Britannia Biographies: William Laud Part 7
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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 7: Associations with Buckingham

In the next year, 1622, Laud obtained much reputation by a conference or disputation which he maintained on 24th May in the presence of his Majesty and other distinguished personages, with Fisher the Jesuit. Fisher had been, for some time, attempting to make a Roman Catholic of the Countess of Buckingham, mother of the Duke (or rather Marquis only, as yet). It was generally thought that, if he should succeed, her son also would be very likely to go over to the old religion. However, both at this public conference at which the Countess and the Marquis were present, and in private discourse with the lady, Laud acquitted himself so ably as to satisfy her upon every point of religious question. Thus, he averted what was looked upon by many as a serious national danger. Buckingham also, from this time, took him into his most intimate confidence. "Being Whit-Monday," he records, under the date of June 9th, "My Lord Marquis of Buckingham was pleased to enter upon a near respect to me. The particulars are not for paper." And under June 15th, he enters, "I became C. to my Lord of Buckingham" (meaning, it is supposed, confessor). All the notices in the Diary of this affair are carefully suppressed by Prynne, one of whose objects was to represent the later Archbishop as having been, all his life, a thorough papist. Laud himself published, in 1624, an account of his argument with Fisher. He notes that he had not previously appeared in print.

In January 1623, Laud was inducted into the parsonage of Creeke in the Diocese of Peterborough which he was permitted to hold in commendam with his not very well endowed Welsh bishopric. But the new reign, which began in March 1625, when he was in his fifty-second year, was the beginning for him of new fortunes.

Yet his own account informs us that attempts were, at first, made to prejudice the Royal mind against him. Under date of Saturday 9th April, he writes, "The Duke of Buckingham, whom, upon all accounts, I am bound forever to honour, signified to me that a certain person, moved through I know not what envy, had blackened my name with his Majesty King Charles. They laid hold, for that purpose, of the error into which, by I know not what fate, I had formerly fallen in the business of Charles, Earl of Devonshire, 26th December 1605". He was too strong, however, in the favour of the Royal favourite and most powerful man in the Kingdom to be injured now by this stale story. At the Coronation, on 2nd February 1626, he officiated as Dean of Westminster, in place of Bishop Williams who had, for the present, passed into the shade and whom Charles would not have to take part in the ceremony. So he was obliged to make Laud, whom he cordially hated, his deputy. On 6th March thereafter, he resigned his parsonage of Ibstock. On 20th June, he was nominated to the Bishopric of Bath and Wells. At the beginning of October, he was appointed to the office of Dean of the Chapel Royal vacant by the death of Bishop Andrews. By the end of April 1627, he was sworn in as a privy counsellor which, in those days, implied that he was to take an actual share in the government of the Kingdom. In July 1628, King Charles succeeded in having him placed in the See of London, though not till after some months had been spent in getting room made for him by the removal of Bishop Mountain. This proved almost as difficult as if he had been a real mountain that had to be removed from his path. The scheme was that Mountain should go to Durham, from which Neile, Laud's friend, was transferred to succeed Andrews at Winchester. However, having spent a great part of his life, as Heylin expresses it, "in the air of the court," he looked upon such a relegation to the cold regions of the North as "the worst kind of banishment, next neighbour to a civil death". Before he became Bishop of Durham more than in form, the death of Dr. Toby Matthews, Archbishop of York, made another opening for him, with which he was better satisfied. So that he presided over three sees in succession in that year and he died before the end of it.

Part 8: Bishop of Bath & Wells


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