On August 3rd, 1717, William Lloyd died at his home in Hartlebury Castle. He was ninety-one years old and had been Bishop of Worcester since 1699.
Born in the reign of Charles I, he had survived the Civil War, Protectorate, Restoration, and the Revolution of 1688. He married Anne, daughter of a prebendary of Westminster and their son William became Rector of Fladbury near Evesham, where Bishop Lloyd was buried.
A turbulent figure of irascible temper and high intellect, William Lloyd was a confidant of Royalty whose sermons on the Gunpowder Plot and the murder of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey make fiery reading even today. He hated “popery” and was imprisoned in the Tower for his beliefs. He lost his position as Royal Almoner for misconduct during a parliamentary election in Worcester and at the end of his life claimed apocalyptic visions.
William Lloyd was grandson of poet Dafydd Llwyd o’r Henblas, his father Richard was Rector of Tilehurst and Sunning, in Berkshire. William was educated at home, learning Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and at age 12 he matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, The following year he was elected to a scholarship at Jesus, a popular college for Welsh students, and was admitted as Bachelor of Arts in 1642 when only 14 years old!
The Civil War
In 1644, Oxford was garrisoned by Charles I and sixteen-year-old William went back home. He returned once the Parliamentarians had re-taken Oxford, was awarded an MA, became a Fellow in 1646 and was ordained in 1656.
After the Restoration William’s promotion was rapid. In 1660, he was made a prebendary of Ripon, in Yorkshire. In 1666 he was appointed chaplain to King Charles II and in 1667 became a prebend at Salisbury. He became Archdeacon of Merioneth (1668), Dean of Bangor (1672), prebend in St. Paul’s Cathedral and Residentiary of Salisbury (1674). He was made vicar of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields in 1677. A staunch Protestant, Lloyd wrote and preached often against the Catholic Church.
William Lloyd was appointed chief chaplain in the household of Princess Mary Stuart on her marriage with Prince William of Orange in November 1677. The Princess went to live in Holland, where worship was Calvinistic and William Lloyd, also attracted by Calvinism, encouraged her to attend the Congregationalist chapel in the Hague.
“Fake News”-The Popish Plot
In 1678 a man named Titus Oates concocted a “Popish plot for the destruction of all good Protestants” claiming that there was a conspiracy to assassinate King Charles II involving Jesuits and Catholic noblemen. Despite his being proved to be lying on several counts, at least 15 people were unjustly executed and Titus Oates was a national hero for a while. The plot was discovered to be phoney and in 1681 Oates was arrested, pilloried, whipped and imprisoned for perjury.
William Lloyd not only maintained the Popish Plot’s credibility, but also incited popular fury in his funeral sermon on the death of magistrate Sir Edmond Berry Godfrey, a supposed victim of Roman Catholics zealots.
This thunderous piece of oratory, delivered to an overflowing congregation in St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, blames Jesuits and Catholics generally not only for the magistrate’s murder but also for the Great Fire of London, causing genocide in Europe and working to overthrow the government!
When the Popish Plot was discredited William Lloyd wrote an uneasy letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, attributing his credulity to excessive fear. In 1680, King Charles, perhaps hoping to get him out of the way, appointed William Lloyd Bishop of St. Asaph in North Wales.
The Seven Bishops
In 1685, Catholic James II became King and immediately tried to remove all legal restrictions on Catholics and Non-conformists. He suspended Parliament and in 1688 ordered Bishops to send his “Declaration of Indulgence” to be read in every church. The Declaration cancelled all discriminatory laws against Catholics and non-Conformists, and people feared this would lead to a take-over by the Church of Rome.
In May 1688, William Lloyd, with William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury and five other bishops, ‘petitioned’ to be excused from the King’s order. Publishing the petition caused them to be charged with sedition and imprisoned in the Tower of London for a week. The bishops’ imprisonment caused public outcry and rioting.
A king of more common sense than James might have found some pretext for dropping further proceedings, but the seven bishops were tried; and promptly acquitted to great public rejoicing.
There followed widespread anti-Catholic demonstrations throughout Britain. The bishops were commemorated in popular songs and a commemorative silver medal was struck. Designed by George Bower, it shows Archbishop Sancroft and on the reverse, portraits of the other bishops arranged round that of the Bishop of London. William Lloyd is top left.
In 1688 the birth of James (the warming-pan baby) had raised the prospect of a Catholic succession, and together with the outcome of the bishops’ trial a crisis point had been reached. William Prince of Orange was invited to come to England and overthrow King James.
The Revolution of 1688
Bishop Lloyd was a staunch supporter of the revolution. He assisted at the coronation of William and Mary, and was appointed Lord High Almoner to the Court. He had served Princess Mary for many years and now truly was “The Queen’s Bishop”, enjoying further promotion to the see of Lichfield and Coventry (1692) and becoming an ecclesiastical commissioner (1695). In 1699 William Lloyd was translated to Worcester, a post he held until his death.
Decline and Fall
Things did not go smoothly for Bishop Lloyd of Worcester. During the 1702 parliamentary election in the town, the Bishop and his son fought on the Whig side against the Tory incumbent Sir John Pakington. Imprudently (and illegally) they slandered his character and forbade their tenants, under penalty of eviction, to vote Tory! Despite their efforts, John Pakington won the election and when he was returned to Parliament he complained bitterly about the Bishop and his son as “malicious, un-Christian and arbitrary, in high violation of the liberties and privileges of the commons of England”
The House of Commons voted “to remove William Lord Bishop of Worcester from being Lord Almoner to her majesty…” and Queen Anne dismissed the bishop from his office as Almoner to the Court.
The Lloyd Charity School.
The foundation of this school in 1714 was extraordinary. In 1707 two properties in Worcester had been burgled, their owners (both women) murdered and the houses burnt down. Five men were found guilty of the crimes, amongst them the son of the second victim. This man, Palmer, was executed and his farm and income were forfeit to Bishop Lloyd. The Bishop, unwilling to profit personally from such horrible crimes, gave the property as an endowment for two schools in Worcester, one for 16 boys and one for 8 girls.
After the Bishop’s death the charity declined and one master, Greenbank Sheldon, embezzled the income and pawned the schoolbooks! By 1896 the bequest was transferred into scholarships for boys attending the Grammar School.
Apocalyptic Visions and Death
In later years the Bishop became convinced he had prophetic visions. He told Queen Anne that within four years there would be a great War of Religion which would bring Catholicism to an end and convert France to Protestantism. William Lloyd’s visionary outpourings were known to Swift, Pepys and John Evelyn and he seems to have become something of an embarrassing figure during the final years of his life, but what a life he had lived!!