The church of All Saints in Middle Claydon, nestled in the Buckinghamshire countryside, is filled with tributes to the Verney family who were intimately involved in and affected by the Civil War.
It was the perfect setting for two of the Sealed Knot’s preachers to bring the words of two contemporary 17th Century preachers back to life – one from the Royalist cause and the other from the Parliamentarian.
Drawing from actual sermons of the time, the regimental chaplains of our regiment and The King’s Guard were given kind permission to preach in this gorgeous church. As well as delivering their sermons by Royalist Mathew Griffith and Parliamentarian Edmund Calamy the Elder, they gave brief introductions and context for their performances (for more information about Mathew and Calamy, see below)
Disagreements over religion were one of the primary causes of the Civil War, as Puritan peers and MPs fought King Charles and Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud over reforms of the English church. These two sermons provide an insight into how the two sides sought to persuade people to their respective causes…
About the preachers:
Matthew Griffith was a Church of England clergyman from London, who studied at both Oxford and Cambridge. A favourite of metaphysical poet and cleric John Donne, Griffith was presented to the rectory of St Mary Magdalen, Old Fish Street, London, in 1624 and chosen lecturer at St Dunstan-in-the-West on 31 October 1631. As the civil war began he used his pulpit in the City to denounce those who took up arms against the king and, when he was invited to preach at St Paul’s in London his sermon – later published as A Patheticall Perswasion to Pray for Publick Peace – was so inflammatory that he was one of the ‘malignant’ preachers rounded up on 5 November and imprisoned. He escaped to Oxford, and there, thanks to a letter from the king, he became one of the royal chaplains. He later took part in the defence of Basing House in Hampshire and when it was finally stormed by Parliamentarian forces on 14 October 1645, he was badly wounded and taken prisoner, and one of his daughters was killed. He remained in London after his release and continued to preach throughout the Interregnum, despite being regularly assaulted, imprisoned, and having his possessions seized. In early 1660, perhaps too excitedly looking forward to the Restoration, he published The Samaritan Revived, together with The Fear of God and the King – the unashamedly pro-Royalist pamphlets were immensely popular but the council of state nonetheless had him arrest and sent to Newgate for a month. He was released on the day Charles II was proclaimed in London and continued his fiery preaching – dying mid-sermon from a ruptured blood vessel in 1665.
Edmund Calamy was a clergyman who became one of Parliament’s leading preachers and was one of the ‘non-conformist’ clerics who were ejected from the Church of England after the Reformation. Born in 1600 in London, he graduated from Cambridge and became part of the intense Puritan community in East Anglia. However, he suffered poor health and dizziness prevented him from ever again climbing up into a pulpit – thereafter he always preached from a reading desk. In 1639 he accepted a living as perpetual curate of St Mary Aldermanbury, London and began an extremely active career in London politics. Aldermanbury was a parish with a strongly Puritan tradition and the church was popular with wealthy merchants and prominent civic leaders – the Earl of Warwick requested a pew there and the minister’s stipend, at £160 a year, may have been the highest in London at that time. He was a key member of the Westminster Assembly, which was created to reform the church and his house became common ground for Presbyterians and Independents opposed to the King and Laud. Incredibly popular with Parliament, when civil war broke out Calamy was one of four preachers King Charles had indicted for high treason. During the 1640s Calamy remained a popular and outspoken preacher, as well as being a key supporter of the Parliamentarian cause. Yet he opposed the King’s execution in 1649 and was implicated in a 1651 plot to restore the MPs secluded in Pride’s Purge, which claimed the life of fellow prominent Presbyterian preacher Christopher Love. Two years later Calamy he condemned Oliver Cromwell’s dissolving of the Rump Parliament as unlawful and impractical. In 1657 he was invited to consult with Cromwell about Cromwell’s assumption of the crown, and reportedly replied to Cromwell’s face that the proposal was illegal: ‘Oh it is against the Voice of the Nation; there will be Nine in Ten against you’. Although he later supported Cromwell’s son, Richard, he soon saught accommodation with the Royalists and, as well as preaching for General George Monck, he was part of a delegation of preachers who went to the Netherlands to consult with Charles II, becoming apparently satisfied that Charles intended to have a Presbyterian national church. He was to be grossly disappointed and, after the 1662 Act of Uniformity, he was one of the hundreds of preacher ejected from their churches for refusing to conform. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1663 but became a cause célèbre for tolerationists, later preaching at his home and channelling money to support needy ejected nonconformist ministers. He died in 1666 and was buried in the ruins of his old church, St Mary Aldermanbury, which had been consumed by the Great Fire of London.