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William Laud (1573-1645)
The Earl of Devonshire's Marriage

Shortly before this Laud had got into a scrape of another kind. Under the year 1605, we find him noting in his Diary: "My cross about the Earl of Devon's marriage," with a very particular specification of the day, as 26th December, a Thursday. He had, in September 1603, been made chaplain to Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, recently created Earl of Devon; and had been persuaded on that St. Stephen's Day, two years after, to solemnize a marriage between his noble patron and the beautiful Lady Rich, divorced from the Lord Rich for adultery with the Earl. It is quite clear, whatever Heylin may endeavour to make out, that herein Laud acted against his principles, or convictions of what was right. He confesses as much in the penitential prayer which his apologist quotes: "Behold," he there says, "I am become a reproach to thy holy name, by serving any ambition and the sins of others; which though I did by the persuasion of other men, yet my own conscience did cheek and upbraid me in it." There can be no reasonable doubt that, in consistency with the rest of his theological system, he held the doctrine of the absolute indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, and he must therefore be considered to have performed that solemnity between Lord Devon and Lady Rich, and so sanctioned their living together, while he believed her to be the wife of another man. He was afterwards accustomed to observe the festival of St. Stephen as a day of fasting and humiliation; but even from the account of his eulogistic biographer it would rather appear that he did not arrive at this clear sense of his fault till after all his expectations from his noble patron had been brought to an end by the Earl's death, which took place before the end of the following year. Notwithstanding his repentance, the affair was long a standing reproach against him and, his biographer intimates, materially retarded his preferment.

Part 5: Rise through the Church
   

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