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Charles II was restored as King of England in 1660.

The Caroline Divines were influential theologians and writers in the Anglican Church who lived during the reigns of King Charles I and, after the Restoration, King Charles II (Latin = Carolus.) This is commonly considered a golden age of Anglican scholarship. The term is used of writers and teachers of the Church, not necessarily saints.


Theology and Outlook

William Laud.

The corpus produced by the Caroline Divines is diverse. What they have in common is a commitment to the faith as conveyed by Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer, thus regarding prayer and theology in a manner akin to that of the Apostolic Fathers.[1] On the whole, the Caroline Divines view the via media of Anglicanism, not as a compromise, but "a positive position, witnessing to the universality of God and God's kingdom working through the fallible, earthly ecclesia Anglicana."[2] These theologians regard Scripture as interpreted through tradition and reason as authoritative in matters concerning salvation. Reason and tradition, indeed, is extant in and presupposed by Scripture, thus implying co-operation between God and humanity, God and nature, and between the sacred and secular. Faith is thus regarded as incarnational, and authority as dispersed.

Their promotion of a more elaborate liturgy and an aesthetic that valued visual representation and beauty in church architecture, art and furnishings was seen as “popish” or “Romish” by the Puritan opponents of the Caroline Divines. Such embellishments, however, were not only integral to their spirituality, but were seen by the Carolines as combatting the appeal of Roman Catholicism. Rather than face a choice between an austere Puritanism and Roman ceremonial (which Londoners, at any rate, could see practised in foreign embassy chapels), the Caroline Divines presented their countrymen with a via media in which they could remain within the established church and also participate in the ancient forms of religion.[3]

Prominent exponents

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Within the Anglican tradition, there have been certain theological writers whose works have been considered standards for faith, doctrine, worship, and spirituality. While there is no authoritative list of these Anglican divines, there are some whose names would likely be found on most lists - those who are commemorated in lesser feasts of the Church, and those whose works are frequently anthologized.[4] Among the Caroline Divines of the seventeenth century, the following are prominent.


Lancelot Andrewes

Lancelot Andrewes (1555 – 25 September 1626) was an English priest and scholar, who held high positions in the Church of England during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. During the latter's reign, Andrewes served as Bishop of Chichester and oversaw the translation of the Authorized Version (or King James Version) of the Bible. In the Church of England he is commemorated on 25 September with a Lesser Festival.

John Cosin

John Cosin (November 30, 1594 – January 15, 1672) was an English priest. Among his writings (most of which were published posthumously) are a Historic Transubstantiationis Papalis (1675), Notes and Collections on the Book of Common Prayer (1710) and A Scholastical History of the Canon of Holy Scripture (1657). A collected edition of his works, forming 5 vols of the Oxford Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, was published between 1843 and 1855; and his Correspondence (2 vols) was edited by Canon Ornsby for the Surtees Society (1868-1870).

Thomas Ken

Thomas Ken (July 1637 – 19 March 1711), English priest, was the most eminent of the English non-juring bishops, and one of the fathers of modern English hymnology

William Laud

Archbishop William Laud (October 7, 1573 – January 10, 1645) was Archbishop of Canterbury and a fervent supporter of King Charles I of England. Laud was a sincere Anglican and loyal Englishman, who must have been frustrated at the charges of Popery levelled against him by the Puritan element in the Church. Laud's aggressive high church policy was seen by some as a sinister development.

His orthodox views towards the Presbyterians extended to Scotland, where it led to the Covenanter movement and the Bishops' Wars. The Long Parliament of 1640 accused him of treason, resulting in his imprisonment in the Tower of London. In the spring of 1644, he was brought to trial, but it ended without being able to reach a verdict. The parliament took up the issue, and eventually he was beheaded on 10 January 1645 on Tower Hill, notwithstanding being granted a royal pardon.

Thomas Sprat

Thomas Sprat (1635 – May 20, 1713), was an English priest. Having taken orders he became a prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral in 1660. In the preceding year he had gained a reputation by his poem To the Happie Memory of the most Renowned Prince Oliver, Lord Protector (London, 1659), and he was afterwards well known as a wit, preacher, and man of letters.

His chief prose works are the Observations upon Monsieur de Sorbier's Voyage into England (London, 1665), a satirical reply to the strictures on Englishmen in Samuel de Sorbière's book of that name, and a History of the Royal Society of London (London, 1667), which Sprat had helped to found. The History of the Royal Society elaborates the scientific purposes of the academy and outlines some of the strictures of scientific writing that set the modern standards for clarity and conciseness.

Jeremy Taylor

Jeremy Taylor (1613 - August 13, 1667) was a priest in the Church of England who achieved fame as an author during The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. He is sometimes known as the "Shakespeare of Divines" for his poetic style of writing.

Taylor was educated at The Perse School, Cambridge before going onto Gonville and Caius College, at Cambridge, where he graduated in 1626. He was under the patronage of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. He went on to become chaplain in ordinary to King Charles I as a result of Laud's sponsorship. This made him politically suspect when Laud was tried for treason and executed in 1645 by the Puritan Parliament during the English Civil War. After the Parliamentary victory over the King, he was briefly imprisoned several times.

Eventually, he was allowed to retire into Wales, where he became the private chaplain of the Earl of Carbery. Upon the Restoration, his political star was on the rise, and he was made bishop of Down and Connor in Ireland. He was also made vice-chancellor of the University of Dublin.

Herbert Thorndike

Herbert Thorndike (1598-1672) was Canon of Westminster Abbey. He was also an influential theologian and writer in the Anglican Church who was well respected during the reigns of King Charles I and, after the Restoration, King Charles II. His work would be considered very important in the 19th century by key members of the Oxford Movement. [5]


  1. ^ Booty, John. "Standard Divines". The Study of Anglicanism. pp. 163.  
  2. ^ Booty, John. "Standard Divines". The Study of Anglicanism. pp. 164.  
  3. ^ K. A. Newman, “Holiness in Beauty?: Roman Catholics, Arminians, and the Aesthetics of Religion in Early Caroline England.” in D. Wood (ed.) The Church and the Arts. (Oxford, 1992), pp. 303–312
  4. ^ Booty, John. "Standard Divines". The Study of Anglicanism. pp. 163 ff.  
  5. ^


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