The Bishop and the Crossbow

The young Prince [the future Charles II] was baptised at S. James’s on the twenty seventh of July next ensuing by the hand of Dr. Laud then Bishop of London (Dr Abbot Archbishop of Cantebury being rendered uncapable by an unhappy accident of shooting a man)…

I came across this passage in an early biography of Charles II, written soon after the Restoration in 1661, and felt compelled to share it with you. One of the joys of going back to the original sources is that you never quite know what you’re going to stumble across and this was a story I’d not come across before. As matter-of-fact, dry-as-a-martini asides go, it is an absolute beauty. It also means we have on our hands a 17th Century Dick Cheney.

Like Cheney in 2006, Dr Abbot did indeed accidentally shoot one his fellow huntsmen. While the former Vice-President of America managed to fell his friend with a shotgun, the Archbishop managed to skewer an unfortunate keeper with a crossbow. Unlike Cheney’s colleague, the poor servant did not survive. Dr Abbott fell into a ‘melancholy’ and the incident marked the beginning of the end for his career. A career that preceded the equally notorious William Laud’s.


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