where it is in want, furnish it;
where it is divided and rent asunder, make up the breaches of it,
O thou Holy One of Israel, Amen.

This prayer first appeared in A Summarie of Devotions (1667), drawn from a manuscript of Archbishop William Laud. It was included in the American Prayer Book (1928), and The South African Prayer Book (1944).

Laud’s final prayer

The Lord receive my soul,
and have mercy on me,
and bless this kingdom with peace and charity,
that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.


Keep us, O Lord,
constant in faith and zealous in witness,
That, like your servant William Laud,
we may live in your fear, die in your favour, and rest in your peace;
for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Select bibliography

W Scott, J Bliss (eds), The Works of Archbishop William Laud (7 cols, Oxford: Parker Society, 1847-1860, for the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology).

ECE Bourne, The Anglicanism of William Laud (1947).
Charles Carlton, Archbishop William Laud (London: Routledge, Kegan & Paul, 1988).
Mark Chapman, Anglican Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2012).
SR Gardiner, ‘William Laud,’ Dictionary of National Biography (1892).
Peter Heylyn, Cyprianus Anglicus or the history of the life and death ... of William Laud (London, 1668).
Christopher Hill, Economic Problems of the Church, from Archbishop Whitgift to the Long Parliament (1956).
WM Lamont, Godly Rule (1969).
Anthony Milton, ‘William Laud,’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
Kenneth Stevenson, ‘William Laud,’ in Alister E McGrath 9ed), The SPCK Handbook of Anglican Theologians (London: SPCK, 1998), pp 161-163.
Hugh Trevor-Roper, Catholics, Anglicans and Puritans (London: Fontana, 1989).
Hugh Trevor-Roper, Archbishop Laud, 1573-1645 (London: Phoenix Press, 2001).
CV Wedgwood, The King’s Peace (London, 1955).


  1. Anyone know what a Laud Table is ?. Ours was dated 1643 but I cannot find a picture of it .