The diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, 1603-1642
This thesis investigates religious life among the clergy and laity in the diocese of Lichfield, 1603-1642, including the role of Puritans, Catholics and Church Papists. Nicholas Tyacke has maintained that the implementation of Laudianism in Charles I's reign proved contentious, an interpretation criticised by some historians who aver that the Church continued to maintain a 'middle way'. This study finds that the evidence from the diocese largely supports Tyacke's interpretation. Proto-Laudian reforms were implemented in the see some years before the Laudian ascendancy through the episcopates of Neile and Overall. Every bishop in the period who undertook a programme of reform met local hostility and indifference, and sometimes the opposition of his ecclesiastical and lay superiors. Every religious group underwent change and development. Puritans and Catholics pursued strategies for survival, supported by their respective religious networks. Official opposition often had the effect of strengthening their resolve and confirming them in their beliefs. Local conformists' commitment to the established Church deepened during this period. They respected the Church's role as the official purveyor of religion, morality and the ecclesiastical rites of passage, without evidencing much theological understanding. In the 1630s Bishop Wright oversaw the Laudian programme of sacramental, sacerdotal and liturgical reform, but his lack of organisation, zeal and commitment frustrated Charles, Laud and some local diocesan officials. The changes met resistance, which gathered strength with the collapse of the Personal Rule and manifested itself either in a desire to return to the pre-Laudian Church, or in its root and branch reform. The strength of an individual's anti-Catholicism indicated which religious solution s/he supported. When war came, for the most part Puritans predictably supported Parliament, but a number of moderate Puritans supported the King. Even among the 'godly' fraternity allegiance could sometimes be determined by a variety of considerations.