This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 10 -- Feast of Saint William Laud

Saint William Laud
Laud is a saint of the Church of England, but since he was stratospherically High Church, the Roman Catholics ought to bring him on board as well.  That won't happen, of course, but William Laud is fully deserving of a spot here.

I'm so eager to discuss his death, I will start there and then drop back to his life.

The good news was that the Long Parliament gave him a head-start if he wanted to flee and live.  They accused him of treason in 1640, but didn't put out a warrant for his arrest until 1641.

The bad news is that, being Archbishop of Canterbury, he opted not to run.  [Honestly Bill, executing archbishops was considered a national pastime by 1640.  You had to have seen it coming.]
Terminal Address: Tower of London
The good news is that no one hustled him to trial.  They figured an old guy like him would take a chill and die in the Tower of London.

The bad news is that the stubborn old man refused to get the sniffles, let alone die.

The good news is that when they finally brought him to trial for treason in 1644, they didn't convict him.  Sure, he was a grumpy old man, but irascibility is hardly the same thing as treason.

The bad news is that Parliament passed a bill of attainder, effectively making it illegal to be him.
Pardon's ain't what they used to be, and never were.
The good news is that he got a royal pardon.

The bad news is that Parliament didn't care a fig for his royal pardon.  Archbishop Laud was taken to the top of Tower Hill on January 10, 1645 and chopped.  Four years and twenty days later, those Puritans running Parliament gave His Royal Highness a similar haircut (everything off the neck), demonstrating just how little they cared about royalty and its pardoning prerogatives.

Prior to Parliament's murder of William Laud (what else can we call it when a legislature overrides both a judicial trial and an executive pardon?), he was a cantankerous clergyman -- short temper and a long list of enemies.  He was flexible enough on some religious matters -- e.g. he sanctioned the divorced and presided over the subsequent second marriage of the Earl of Devonshire -- but was resolute on others, including apostolic succession.  King James I tried to Laud's career, thinking he'd make a lot of trouble at a precarious time, but King Charles I promoted him.  He later pardoned him to little effect, and still later expressed regret for his support for Laud, warning his own son not to trust such leaders. 

Good clean (slightly pagan) fun
The theological range of the day spanned from Catholicism to Puritanism, but everyone wanted the Church of England to impose a uniform system of worship throughout the kingdom.  Saint William didn't mind imposing that system, but his system wasn't working for just about anyone else.  A good example is the Declaration of Sports, a rulebook for what entertainment is permissible on the Sabbath.  Some said that Laud had authored the rule book, but he maintained that he just supported its guidelines.  In brief, the approved pastimes included leaping, vaulting, dancing, archery, whitsun-ales (drinking), and May-poles.  The forbidden pastimes included bear-baiting, bull-baiting, bowling, and "interludes."  Interludes are brief comic or romantic plays, not what you were thinking.  Anyone who has read Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The May-pole of Merry Mount" knows how the Puritans felt about such sports.  If you haven't read it, I'll bet you can guess.  Parliament ordered the book burned in 1643, two years before Laud himself got the axe. 

So, was Saint William Laud a cranky old workaholic or a pious diplomat caught in bad times?

Witty Line of the Day:  "Give great praise to the Lord and little Laud to the Devil." 
Humor-crushing explanatory notes:
  • William Laud was a short man.  Moreover, he was sensitive about his height.  
  • Laud is a Latin-derived synonym for praise.  
  • His enemies... What?  You get the joke?  Okay, but why didn't you laugh?

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