14 August 2017

William Penn the Papist?

In 1687, our late Sovereign liege Lord King James VII and II visited Chester. His host, Bishop Thomas Cartwright wrote:

Sunday 28 August He walked thro the City (the Mayor, bareheaded carrying the Sword before him) to the Castle and heard Mass in the Shire Hall. 

He went into the choir of the Cathedral at nine o'clock where he healed 350 persons. After which he went to his devotions in the Shire Hall, and Mr Penn held forth in the Tennis Court, and I preached in the Cathedral.

His Majesty left the following day for the great and royal Catholic shrine at Holywell to pray for the birth of an heir. He was presented with the shift which his great-grandmother Mary Queen of Scots wore when she was beheaded. He was, indeed, granted an heir: our late Sovereign liege Lord King James VIII and III.

I presume 'healed' means that he touched for the King's Evil.


Bishop Cartwright was one of those Anglican bishops who supported the King's principled desire to allow Toleration to all, Papists, Anglicans, Quakers, and the rest. He published the Declaration of Indulgence, was one of the Commissioners for the reform of Magdalen College; and, after the Dutch Invasion, followed the King into exile. He died in Dublin in 1689.

I presume Mr Penn was that same Quaker William Penn who had dealings in North America and who accepted as sincere the King's policy of religious toleration.

The visit to Chester must have been one of those truly 'ecumenical' occasions which happened in England during this reign, before the Great Treachery of 1688 put a stop to them.

It is surprising how little we hear about this particular little corner of History.


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