William Laud

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William Laud

William Laud (7 October 1573 – 10 January 1645) was an English archbishop and academic. He was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633, during the personal rule of Charles I. Arrested in 1640, he was executed in 1645.

In matters of church polity, Laud was autocratic. Laudianism refers to a collection of rules on matters of ritual, in particular, that were enforced by Laud in order to maintain uniform worship in England and Wales, in line with the king's preferences. They were precursors to later High Church views. In theology, Laud was accused of being an Arminian and opponent of Calvinism, as well as covertly favouring Roman Catholic doctrines (see Arminianism in the Church of England). On all three grounds, he was regarded by Puritan clerics and laymen as a formidable and dangerous opponent.


  • Now though in nature the Commonwealth go first; first men, before religious and faithful men; and the Church can have no being but in the Commonwealth: yet in grace the Church goes first; religious and godly men, better than men; and the Commonwealth can have no blessed and happy being, but by the Church. For true religion ever blesses a State: provided that they which profess it do not in their lives dishonour both God and it.
    • Sermon (19 June 1621), quoted in The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, William Laud, sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Volume I: Sermons (1847), p. 6
  • ...the King is God's immediate lieutenant upon earth; and therefore one and the same action is God's by ordinance, and the King's by execution. And the power which resides in the King is not any assuming to himself, nor any gift from the people, but God's power, as well in, as over, him.
    • Sermon at Whitehall (19 June 1625), quoted in The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, William Laud, sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Volume I: Sermons (1847), p. 94
  • I had a serious offer made me again to be a Cardinal. ... But my answer again was, that something dwelt within me which would not suffer that, till Rome were other than it is.
    • Diary (17 August 1633), quoted in The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, William Laud, sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Volume III: Devotions, Diary, and History (1847), p. 219
  • For my care of this Church, the reducing of it into order, the upholding of the external worship of God in it, and the settling of it to the rules of its first reformation, are the causes (and the sole causes, whatever are pretended) of all this malicious storm, which hath lowered so black upon me, and some of my brethren.
  • ...it is versus altare, 'towards His altar', as the greatest place of God's residence upon earth. I say the greatest, yea, greater than the pulpit; for there 'tis Hoc est corpus meum, 'This is My body'; but in the pulpit 'tis at most but Hoc est verbum meum, 'This is My word'. And a greater reverence, no doubt, is due to the body than to the word of our Lord.
  • There is a great deal of difference, especially as Romanists handle the question of the Church, between the Church and a Church; and there is some between a true Church and a right Church, which is the word you use, but no man else that I know: I am sure not I. For “the Church” may import in our language “the only true Church;” and, perhaps, as some of you seem to make it, “the root and the ground of the Catholic.” And this I never did grant of the Roman Church, nor ever mean to do. But “a Church” can imply no more than that it is a member of the whole. And this I never did nor ever will deny, if it fall not absolutely away from Christ. That it is a “true Church,” I granted also; but not a “right,” as you impose upon me.
    • A Relation of the Conference betweene William Lawd...and Mr. Fisher the Jesuite (1639), quoted in The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, William Laud, sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Volume II: Conference with Fisher (1847), p. 143
  • Ever since I came in place, I laboured nothing more, than that the external public worship of God (too much slighted in most parts of this kingdom) might be preserved, and that with as much decency and uniformity as might be; being still of opinion, that unity cannot long continue in the Church, where uniformity is shut out at the church door.
    • Speech at his trial (12 March 1644), quoted in The Works of the Most Reverend Father in God, William Laud, sometime Lord Archbishop of Canterbury. Volume IV: History of Troubles and Trial (1847), p. 60
  • I was borne and baptized in the bosome of the Church of England established by Law; in that profession I have ever since lived, and in that I come now to dye; This is no time to dissemble with God, least of all in matter of Religion; and therefore I desire it may be remembred, I have alwaies lived in the Protestant Religion, established in England, and in that I come now to dye. What Clamours and Slanders I have endured for labouring to keepe a Uniformity in the externall service of God, according to the Doctrine and Discipline of this Church, all men know, and I have abundautly felt.
    • Speech on the scaffold at Tower Hill before his execution (10 January 1645)

Quotes about William Laud[edit]

  • ...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.
    • Lord Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion: A New Selection (2009), pp. 24–25
  • The greatest calamity ever visited upon the Church of England.
    • Patrick Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society, 1559-1625 (1982), p. 90
  • His book against the Jesuit will be his lasting epitaph.
    • Sir Edward Dering on Laud's Conference with Fisher, quoted in William Holden Hutton, William Laud (1896), p. 146
  • From these two volumes [Laud's Diary and The History of his Troubles and Trial] it may be said that the great Tory and Church movement which was so striking a feature of the age of Anne received no inconsiderable part of its strength. The great figure round whom the later Caroline divines, the eminent writers of the reign of Charles II and the learned and chivalrous non-jurors, clustered, was undoubtedly William Laud, in whom the Church principles which they held dear seemed to be personified and hallowed. The publication of Laud's Works, and particularly his Devotions, exercised on Church feeling a parallel influence to that exercised on politics by the immortal history of Clarendon.
  • The Parliament was certainly far from faultless. We fully agree with Mr. Hallam in reprobating their treatment of Laud. For the individual, indeed, we entertain a more unmitigated contempt than for any other character in our history. The fondness with which a portion of the church regards his memory, can be compared only to that perversity of affection which sometimes leads a mother to select the monster or the idiot of the family as the object of her especial favour.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, 'Hallam' (September 1828), Critical and Historical Essays contributed to the Edinburgh Review: Vol. I (1848), p. 168
  • That we have our Prayer-Book, our altar, even our Episcopacy itself, we may, humanly speaking, thank Laud. ... That our Articles have not a Genevan sense tied to them, and are not an intolerable burden to the Church, is owing to Laud. He rescued them from the fast tightening Calvinistic grasp, and left them, by his prefixed "Declaration", open. Laud saved the English Church. ... The English Church in her Catholic aspect is a memorial of Laud.
    • J. B. Mozley, 'Archbishop Laud' (1845), quoted in Essays: Historical and Theological, Vol. I (1884), pp. 227–228

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