Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
The "beauty of holiness," the ceremonialist agenda of the Laudians during the Personal Rule of King Charles I (r.1625-1649), was in many ways a serious shift from and challenge to the devotional and theological ethos that had dominated the Church of England since the 1570s. So stark was this shift that scholars today regularly cite the rigid enforcement of the "beauty of holiness" as one of the precipitating causes of the English Civil Wars that broke out in 1642. The rise of Laudianism, then, and its claim on the character of the nation's established church, the church's devotional life, and England's confessional identity, was no small matter. Perhaps the most understudied aspect of the Laudian movement was the way this circle of clergy argued that their program for the church was neither a challenge nor, for that matter, innovative. Recent historians have described how the Laudians used various rhetorical strategies to present their vision as perfectly orthodox, a mere restatement of old-fashioned principles and practices long enjoyed since the happy reign of Queen Elizabeth (r.1558-1603). Developing arguments from scripture, from the practice of the early church, or simply the more obvious need to worship God with reverence, the Laudians shifted their apologetic strategies depending on the moment. This project considers in detail a particular Laudian strategy - the appeal to precedents from the Elizabethan church. In addition to reflecting on the malleable nature of history in the early modern period and on the character of what one might call the rhetoric of conservatism, this project reveals the power of the image of Elizabeth Tudor in seventeenth century religious polemics.
This dissertation is concerned not so much with Puritans, but rather with two groups who both claimed to be conformists and who both based that claim on adherence to Elizabethan principles. Both Laudians and, as one scholar describes them, "old style" conformists both claimed ownership of a legitimating Elizabethan past and thus ownership of a normative identity. At a broad level, my research seeks to understand a moment of religious and social change and how that change was persistently negotiated by recourse to history. My goal is to consider the way the Laudians appropriated the image of Elizabeth for their own designs. This examination does not end with the reign of Charles, however. The Laudian claim of true conformity and denial of innovation did not end when civil war erupted in 1642 or even when the king was executed in 1649. One finds this historical claim in the mouth of Archbishop William Laud at his trial for treason. Likewise, one finds during the Cromwellian Protectorate in the 1650s the rise of full historical enterprises, not simply the invocation of history in polemic. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, works by the Laudian historian Peter Heylyn were ready for Royalist consumption and, as one might suspect, they offer an interpretation of the past that legitimates the Laudian program and brands its opponents as foreign and dangerous. This type of literature was polemic under the form of history. Yet we cannot casually dismiss such arguments as simple propaganda. We must understand them instead as alternative readings of the past, stories that contemporaries told themselves and which worked to confirm a particular vision of the world. My project, in sum, will offer an assessment of the way historical claims functioned within the discourse of religious and political legitimacy at a time of intense religious and political strife. My concluding argument is that the tradition known as Anglicanism, while it had a long gestation, was born not in the reign of Elizabeth or even in the early Stuart period, but rather at the Restoration in 1660 when Charles II came to the throne and a particular vision of what it meant to be a loyal conformist achieved canonical status.
Copyright 2010 Lewis Calvin Lane III