William Laud

Laud, William, 1573–1645, archbishop of Canterbury (1633–45). He studied at St. John's College, Oxford, and was ordained a priest in 1601. From the beginning Laud showed his hostility to Puritanism. He became president of St. John's College in 1611, dean of Gloucester in 1616, and bishop of London in 1628. Laud thought of the English church as a branch of the universal church, claimed apostolic succession for the bishops, and believed that the Anglican ritual should be strictly followed in all churches. To accomplish these ends, Laud, working closely with Charles I, tried to eliminate Puritans from important positions in the church. As chancellor of Oxford (from 1629) he carried out many reforms, strengthened moral and intellectual discipline, and stamped out Calvinism to make Oxford a royalist stronghold. In 1633, Laud became archbishop of Canterbury and continued on a larger scale his efforts to enforce High Church forms of worship. Through the courts of high commission and Star Chamber he persecuted and imprisoned many nonconformists, such as William Prynne. The tyranny of his courts and his identification of the episcopal form of church government with the absolutism of Charles brought about violent opposition not only from the Puritans but also from those who were jealous of the rights of Parliament. Supporting Charles and the earl of Strafford to the end, Laud was impeached (1640) by the Long Parliament. Found not guilty of treason by the House of Lords (1644), he was condemned to death by the Commons through a bill of attainder.

See biographies by A. Duncan-Jones (1927) and H. Trevor-Roper (2d ed. 1962).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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