Participation Type

Paper

Presentation #1 Title

The Engines of Tyranny? The Court Sermons of James II, 1685-8.

Presentation #1 Abstract

This paper examines the Catholic sermons preached before James II between 1685 and 1688. James as a Catholic ruler abandoned the Anglican chapels royal, except on rare occasions. He also found himself deeply offended by Anglican sermons and punished bishops for not suppressing them. His own coronation sermons was a badly misjudged attempt by his former Anglican chaplain to vindicate James and his right to the throne. James established a large Catholic household with chapels royal at Whitehall, St James’s Palace and Somerset House. In these chapels, James heard sermons from a wide range of Catholic clergy. The paper considers in detail a number of the sermons, many of which seems to have been designed to stiffen James’s resolve to convert England to Catholicism. Issues such as the refusal of Anglicans to convert, the demands for liberty from the people, the nature of distinctly Catholic doctrines, such as transubstantiation, were all considered in the sermons. Increasingly, however, the sermons strayed into political territory. Preachers discussed issues such as the divine right of kings, whether people had rights to intercede between the King and God and the degree to which obedience was expected of all subjects. While it is not possible to conclude that James’s Catholic sermons were the source of his tyrannical rule, they certainly encouraged his dogmatic and stern rule. Moreover since they were published at the king’s command, they also made public the diet of theological and spiritual guidance James was receiving from his preachers. By the end of James’s reign, the sermons had contributed to a view of James as wilful and inflexible. His politicians and Anglican bishops all abandoned James in part because of his pursuit of the goals laid out by his preachers.

At-A-Glance Bios- Presenter #1

William Gibson is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford Brookes University. He is the author of James II and the Trial of the Seven Bishops (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) and editor of the Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon 1689-1901 (Oxford University Press, 2012). He contributed the chapter on sermons to J. Gregory’s Oxford History of Anglicanism vol 2 (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is the editor of Wesley and Methodist Studies and of the Journal of Religious History, Literature and Culture. He is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Historical Society.

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The Engines of Tyranny? The Court Sermons of James II, 1685-8.

Montréal, QC

This paper examines the Catholic sermons preached before James II between 1685 and 1688. James as a Catholic ruler abandoned the Anglican chapels royal, except on rare occasions. He also found himself deeply offended by Anglican sermons and punished bishops for not suppressing them. His own coronation sermons was a badly misjudged attempt by his former Anglican chaplain to vindicate James and his right to the throne. James established a large Catholic household with chapels royal at Whitehall, St James’s Palace and Somerset House. In these chapels, James heard sermons from a wide range of Catholic clergy. The paper considers in detail a number of the sermons, many of which seems to have been designed to stiffen James’s resolve to convert England to Catholicism. Issues such as the refusal of Anglicans to convert, the demands for liberty from the people, the nature of distinctly Catholic doctrines, such as transubstantiation, were all considered in the sermons. Increasingly, however, the sermons strayed into political territory. Preachers discussed issues such as the divine right of kings, whether people had rights to intercede between the King and God and the degree to which obedience was expected of all subjects. While it is not possible to conclude that James’s Catholic sermons were the source of his tyrannical rule, they certainly encouraged his dogmatic and stern rule. Moreover since they were published at the king’s command, they also made public the diet of theological and spiritual guidance James was receiving from his preachers. By the end of James’s reign, the sermons had contributed to a view of James as wilful and inflexible. His politicians and Anglican bishops all abandoned James in part because of his pursuit of the goals laid out by his preachers.