Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching

Article excerpt

Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching. By Peter E. McCullough. (Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History: (New-York: Cambridge University-Press. 1998. Pp. xv, 237.)

Could 5,000 people attend sermons at Queen Elizabeth's Court? Would they? Peter McCullough convinces us that they could and did by measuring the space of the Whitehall outdoor preaching place, well known from its illustration in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Matching the measurements with the written evidence, be stimulates new understandings of how preaching at the Court was shaped by its royal auditors, reflecting their personal theological tastes.

As its title implies, this book is about sermons. but not so much about their content as their context. Context throws important light on content, intent, and meaning, however, and leads to some interesting arguments about preaching in the Court. For instance,james I followed the Scots' practice of coming to the chapel only for sermons. meaning, given Court custom, that James, and therefore most of his courtiers, missed the prescribed Prayer Book liturgy leading up to the sermon. When the King entered, the service ended, an anthem was sung, the preacher mounted his pulpit, which allowed him to stand face-to-face with the King, and the sermon went forward. This irritated his clergy and led to an increasing demand for the King to attend the whole service as a sign of reverence. James ignored them, but Charles did not, and William Laud, a frustrated Jacobean chaplain, got Charles to institute a new regime of Court worship that emphasized the"beauty of holiness" on Lancelot Andrewes' model.

McCullough includes in his study sermons preached to Queen Anne. Given her suspected Catholicism, his exploration of her chapel and chaplains startles, in that he finds that she employed a number of Puritan chaplains, drawing heavily on people who, like her less than puritanical chaplain John Donne, came from the Essex connection. These clergymen, as fir as he can tell, did not dare to address the Queen's crypto@Catholicism directly, though he finds evidence that Donne may have done so in one of his sermons, At the same time, McCullough's awareness of the physical arrangements and customs of the Court allows him to explain how Anne's avoidance of Anglican communion, and possible private Masses, would have been almost invisible to the outside world. …

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