Court of Arches : Act books 1666-1671

During 2021 the project focused on the act books from 1666 to 1671, containing almost 9,000 acts of court. Each of these has been recorded and dated for the first time, with identifications of people and places, cross-references between cases, and pointers to related material elsewhere.  The online catalogue now includes some 10,000 references to related documents, mainly in the National Archives. These have assisted the identification of the protagonists in cases before the Court as well as providing further information concerning them. The project to catalogue these act books has been generously supported by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.

First session of Trinity Term, 22 May 1665. Arches A 4, f.115v

 The diverse business of the Court included suits concerning the dilapidation of parsonage houses, bishops’ palaces and deaneries. The Bishops of Ely, Oxford, Salisbury, Winchester and Worcester all brought cases between 1666 and 1671. There were also suits from the northern  province.  Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, netted £100 for dilapidations at Bishopsthorpe and other palaces from the executor of his predecessor Accepted Frewen, as well as costs of £70 for the suit, which was fought in the Court of Arches from 1665 to 1668. William Sancroft, a future Archbishop of Canterbury, was also pursued for dilapidations arising from his brief tenure of the deanery of York in 1664. The act book preserves remarkable documentation of his expenditure at this time.

The Court was also concerned with marriage, divorce and morality. In these years Sir Thomas Ivie, a former Governor of Madras, continued to be harassed by his unscrupulous wife Theodosia, who had emptied his pockets long before.  Benjamin Overton, who was to make his name as a politician and pamphleteer, was brought to court for carrying off Anne Darcey, a vulnerable heiress aged 17 who was deaf and dumb from birth. The anatomist Thomas Wharton led a commission of eight physicians and surgeons appointed to test the virility of Samuel Sadler, of St. Sepulchre, London, in a case of nullity of marriage.  Martha Atkyns, widow of Sir Patrick Acheson, who had inherited a patent for printing law books, brought a case for divorce, on grounds of cruelty, against her husband, Richard Atkyns, a writer on printing who had started a hare running by claiming (on the basis of an alleged manuscript at Lambeth Palace) that printing had begun in England prior to Caxton.  The court also pursued errant clergymen such as Theophilus Hart, Rector of Wappenham,  a celebrated adulterer who was subsequently murdered.  Lay men and women were also prosecuted for immorality, and, surprisingly, a number of men came to court to confess their own adulteries, sometimes asking to pay a fine rather than endure public penance in church. Penances were also imposed on women convicted of defamation. The act books often preserve their colourful words of abuse as well as the formula of penance to be spoken by them in church.

Testamentary cases were also to the fore. Amongst the plaintiffs identified by the project was the religious thinker Lodowicke Muggleton. He appears in the case as the beneficiary of the will of Thomas Hudson, an innholder of St. Botolph Aldersgate, London. The will records Muggleton as a ‘dear and most beloved friend’ and provides valuable evidence on Muggletonianism by naming others who were ‘members with me in the true faith of our Lord Jesus’. 

The project has also added to the catalogue sixty appointments of guardians to act in court on behalf of minors.  These records were once held to be of little importance, but, like so many records of the Court of Arches, they are a goldmine for genealogists.

During 2021 the project focused on the act books from 1666 to 1671, containing almost 9,000 acts of court. Each of these has been recorded and dated for the first time, with identifications of people and places, cross-references between cases, and pointers to related material elsewhere.  The online catalogue now includes some 10,000 references to related documents, mainly in the National Archives. These have assisted the identification of the protagonists in cases before the Court as well as providing further information concerning them. The project to catalogue these act books has been generously supported by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.

 The diverse business of the Court included suits concerning the dilapidation of parsonage houses, bishops’ palaces and deaneries. The Bishops of Ely, Oxford, Salisbury, Winchester and Worcester all brought cases between 1666 and 1671. There were also suits from the northern  province.  Richard Sterne, Archbishop of York, netted £100 for dilapidations at Bishopsthorpe and other palaces from the executor of his predecessor Accepted Frewen, as well as costs of £70 for the suit, which was fought in the Court of Arches from 1665 to 1668. William Sancroft, a future Archbishop of Canterbury, was also pursued for dilapidations arising from his brief tenure of the deanery of York in 1664. The act book preserves remarkable documentation of his expenditure at this time.

The Court was also concerned with marriage, divorce and morality. In these years Sir Thomas Ivie, a former Governor of Madras, continued to be harassed by his unscrupulous wife Theodosia, who had emptied his pockets long before.  Benjamin Overton, who was to make his name as a politician and pamphleteer, was brought to court for carrying off Anne Darcey, a vulnerable heiress aged 17 who was deaf and dumb from birth. The anatomist Thomas Wharton led a commission of eight physicians and surgeons appointed to test the virility of Samuel Sadler, of St. Sepulchre, London, in a case of nullity of marriage.  Martha Atkyns, widow of Sir Patrick Acheson, who had inherited a patent for printing law books, brought a case for divorce, on grounds of cruelty, against her husband, Richard Atkyns, a writer on printing who had started a hare running by claiming (on the basis of an alleged manuscript at Lambeth Palace) that printing had begun in England prior to Caxton.  The court also pursued errant clergymen such as Theophilus Hart, Rector of Wappenham,  a celebrated adulterer who was subsequently murdered.  Lay men and women were also prosecuted for immorality, and, surprisingly, a number of men came to court to confess their own adulteries, sometimes asking to pay a fine rather than endure public penance in church. Penances were also imposed on women convicted of defamation. The act books often preserve their colourful words of abuse as well as the formula of penance to be spoken by them in church.

Testamentary cases were also to the fore. Amongst the plaintiffs identified by the project was the religious thinker Lodowicke Muggleton. He appears in the case as the beneficiary of the will of Thomas Hudson, an innholder of St. Botolph Aldersgate, London. The will records Muggleton as a ‘dear and most beloved friend’ and provides valuable evidence on Muggletonianism by naming others who were ‘members with me in the true faith of our Lord Jesus’. 

The project has also added to the catalogue sixty appointments of guardians to act in court on behalf of minors.  These records were once held to be of little importance, but, like so many records of the Court of Arches, they are a goldmine for genealogists.

Dr Richard Palmer

The Gloves of Charles I?

Last Sunday (30th January 2022) was the feast of Charles King and Martyr in the Calendar of Commemoration of the Church of England. Lambeth Palace Library has a number of items associated with Charles I, including a copy of his works expurgated by the Portuguese Inquisition, his personal copy of William Prynne’s A breviate of the life of William Laud Archbishop of Canterbury (London,1644), in which he wrote ‘Dum spiro spero’ (while I breathe I hope) while imprisoned, and reports by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning the province of Canterbury with notes in the King’s hand in the margins. Yet, it is not the contemporary documents associated with Charles that seem to capture the imagination of visitors to the Library, but rather the pair of gloves that were reputedly worn by him on the scaffold and which were handed by him to William Juxon, Bishop of London (later Archbishop of Canterbury), who attended him at his execution.

The gloves of Charles I

The gloves were purchased for Lambeth Palace Library in 1963 by the then Librarian Dr Geoffrey Bill, from the Royal United Service Institution (RUSI) after they dispersed their museum. The collection had up to that point been on display in the Banqueting Hall, Whitehall, outside of which was placed the scaffold on which Charles I was beheaded on 30 January 1649, and which is the last extant part of the Palace of Whitehall that burned down in 1698. Dr Bill researched the provenance of the gloves carefully and concluded that ‘the tradition that the gloves belonged to the King does … seem well founded’.[1] Yet, several other pairs of gloves lay claim to be those that Charles I wore at his execution, and Dr Bill determined that it could not be proven with certainty that the gloves in the possession of RUSI had been given by the King to Juxon leading to RUSI dropping their asking price.

Notes showing how thee gloves descended through the Landor family

While we cannot be certain that Charles I wore the gloves, we can be reasonably certain that the gloves were owned by Juxon. He gave them to his friend Jeremy Taylor, through whom they eventually came into the Landor family. Papers housed with the gloves trace the path the gloves took through the Landor family.[2] In 1928 Miss Caroline Landor gave the gloves to RUSI.

The gloves were displayed in the Great Hall at Lambeth Palace for many years, and have been loaned to several major exhibitions, the most recent being Samuel Pepys: plague, fire, revolution at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich in 2016. When the gloves went on loan to the British Museum for the Treasures of Heaven exhibition in 2011, the Museum undertook conservation work on them as part of the loan agreement, ensuring that future generations can look upon them and wonder if the stories told about them are true.

Further reading

Martina Bagnoli (ed.), Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe (London, 2011)

Margarette Lincoln (ed.), Samuel Pepys: plague, fire, revolution (London, 2015).

References

[1] LR/L/19/17 Correspondence regarding the acquisition King Charles I’s gloves, 1928-1963.

[2] ARTEFACT/5 Gloves of Charles I and notes on provenance from Landor family.

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