Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 July 2019
Sitting in his rooms in the Tower of London on 23 September 1641, William Laud, the imprisoned archbishop of Canterbury, reached for his diary and began writing an account of an event which had taken place that day. Unlike many personal memoirs, which reveal much about the writer's innermost feelings, the archbishop's diary is, on the whole, almost entirely devoid of sentimentality. On this occasion, however, the event which Laud recorded had deep personal and emotional connotations for him: it was the death of his household steward, Adam Torless. Torless – described by the archbishop as ‘my ancient, loving and faithful servant’ – had ministered to him ‘full forty-two years’ and his demise came as a source of ‘great loss and grief’. As steward to the archiepiscopal household, one of Torless's primary duties during his sustained and loyal service had been to maintain the accounts for both Lambeth and Croydon Palaces, which are edited and interrogated here in full for the first time.
Spanning the period from 18 December 1635 to 14 January 1642, this is the only extant record of the archiepiscopal household for Laud's tenure in office and only one of a handful of similar early modern, ecclesiastical accounts; and yet, it has almost entirely escaped the attention of modern scholars. This neglect is unfortunate, not only because it is the historian's duty to make use of all relevant sources, but also because this document supplements and enhances existing interpretations of Laud and the context in which he was operating. Furthermore, quite apart from its value as a social and economic source, this manuscript – which begins just two years into his archiepiscopate and ceases a year after his impeachment and incarceration – offers a unique prism through which to view the highs and the lows of the archbishop's career. While his diary and correspondence have been edited, published and plundered extensively by scholars for almost two centuries, the archbishop's account book has not – notwithstanding the fact that it provides many new details about his rôle, life and habits that are not evident in other sources. Although fascinating for their own sake, the intrinsic value of such minutiae lies in what they suggest about the archiepiscopal remit and Laud's influence, as well as his associations with fellow courtiers and privy councillors and, of course, the king and members of the royal household.