"The British Josiah": the Royal Martyr and the Laudian vision

In a 30th January sermon in 1660, just months before the Restoration, John King (Dean of Tuam) praised the Royal Martyr as "the British Josiah".  This (deliberately, of course) placed Charles in venerable company.  Not only had Edward VI been obviously regarded as a latter-day Josiah but Bancroft's famous 1588 sermon had proclaimed Elizabeth "as a most zealous Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah".  In other words, King placed Charles within the narrative of (in words from the 1662 Preface) "the Reigns of several Princes of blessed memory since the Reformation".

This understanding of the Royal Martyr as "the British Josiah" animated, in a variety of ways, much 30th January preaching in the Restoration Church.  It found expression as a means of interpreting the Laudian agenda.  Thus, for example, a 1670 sermon:

Josiah was very zealous for the House of God, took great care for the Repairing and Beautifying of the Temple. So our Josiah was zealous for the Repairing and Beautifying of all the Houses of God through the Land ... Josiah was a great Friend to the Clergy, to the Prophets and Ministers of God, the Priests and Levites, giving them great Encouragement in their Service. So was our Josiah, a great Lover and Respecter of Learned and Pious Men; The greatest Countenancer and Encourager of the Clergy and Ministers of England of any King before him; A tender Nurse, a most propitious Father of the Church and Church-men; so that no weight of difficulties could so press upon him, as to alienate Gods portion, the Church's Patrimony.

Here was the Laudian vision of the Crown promoting decency and beauty of holiness, placing clergy who would carry forward this vision, and maintaining the rights of the Church.  Likewise, a 1674 sermon rejoiced in the Royal Martyr's furtherance of the Laudian vision:

A nursing Father also to the Church, under whose happy shelter and Protection it flourished to the admiration and envy of all round about us; A Church, which (as Augustus is said to have done to Rome) He chang'd from Brick to Marble, reforming its manners as much by His own Royal Example, as He did its Structure by His Bounty and Munificence. 

In light of this, we might wonder if it is incorrect to term such a vision 'Laudian'.  Julian Davies describes it as "Carolinism".  This is also seen in Kevin Sharpe's interpretation in The Personal Rule of Charles I: "the history of the church in the 1630s was written around the king's own preferences and concerns".  And it drove the reforms of the Scottish and Irish Churches, summarised by John McCafferty as "centred on a royal, not Canterburian, supremacy".

Another aspect of such 'Carolinism' was in an emphasis on the Royal Martyr as defender of the settled order of Royal Supremacy, episcopacy and Common Prayer.  This, of course, had also been a consistent Laudian contention, that they were ensuring conformity to what had been settled by what Laud termed "the Rules of its first Reformation".  As King stated in his 1660 sermon, regarding those seeking to overturn that settlement:

Hence came it to pass that condemning the old paths, the truth of the reformation in the Protestant Religion they contended unto blood to corrupt by their phanatick Alterations, the pure Doctrine & Evangelical discipline established in the Church of England, to effect which with the more ease, they adventure upon sacrilege to carry on that, they must pull down Episcopacy, (the fence of the Church) and here, the King, as a nursing Father interposing, they render Him unable by encroaching upon his Prerogatives, quarrelling him, seize upon his Strengths, Arm, fight against him, imprison, and then Murder Him.

Similarly James Duport in his 1676 sermon praised the Royal Martyr for embodying another consistent Laudian theme, the Church of England as the alternative to both Popery and Puritanism:

He continued firm and constant, and immovable in the profession and maintenance and defence of the true Protestant Reformed Religion. They on the other side quite contrary, blam'd him for nothing else, at least for nothing so much, as his inclination to Popery; and all because he wu'd not dance after their pipe, nor suffer himself to be carried with the stream o'the Faction ... but stood firm for the Church of England, in opposition to both extremes ... made a Sacrifice, and a Martyr for the Laws and Liberties, and Religion too, of the Church of England, as it stood by Law establish'd both for Doctrine and Discipline.

Closely related to this is the rejection that the Royal Martyr - and thus 'Carolinism' or Laudianism - was associated with Popery.  Two 1681 sermons (preached at the end of the Exclusion Crisis and therefore having particular contemporary relevance) exemplify this.  Conformity to the formularies of the Church of England, to which the Royal Martyr was committed, made the accusation of Popery nonsensical:

Our late Sovereign was accused of being Popishly affected ... who yet was such a Papist as to require of his Subjects the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, which is the absolute renouncing of the Pope's authority; and such a Papist again as to worship God according to the Church of England, whose Liturgy, Articles, Homilies, Canons speak all positively and fully against Popery.

As such, the Royal Martyr was a sign of the refutation of Popery by the Church of England which he nurtured and protected:

a Martyr for the Reformed Protestant Religion, a Defender of the Protestant Faith, a patron of the Episcopal-Protestant Church.

Or as Thomas Lambert, when Archdeacon of Salisbury, had stated in a 1669 sermon, "the Blood of this most excellent Prince hath given a most ample testimony to the Protestant Cause".  This, of course, was also a vindication of Carolinism/Laudianism, delivering it from the most enduring criticisms of its theological opponents.  It was another way in which the Royal Martyr became the vindication of Laudianism.  

We get a hint of this in King's 1660 sermon, when he invokes Tertullian's phrase:

The Lord in mercy look upon us, and wipe away these tears from our eyes, and their causes, our sins from our souls; and since the blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church, in mercy unto his Church restore the seed of his Martyr King Charles the First unto the Government of these Kingdoms, that Religion, Peace and Liberty may be restored unto us.

There is a sense in which the ancient saying had application to the Restoration Church.  The blood of the Royal Martyr secured the 1662 Settlement, a settlement that was profoundly Laudian in character (albeit, in some respects, moderated and chastened), what Eamon Duffy has described as "the secure replanting of the Laudian ideal".  The Royal Martyr also provided encouragement for another aspect of the 1662 Settlement emphasised by Duffy, a deepened confidence in the Church of England's claims and its continuity with the Primitive Church.  As Lambert stated in his 1669 sermon, "this inference is most natural and undeniable; That if CHARLES be a true Martyr, the Church of England is the truest Church".

Little could those who executed Charles have imagined that their actions would secure the triumph of the ecclesiastical vision he shared with his also martyred Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Royal Martyr proved to be the vindication of Laudian ideals: securing assent to the 1662 Settlement, associating opposition to uniformity and conformity with "the late unhappy confusions", ensuring that episcopacy was, without contradiction, identified with the good order of the Reformed Church of England, and providing the beauty of holiness with the defence of royal blood spilt by those who also tore down altar rails.  1662 was, in large part, the enshrining of the Royal Martyr's vision for his Church.  Little wonder he was acclaimed by Restoration preachers as the British Josiah.  


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