Bishops, Parliament, and Reform: 1641

Charles W. A. Prior

in A Confusion of Tongues

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199698257
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739040 | DOI:
Bishops, Parliament, and Reform: 1641

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This chapter examines two debates that illustrate important aspects of the problem of the constitutionalism of the Church. Both were framed by an increasingly strident mood of disaffection with the religious policies of the Caroline regime, and helped to sharpen arguments that portrayed bishops and clerical courts as threats to liberty and the constitution. The year 1641 witnessed a movement toward reform. In the first instance, parliamentarians sought to banish the episcopal order from the House of Lords, a move which generated a complex debate on the origins, nature, and limits of the ‘civil’ powers of the clergy. In the second instance, parliament issued a ‘Protestation’ which included an oath whose language linked the doctrine of the church with the liberties of the subject, and decreed that all in the realm affirm its terms by means of an oath. Once again, writers debated the finer points of the link between church and state. The chapter argues that this crucial year sees a broadening of positions in the constitutionalism of the Church, rather than a steady movement toward a single ‘Erastian’ constitutionalism.

Keywords: bishops; parliament; House of Lords; feudal law; Protestation of 1641

Chapter.  17814 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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