William Laud

William Laud

Infobox Archbishop of Canterbury
Full name = William Laud

birth_name =
began = 1633
term_end = 10 January 1645
predecessor = George Abbot
successor = William Juxon
birth_date = birth date|1573|10|07
birthplace = Reading, Berkshire
death_date = death date and age|1645|01|10|1573|10|07
deathplace = Tower Hill, London
tomb =|

Archbishop William Laud (7 October 1573 - 10 January 1645) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645. He pursued a High Church course and opposed Puritanism. This and his support for King Charles I resulted in his beheading in the midst of the English Civil War.


Laud was born in Reading, Berkshire, of comparatively low origins, his father, also William, having been a cloth merchant (a fact about which he was to remain sensitive throughout his career). He was educated at Reading School and, through a White Scholarship, St John's College, Oxford. He was baptized at St Laurence's Church in Reading.

Laud was ordained on 5 April 1601 and his Arminian, High Church tendencies and antipathy to Puritanism, combined with his intellectual and organisational brilliance, soon gained him a reputation. At that time the Calvinist party was strong in the Church of England and Laud's affirmation of apostolic succession was unpopular in many quarters. In 1605, somewhat against his will, he obliged his patron, Charles Blount, 1st Earl of Devon, by performing his marriage service to a divorcée. In 1609 he became rector of West Tilbury in Essex.

Laud continued to rise through the ranks of the clergy, becoming the President of St John's College in 1611; a Prebendary of Lincoln in 1614 and Archdeacon of Huntingdon in 1615. He was consecrated Bishop of St David's in 1622 and was translated as the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1626 and the Bishop of London in 1628. Thanks to patrons, who included the king and George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, he reached the highest position the Church of England had to offer, the Archbishopric of Canterbury, and with it the episcopal primacy of All England in 1633. As Archbishop of Canterbury he was prominent in government, taking the king's line and that of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford in all important matters. It is believed that he wrote the controversial Declaration of Sports issued by King Charles in 1633.

In 1630 Laud was elected as Chancellor of the University of Oxford and became much more closely involved in the running of the university than many of his predecessors had been. Laud was instrumental in establishing Oxford's Chair of Arabic and took an interest in acquiring Arabic manuscripts for the Bodleian Library. His most significant contribution was the creation of a new set of statutes for the university, a task completed in 1636. [Anthony Milton, "Laud, William (1573–1645)", "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 5 Oct 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16112] ] Laud served as the fifth Chancellor of the University of Dublin between 1633 and 1645.

High church policy

The famous pun "give great praise to the Lord, and little laud to the devil" is a warning to Charles attributed to the official court jester or "fool" Archie Armstrong. Laud was known to be touchy about his diminutive stature.

Laud was a sincere Anglican and loyal Englishman, who must have been frustrated at the charges of Popery levelled against him by the Puritan element in the Church. Whereas Strafford saw the political dangers of Puritanism, Laud saw the threat to the episcopacy. But the Puritans themselves felt threatened: the Counter-Reformation was succeeding abroad, and the Thirty Years' War was not progressing to the advantage of the Protestants. It was inevitable that in this climate, Laud's aggressive high church policy was seen as a sinister development. A year after Laud's appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, the ship "Griffin" left for America, carrying religious dissidents such as Anne Hutchinson, Rev. John Lothropp and Rev. Zechariah Symmes.

Laud's policy was influenced by another aspect of his character: his desire to impose total uniformity on the Church. This, too, was driven by a sincere belief that this was the duty of his office, but, to those of even slightly differing views, it came as persecution. Perhaps this had the unintended consequence of garnering support for the most implacable opponents of the Anglican compromise. In 1637, William Prynne, John Bastwick and Henry Burton were convicted of seditious libel and had their ears cropped and their cheeks branded. Prynne reinterpreted the "SL" ("Seditious libeller") branded on his forehead as "Stigmata Laudis".

The Long Parliament of 1640 accused him of treason and name him as a chief culprit in the Grand Remonstrance of 1641. Laud was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he remained throughout the early stages of the English Civil War. In the spring of 1644, he was brought to trial, but it ended without being able to reach a verdict. The parliament took up the issue, and eventually passed a bill of attainder under which he was beheaded on January 10, 1645 on Tower Hill, notwithstanding being granted a royal pardon.

William Laud is remembered in both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States of America with a Commemoration on 10 January.



* Hugh Trevor-Roper, "Archbishop Laud, 1573-1645" ISBN 1-84212-202-9

External links

* [http://www.berkshirehistory.com/bios/wmlaud/index.html Royal Berkshire History: William Laud]

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