William Laud vs. Kamehameha

Ah, a battle between an Archbishop of Canterbury and a king. That seems rather familiar. But the real question is, which island will emerge victorious in this matchup between William Laud and Kamehameha? England or Hawaii? Whoever it is, the winner will advance to face David Oakerhater in the next round.

Yesterday's battle between Thecla and John Keble led to some respectfully passionate debate in the comment section. In fact, we set a record for most comments in a first round pairing with over 300. Impressive! In the end, Thecla prevailed 58% to 42% meaning we'll be hearing more about those ravenous seals in the Saintly Sixteen when she squares off against Brendan the Navigator.

NPG 171; William Laud after Sir Anthony Van DyckWilliam Laud

William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633–1640 and remains among the most controversial figures in the history of Anglicanism. Heralded by many as a martyr and condemned by others as a tyrant and bigot, Laud was among the most visible proponents of a uniquely English brand of anti-Calvinism in the seventeenth-century Church. As such, he was in near constant conflict with English Puritans of his day.

Even before his elevation to the See of Canterbury, Laud was somewhat of a liturgical and ecclesiastical innovator. During his term as dean of Gloucester, he caused great consternation (as so many priests throughout the ages have) by moving furniture. Laud moved the altar table in Gloucester to the east wall — the location typical of most altars before the Reformation. This move brought upon him the ire of his bishop and local Puritans, suspicious of a reintroduction of a Roman Catholic custom.

Laud’s movement of the altar was a liturgical manifestation of his theological persuasion that the Church of England followed in unbroken succession from the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church in England, although under the supreme governance of the king and the oversight of bishops. This belief led him to stridently impose liturgical uniformity throughout the church, seeking that all things be done “decently and in good order” in the “beauty of holiness.” His increased emphasis on the celebration of the sacraments was often viewed as contrary to Reformation doctrines of salvation through faith alone. An abortive attempt to impose The Book of Common Prayer on Scotland in 1637 marked the apex of his time as Archbishop of Canterbur y. By 1638 Scottish leaders pledged to resist the new prayer book and uphold Puritan practice by force, and by the end of the year, no bishops remained in Scotland.

Laud was sincere in his beliefs but dangerously out of touch with common persuasions in England of his time. His fierce defense of the Church’s privileges and prerogatives came at the same time as a growing sentiment against the divine right of kings, and his strident rule as Archbishop of Canterbury in favor of liturgical uniformity won him few friends. By 1641 he was impeached and carried away to theTower of London.

He was sentenced to death in 1645. At his execution, he said, “The Lord receive my soul, and have mercy upon me, and bless this kingdom with peace and charity, that there may not be this effusion of Christian blood amongst them.”

Collect for William Laud

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant William Laud, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-David Sibley


On January 11, 1855 Hawaii crowned a new, young monarch — King Kamehameha IV.

With his wife Queen Emma, Kamehameha set forth to transform the Hawaiian islands by offering his people a new way, new healthcare methods, and a new faith — Christianity.

Kamehameha was born on February 9, 1834. As a young man, he toured the United States, Central America, and Europe, and he discovered Christianity — and Anglicanism in particular. He was taken with the liturgy and core beliefs of Anglicanism. In 1860 Kamehameha and Emma petitioned the Church of England to send Anglican missionaries to Hawaii. Three priests arrived on October 11, 1862. Kamehameha initiated one of his greatest contributions to his people — translating The Book of Common Prayer into the native language. He led his people as a practicing, dedicated Anglican and began a building campaign for a cathedral and a school.

A devastating smallpox epidemic in the Islands prompted Kamehameha and Emma to go into the communities and witness firsthand the devastation from leprosy, influenza, and other foreign diseases that were spreading through the native population. They embarked on a fundraising campaign to build a new hospital, and even today, their commitment to the health of their people is evident. Queen’s Hospital is named for Emma.

Kamehameha’s death on November 30, 1863, didn’t stop the work and ministry that was underway. Emma continued her husband’s dedication and charity by establishing more schools and churches and by tending to the sick and poor.

Although Kamehameha died a young man, the impacts of his Christian ideals and dedicated work on Hawaii are still witnessed today. Kamehameha and Emma are honored throughout Hawaii and are depicted in stained glass windows at St. Andrew’s, the church they helped found.

His feast day is celebrated in conjunction with his wife, Queen Emma, on November 28.

Collect for Kamehameha

O Sovereign God, who raised up Kamehameha and Emma to be rulers in Hawaii, and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of your Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Neva Rae Fox


William Laud vs. Kamehameha

  • Kamehameha (84%, 6,121 Votes)
  • William Laud (16%, 1,154 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,275

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266 comments on “William Laud vs. Kamehameha”

      1. Hawaii: Sweetest air on earth. I was married on Maui in a small chapel by the sea. This chapel built at the time of the King Kamehameha has sacred doors through which the women and children, old and infirm of both sides could pass during armed conflict. How much suffering could humanity be spared if contemporary nations adopted this sacred tradition. Thanks for listening.

        1. I'm with you, Mary Jane! Although I was born on William Laud's day (January 10), the happiest years of my childhood were spent living at the foot of Diamond Head. We attended church at St. Andrew's. My vote goes to King Kamehameha.

        2. That's a great idea (keeping the innocent out of the way of armed conflict)! Thanks for sharing the information.

    1. This was a no brainer. Laud wanted it back to the good old days. Only problem the good old days weren't that good.

      1. Christina: My thots exactly! It's refreshing to read of those in power who use their power for the common good, borne out of love. Would that it were universal!

    2. It is a terrible shame that the very people who endeavored to bring Christianity to Hawaii from England, also brought the diseases that plagued (no pun intended) the Islanders, and decimated their numbers. It seems that lives were lost, but souls were saved.

        1. i'm with you, francis of granby-and debra and jim-"beauty of holiness" all the way. (sorry for the lack of capital letters-not working on this phone.)

      1. I, too, was remembering Emma's appearance in a previous Lent Madness . What an amazing couple. My daughter was married on Maui so we have a sentimental attachment to this paradise on Earth!

      2. Sallie, your family, especially Martin, sounds awesome! So many learning opportunities for Martin! We need to raise more adults who will grow up to be generous and flexible and will seek common ground. Keep on keepin' on!

      3. I'm with you Hilda. I felt as if Kamehameha and Emma were truer to the gospel, but, I love the way the comments help me see the bigger picture and I can see how Laud and the Calvinists were struggling to make the church truer to its mission. I guess the admonition to "Speak the truth in love" is one to always keep in mind.

    3. You lost me at smallpox epidemic. What sort of enlightened ruler allowed a smallpox epidemic in the 1800's? Catherine the Great risked the life of herself and her child to demonstrate to her people that an early form of vaccination would protect them from smallpox....

      1. What sort of enlightened ruler allowed a smallpox epidemic in the 1800s?
        Probably one who didn't have access to vaccines for himself or his people by the time the first ship with smallpox aboard docked in Hawaii.

    1. Same here! Although I did spare a thought for poor Laud. While I'm not impressed with his brand of zeal, nobody should be imprisoned, let alone executed, for having a different view.

      1. Yep, Laud may have been out of touch on many things, but I'm an Arminian at heart -- none of this utter depravity. 🙂
        So I spared "the little firecracker of Canterbury" a thought -- then voted for Kamehameha.

  1. Kamehameha has such a lovely story! This was completely new to me and very interesting. Plus, he's wearing a super cool outfit, though doesn't look very Hawaiian!

    1. Have you ever seen pictures of the feather cape they make to drape his statue? THAT'S Hawaiian!

    1. Laud was following what he saw to be the English Constitution, so it is probably overstatement to call him tyrannical. He helped set in motion the events that led to the Scottish Covenant, English Civil Wars, and Glorious Revolution and therefore ultimately to the American Revolution. And I'm with the person above who said, "You had me at anti-Calvinist!"

      1. All very true. And as my diocese's liturgical officer I know the fuss that is created by changes in worship space and ceremony. But today I go with Kamehameha as a sentimental favorite as he was the ancestor of one of my seminary classmates.

  2. Look out Big Pineapple!

    Seriously, reading between the lines, I suspect that some parts of the liturgy that attracted Kamehameha may have been due to Laud's liturgical reforms. However, Laud just doesn't sound like he was a very sensitive man. So I'm going with Big Pineapple.

      1. Emma was in a recent Lent Madness and, if I recall correctly, almost made it to the Golden Halo. She's been "bracketed" before, but didn't win...which means I'm sure she'll be back. I remember because there was often a surge in her numbers late in the day - the infamous "Hawaii is awake and voting!" timing.

      2. If I recall correctly, Emma was the runner-up in 2012 and so not eligible to be in the bracket. She lost to Mary Magdalene.

    1. Great response ! Next time you are in Hawaii go to the Bishop museum and learn more about her !

      1. Bishop Museum is wonderful! I went there in 1987, and of all the things I saw and did in Hawaii, quite honestly, that made the biggest impression on me. I loved it!

  3. I rehabilitated Laud in a paper written for Anglican Hell, I me a, History, taught by a Catholic substitute adjunct person. However, we had a classmate from Hawaii, and celebrated Kamehameha with great joy every year, so, in honor of my classmate, I cast my vote for Kamehameha.

  4. As one who loves liturgy and has often been misunderstood with resulting frustration, I have to throw a sympathy vote to William Laud.

  5. From the introduction to the Sursum Corda (1928):

    "Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we *Laud* and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying..."

    How can we do otherwise?

  6. Laud is a very unappealing saint. He seems like a strange choice. However, this raises the question in my mind that saints don't necessarily have to be likable. However, K. won out, and I suspect he and his wife will be hands down winners.!

  7. From a cause/effect perspective William Laud has had way more influence on my life as an Anglican than King K. King K is a nice story but William Laud towers over him in the chronicles of Anglicanism.

  8. I voted for Kamehameha because he sought unity and spreading the Gospel rather than division like Laud. Although his intentions were honourable, his methods go against what Christianity teaches : "Love thy neighbour".

  9. I think there was a saying at the time of his power that went "All praise be to God and little Laud to the devil." Kamehameha gets my vote.

  10. Kamehameha because I tend to prefer consensus builders and team players. But, I do respect Laud for the Christ-like journey he took of confronting the church hierarchy, receiving the death penalty, and, on the executioner's block, praying for the peace and unity of the church.

  11. I'm voting for Kamehameha for bringing faith and wellness to his beloved kingdom and because he was married to Emma, whom I dearly love. It was hard not to vote for a martyred Anglican though.

  12. Although I appreciate the work that King Kamehameha did (and one of my best friends is Hawai'ian -- don't be mad Lisa!) my high church tendencies have swayed me to vote for Bishop Laud. The Puritans did much damage to the church, as they are doing today, and it takes much conviction to fight against them. Bishop Laud gave his life for what he believed. Perhaps he was a tyrant, I don't know...the victors write the history books, but I appreciate the work that he did to restore some of the catholic elements of worship to the Anglican faith.

    1. King Kamehameha was also high church and devoutly Anglo-Catholic. I think you would also appreciate his churchmanship. Laud and Kamehameha share much in faith, even with very different personalities.

      1. Yes, I'm grateful for Laud's stand against the Puritans, but the fate of the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church is such a dark chapter in the annals of American imperialism, and I have a sentimental spot for these small "off-brand" Anglican dioceses (see also the Haitian Apostolic Orthodox Church).

  13. I love Kamehameha's story, but with only one vote to cast .. the agony! ... I think, like Rambler, I will offer a sympathy vote to William.

    Parts of William's story resonated with me (cause an issue when you're trying to do good) and I rather like how William's life of 200 years before Kamehameha's could somehow link them, so first-come-first-votee today.

  14. We had to vote for Kamehameha--as a Roman Catholic, I don't feel up to explaining Archbishop Laud to my 9 yr old Church of the Brethren grand-daughter, who is playing/learning along with me.

    1. So impressed that you have been able to find a common activity with her that is also religious! Lent Madness: brings some people communion...others despair at the tyranny of the majority.

    2. (Well actually his mom today) Sallie, I can completely relate! My RC husband was reading Lent Madness to Martin, but he actually only read Kamehameha and told me I had to take Laud (I'm Methodist). I did a very generalized summary. Life in our inter church family involves a lot of generosity, flexibility, and seeking common ground.

      1. I'm doing Lent Madness with my kids this year, too! It's a great way, I think, of introducing Lenten devotions. And it's certainly sparked some interesting conversations!

    3. Sallie and Martin's mom, I'm so glad to see your comments! My husband was raised RC and I was raised Mennonite. We've ended up as Methodists. Knowing so very little about any saints of any kind, I've loved using Lent Madness to learn and find inspiration for myself. But even more I really appreciate how fun this is to do with our kids. It's very nice to see comments from other people doing this with their children, and nicer still to learn that others are using it to bridge denominations in their families, too.

  15. Although intention regarding liturgy gets my attention, a King's fervor of faith and finding, encouraging, working at, and living the faith inspires my soul. King K it is!

  16. Another example of the impact delivered by one man. The Holy Spirit must have been with this wonderful King

  17. May the good king go to the Golden Halo round as Queen Emma did in 2012! Neva Rae, I have two biographies kicking around. Let me know if you want them for more material, and I'll send them your way. Though perhaps the SEC has offered CBs a research budget this year...nah.