Archbishop William Laud: Behead Today (Jan. 10) in 1645

William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to his execution in 1645. He was the Archbishop to Charles I of England. Opinion on Archbishop Laud is divided. The Anglican Community (The Church of England and Episcopal Church of The United States, in particular) commemorate his death and treat him as a martyr. There is a prayer that goes:

“Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like thy servant William Laud, we may live in thy fear, die in thy favor, and rest in thy peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” (Kiefer, 2009).

However, many see William Laud as a tyrannical oppressor that abused his position both as Archbishop and as a member of the King’s Privy Council. Many have charged him with persecuting Puritans and wielding unchecked political power. He was a powerful and dynamic character. He died as a result of the English Civil War.

The English Civil War(s), 1642 to 1651 : The story begins in 1629 when Charles I, son of James VI (I of England), and first heir to both the thrones of Scotland and England. In 1629, four years into his reign that began in 1625, Charles established what is known as ‘Personal Rule.’ He dissolved the Parliament and ruled by decree. This lasted until 1640, known by Charles enemies as the “eleven year tyranny.” This ended when, in 1640, rebellion broke out in Scotland. Charles was forced to call a parliament to settle the rebellion. This parliament is known as the Long Parliament and sat for 20 years.

In 1642 Charles I called up an army to stop a rebellion in Ireland without the approval of Parliament. This began the First English Civil War. The First English Civil War was fought between Royalists (Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (Roundheads). The Scottish, who were mostly Presbyterians, and the Irish joined in on the side of the Roundheads. There were three main battled of the First Civil War. They were the Battle of Edge Hill (both sides claiming victory), the Battle of Marston Moor (the Roundheads winning a resounding victory), and the Battle of Naseby (Charles I lost completely and did not recover from the battle).

In 1648 Charles surrendered to the Scots hoping to cut a deal with them and be protected from the English Parliament. However, the Scots sold him to the Parliament for £400, 000 in January of 1647. In November Charles escaped to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. This action began the short Second English Civil War, with the Parliamentarians winning at Preston and recapturing Charles. Charles was tried by the Parliament in January 1649 and found guilty of  “traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament and the people therein represented” (History Learning Site, 2014). Charles I was executed on January 30, 1649 (twenty days and four years after his close personal advisor, William Laud).

The Third English Civil War erupted after Charles I execution with the Irish and Scots supporting Charles II against the English Parliament. Charles II was crowned King of Scotland at Scone in 1651. Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army invaded Scotland in 1650, and the Irish were prevent from fight because of their defeat at the hands of the Parliamentarians a year earlier. Despite a heavy loss at the Battle of Dunbar the Scots rose another army and invaded England. They failed to capture London and were ultimately defeated by Cromwell’s army at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. With this loss and Charles II flight to France the last in the series of English Civil Wars ended and brought with it a short-lived experiment with English monarch-less republicanism.


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