The Lincoln Trial

Amid a great controversy surrounding the role of ritual in the Church of England during the 19th century, matters came to a head with the prosecution and trial of the Bishop of Lincoln, Edward King, for ritualistic practices in 1888-90.

King served as chaplain, lecturer and eventually principal at Cuddesdon Theological College from 1858 before becoming Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology at Oxford 1873-1885; he was a prominent Anglo-Catholic as part of the Oxford Movement, and the principal founder of St Stephen’s House, a theological college ‘in the catholic tradition of the Church of England’.[1]  His appointment to the Bishopric of Lincoln in 1885 was clearly of concern to some in the anti-ritualist camp.

Caricature of Edward King by Leslie Ward, 1890 (Vanity Fair, 13 September 1890)

The Church Association – one of the main organisations leading opposition to ritualism – was formed in 1865 to ‘defend the Church of England against ritualistic (Anglo Catholic) teaching which was making inroads into the Church’.[2]  Aside from publishing a number to Tracts, one of the Church Association’s main tactics was to instigate the prosecution of number of ritualist priests under the Public Worship Regulation Act 1874, which had been introduced to parliament by Archbishop Tait and led to the imprisonment of some clergy.

Against this backdrop, in June 1888 the Church Association accused King of performing six ritualistic acts which had been declared illegal at Lincoln Minster and at St. Peter-at-Gowts, Lincoln, on the 4th and 18th of December 1887 respectively.  The six acts in question were: taking the ‘eastward position’ during the service; having lighted candles on the altar; mixing water with wine; repeating the Agnus Dei; making the sign of the cross during the absolution and blessing; and the ablution of the sacred vessels.[3]  The Church Association appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, to prosecute his bishop for performing these.

This raised many questions: did the Archbishop have the authority to try a bishop?  If he did, was he willing to do so?  Could he decide to dismiss the case?  Could the secular courts prevent him from trying the bishop, or alternatively compel him to do so?  To resolve the impasse Benson referred the matter to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, who confirmed the Archbishop’s authority to deal with the case.  As a result, Benson revived ‘The Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury’, which had lain inactive since 1699, in order to try King.

Watercolour of the trial scene from the Lincoln Trial, signed ‘C. and E. Floris, 1889 (MS 4825/1

The proceedings began on the 12th February 1889, taking place in the Great Hall at Lambeth Palace, at that time (and until very recently) part of Lambeth Palace Library.  The petitioners, acting on behalf of the Church Association, were formally Ernest de Lacy Read & others.  Five Episcopal Assessors were appointed to assist Benson: Frederick Temple (Bishop of London), William Stubbs (Bishop of Oxford), Anthony Thorold (Bishop of Rochester), John Wordsworth (Bishop of Salisbury), and James Atlay (Bishop of Hereford).  Various points of protest and ecclesiastical law were considered before the actual trial itself took place from the 4th to the 25th of February 1890.

Benson’s ‘Lincoln Judgement’ was delivered on 21st November 1890.  A mixed bag of verdicts, most sources consider the judgement as favourable to King in the main.  It was found that there was no offence committed by taking the eastward position, the use of lighted candles, the mixing of water with wine, the repeating of the Agnus Dei (which was considered part of the use of hymns), or the ablution of the vessels.  However, King was forbidden from mixing water with wine during the service (it was permitted to do the mixing before the service began) and from making the sign of the cross.  He was also required to stand in such a way that the ‘Manual Acts’ of consecration were visible to those attending.  No punishment was imposed on King but he was obliged to adhere to the judgement, which by all accounts he did.  The petitioners appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council without success, their case being dismissed on 2nd August 1892.

The case settled matters of ritual for a time – at least until Archbishop Frederick Temple ruled against the use of incense and candles in 1899 – and many of the practices Bishop King used became widespread.  Nonetheless, despite largely being exonerated, the stress of the case had a negative effect of King, with his biography stating that he became ill afterwards and grew visibly older.[4]  For the Church Association the case also had a negative effect: public opinion turned against such prosecutions and sympathy for King swayed many towards the ritualists.[5]  120 years later Archbishop Rowan Williams described the case as an embarrassment to the Church, stating that the prosecutions made ‘both the Church and the state look rather silly’.[6]

Lambeth Palace Library holds a great deal of archival material related to the case: some Vicar General records have recently been added to the online archives catalogue, while other records were previously catalogued in the manuscript sequence (in particular MS 3764-3767 and MS 3768-3770).  As well as a number of Church Association Tracts there is also a significant amount of secondary material to be found in printed book catalogue.


[1] St. Stephen’s House, ‘History’, https://www.ssho.ox.ac.uk/about/history/.

[2] Church Society, ‘Our History’, https://www.churchsociety.org/about-us/our-history/.

[3] Russell, George William Erskine, Edward King, Sixtieth Bishop of Lincoln: A Memoir (1912), p.147.

[4] Russell, p.211.

[5] Scotland, Nigel, ‘Evangelicals, Anglicans and Ritualism in Victorian England’, Churchman 111/3 (1997), https://www.churchsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Cman_111_3_Scotland.pdf.

[6] ‘Bishop of the Poor: Edward King reinvented the role of diocesan bishop’ (2010), http://rowanwilliams.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/545/bishop-of-the-poor-edward-king-reinvented-the-role-of-diocesan-bishop.html.

Care of the King: Archbishop Charles Manners-Sutton and the Regency Act of 1811

Throughout his life, George III suffered from several periods of severe mental illness. Prior to 1810, he had overcome these episodes and enjoyed extended moments of lucidity that allowed him to remain as the acting monarch. However, after the death of his favourite daughter, he descended into a psychotic depression from which he didn’t recover. From this moment until his death in 1820, George’s son, the Prince Regent, ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in his stead.

Despite being born several months prematurely, George exhibited no signs of mental illness during his childhood or adolescence. The first indication of any mental instability was a retrospective diagnosis of subclinical depression when the king was 27. The first widely documented bout of mental illness occurred in 1788 when he was 50. On the instructions of his physician, George spent a season in Cheltenham to convalesce from a previous illness, most likely gall stones. During his time in the spa town, the George displayed apparent signs of hypomania. His health deteriorated significantly during the autumn and following spring due to a serious psychotic illness which almost resulted in the implementation of a regency act. He recovered from this episode and endeavoured to avoid unnecessary mental fatigue by relying increasingly on his prime minister, William Pitt the Younger.

George III would suffer from two further bouts of mental illness in 1801 and 1804 which have been diagnosed as being episodes of bipolar disorder. Despite recovering from both episodes and experiencing significant periods of lucidity, by 1810, George III had succumbed permanently to his illness and spent the rest of his life in worsening health.

One possible reason given for his lapse into permanent mental instability was the death of his youngest and favourite daughter, Princess Amelia. Medical reports state that the his “melancholy was beyond description.” It became apparent that the he was in no fit state to conduct the affairs of state, and as such, the Regency Act of 1811 was passed allowing George, Prince of Wales, to discharge royal functions on behalf of his father. This period, which lasted from 1811 until 1820, became known as the Regency.

Charles Manners-Sutton (1755-1828), Archbishop of Canterbury. Portrait in Lambeth Palace attributed to John Hoppner (1758–1810)

While matters of state were being conducted by the heir apparent, George’s personal care was overseen by his wife, Queen Charlotte. As his health began to rapidly deteriorate, the Charlotte gathered together a council of trusted and discreet statesmen led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Manners-Sutton, to oversee every aspect of the king’s daily medical needs. Manners-Sutton and his wife were both royal favourites with the king personally intervening in Manners-Sutton’s translation to Canterbury after Pitt’s failed attempt to appoint his former tutor, Bishop Pretyman-Tomline, to the position. He was key in managing the complex relations between Queen Charlotte and the court physicians, whom the queen distrusted.

Report to the Queen on the state of George III’s health dated 14 October 1811 [MS 2117- f. 27r.]

The council received daily reports from the sick room assessing his state of mind and the likelihood of a recovery. The Manners-Sutton papers at Lambeth Palace Library contain 3075 separate reports and offer an intimate insight into George III’s mental health during the final decade of his life. They contain distressing accounts of his psychotic episodes in which he believed that he was immortal, could raise the dead and that England south of the Humber was sinking into the sea. He would often become agitated and violent, requiring the use of opiates and a straightjacket to sedate him. By the time of his death, George had become blind and almost totally deaf. His final medical report includes a footnote by Manners-Sutton, “His Majesty expired at 32 minutes past 8 o’clock p.m., January 29th [1820]. C. Cantuar.” These papers have since been used in several retrospective diagnosis. One such diagnosis was for porphyria, a group of liver disorders which can affect, amongst other things, the nervous system. This particular diagnosis made its way into the closing credits of the film The Madness of King George but has since been disputed in several studies, most notably in research conducted by St. George’s, University of London which concluded that George’s illness was almost certainly mental and not physical.

Piety, Politics and Relics in the Later Middle Ages: A Note from MS 78

‘A note about a portion of the Seamless Robe’ (LPL MS78 f.256 r.)

Throughout the Middle Ages, the veneration of saints was an essential part of life in the Christian world. Saints were not only regarded as pious exemplars to be emulated by the Christian faithful, but also as mediators between people on earth and God. Through their intercession it was possible to gain God’s favour. Christians seeking proximity to a particular saint visited their resting place, and/or relics associated with that saint. Early Christians considered it unthinkable to disturb the body of a saint; hence, the whole body was transferred from the grave to the newly built church during the latter’s consecration. The first relics to appear were objects connected to saints, such as their clothing or other things they used. The practice of removing and venerating small parts of saints’ bodies only seems to have become acceptable in the tenth century, and by the High Middle Ages, relics had become an inseparable part of Christian life. Reliquaries, which preserved saintly relics, were made in different shapes and sizes – from little pedants to large chests. They were often made from precious materials and beautifully decorated, but the most valuable part was the relic placed inside. Medieval Christians undertook pilgrimages to visit churches and cathedrals with important relics. Those who could afford it sought to acquire relics for themselves, as in the case of the French king, Louis IX, who had a remarkable collection of relics, including the Crown of Thorns. The most precious relics were those connected to Jesus Christ.

MS 78 from the holdings of Lambeth Palace Library was written in the first half of the fifteenth century and mainly consists of collected exempla, yet it also contains several original chapters relating to Canterbury, three of which are about relics. The chapter chosen for closer examination in this blog is entitled ‘A note about a portion of the Seamless Robe’ and starts with the arrival of the emperor of Constantinople, Manuel II Palaiologos, in England. Manuel was Byzantine emperor from 1391 to 1425, during which he faced significant challenges. In 1394, the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I besieged Constantinople; the crusade of Nicopolis failed to raise the siege; and, finally, at the end of 1399, Manuel set out to personally visit several western rulers, in a bid to gain the aid.[1]

The author of the chapter in MS 78 describes how Manuel, ‘ruined and weakened, arranged to visit Henry IV, whom he knew was dreaded by princes and clearly thoroughly educated in arms’. The emperor arrived in England at ‘around the feast of St Lucy the virgin’ and ‘was received with appropriate respect by both Thomas Chillenden, then prior of Christ Church, Canterbury, and the convent of that place’, before meeting King Henry.[2] The author did not concern himself with detailing the negotiations that took place between the two rulers, but his testimony certainly indicates the importance of the outcome of those negotiations for the Byzantine emperor. In order to persuade Henry to help in the defence of the Byzantine empire, Manuel brought him a gift – not just something precious, but something of extraordinary value. The emperor gave Henry a portion of the Seamless Robe, ‘which is believed to have been woven by the blessed Virgin Mary with her own hands for her son Jesus Christ’. According to one legend, Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, found the Seamless Robe, together with several other relics, in the Holy Land. Although a twelfth-century legend places the Seamless Robe in Trier cathedral, where Helena supposedly sent it, the Byzantine emperor may well have been in possession of part of the robe. The fact that both sides believed that it was the relic connected to Christ is in fact more important than its actual authenticity. Manuel was prepared to give this highly-prized relic to Henry in order to secure his military support. And it probably had the desired effect, as other evidence suggests that Manuel was rather pleased with the outcome of the negotiations.[3]

Henry accepted the gift and subsequently decided to divide the relic of the Seamless Robe further, part of which he ‘presented to the church of Westminster Abbey’, while another part was ‘brought to the reverend in Christ father lord Thomas Arundel’ as a marker of their friendship. We are then told that Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, later ‘presented [this portion of the Robe] to the highest altar of his aforementioned church [Christ Church, Canterbury] and put it respectfully into the reliquary of that church’. The text’s author also provides a short description of this impressive reliquary held at that point in Canterbury Cathedral: ‘a jewel constructed from silver and from gold, which has three compartments with long sapphires’. The Seamless Robe was not the only important relic held in that reliquary, since each compartment contained a different relic: ‘The part of abovementioned tunic [i.e., the Seamless Robe] was placed in the middle, so it could be admired at will. In the second compartment was held a thorn from the crown that Christ wore in his time of suffering. In the third one there was blood which the most celebrated living victor, St Thomas of Canterbury, shed under the sword for the justice and liberty of the holy church.’

We should not approach this short text as a mere description of the relics held in Canterbury Cathedral in the early fifteenth century, when the text was written; rather, it should be treated as an interesting witness to how the holy relics were perceived and indeed used. For medieval Christians, the relics connected to Christ had incalculable value and were regarded as objects for great veneration. Nevertheless, as the chapter from MS 78 attests, even the most sacred relics could be used to achieve worldly objectives; indeed, owing to their significance and value, relics like the Seamless Robe represented ideal gifts with which to procure support and forge alliances.

As to where and when this short text was composed, MS 78 includes an inscription attributing the manuscript to Christ Church, Canterbury, and states that the book was collated by William Chartham, monk of that church, in 1448. William entered the monastery in 1403 and died in 1448; as such, we can assume that he was the actual author of the text.[4] We cannot ascertain precisely when he wrote this short chapter, but it would appear that it was after 1411, for the author  noted that the emperor was received by ‘Thomas Chillenden, then [tunc] prior of Christ Church, Canterbury’. This implies that, at the time of writing, Thomas Chillenden was no longer prior of Christ Church; and since the author did not use similar language to describe Thomas Arundel, it is likely that the latter was still archbishop of Canterbury. This, in turn, would narrow the timeframe to the period 1411-1414. Unfortunately, the omission of ‘tunc’ in connection to Archbishop Arundel is far from definitive evidence and the most we can say is that the text was probably composed by William Chartham between 1411 and 1448.


References

[1] For details about the siege and Manuel’s journey to the West, see John Barker, Manuel II Paleologus (1391–1425): A Study in Late Byzantine Statesmanship, Rutgers University Press, 1969.

[2] The Feast of Lucy of Syracuse is on 13 December and the year of Manuel’s arrival was 1400, even though the author of this text marks it as 1401. It was probably because Manuel stayed in England during the first months of 1401. The second dating he gave is ‘the second year of the rule of Henry IV’, which started in September 1400.

[3] Barker, pp. 178-180.

[4]https://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=MSS%2f78&pos=1

Court of Arches : Act books 1660-1666

The project to produce new catalogue descriptions of the act books of the Court of Arches from 1660 to 1666 has been successfully completed, including the final volume, compiled during the interlude between the Plague and Fire of London. This, and all the volumes in this project, were salvaged amid chaos in the city as the fire advanced, in contrast to their recent orderly transition to the new Lambeth Palace Library.

Cases from this period in the Court of Arches include Kirkham v Lovell and Sydes, relating to church rates in Northamptonshire. The case papers include not only entries in the act books, but also this early 14th-century cartulary of Fineshade Abbey, containing an abstract of the priory’s charters, which was used as evidence in the dispute and hence retained in the archive of the court.
[Arches Ff291.58v-59r]

Documents in the Court of Arches were filed in separate series according to their character (libels, witness statements and so on). The act books are the central record which links them all, introducing each case and tracing its progress through session after session of the Court. The project has recorded and dated, for the first time, each act of court, with identifications of people and places, cross-references between cases, and pointers to related material. The catalogue now includes almost 6,000 references to related documents in the National Archives (mainly PCC wills, Chancery suits and Court of Delegates appeals), enhancing the Arches data and supplying alternative spellings of names without which searching would be fruitless.

The Court was at its busiest following the Restoration as it dealt with a backlog of disputes concerning  marriage and divorce, wills, the institution of clergy to benefices , the dilapidation of parsonage houses and bishops’ palaces, rights to pews,  tithes, church rates, defamation and the enforcement of morals. Typical of those brought to books was John Everett, who in 1640, while a churchwarden of St. Botolph Bishopsgate, London, had removed a table of church rates and replaced it with one which gave less income to the Rector. Another was Nathaniel Swan, Vicar of Alderminster, accused of ‘negligence, drunkenness and boasting of friendship with Oliver Cromwell’.

Arches cases often yield vivid insights, as in a case concerning Richard Burt, who died at the height of the plague in August 1665. For two days and a night he was nursed by his mother , ‘all that time looking to him and binding him keeping him in bed’. During this ordeal his mother was called away to a sister, also dying of the plague, returning to lay out her son, wrapping him in a winding sheet for burial in the churchyard of St. Sepulchre. The movement from house to house of his mother reveals that obedience to the plague orders by no means universal.  Court proceedings resumed after the plague but were ended again by the Fire of London.  Reading a witness statement given some months before the Fire by Thomas Knight, a glazier in Pudding Lane, one almost wants to shout a warning.

Richard Palmer

December 2020

The Final Years of Old St. Paul’s

London’s skyline would be incomplete without the familiar dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The present cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1710, is at least the fifth cathedral to have been built on the site at Ludgate Hill, the first of which was built, according to Bede, in 604. Wren’s cathedral is considered a masterpiece of the English Baroque style, however, were it not for the Great Fire of London in 1666, a very different cathedral would be seen today and a different architect would be remembered for saving a deteriorating building from total collapse.

Construction of Old St. Paul’s began in 1087 after its Saxon predecessor was destroyed by fire. By 1314, the original Romanesque building constructed by the Normans had developed into one of Europe’s largest and most celebrated Gothic cathedrals. However, Old St. Paul’s saw a rapid decline during the 16th century, in no small part due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries which led to the destruction of many interior features and the confiscation of cathedral buildings located in the close. Further disaster struck in 1561 when the central spire caught fire due to lightning and collapsed in on itself bringing down the roof of the nave with it. Both Catholics and Protestants saw the destruction of the spire as proof of God’s displeasure at the other party’s actions. During a period of heightening religious tensions, Elizabeth I contributed money towards the repair of the nave. However, the work was substandard and within fifty years Old St Paul’s fell into disrepair once again.

Concerned by this rapid deterioration, James I appointed Inigo Jones to oversee the reconstruction of Old St. Paul’s. Unlike the traditional master craftsmen of yesteryear, Jones was the first person to fully break with the traditional approach to building design and is recognised as England’s first significant architect. In addition to the reconstruction of many of the Gothic features of Old St. Paul’s, Jones stamped his own identity on the building with the inclusion of several classical elements. He drew inspiration from his trips to Italy and led the revival of classical designs from Rome and the Italian Renaissance in Britain. This influence can clearly be seen in the image below, ‘The West Prospect of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul’, which has been taken from Daniel King’s The Cathedrall and Conventuall Churches of England and Wales (1656), (LPL, H5194.K5).

The West Prospect of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul

It has been suggested that Jones’ heavy-handed restoration of Old St. Paul’s had a very obvious court connection. After his initial appointment by James I, Jones continued to work on Old St. Paul’s under the patronage of Charles I. Charles’ wife, the queen consort Henrietta Maria, was a particular admirer of Jones. The Queen’s House in Greenwich, initially commissioned by Anne of Denmark, the queen of James I, was eventually completed by Jones for Henrietta Maria. She even bestowed the title of ‘Surveyor of Her Majesty’s Works’ on Jones, a wholly unofficial post, probably created by the queen herself.

Another of Jones’ patrons was the then Bishop of London and future Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, who saw the restoration of Old St. Paul’s as an essential element in his programme of wider church reform. A key supporter of Charles I, Laud promoted a theology of High Church Anglicanism within the Church of England known as Laudianism which put an emphasis on liturgical ceremony, clerical hierarchy and the rejection of ideas such as predestination favoured by Calvinists.

Both Charles I and Laud would finance Jones’ restoration of Old St. Pauls, however, the king decided that he alone would pay for the construction of the classically designed West Front. Accounts, such as the one included below, give us a fairly accurate idea of how funds were distributed. In this particular example, (LPL, FP 43: October 1639-September 1640), we see Jones’ own signature as he approves payment to a certain William Decritts for his frieze paintings.

Portion of the accounts for the construction of the West Front (LPL, FP 43: October 1639-September 1640)

The West Front was a grandiose but ultimately inappropriate statement which was strewn with statues of James I and Charles I. Despite being greatly admired by Wren, it was understandably less well received by Puritans and Presbyterians. Jones’ work on Old St. Paul’s would ultimately cease due to the advent of Civil War, during which time, the cathedral suffered greatly at the hands of Parliamentarian troops. Religious icons were defaced, and the nave became a stable for Roundhead cavalry horses. Old St. Paul’s continued to deteriorate under the governance of the Commonwealth. Building materials were plundered in order to construct the Lord Protector’s city palace and the cathedral was largely neglected due its monarchical and High Anglican symbolism.

By the time of the Restoration in 1660, Old St Paul’s was once again in a state of serious dilapidation. Charles II, newly restored to the throne, appointed Wren as ‘Surveyor to the King’s Works’. Wren initially suggested that Old St. Paul’s should be demolished and an entirely new cathedral be built, however, with public opinion against him, he instead began planning designs which would complement Jones’ previous restorations. Even at this stage, several years prior to the Great Fire, Wren was already drafting plans for a domed tower.

Before Wren could apply any of his designs, the Great Fire of London would first devastate the city, reducing Old St. Paul’s to a smouldering husk. At first, it was suggested that the shell of the building might be salvageable, however, Wren, possibly sensing his chance to totally redesign the cathedral in his own English Baroque style, stated that it would be impossible to reconstruct Old St. Paul’s as it was. With the support of William Sancroft, the Dean of St. Paul’s and future Archbishop of Canterbury, Wren set about demolishing the remnants of Old St. Paul’s in 1668. The clean-up process was surprising arduous, as molten lead from the roof had encased sections of the wall making them difficult to dismantle. Gunpowder was even utilised in an attempt to blast sections of lead encased wall apart, however, after several workmen were killed, Wren opted for a giant battering ram instead. By 1675, all traces of Old St. Paul’s were finally gone and Wren could begin work on the St. Paul’s that we see today.