Britannia Biographies: William Laud Part 5
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Biography of William Laud (1573-1645), Archbishop of Canterbury

W I L L I A M
L A U D
Part 5: Rise through the Church

Despite his controversial involvement in the Earl of Devon's marriage, Laud cannot be said to have been entirely neglected. In November 1607, he was inducted into the vicarage of Stanford in Northamptonshire. The advowson of North Kilworth in Leicestershire was given to him, as he records, in April 1608, in which year he proceeded as Doctor of Divinity and became chaplain to Bishop Neile of Rochester. In 1609, he exchanged North Kilworth for West Tilbury in Essex, to be near his new patron, and, in September of the same year, he made his debut as a courtier, by preaching before the King at Theobalds. In May 1610, his friend, the Bishop of Rochester, preferred him to the rectory of Cuckstone in Kent which he exchanged, in November, for Norton in the same county, as a healthier residence. Meanwhile, Neile had, in September, been translated to Lichfield and, in October, Laud resigned his fellowship, "that so," says his biographer, " he might more fully apply himself to the service of his lord and patron, whose fortunes he was resolved to follow toll God should please to provide otherwise for him." Neile had held the Deanery of Westminster in commendam with his late bishopric. Before resigning it he obtained for his friend, from the king, the reversion of a prebend in that church; "which," says Heylin " though it fell not to him till fell years after, yet it fell at last, and thereby neighboured him to the court." But Neile's translation proved also immediately beneficial to Laud. For the new Bishop of Rochester was his old tutor and steady friend, Buckeridge who was able to influence Laud's election as his successor in the presidentship of St. John's. Despite the opposition of Abbot (now Bishop of London and within a few months to be elevated to the primacy), he obtained this office in May 1611 and in November of the same year he was sworn in as one of his Majesty's chaplains in ordinary. It is true that he appears also to have met with some crosses and disappointments in the course of these years. We read in his Diary of his "unfortunateness with T" and of his "next unfortunateness with EM" and of a third "unfortunateness by SB" with sundry other notices of stays and troubles, and fits of sickness. The first entry, under date of' 1612, is of another "unfortunateness by SB" and the second, of another with AD. In January 1613, began his "great business with GR" which "settled as it could in March" and April 1614 was signalized by the beginning of his "great misfortune by MG" and also by "a most fierce salt rheum" in his left eye, "like to have endangered it." But on the other side of the account, we find him noting that in the same month his friend, Neile, now Bishop of Lincoln, gave him the prebend of Bugden in that church. Heylin informs us that the Bishop did this "to keep him up in heart and spirit," when he was sinking under the disappointment of his hopes of court preferment. For, it seems, "whenever any opportunity was offered for his advancement, Archbishop Abbot would be sure to cast somewhat in his dish: sometimes inculpating to him (that is, objecting against him to the King) all his actings at Oxford and sometimes rubbing up the old sore of his unfortunate business with the Earl of Devonshire." In his despair, Laud was upon the point of returning to his college, but Neile prevailed with him to try one year longer and, for further encouragement, in December 1615, conferred upon him the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon. At last, "before the year of expectation was fully ended," to adopt Heylin's words, "his Majesty began to take him into his better thoughts and, for a testimony thereof, bestowed upon him the Deanery of Gloucester." The King gave him this in November 1616, and he now resigned his parsonage of Tilbury.

In March 1617, James set out on a visit to his native kingdom. His main object being to bring the Scots to conformity with the English model in regard to religion. "A matter," observes Heylin, "of consequence and weight, and therefore to be managed by able ministers such as knew how to wind and turn the Presbyterians of that kingdom, if matters should proceed to a disputation." Laud, esteemed as a person of eminent theological learning and polemical ability, was one of those selected to accompany his majesty. However, when James came to Edinburgh, "he soon found," says Heylin, "that he might have saved himself a great part of his care, and taken such of his chaplains with him as came next to hand; the Presbyterian Scots not being to be gained by reason, as he had supposed. For he was scarce settled in that city when the Presbyters, conceiving that his coming was upon design to work a uniformity between the churches of both kingdoms, set up one Struthers to preach against it, who laid so lustily about him in the chief church of Edinburgh, that he not only condemned the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, but prayed God to save Scotland from the same. Laud, and the rest of the chaplains who had heard the sermon, acquainted his Majesty with those passages: but there was no remedy. The Scots were Scots and resolved to go their own way, whatsoever came of it." Laud returned in the autumn and, on his way home, was inducted into the Rectory of Ibstock in the county of Leicester, a living in the patronage of his friend, Bishop Buckeridge, who let him have it in exchange for Norton.

Part 6: Bishop of St. David's


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