Fringe Box



Why King James I Chose George Abbot As Archbishop of Canterbury

Published on: 3 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 3 Aug, 2022

In the recent story Prayers, Plots and Poisons – New Encounter Walk by the Guildford Town Guides, we asked the question: “What reason did King James I give for appointing George Abbot as Archbishop of Canterbury?”

The reason the king gave was that this was a deathbed request by his friend and confidante, George Hume, the Earl of Dunbar.

Master Thaddeus is one of the characters you meet on the walk.

Rather macabrely, it is rumoured that Hume instructed that his heart be placed in a gold cup and that this be presented to the king with his request to appoint George Abbot.

If true, this would have been a dramatic gesture worthy of Shakespeare himself!

If you want to discover more about Abbot and his fascinating life, including visits to the Royal Grammar School and Abbot’s Hospital, join this free guided walk.

To book a place, go to and click on the booking link.

The first walk on Friday, August 5, is fully booked, but there are still places available for the Prayers, Plots and Poisons walk on Wednesday, August 10, at 2.30pm.

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Responses to Why King James I Chose George Abbot As Archbishop of Canterbury

  1. David Roberts Reply

    August 8, 2022 at 5:53 pm

    James I was no idiot and I doubt that a theatrical gesture would have persuaded him to make such a highly sensitive political appointment. But he was fond of theatre himself as a tool of power (especially the masques organised by Inigo Jones) and devious enough to have stage-managed the heart-in-a-cup episode himself.

    Dunbar was one of the mentors he brought with him from Scotland in 1603 who were resented as foreign carpet-baggers by the London élite. Installing a low-church protègé of the Scots faction in the see of Canterbury was probably a way of maintaining the difficult balance of power at court and in the church once Dunbar was gone.

    If so, it may not have been altogether successful. In a rather “Boris” moment, Abbot ruined his own reputation by accidentally killing someone while out hunting. Not a good look for an archbishop. And in increasingly fractious circumstances after James’s death, he was successfully sidelined by the high-church William Laud, Charles I’s favourite cleric.

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