With the King at Oxford - Alfred J. Church


Rotterdam, May 1St 1660

'Tis about eleven years since I wrote in this book of how I had been with the King at Oxford, and of other things which grew out of the same. And now, if anyone should desire to know how I and others of whom mention has been made in this writing have since fared, I will in a very few words here set it forth.

Being brought to Holland after my escape from the kidnappers, as related in the chapter last written, and seeking some means of earning my bread, I chanced to meet with a certain merchant of Rotterdam, Richard Daunt by name, who, having satisfied himself that I was a man of decent conversation and sufficient scholarship, would have me come to him as a tutor to his sons. "And you shall find," he said, "others of our nation at Rotterdam, who will gladly put their children in your charge."

To this I was willing enough to hearken, nor have I ever repented that I did so, having found in Master Daunt and his fellows at Rotterdam, as good friends as a man could desire to have.

About a year after my going to Rotterdam, the charge of minister to the congregation of English merchants in that city fell vacant, by the cession of Master Richard Chalfont, some time Fellow of Lincoln College, by whose good word, many of the congregation also favouring, I had from the Committee the promise of the succession, if only I could obtain Holy Orders. This agreed well with what had always been my desire, and I determined to seek Orders from some Bishop in England, if only one could be found able and willing to give them; for this, in the distress of the times, could not be with certainty counted upon. I knew of none in England from whom I could get better information and advice than Master Ellgood. To him, therefore, I resolved to resort, not, it will readily be believed without the thought present in my mind of seeing again my dear Cicely; for it had been long understood that we were to be married so soon as I had reasonable prospect of maintaining a wife. Master Ellgood behaved himself most friendly to me. When I asked him about the obtaining of Orders, he said:

"'Tis not impossible. My Lord of Oxford, or, to speak more agreeably with the spirit of the times, Dr. Robert Skinner, has licence to give them, or, I should rather say, having friends among them that are in power, is winked at in so doing."

Hearing this, I expounded to the good man my hopes and plans, which he encouraged, knowing that I had for a long time cherished this design.

The charge at Rotterdam," said I, "is worth eighty pounds by the year; and I can add as much more by the teaching of English boys in that city, for which employment I shall have ample time. If then I can satisfy the bishop of my fitness. (of which I have a good hope), after having received Orders from him, I will ask you to give me your daughter Cicely in marriage."

"I like not," said he, "that a priest should marry, nor can I give my consent that he should marry a daughter of mine."

'Twas as if a thunderbolt had fallen upon me when I heard him say these words. Cicely, too, for she was present at our conference, grew suddenly pale.

"Nay, my good sir," I said, "how can that be? Does not St. Paul say that a bishop should be 'the husband of one wife'?"

"I am not so careless a student of holy Scripture," answered he, "as to have over-looked that text. Yet, having studied Christian antiquity with all the diligence that I could use, I could never find one instance in which a priest (to which I take the word 'bishop' to be here equal) has contracted matrimony. But that married men have been ordained priests and deacons I know full well, and this, which indeed is the custom of the Greek Church, I take to be the apostle's meaning. So, then, if you are willing to marry my daughter before ordination, I refuse not my consent, but rather give it, and my blessing with it, most willingly."

At this, which the good man said not without a certain twinkle in his eye, Cicely, if she had been pale before, grew red; but was not so displeased but that when I reached out my hand to hers and took it she suffered it to remain.

The next day I set out for Launton, where Dr. Skinner had his charge, in which, indeed, he had not been disturbed. With him I sojourned three days, and, after being closely examined in my knowledge of Scripture and other matters with which a clergyman should have some acquaintance, received from him a promise, which he put in writing for the satisfaction of Master Ellgood, that he would presently admit me both to deacon's and priest's orders.

In two weeks time after my return from the bishop my sweet Cicely and I were married, first by a neighbouring magistrate (for so marriages were performed at that time), and after by one of the dispossessed clergy, that was chaplain to one of the gentry in those parts, Master Ellgood saying that he was still, however worthy, under ecclesiastical censure, and could perform no spiritual function. And again, in two weeks more I was Ordained deacon by Dr. Skinner, and, being of full age, because it would not be convenient for me to come again to England, priest on the day following. I thank my God that he gave me His two best gifts, a good calling in life, and a good helpmeet. Verily they are gifts of which I have not repented me for a moment, though I must confess that I am scarce worthy of them.

My Cicely's father has lived with us since our marriage, busying himself with books and with good works. John Ellgood has risen to a high place in the Stadtholder's service.

My brother-in-law has for the last ten years been chaplain to my Lord Brandon, and has found under his protection both safety and comfort.

It is now, I hear, a settled thing that monarchy shall be restored in England. I could wish that there were a better report of the new King. That he will avoid his father's faults, I doubt not, for 'tis his settled resolve, as has often been heard from his mouth, to die King of England, and he will not imperil his crown by obstinacy or self-will. But he is lacking in his father's best virtues, and 'tis much to be doubted whether England will get much advantage from his coming back. But God can overrule all things for good, and 'twere lack of faith to doubt that He will.