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John Bramhall’s other island: a Laudian solution to an Irish problem

  • Jack P. Cunningham (a1)


When John Bramhall arrived on the shores of Ireland in 1633 to begin his new job as chaplain to the (also newly appointed) lord deputy, Thomas Wentworth, he was probably not yet forty years old. He immediately set about his role with the type of energy and ruthless devotion that came to characterise the Laudian regime that sent him. As John Morrill has indicated, nothing in the previous reign had prepared the Irish Protestant establishment ‘for the onslaught on their church to be mounted by William Laud.’ Historically, one of the problems with the Laudians is that while it is clear what they did, it is less clear why they did it. Typically, and shrewdly, they did not tend to be verbose concerning their motives.



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1 Morrill, John, ‘A very British patriarchy? Ecclesiastical imperialism under the early Stuarts’ in Fletcher, Anthony and Roberts, Philip (eds), Religion, culture and society in early modern Britain (Cambridge, 1994), p. 222.

2 Eliot, T. S., ‘John Bramhall’ in Selected essays (London, 1951), p. 354.

3 Hugh Trevor-Roper, Archbishop Laud (London, 1940), p. 241.

4 Burghclere, Lady, Strafford (2 vols, London, 1931), i, 236.

5 McCafferty, John, ‘John Bramhall and the Church of Ireland in the 1630s’ in Ford, Alan, McGuire, J. I. and Milne, Kenneth (eds), As by law established: the Church of Ireland since the Reformation (Dublin, 1995), pp 100-11; idem, ‘“God bless your free Church of Ireland”: Wentworth, Laud and the Irish convocation of 1634’ in J. F. Merritt (ed.), The political world of Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, 1621–1641 (Cambridge, 1996), pp 187–208.

6 Russell, Conrad, ‘The British problem and the English Civil War’ in History, lxxii (1987), p. 399.

7 Davies, Julian, The Caroline captivity of the Church: Charles I and the remoulding of Anglicanism, 1625–1641 (Oxford, 1992).

8 Morrill, ‘British patriarchy?’, pp 223–7.

9 Kenneth Fincham, ‘The ecclesiastical policies of James I and Charles I’ in idem (ed.), The early Stuart Church, 1603–1642 (London, 1993), p. 49.

10 Ford, Alan, ‘Dependent or independent? The Church of Ireland and its colonial context, 1536–1649’ in The seventeenth century, x, no. 2 (Aug. 1995), p. 174.

11 Scott, William and Bliss, James (eds), The works of the most reverend father in God William Laud… (7 vols, Oxford, 1847-60), vii, 66.

12 Hadden, A. (ed.), The works of John Bramhall … (5 vols, Oxford, 1842-45), i, pp lxxxlxxxii.

13 Ford, Alan, The Protestant Reformation in Ireland (Dublin, 1997), pp 214-15.

14 Hadden, , Works of Bramhall, ii, 124.

15 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1633–47, pp 31–2.

16 Otto, Rudolf, The idea of the holy : an inquiry into the non-rational factor in the idea of the divine and its relation to the rational, trans. Harvey, J.W. (Oxford, 1925).

17 Hadden, , Works of Bramhall, i, p. v.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Bickley, F., H.M.C. Hastings (London, 1947), iv, 55.

21 Bramhall, to Laud, , 20 Dec. 1634 (T.C.D. MS 1697, paper vi).

22 Lockyer, Roger, The early Stuart Church: a political history, 1603–42 (London, 1989), p. 316.

23 Philips, W.A., The history of the Church of Ireland (3 vols, Oxford, 1933-34), iii, 32.

24 Bramhall, , Works, i, p. vii.

25 Vesey, John, Athanasius Hibernicus (London, 1676), p. 15.

26 Bramhall, , Works, i, p. vii.

27 Vesey, Athanasius Hibernicus, p. 16.

28 McCafferty, John, ‘John Bramhall and the reconstruction of the Church of Ireland, 1633–1641’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, 1996).

29 W. E. Collins, ‘John Bramhall’ in idem (ed.), Typical English churchmen from Parker to Maurice (London, 1902 ), p. 91.

30 Vesey, Athanasius Hibernicus, p. 18.

31 McCafferty, ‘Bramhall’, p. 101.

32 The passage of these canons has been well documented elsewhere; see McCafferty, ‘“God bless your free Church of Ireland”’.

33 Capern, Amanda, ‘The Caroline Church: James Ussher and the Irish dimension’ in Historical Journal, xxxix (1996), p. 64.

34 Ussher, to Bramhall, , 27 Oct. 1635 (Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif, MS HA 15950).

35 Some controversy surrounds Ussher’s attitude to the Irish articles after convocation. A. J. Stephens shows that this argument centres on the evidence of Peter Heylin and John Vesey. Both claimed that Ussher and several other Irish bishops required of their ordinands double subscription. However, as Stephens indicates, both authors are relying on Nicholas Bernard, who maintained in his Judgement of James Ussher that this was the case. Bernard’s evidence is often doubtful, and with regard to this rather sensational text must be considered even more untrustworthy. Stephens, A. J., Ms. Book of common prayer (3 vols, London, 1849-50), iii, p. cix.

36 Hardwick, Charles, A history of the articles of religion (London, 1890), p. 186.

37 Margaret, , duchess of Newcastle, The life of William Cavendish, duke of Newcastle (London, 1667), p. 43.

38 Bramhall, , Works, i, p. x; Aylmer, G. E., The king’s servants: the civil service of Charles I, 1625–42 (London, 1974), p. 103.

39 Vesey, Athanasius Hibernicus, p. 27.

40 Bramhall, , Works, iii, 529.

41 Morrill, ‘British patriarchy?’, p. 224.

42 Vesey, Athanasius Hibernicus, p. 10.

43 Monili, ‘British patriarchy?’, p. 226.

44 McCafferty, ‘Bramhall’,p. 111.

45 Bramhall, , Works, ii, 295.

46 Ibid., pp 98–9.

47 Ibid., i, 577.

48 Ibid., ii, 43.

49 Ibid., pp 47–8.

50 Ibid., p. 48.

51 Ibid., i, 295.

52 Ibid., p. 199.

53 Ibid., ii, 453.

54 Ibid., p. 299.

55 Ibid., i, 100; iii, 557; v, 187.

56 Baillie, Robert, A review of the seditious pamphlet lately published in Holland by Dr. Bramhell pretended bishop of Londonderry (London, 1649), p. 5.

57 R. C., A brief survey of the lord of Derry (Paris, 1655), pp 141-2.

58 Bramhall, , Works, i, 96.

59 Ibid., p. 100.

60 George, C. H. and George, Katherine, The Protestant mind of the English Reformation, 1570–1640 (London, 1961), p. 387.

61 Aveling, J. C. H., Loades, D. M. and McAdoo, H. R., Rome and the Anglicans (Berlin, 1982), p. 166.

62 Hadden, , Works of Bramhall, iii, 545.

63 Ibid., p. 556.

64 Ibid., p. 557.

65 Bettenson, Henry(ed.), Documents of the Christian Church (2nd ed., Oxford, 1963), p. 135.

66 Hay, Denys, Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (London, 1989), p. 309.

67 Bettenson (ed.), Documents, p. 136.

68 Hillerbrand, H. J., The Oxford encyclopedia of the Reformation (4 vols, Oxford, 1996) i, 394-7. In fact, Rome still felt it necessary to deal with conciliarism as a living issue in 1870 at the First Vatican Council. Interestingly, it resurfaced at the Second Vatican Council, after Hans Kiing had published his book, Strukturen der Kirche (1962).

69 Oakley, Francis, ‘“Anxieties of influence”: Skinner, Figgis, conciliarism and early modern constitutionalism’ in Past and Present, no. 151 (May 1996), p. 81.

70 Hillerbrand, , Encylopedia, ii, 197-8.

71 Butler, Charles, The life of Hugo Grotius (London, 1826), p. 151.

72 Mackenzie, I. M., God’s order and natural law: the works of the Laudian divines (Aldershot, 2002).

73 Hadden, , Works of Bramhall, iii.

74 Ibid.

75 Ibid., pp 548–9.

76 Ibid., i, 101.

77 Ibid., p. 109.

78 Ibid.

79 Aveling, Loades and McAdoo, Rome and Anglicans, p. 275.

80 Milton, Anthony, Catholic and Reformed: the Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant thought, 1600–1640 (Cambridge, 1994), p. 371.

81 Bramhall, , Works, iii, 568-9.

82 Ibid.

83 Ibid., i, 100.

84 Ibid., iii, 545.

85 Ibid., p. 546.

86 Ibid., p. 539.

87 Ibid.

88 Morrill, John, The nature of the English revolution (London, 1993), p. 9.

89 Laud, , Works, vi, 262.

90 Ibid., p. 52.

91 Cal. S.P. Ire., 1625–33, p. 622.

92 Morrill, ‘British patriarchy?’, p. 209; B.L., Add. MS 34600, ff 172, 173, 179–80, 186. and cf. f. 133.

93 Morrill, ‘British patriarchy?’, p. 236.

94 Bramhall, , Works, i, 97.

95 Scott, and Bliss, , Works of Laud, vii, 291-3.

97 McCafferty, ‘“God bless your free Church of Ireland”’, p. 189.

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John Bramhall’s other island: a Laudian solution to an Irish problem

  • Jack P. Cunningham (a1)


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