Laud, William (DNB00)
LAUD, WILLIAM (1573–1645), archbishop of Canterbury, born at Reading 7 Oct. 1573, was the only son of William Laud, a clothier. His mother, whose maiden name was Lucy Webbe, was widow of John Robinson, who, as well as her second husband, was a clothier of Reading. The younger William Laud was educated at the free borough school of that town. In 1589 he proceeded to St. John's College, Oxford, matriculating on 17 Oct., and was in 1590 nominated to a scholarship set apart for boys educated at Reading school. In 1593 he became a fellow on the same foundation. He graduated B.A. in 1594, M.A. in 1598, and D.D. in 1608 (Heylyn, Cyprianus Anglicus, pp. 41–5; Clark, Oxf. Univ. Reg., Oxf. Hist. Soc.).
As an undergraduate Laud had for his tutor John Buckeridge [q.v.], who became president of St. John's in 1605. Buckeridge was one of those who, during the closing years of Elizabeth's reign, headed at the two universities a reaction against the dominant Calvinism, and who, standing between Roman catholicism on the one hand and puritanism on the other, laid stress on sacramental grace and on the episcopal organisation of the church of England. Buckeridge's teaching proved congenial to Laud, who was by nature impatient of doctrinal controversy, and strongly attached to the observance of external order. Laud was ordained deacon on 4 Jan. 1601, and priest on 5 April in the same year. On 4 May 1603 he was one of the proctors for the year. On 3 Sept. 1603 he was made chaplain to Charles Blount, earl of Devonshire [q.v.], and on 26 Dec. 1605 he married his patron to the divorced wife of Lord Rich, an action for which he was afterwards bitterly penitent (Works, iii. 81, 131, 132).
By this time Laud had come into collision with the Oxford theologians. There was a sharpness of antagonism about him, and a perfect fearlessness in expressing his views, which could not fail to rouse opposition. When in 1604 he took the degree of bachelor of divinity, he maintained 'the necessity of baptism,' and 'that there could be no true church without diocesan bishops,' thereby incurring a reproof from Dr. Holland, who was in the chair. On 26 Oct. 1606 he preached a sermon at St. Mary's, for which he was called to account by the vice-chancellor, Dr. Airay, on the ground that it contained popish opinions. Laud, however, escaped without having to make any public recantation, though he became a marked man in the university as one who sought to introduce the doctrines of Rome into the church. On the other hand, the increasing number of those who were hostile to Calvinism were on his side. Preferments flowed in. In 1607 he became vicar of Stanford in Northamptonshire. Having taken the degree of D.D. in 1608, he was in the same year made chaplain to Bishop Neile, and on 17 Sept. preached before the king at Theobalds. On 2 Oct. 1610 Laud resigned his fellowship to attend to his duties at Cuxton in Kent, to the living of which he had recently been appointed by Bishop Neile ('Diary' in Works, iii. 134).
On 10 May 1611 Laud was elected to the presidentship of St. John's, Buckeridge having been appointed to the see of Rochester. Even before his election an ineffectual attempt had been made to exclude him by the influence of Archbishop Abbot and Chancellor Ellesmere, the main pillars of the Calvinist party at court. After the election was completed, Laud's opponents urged that it had been in some respects irregular. On 29 Aug. King James heard the parties, and decided that the election was to stand good on the ground that the irregularity had arisen from an unintentional mistake (ib. iii. 135; Works, iii. 34; 'Answer to Lord Say's Speech,' Works, vi. 88; letters between James I and Bishop Bilson, State Papers, Dom. lxiv. 35, 36, lxvi. 25).
The headship of a college did not satisfy the mind of a man who was aiming at a reform of the church, and indeed Laud's position at Oxford was not altogether comfortable. In 1614 he was violently attacked by Dr. Robert Abbot from the university pulpit for having declared in a sermon that presbyterians were as bad as papists, and was scornfully asked whether he was himself a papist or a protestant. His isolation in the university may to some extent account for what would in the present day be considered as unseemly eagerness for promotion, shown in a complaint to his patron, Bishop Neile. In 1614 indeed Neile, then bishop of Lincoln, gave him the prebend of Buckden, and in 1615 the archdeaconry of Huntingdon. In 1616 the king promoted him to the deanery of Gloucester (Heylyn, pp. 60–3).
Before Laud paid his first visit to Gloucester the king told him to set in order whatever was amiss. Not only had the fabric of the cathedral been neglected, but the communion table was allowed to stand in the centre of the choir, a position which it occupied at that time in most of the parish churches, though in most cathedrals, and in the king's chapel, it was placed at the east end. Laud persuaded the chapter to pass acts for the repair of the building and the removal of the communion table, but did not explain his action in public, and gave deep offence to the aged bishop, Miles Smith, a learned hebraist and stout Calvinist, as well as to a large part of the population. This affair at Gloucester clearly exhibits the causes of Laud's failure in late life. If he had authority on his side, he considered it unnecessary even to attempt to win over by persuasion those who differed from him (ib. p. 63).
In 1617 Laud accompanied the king to Scotland, where he gave offence by wearing a surplice at a funeral (Diary; Nichols, Progresses, iii. 344). On 22 Jan. 1621 he was installed as a prebendary of Westminster, and on 29 June of the same year the king gave him the bishopric of St. Davids, with permission to hold the presidentship of St. John's in commendam. 'But,' wrote Laud in his diary, 'by reason 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 in fact he resigned the headship on 5 Nov., his consecration being on the 18th. He refused to allow Archbishop Abbot to take any part in the rite, on the ground that he was disqualified by an accidental homicide recently committed by him. According to Hacket (p. 63), James gave Laud the bishopric only under pressure from Charles and Buckingham; and it is quite possible that James perceived that Laud would be better placed in the deanery of Westminster, for which he had first intended him. Williams, however, on being made bishop of Lincoln, had sufficient influence to secure the retention of the deanery, and Laud had to be provided for in some other way.
On 23 April 1622 James sent for Laud, asking him to use his influence with the Countess of Buckingham, who was attracted towards the church of Rome by the arguments of Percy, a jesuit who went by the name of Fisher [see Fisher, John, (1569–1641)]. By the king's orders there had been two conferences held in her presence between Fisher and Dr. Francis White, and on 24 May 1622 a third conference was held, in which Laud took the place of White. The subject then discussed was the infallibility of the church.
Laud's arguments on this occasion, together with their subsequent enlargement in his account of the controversy published in 1639, mark his ecclesiastical position in the line between Hooker and Chillingworth. On the one hand he acknowledged the church of Rome to be a true church, on the ground that it 'received the Scriptures as a rule of faith, though but as a partial and imperfect rule, and both the sacraments as instrumental causes and seals of grace' (Works, ii. 144). He strove against the position 'that all points defined by the church are fundamental' (ib. ii. 31), attempting as far as possible to limit the extent of 'soul-saving faith' (ib. ii. 402). The foundations of faith were 'the Scriptures and the creeds' (ib. ii. 428). When doubts arose 'about the meaning of the articles, or superstructures upon them—which are doctrines about the faith, not the faith itself, unless when they be immediate consequences—then, both in and of these, a lawful and free general council, determining according to Scripture, is the best judge on earth' (ib.). Laud, in short, wished to narrow the scope of dogmatism, and to bring opinions not necessary to salvation to the bar of public discussion by duly authorised exponents, instead of to that of an authority claiming infallibility (on the bibliography of the controversy see the editor's preface to the 'Relation of the Conference,' Works, vol. ii.).
Though Laud's arguments failed permanently to impress the Countess of Buckingham, they gave him great influence over her son. On 15 June, as he states in his diary, he 'became C[onfessor] to my Lord of Buckingham,' and was afterwards consulted by him on his religious difficulties.
Soon afterwards Laud, for the first time, visited his diocese, entering Wales on 5 July, and leaving Carmarthen for England on 15 Aug. ('Diary' in Works, iii. 139, 140). He ordered the building of a chapel at his episcopal residence at Abergwilly, presenting it with rich communion plate (Heylyn, p. 88). During the remainder of James's reign Laud continued on good terms with Buckingham and the king, while there was an estrangement between him and Lord-keeper Williams, and Archbishop Abbot.
On 27 March 1625 James died, and with the accession of Charles I Laud's real predominance in the church of England began. James's sympathies with Laud were mainly evoked by the breadth of his theological judgments; Charles also sympathised in his advocacy of authority over the external actions of ministers and congregations.
Shortly after his accession Charles asked Laud to inform him who among the clergy were suitable for promotion. Laud gave him a list in which the names of the prominent clergy were marked with O and P, the orthodox to be favoured or the puritan to be discouraged. The breadth of theoretical opinion which distinguished Laud's views, as enunciated in his conference with Fisher, was consistent with much narrowness in dealing with individuals. In reality puritanism was master of the field, and by no means inclined to tolerate those who assailed it. Laud, knowing that his opinions were those of a minority among the clergy, and of a still smaller minority among the laity, looked to the royal power to redress the balance. Circumstances thus combined with his own sense of the value of external discipline and with his own unsympathetic nature to blind him to the danger of using the king as an instrument for the reform of the church. The unwritten tradition of Anglicanism, that it was the duty of kings to support a learned and large-minded clergy against the dogmatism of Rome on the one side and of Geneva on the other, found a hearty supporter in Laud. He would have been very different from what he was if he had stopped to ask what effect the crushing of his opponents by the royal authority would have upon the independence of religious thought.
At all events Laud's opponents could not teach him the lesson of toleration. Charles's first House of Commons insisted on punishing Richard Montague [q.v.] for using anti-Calvinistic arguments against the Roman catholics, and for appealing to the king for protection. On 2 Aug. 1625 Laud and two other bishops wrote to the king on Montague's behalf. The church of England, they said, at the time when it was reformed, 'would not be too busy with every particular school-point. The cause why she held this moderation was because she could not be able to preserve any unity among Christians if men were forced to subscribe to curious particulars disputed in schools' (Works, vi. 244). With strange, but not inexplicable inconsistency, the three bishops reminded the king 'that we cannot conceive what use there can be of civil government in the commonwealth, or of preaching or external ministry in the church, if such fatal opinions as some which are opposite and contrary to those delivered by Mr. Montague shall be publicly taught and maintained.' It is unnecessary to seek elsewhere for the causes of Laud's failure during his own life and of the success which attended his principles after his death. In pleading against the intolerance of the puritans he was at one with the best spirit of his time. In pleading for the use of authority against the opinions of the intolerant, he was animated by fear of destruction in the immediate present.
On 16 Jan. 1626 Laud was one of four bishops who, writing to Buckingham in favour of Montague's book, advised that no one should be allowed to discuss the questions at issue 'by public preaching or writing' (ib. vi. 249). Preaching before Charles's second parliament on 6 Feb. 1626, Laud magnified the king's authority in the state as well as in the church, as he had already done in his sermon at the opening of the first parliament of the reign (ib. i. 63). By this time the House of Commons regarded him as hostile to civil liberty as well as to religious truth. Laud took the king's part on all points. He prepared the speeches which Charles delivered on 29 March and 11 May in behalf of Buckingham (ib. iv. 354), and he criticised and corrected Buckingham's defence delivered on 8 June (State Papers, Dom. xxvii. 25).
Charles showed his gratitude to Laud abundantly. On 30 Sept. 1626 he sent him a message by Buckingham that he was to be dean of the Chapel Royal. On 2 Oct. Buckingham told him 'what the king had further resolved concerning' him 'in case the archbishop of Canterbury should die' (Works, iii. 196). On 29 April 1627 Charles made him a privy councillor (ib. iii. 205). On 17 June he promised him the bishopric of London. On 9 Oct. Laud was included in a commission—subsequently revoked on 24 June 1628—for executing the office of archbishop during Abbot's sequestration. On 1 July 1628 the congé d'élire for the bishopric of London was signed by the king (ib. iii. 206, 208).
It was at Laud's advice that, before the end of 1628, Charles issued the declaration prefixed to a new edition of the articles now printed in the prayer-book. It was an attempt to avert distractions in the church by upholding the articles as the standard of faith and prohibiting controversial preaching. All questions of the external policy of the church were to be decided by convocation (Heylyn, p. 170). When parliament met in 1629, the House of Commons asserted its right to maintain quite a different standard of doctrine and discipline, but when its dissolution on 2 March brought the parliamentary life of England to a close for eleven years, Laud, through his influence with Charles, became master of the ecclesiastical situation.
The difference between Laud and the House of Commons was one which had been inherent in the church of England since the days of Henry VIII. Laud was the intellectual successor of the men of the new learning, who had attempted, with the king at their back, to reform the church under the influence of constituted authorities and learned inquiry. The commons were the intellectual successors of the men who, under the influence of continental teachers, first of Zwingli and afterwards of Calvin, attempted to extract a definite system of doctrine from the scriptures. In Laud's time, however, this latter mode of thought characterised the greater part of the clergy and of the religious laity, so that Laud, in attempting to revive a system which seemed to have passed away, found himself at issue with the conservatism which clings to existing habits of thought, and which is as dissatisfied with an attempt to reproduce the ideas of a past generation as it would be with an attempt to introduce ideas altogether unknown. Ignoring the example of Andrewes, who, without irritating any one, had simply recommended the observance of the religious usages of which he approved, Laud held it incumbent on him to compel observance even by those who disapproved of them. In his mind the external obligation always took precedence of the spiritual conception. Uniformity to him was the surest propagator of unity of spirit. He was, as he himself acknowledged, an Aristotelian ('Hist. of the Troubles and Trial,' Works, iv. 59), a disciple of the teacher to whom the formation of habits was the main security of moral excellence. He sought, too, for the rule of ecclesiastical belief and conduct in the law of the church as it had been formed in the period of the Reformation, ignoring alike the practice of the mediæval church and the customs which had grown up without legal sanction in recent years.
In this way, quite irrespectively of the value of the practices which he inculcated, Laud, by his failure to take into account existing habits, brought himself into collision with the higher puritanism of his time as well as with the mere disorder and unruliness, of which there was enough and to spare. He did not himself expect success. He wrote to Vossius on 14 July 1629 (Works, vi. 265) that he had done his best to find a quiet way out of the difficulty, especially in what he regarded as non-essentials, but that his fears outweighed his hopes; that he dreaded a schism, though he would rather pray than prophesy, and left the future to God.
In the contest which he was now carrying on Laud showed himself absolutely fearless. An attempt has, indeed, been made to represent him as timid and superstitious, on the ground that he noted down some of his dreams in his private diary. Until it can be shown that in any single instance he allowed his conduct to be deflected by these, it may be taken that he noted them simply as curiosities. On 29 March 1629 a paper intimating that his life was sought was picked up, but it only drew from him the ejaculation: 'Lord, I am a grievous sinner; but I beseech Thee, deliver my soul from them that hate me without a cause' ('Diary,' Works, iii. 210).
On 12 April Laud was elected chancellor of the university of Oxford. On 30 Oct. 1628 he had had the satisfaction of hearing that the university had passed a statute drawn up by him, by which the election of proctors is still regulated, and in the following January he induced the Earl of Pembroke, his predecessor as chancellor, to buy the Baroccian collection of Greek manuscripts and to present them to the university (Works, iii. 209, v. 10 note o).
Laud's first act showed at least his intention of proceeding in his new position with fairness. He ordered notice to be taken of two sermons, one directed against devout gestures in churches and the other justifying 'the five articles commonly called Arminianism,' and laying 'an aspersion upon the synod of Dort.' During the remainder of 1630 Laud did his best to restore discipline, not only enforcing the wearing of caps and gowns, but also insisting on the due performance of such exercises as were then required for the attainment of degrees (ib. v. 3–34).
On 4 June 1630 Laud took part in passing a cruel sentence upon Leighton in the Star-chamber, and found an opportunity of defending episcopacy against the presbyterianism which Leighton held to be the divine constitution of the church. According to Leighton (Epitome, p. 83), as soon as the sentence was passed Laud took off his cap and 'gave thanks to God who had given him the victory over his enemies.' The story may have been exaggerated, if it was not untrue. It is also on Leighton's authority that we learn that the lifelong friendship between Laud and Wentworth dated from this occasion.
On 16 Jan. 1631 Laud consecrated the church of St. Catherine Cree in London, according to a form which had been drawn up by Andrewes (Andrewes, Minor Works, p. 316). Though the story told by prejudiced witnesses at his trial may be rejected as incredible (see Gardiner, Hist. of Engl. 1603–1642, vii. 244, notes 1 and 2), there can be no doubt that his appearance outside the gate of the church in full canonicals, and his bowing towards the altar, gave offence to the puritans who swarmed in the city. The question of bowing in church was at that time a burning one. A certain Giles Widdowes, having written in defence of the practice, was attacked by Prynne in a book entitled 'Lame Giles, his Haltings.' One Page prepared to answer Prynne, but was checked by Abbot on the ground that controversy was to be avoided. Laud, however, at once intervened. The university of Oxford, now under Laud's dictation, licensed Page's book, Laud having declared that the king was unwilling that Prynne's ignorant writings should remain unanswered. Both the king and the Bishop of London seem to have drawn a distinction between a controversy about the ceremonies of the church which were to be regulated by law and a controversy about predestination which was a matter of opinion. An attempt having been made at Oxford to reopen the latter dispute in the pulpit, Charles, on 23 Aug. 1631, summoned the offenders before himself, and ordered the expulsion of the erring preachers and the deprivation of the proctors who had failed to call them to account (Heylyn, p. 203).
Scarcely any one of Laud's actions brings out more clearly the legal character of his mind than his treatment of the question of bowing in church. His own habit was to bow whenever the name of Jesus was pronounced, and also towards the east end on entering a church; but he recognised that while the former practice was enforced by the canons the latter was not, and while he required observance of the one he only pressed the other by the force of his example, excepting where it was legalised by the statutes of particular churches. In other respects he required conformity to the law, patiently, indeed, when there was any prospect of winning over those who had hitherto refused obedience, but without the slightest regard for conscientious objections to conformity. In the court of high commission he was exceedingly active, especially in cases of immorality. He was determined that no offender should escape punishment on account of wealth or position, and in May 1632 he took part in successfully resisting a prohibition issued by the judges of the court of common pleas at the instance of Sir Giles Alington, who had married his own niece. In his action in repressing antinomians and separatists he had the co-operation of Abbot.
Laud's dislike of disorder showed itself in the hard sentence which in February 1633 he urged in the Star-chamber in the case of Henry Sherfield, the breaker of a window in which God the Father was depicted, and in the same month he approved highly of the verdict in the exchequer chamber dissolving the feoffment for the acquisition of impropriations, and directing that the patronage of the feoffees, who had intended to make use of it to present puritans to benefices, should be transferred to the king. In his own college at Oxford Laud's liberality had shown itself in the new buildings. In London he was dissatisfied with the slackness of the citizens in contributing to the repairs of the dilapidated cathedral, and induced the privy council to urge the justices of the peace to gather money for the purpose from the whole country.
Hitherto, except in the courts of Star-chamber and high commission, and in the rare instances in which he could set in motion the direct authority of the king, Laud's action had been confined to the diocese of London and the university of Oxford. On 6 Aug. 1633, after his return from Scotland, whither he had gone with the king, he was greeted by Charles, who had just heard of Abbot's death, with the words: 'My Lord's Grace of Canterbury, you are very welcome' (Heylyn, p. 250). Two days before Laud recorded in his 'Diary' that 'there came one to me, seriously, and that avowed ability to perform it, and offered me to be a cardinal.' Another entry on 17 Aug. states that the offer was repeated. 'But,' adds Laud, 'my answer again was that somewhat dwelt within me which would not suffer that till Rome were other than it is.' Laud's intellectual position would be necessarily unintelligible to a Roman catholic in those days, and would be no better appreciated by a puritan.
As archbishop of Canterbury Laud had at his disposal not only whatever ecclesiastical authority was inherent in his office, but also whatever authority the king was able to supply in virtue of the royal supremacy. The combination of the two powers made him irresistible for the time. On 19 Sept. 1633 the king wrote to the bishops, evidently at Laud's instigation, directing them to restrict ordination, except in certain specified cases, to those who intended to undertake the cure of souls (ib. p. 240). The direction was intended to stop the supply of the puritan lecturers, who were maintained by congregations or others to lecture or preach, without being compelled to read the service to which they objected.
Upon his removal to Lambeth Laud set his chapel in order, placing the communion table at the east end. On 3 Nov. 1633 he spoke strongly in the privy council in favour of that position in the case of St. Gregory's, when the king decided that the liberty allowed by the canons for placing the table at the time of the administration of the communion in the most convenient position was subject to the judgment of the ordinary. No one was likely to be made a bishop by Charles who failed to take Laud's view in this matter. Laud also succeeded in compelling the use of the prayer-book in 1633 in the English regiments in the Dutch service, and in 1634 in the church of the Merchant Adventurers at Delft.
At home nothing ecclesiastical escaped Laud's vigilance. Before his promotion, in 1632, he had complained to the king of the interference of Chief-justice Richardson with the Somerset wakes, and in 1633, when Richardson was before the privy council to give an account of his conduct in the matter, Laud rated him so severely that the chief justice on leaving the room declared that he had 'been almost choked with a pair of lawn sleeves.' The republication of the 'Declaration of Sports' by Charles on 10 Oct. 1633 had the archbishop's warm approval, if, indeed, he did not instigate the step. Laud was the consistent opponent of anything resembling the puritan Sabbath. On 17 Feb. 1634 he spoke in the Star-chamber in much the same spirit against the sour doctrines of the 'Histriomastix.' He denied, in sentencing Prynne, that stage-plays were themselves unlawful. They ought to be reformed, not abolished. If there were indecencies in them, it was 'a scandal and not to be tolerated.' It was not Laud's official business to purify the stage, and we hear of no further advice of his tending in this direction. On the other hand, he called for a heavy sentence on Prynne, though when on Prynne's second appearance in the Star-chamber on 11 June 1634, Noy asked that the prisoner might be debarred from going to church and from the use of pen, ink, and paper, Laud at once interfered. There was a kind of official severity in Laud, a belief that severe punishments were needed to deter men from resisting constituted authorities, but a certain amount of personal kindliness underlying it can occasionally be detected.
As far as the civil government was concerned Laud was in opposition to Richard Weston, first earl of Portland, the lord treasurer, whom he held to be corrupt and inert. That single-eyed devotion to the king's interests which obtained the name of 'Thorough' in the correspondence between himself and Wentworth led him to attack all who sheltered their own self-seeking under pretexts of unbounded loyalty. On 15 March 1635 Laud was, upon Portland's death, placed on the commission of the treasury and on the committee of the privy council for foreign affairs. His dealings with temporal affairs were not successful. He did his best to be rigidly just, but his financial knowledge was not equal to the task he had undertaken, and in the affair of the soap monopoly he committed mistakes which exposed him to the attacks of his adversaries. All opposition he took as a personal slight, and he even quarrelled with his old friend Windebank for voting against him on this matter. As for foreign affairs they remained, as before, in Charles's own hands.
In his treatment of ecclesiastical questions Laud continued blind to the necessity of giving play to the diverse elements which made up the national church. In 1634 he claimed the right of holding a metropolitical visitation in the province of Canterbury, while Archbishop Neile held one in the province of York. For three years, from 1634 to 1637, Laud's vicar-general, Sir Nathaniel Brent [q.v.], went from one diocese to another, enforcing conformity. Irregularities in the conduct of services and dilapidations in the fabric of churches were all noticed and amendment ordered. Some of the irregularities complained of were mere abuses, others were committed in order to avoid practices opposed to the spirit of puritanism. The real question at issue was whether in the face of the difficulties in the way of so strict an enforcement of uniformity it would be possible to avoid the disruption of the church. In refusing even to entertain the question Laud did not differ from his opponents; but the conscientious rigidity with which he enforced his views did much to ripen the question for consideration at no distant date.
The changes which Laud now ordered were intended merely to remove illegal abuses; but it was inevitable that some of them should be regarded as evidence of his intention to draw the church into a path which would ultimately lead to a reunion with Rome. This was especially the case with his direction for fixing the communion table at the east end of the churches. The opposition created was the greater, as Rome was at the same time making an effort to extend her influence in England, and in that effort Laud was naturally, though quite untruly, regarded as an accomplice. From the end of 1634 to the summer of 1636 Panzani was in England on a mission from the pope, listening to those who, in their dislike of puritanism, brooded over the idea of a reunion of the churches of Rome and England. Laud correctly gauged the situation when he told the king that if 'he wished to go to Rome the pope would not stir a step to meet him;' but his clear-sightedness gained him no popular credit.
In 1636 Laud's preference for external power over spiritual influence received a curious illustration. On 6 March Charles made Juxon, the bishop of London, lord treasurer. 'No churchman,' Laud noted in his 'Diary,' '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' (Works, iii. 226). He could not see that the exercise of secular authority was in itself a source of weakness to the church. In his hands the church came to be regarded as an inflicter of penalties rather than a helper on the path of godliness and purity.
One side, though not the most important, of Laud's deficiency in this respect was afterwards set forth in Clarendon's 'History' (i. 196): 'He did court persons too little, nor cared to make his designs and purposes appear as candid as they were, by showing them in any other dress than their own natural beauty and roughness, and did not consider enough what men said or were like to say of him. If the faults and vices were fit to be looked into and discovered, let the persons be who they would that were guilty of them, they were sure to find no connivance of favour from him. He intended the discipline of the church should be felt as well as spoken of, and that it should be applied to the greatest and most splendid transgressors, as well as to the punishment of smaller offences and meaner offenders; and thereupon called for or cherished the discovery of those who were not careful to cover their own iniquities, thinking they were above the reach of other men or their power and will to chastise.'
On 21 June 1636 the privy council acknowledged Laud's claim to visit the universities. He prized the judgment as enabling him to override the opposition of Cambridge. At Oxford he had long been master, and on 22 June he sent down a body of statutes, which were cheerfully accepted by convocation. On 29 Aug. he appeared at Oxford to do honour to the king, who was then on a visit to the university, and on the 30th showed him over the Bodleian Library, and took him round St. John's.
Meanwhile puritans attacked him and his system with scurrilous bitterness. When, on 14 June 1637, three of them, Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick, were brought up for sentence in the Star-chamber, Laud seized the opportunity of delivering a speech, which is as instructive on his position as a disciplinarian as the conference with Fisher is on his views concerning doctrine (Works, vi. 36). In the course of his speech Laud referred bitterly to a book issued by Bishop Williams under the title of 'The Holy Table, Name and Thing,' in which a compromise in the dispute about the position of the communion table was recommended. Williams was at this time being prosecuted in the Star-chamber and high commission court for personal offences, and on 30 Aug., after he had been sentenced, Laud by the king's command offered him a bishopric in Wales or Ireland, on condition that, besides resigning the see of Lincoln and his other benefices, he would acknowledge himself guilty of the crimes imputed to him, and his error in publishing his book (Lambeth MSS. mxxx. fol. 68 b).
In spite of all that he was now doing, Laud was unable to understand why his maintenance of the strict severity of the law of the church should be interpreted as savouring of a tendency to be on good terms with Rome, and on 22 Oct., many conversions to Roman catholicism having been made through the agency of Con, who had recently succeeded Panzani as papal agent, he took the opportunity of complaining at the council of the favour shown to Roman catholics, and of asking that Walter Montagu, the Earl of Manchester's Roman catholic son, might be prosecuted before the court of high commission. By this Laud drew down on himself the displeasure of the queen. 'I doubt not,' he wrote to Wentworth, 'but I have enemies enough to make use of this. Indeed, my lord, I have a very hard task, and God, I beseech Him, make me good corn, for I am between two great factions, very like corn between two mill-stones' (Laud to Wentworth, 1 Nov., ib. vii. 378). He found the queen's influence too strong to be resisted. At his importunity, indeed, Charles consented to issue a proclamation threatening the Roman catholics with the penalties of the law; but when it appeared on 20 Dec. it was found that it had been so toned down as to be practically worthless.
At the same time Laud was not unmindful of the duty of encouraging those who undertook the church's defence by argument. He took an interest in the publication of Chillingworth's 'Religion of Protestants' towards the end of 1637, and though in the spring of 1638 he sent for John Hales [q.v.] of Eton to complain of his tract on 'Schism,' warning him that 'there could not be too much care taken to preserve the peace and unity of the church,' he treated him in a friendly way, and took no repressive measures against him. No doubt Chillingworth, and still more Hales, held opinions in which the archbishop did not share, but he saw in their appeal to reason as against dogmatism allies in his double conflict.
Laud was already involved in that interference with the Scottish church which proved ultimately disastrous to his system. When he accompanied the king to Scotland in 1633 he had been shocked by the unecclesiastical appearance of the churches, and on one occasion an intimation that the change he disliked had been made at the Reformation drew from him the remark that it was not a reformation but a deformation. Charles's proposal to issue new canons and a new prayer-book for the Scottish church may have been suggested by Laud; at any rate, the archbishop heartily supported it. The work was indeed entrusted to the Scottish bishops, but it was sent to the king to revise, and in that revision Charles was guided by the opinions of Laud and Wren. Officially Laud had nothing to do with the matter, but it was perfectly well understood in Scotland how great his influence was, and the canons and prayer-book were there held to have emanated directly from him whom they entitled the pope of Canterbury.
When, on 23 July 1637, the explosion took place at St. Giles's Church at Edinburgh, and the Scottish bishops were growing frightened at the result of their handiwork, Laud urged that there should be no drawing back. 'Will they now,' he wrote of the bishops to Traquair, 'cast down the milk they have given because a few milkmaids have scolded at them? I hope they will be better advised.' In March 1638, in a fit of ill-temper, Laud complained to the king of the jeers of Archie Armstrong [q.v.], the king's jester, and poor Archie was expelled from court, though at Laud's intercession he escaped a flogging. The jester only gave utterance to public opinion. Everywhere Laud was held up to the indignation of men as the real author of the Scottish troubles.
Laud's system of obtaining unity of heart by the imposition of compulsory uniformity of action was in truth breaking down. It was in vain that on 10 Feb. 1639 he published by the king's orders an amended report of his 'Conference with Fisher,' in order to prove that his principles differed widely from those of the Roman catholics. He found few to believe him, and before long the disastrous result of the first bishops' war, as it was called, against Scotland filled him with despondency (Laud to Roe, 26 July, ib. vii. 583). Later in the year Wentworth's arrival in England and his instalment as Charles's chief political adviser gave him a gleam of hope. With Wentworth, Laud had long carried on a familiar correspondence, the only one in which he allowed himself perfect freedom of expression. When, in December 1639, Strafford proposed that parliament should be summoned to vote money for a new war against Scotland, Laud gave him his support. What he feared for the church was an attack upon it from without by the discontented nobility and gentry supported by the Scots. At the beginning of every year he sent the king an account of the state of religious discipline in his province, and the one which he gave on 2 Jan. 1640 (ib. v. 361) contained so few marks of dissatisfaction that the king noted at the end: 'I hope it is to be understood that what is not certified here to be amiss is right touching the observation of my instructions, which granted, this is no ill certificate.'
In the meeting of the committee of eight, in which the question of undertaking a second war with Scotland was discussed after the dissolution of the Short parliament, Laud spoke in support of Wentworth (now earl of Strafford) in favour of providing, even by unconstitutional measures, for the war. 'Tried all ways'—such at least is the abstract of his speech which has reached us—'and refused all ways. By the law of God and man you should have subsistence, and lawful to take it.'
As often happens with men in authority, Laud's power was believed to be more unlimited than it was, and when the king, resting upon the opinion of the lawyers he consulted, allowed convocation to continue its sittings after parliament had been dissolved, the blame was thrown upon Laud, though he had dissuaded Charles from taking a step which was likely to be condemned by public opinion. As, however, Charles was firm on this point, Laud made use of the prolonged sittings of convocation to pass through it a new body of canons, in which, though the Laudian discipline was enforced, an attempt was made to explain it in such a way as to satisfy honest inquirers. So far the canons breathe a more liberal spirit than is to be found in the contentions of their opponents. It was, however, Laud's misfortune that attempting as he did to force upon the many the religion of the few by the strong hand of power, he was driven to take a political side with that authority in the state which was working in his favour. The new canons, therefore, declared that 'the most high and sacred order of kings' was 'of divine right,' and that it was therefore an offence against God to maintain 'any independent coactive power, either papal or popular,' and that 'for subjects to bear arms against their kings, offensive or defensive,' was, 'at the least, to resist the powers which are ordained of God,' and thereby to 'receive to themselves damnation.' Men not under the influence of Laud's ecclesiastical theories rightly judged that the price to be paid for the establishment of his system in the church was submission to absolutism in the state.
Ridicule is often a stronger weapon than indignation, and nothing did Laud's cause so much harm as the demand made in the canons that whole classes of men should swear never to give their 'consent to alter the government of this church by archbishops, deans, and archdeacons, &c.' People asked whether they were to swear perpetual adherence to a hierarchy the details of which the framers of the oath were unable or unwilling to specify. The etcetera oath, as it was called, turned the laugh against Laud.
Laud was now by common consent treated as the source of those evils in church and state of which Strafford was regarded as the most vigorous defender. Libellers assailed him and mobs called for his punishment. As the summer of 1640 passed away he saw the ground slipping from beneath his feet by the miscarriage of the king's efforts to provide an army capable of defying the Scots. Early in October he was obliged by Charles's orders to suspend the etcetera oath. On 22 Oct., when the treaty of Ripon disclosed the weakness of the crown, a mob broke into the high commission court and sacked it. Laud fearlessly called on the Star-chamber to punish the offenders, but the other members of the Star-chamber shrank from increasing the load of unpopularity which lay heavily upon them, and left the rioters to another court, in which they escaped scot-free. On 3 Nov. the Long parliament met. On 18 Dec. the commons impeached Laud of treason. He was placed in confinement, and on 24 Feb. 1641 articles of impeachment were voted against him, and on 1 March he was committed to the Tower. Here, on 11 May, he received a message from Strafford, who was to be executed on the morrow, asking for his prayers, and for his presence at the window before which he was to pass on his way to the scaffold. On the morning of the 12th Laud appeared at the window as he had been asked to do; but after raising his hands in accompaniment of the words of blessing he fainted, overcome with emotion at the sight before him.
Unlike Strafford, Laud was not regarded as immediately dangerous to parliament, and no attempt was for some time made to proceed against him. On 28 June 1641 he resigned the chancellorship of the university of Oxford. Parliament was too busy to meddle further with him, and it was not till 31 May 1643 that an order was issued to Prynne and others to seize on his letters and papers in the expectation of finding evidence against him, an opportunity which Prynne used to publish a garbled edition of the private diary of the archbishop.
It was not, however, till 19 Oct. 1643, soon after the acceptance by parliament of the solemn league and covenant, that the commons sent up further articles against Laud, and on the 23rd the House of Lords directed him to send in his answer. The actual trial did not begin till 12 March 1644. There was hardly even the semblance of judicial impartiality at the trial. The few members of the House of Lords who still remained at Westminster strolled in and out, without caring to obtain any connected idea of the evidence on either side. They had made up their minds that Laud had attempted to alter the foundations of church and state, and that was enough for them. Nevertheless the voluminous charges had to take their course, and it was not till 11 Oct. that Laud's counsel were heard on points of law. They urged, as Strafford's counsel had before urged on behalf of their client, that he had not committed treason under the statute of Edward III. It was an argument to which the lords were peculiarly sensitive, as they were more likely than persons of meaner rank to be accused of treason, and the enemies of the archbishop soon began to doubt whether the compliance of the lords was as assured as they had hoped. On 28 Oct. a petition for the execution of Laud and Wren was presented to the commons by a large number of Londoners, and on the 31st the commons, dropping the impeachment, resolved to proceed by an ordinance of attainder. This ordinance was sent up on 22 Nov., and as the lords delayed its passage the commons threatened the lords with the intervention of the mob. On 17 Dec. the lords gave way so far as to vote that the allegations of the ordinance were true in matter of fact, or, in other words, that Laud had endeavoured to subvert the fundamental laws, to alter religion as by law established, and to subvert the rights of parliament. They did not, however, proceed to pass the ordinance, and on 2 Jan. 1645 a conference was held, in which the commons argued that parliament had the right of declaring any crimes it pleased to be treasonable. On 4 Jan. the House of Lords gave way, and passed the ordinance ('History of the Troubles and Trials,' in Works, vols. iii. and iv.).
Laud had in his possession a pardon from the king, dated in April 1643. This he tendered to the houses, but though the lords were inclined to accept it, it was rejected by the commons. He then asked that the usual barbarous form of execution for treason might in his case be commuted for beheading, and though the commons at first rejected his request, they on the 8th agreed to give the required permission (Lords' Journals, vii. 127, 128; Commons' Journals, iv. 12, 13). On 10 Jan. Laud was brought to a scaffold on Tower Hill. He declared that he could find in himself no offence 'which deserves death by the known laws of the kingdom,' and protested against the charge of 'bringing in of popery,' expressing commiseration for the condition of the English church, and asserting himself to 'have always lived in the protestant church of England.' 'What clamours and slanders I have endured,' he added, 'for labouring to keep an uniformity in the external service of God according to the doctrine and discipline of the church all men know, and I have abundantly felt.' After a prayer he moved forward to take his place at the block. Sir John Clotworthy, however, thought fit to interrupt him with theological questions. Laud answered some of them, and then turned away and, after a prayer, laid his head upon the block. He was beheaded in the seventy-second year of his age. His body was buried in the chancel of All Hallows Barking, whence it was removed to the chapel of St. John's College, Oxford, on 24 July 1663.
It has often been said that Laud's system, and not that of his opponents, prevailed in the church of England, and that the religion of that church showed itself at the end of the seventeenth century to be less dogmatic than that of the puritans, while its ceremonies were almost precisely those which had been defended by Laud. The result, however, was only finally obtained by a total abandonment of Laud's methods. What had been impossible to effect in a church to the worship of which every person in the land was obliged to conform became possible in a church which any one who pleased was at liberty to abandon.
Laud published seven of his sermons at the times of their delivery; they were collected in one volume, 12mo, in 1651; a reprint of this edition was published in 1829. A relation of the conference between Laud and Fisher the jesuit appeared first as an appendix to Dr. Francis White's 'Replie to Jesuit Fisher's Answere to Certain Questions,' &c., London, 1624. It was signed R[ichard] B[aily], Baily being Laud's chaplain. The second and first complete edition was in 1639, fol., third edition 1673, fourth edition 1686; a reprint was published at Oxford in 1839. Laud's 'Diary,' the manuscript of which is at St. John's College, Oxford, first appeared in Prynne's garbled edition of 1644. It was published by Wharton in full in 1695. Parts of the 'Sum of Devotions' were printed in 1650 and 1663. A complete edition appeared at Oxford in 1667; other editions, London, 1667, 1683, 1687, 1688, 1705; a reprint of the 1667 edition was published in 1838. The manuscript of this work is missing. 'The History of the Troubles and Tryal of William, Archbishop of Canterbury,' of which the manuscript is at St. John's, was edited by Wharton in 1695. 'An Historical Account of all Material Transactions relating to the University of Oxford' during Laud's chancellorship was published from the manuscript at St. John's by Wharton in 1695. A collected edition of Laud's works was edited by Henry Wharton, 1695–1700. Wharton died before the second volume appeared, and it consequently was supervised by his father, Edmund Wharton. It contains, besides the works noted above, the speech delivered on 14 June 1637 at the censure of Bastwick, Burton, and Prynne, which had appeared separately in 1637, and a few letters and papers. An edition of the whole works (Oxford, 1847–60, 8vo) forms part of the 'Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology;' vols. i and ii. were edited by W. Scott, vols. iii. to vii. by W. Bliss.
Portraits of Laud by Vandyck, or after Vandyck, are at St. John's College, Oxford, at St. Petersburg, at Lambeth Palace, and in the possession of Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth. A copy of the Lambeth picture by Henry Stone is in the National Portrait Gallery. At St. John's College is also a bust by an unknown artist, possibly by Le Sueur.[The main source of our knowledge of Laud's opinions is his own Works, including his Correspondence. His biography was written by his disciple and admirer, Heylyn, under the title of Cyprianus Anglicus. Prynne's Hidden Works of Darkness and Canterbury's Doom contain many documents of importance, but they are characterised by a violent and uncritical spirit. References to Laud are constantly to be found in the Letters and State Papers of the time. See also Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 117–144.]