Britain’s Erastian system, namely the King as Head, is found throughout the BCP’s liturgy– the litany, ordinal, the communion intercessions, and the daily offices. During the 16th to 19th centuries an Oath of Allegiance was added to subscription standards. Thus, the Crown’s headship became an article of faith and a marker of genuine high churchmanship. Supremacy had expelled the jurisdiction of the Roman Papacy while the 1701 Settlement Act ensured the Crown’s successors– the Governors of England’s Church– remained Protestant. Royal headship thus directed the Church of England’s relations, especially those of marriage and godparentage, toward other Protestant states, proving to be a greater factor in protestant unionism than quarrelsome conferences amongst divinity.
The natural ties between English and Palatinate churches developed legally after the Glorious Revolution. The 1701 Settlement Act tied national faith and royal progeny together. The aim of the Act was to prevent the Stuart royals, most of who were Roman Catholics, from gaining the throne. The disinheritance of the Stuarts was in keeping with the idea that children who reject their’s father’s faith abandon all paternal title– both spiritual and temporal. Queen Anne’s inability to issue heirs forced England to passover remaining the Stuarts in favor of the house of Hanover– aka., James I’s granddaughter and Anne’s first cousin– Queen Sophia, electress of Hanover and daughter of the Palatinate.
The Church of England’s liturgy pointed to this particular arrangement seven decades prior to the Settlement Act itself. James I inserted state prayers, borrowing intercessions for the royal progeny from the litany for Morning and Evening offices. From 1613 (the marriage of Elizabeth, sister of Charles I, to Frederick V) until 1643 (the Interregnum), the state prayer(s) read of the Offices, “That it may please thee to bless and preserve our gracious Queen Anne, Frederick the Prince Elector Palatine, the Lady Elizabeth his wife with all their royal issue”. Thus, for thirty years before the civil war, Frederick V (and consequently the House of Hanover) were part of daily common prayer. From the perspective of Laud’s generation (and those living in the 17th century), any later switch from Stuart to Hanover, would have not been totally shocking. The intercessions naturally included nobles who most likely stood in line to inherit the Crown.
The Restoration added James II with Lady Elizabeth (Frederick’s wife) to the state prayer(s). Overtime their progeny was compacted into the genaral phrase ‘royal issue’. The roll-call of princes within the state prayer(s) is especially fascinating when the significance of ‘Realm’ and ecclesiastical jurisdiction is considered. What emerges between the various territorial princes is a snap-shot of ‘protestant commonwealth’. For instance, in the 1701 Settlement, where Hanover is identified as presumptive heir, the realms which James I ruled in 1606 are also listed, presuming each (Bohemia, Denmark, Scotland, England, France, and Ireland) to have a national church:
“That the most Excellent Princess Sophia Electress and Dutchess Dowager of Hannover Daughter of the most Excellent Princess Elizabeth late Queen of Bohemia Daughter of our late Sovereign Lord King James the First of happy Memory be and is hereby declared to be the next in Succession in the Protestant Line to the Imperiall Crown and Dignity of the forsaid Realms of England France and Ireland with the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging after His Majesty and the Princess Anne of Denmark and in Default of Issue of the said Princess Anne and of His Majesty respectively”.
By the end of the 18th century the Stuarts, especially James I’s granddaughter, Mary II, not only ruled diverse realms but also churches. These churches, though differing in some articles and canons, possessed common features. Though Ireland was officially Anglican, it’s episcopate had adopted 104 Articles of Religion on a calvinist basis. The same was true in Scotland which possessed a reduced episcopate 1580-1690 (not counting the interregnum). The royal ‘commonwealth’ added Hanover and a number of smaller German states upon George I’s consecration. With the addition of Hanoverian lands, the Crown incoroporated Lutheran churches, and like the English, the Lutheran church in central Germany retained its bishopric. If a reduced episcopacy had been continued in Scotland after 1690 (and radical calvinist biblicism not won the day), one might imagine a broad comprehension of somewhat similar protestant-episcopal churches under the British Crown– a proto-quadrilateral perhaps?
The life of Frederick V was marked by his bid to give leadership to Germany’s Protestant Union. In England, King James I married his daughter, Elizabeth, to Frederick to countervail Catholic Spain. Frederick ruled from Heidelberg, himself was a ‘high calvinist’. The Palatinate lands confessed Articles of Religion which blended Lutheranism and Calvinism, aka. the Heidelberg confession, which some consider the most ‘catholic’ of reformed confessions. In Germany, areas which conjoined both Lutheran and Calvinist churches tended to produce Philipist (Variata) confessions. England’s Articles of Faith strongly resembled Philipist articles. Unfortunately, Frederick’s bid to assume the Crown of Bohemia garnered little support from Lutheran Princes who wished to keep their peace with the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand. Frederick believed a Protestant King in Bohemia would excite other princes to join and revive the Protestant Union. As it was, none did, and Frederick lost his lands in a bloody Thirty-Year War to Ferdinand’s prince elector in Bavaria, Maximilian.
Frederick and Elizabeth lived the rest of their lives in exile, and as a consequence their ‘royal issue’ were raised in Protestant lands. Sophia grew up in the Netherlands while her brothers lived in England. Upon the English Civil War, the Palatines split– Charles-Louis (the oldest) siding with the Presbyterian (Long) Parliament while his brothers, Rupert and Maurice, sympatized with King Charles. Upon Cromwell’s removal of the Presbyterian parliament, Charles-Louis returned to Palatine lands, and after the Peace of Westphalia was concluded, his ancestral estate was given back to him. Sophia also received a likewise endowment, i.e., Hanover. The significance of the Westphalia Treaty was not only repatriating household lands to Palatine Royals, but more incredibly a permanent affirmation of the protestant/provinicial principle, “the faith of the prince is the faith of the realm”, as first expressed by German Princes in 1529 at Speyer.
When discussing Anglican ‘protestantism’, there too often is an itch to compare Anglicanism with Reformed confessions. While this may have a use, the etymological sense of the term is missed. The original context of the word “protestant” was first used in 1529 to describe the demands of German Princes before the Emperor. In Speyer, the Princes claimed four things: 1. the liberty of the King to reform the provincial church through the convocation of clergy; 2. A right to reform the Mass, a harbinger for Common Prayer, basically serving “both kinds” of sacrament to the people; 3. A pledge to harshly suppress Anabaptism and other fanaticism; 4.To wait for a free general council with the Bishop of Rome and other Germans to resolve doctrinal differences. The Council of Trent proved to protestants a free council was not coming. After 1545 protestants therefore attempt to iron out differences by regional synods. These end in failure, partly due to war, also due to insurmountable opinions on sacrament. What’s ironic was how marriage, patronage, and protection between Princes nearly aligned Protestant Europe through the English house. Within this network divines and treatises circulated. This was perhaps the closest the Church of England would get to a substantive ecumenicism, and if the rights to the Crown had continued, Frederick’s dream of a northern protestant union might bore fruition.
The above demonstrates Protestantism’s conservative and catholic nature– desiring an ‘orderly reformation’, re-establishing proper provincial and lay authority in the church, but also doing this without isolation, keeping an eye upon correcting Rome. The scandal Reformed Catholics face today is allowing both Anabaptists and Rome to tar the name Protestant, so we loose sight of its magisterial origins and possibilities.