The Archbishop and the Lord Chief Justice: dispossessions and the clash of jurisdictions in Jacobean England

Harmes, Marcus (2014) The Archbishop and the Lord Chief Justice: dispossessions and the clash of jurisdictions in Jacobean England. Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural, 3 (1). pp. 32-55. ISSN 2161-2196


Senior members of the English Church became involved in cases of possession and dispossession in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. They sought to exonerate women accused of witchcraft, and their involvement led to the disproving of the efficacy of dispossessions performed by anti-episcopal ministers. Although a number of bishops intervened in witchcraft
cases, this work was most assiduously carried out by Richard Bancroft, the Bishop of London and later the Archbishop of Canterbury. In doing so, Bancroft came head to head against the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Sir Edmund Anderson, and more broadly against judges and justices of the peace who accepted the veracity of cases of possessions and accusations of bewitchment. Particular cases therefore reveal themselves as occasions where episcopacy and judiciary clashed. However, these should not be read as cases of the Church versus the law. The Church was part of the law, in terms of contemporary understandings of the origin of divine positive law. But the cases do suggest that episcopal actions against dispossessing ministers created opportunities to propagandize against the episcopate and the justice
it delivered via the High Commission. Accordingly, Bancroft became involved in these cases because they were opportunities for bishops to assert the authority of their order and the High Commission against their opponents’ polemic, and they were a means to articulate the scope
of episcopal authority.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 25069
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright © 2014 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Open Access College
Date Deposited: 15 May 2014 00:03
Last Modified: 10 Apr 2015 04:25
Uncontrolled Keywords: Richard Bancroft; John Darrel; High Commission; Sir Edmund Anderson; witchcraft trials; England; Samuel Harsnet (d. 1631)
Fields of Research : 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210305 British History
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1353/prn.2014.0013

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only