Britannia Biographies: William Laud Part 10
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Biography of William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury

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      Copyright ©2000, LLC