Archive of the Month
The ‘State Prayers’ controversy in the Church of Ireland, 1948–1950, as revealed by the papers of Hugh Arthur Cornwallis [A.C.] Maude Esq (1904–1982)
Archive of the Month – September 2014
Some 66 years ago, in September 1948, the Irish government declared its intention of establishing Ireland as a republic. This new political reality presented the Church of Ireland with an interesting but awkward dilemma, for it was, as it remains today an all–Ireland church, and up until that point the Book of Common Prayer (in use for daily liturgies by parish churches and individuals throughout the island) included prayers for the ruling monarch and the royal family. These prayers had not presented a problem when both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State remained part of the British Commonwealth, but once that situation changed, the Church had to respond accordingly.
Initially temporary prayers, in which all reference to the monarch and royal family was removed, were distributed for use in the parish churches throughout southern Ireland in the weeks between the passing of the Republic of Ireland Act and the holding of the General Synod three weeks later in May 1949. It was intended that these temporary prayers would be formally and permanently adopted for use in the churches of the newly–declared republic – which was in fact (with some modifications) what eventually happened – but not without strenuous resistance by some members who demanded the use of a modified form of the State Prayers to retain some form of identification with the monarch and the empire.
Most notable among these was Hugh Arthur Cornwallis Maude, of Belgard Castle, Clondalkin, County Dublin, gentleman farmer and prominent layman. As a member of both the General Synod and diocesan council for Dublin, Kildare and Glendalough, he had access to the channels of authority affecting decision–making within the Church. In 1948, Hugh Maude was 44 years old. He had been educated at Malvern College, was unmarried and lived with his mother in Belgard Castle, Clondalkin, a few miles south of Dublin, his father having died in 1935. The Maudes were Norman in origin, and property owners. Following in his father’s footsteps, Hugh Maude became agent for a number of notable landowning families such as the earl of Arran. He was widely interested in agriculture, a breeder of pedigree cattle and even authored The farm, a living organization (Dundalk, 1943) – a series of lectures on agricultural matters. Maude had good social connections; his occupation ensured contact with many persons of note. His mother, Eva Emily Maude (died 1960) was the last surviving grand–daughter of the Most Revd Marcus Gervais Beresford, D.D. (1801–1906) archbishop of Armagh between 1862 and 1885. Indeed, the papers that make up this collection were actually entrusted by him to the safe–keeping of the Rt Revd George Otto Simms, formerly archbishop of Dublin and Armagh, who in his retirement deposited them permanently in the RCB Library, and they provide a detailed insight to the thinking of a prominent lay member of the Church of Ireland during the 1940s and 1950s, and the crisis of identity faced by him and others during this unusual controversy.
After their deposit in the library, Maude’s collection was listed in four main record groups as Ms 262/ and made available for research some years ago. The hand–list reveals that the state prayer controversy was not the only burning issue that concerned Maude’s attentions. He also galvanised support for a new ‘Episcopal Fund’ aimed at boosting the income of the Church and improving episcopal and clerical stipends at a challenging financial time. The full list is available here.
More recently Dr Miriam Moffitt, of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, with whom we have collaborated on this online exhibit as September’s Archive of the Month, scrutinised the collection in further detail. In part fulfilment of degree of MA at the School of History and Anthropology of the Queen’s University of Belfast for which she completed a thesis entitled: “Conceptions of identity among the Protestant population of southern Ireland, as revealed in its response to the State Prayers Controversy of 1948–50“, she compiled a detailed list of the correspondence in the collection (section 1) available here, which enabled her to subject the collection to rigorous, yet reflective analysis of Maude’s 18–month campaign, culminating in a final definitive decision at the General Synod of 1950, generating a significant body of correspondence with those who variously supported or opposed his efforts, in the process. As she comments: ‘The Maude papers contain examples of persons who were horrified at the distancing of southern Ireland from the Empire and the forced removal of the familiar prayers for the British monarch from the order of service, and also from those who were indifferent to the episode, and from yet more people who welcomed the political change’.
She reveals why Maude may have been motivated to spearhead such a well–organised crusade to to retain prayers for the British monarch, suggesting ‘imperial affinities’, were ‘strengthened by war–time casualties’. Maude was the third and only surviving son his two elder brothers (Marcus Beresford Maude and Maurice Anthony Maude) having been killed on active service with the British army in the Great War, aged 25 and 26 respectively. As well as the loss of his two older brothers, Maude lost a further 21 cousins in the service of the crown during the First and Second World Wars.
Having already lost most of the males in his family, as he revealed in one particularly telling letter, written to the archbishop of Dublin, there was deep pain at the alteration in the liturgy: ‘The whole question hurts so much…’.
Ultimately, however, as a later response of the Most Revd John Gregg, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland emphasised to him the church had to cede to political realities. Whilst empathising with Maude he reminded him that: ‘the Church’s governing body has spoken and the Bishops who asked it to speak must obey’, in June 1949.
RCB Library, Ms 262/1/1/3/98, Definitive response from the Most Revd John Gregg, Archbishop of Armagh, The Palace Armagh, to Maude, 22 June 1949. Various typed copies of this letter appear elsewhere in Maude’s collection, indicating he circulated it widely.
Some of the key points made by Gregg include:
p.1 ‘The Church bishops are also face to face with another fact, sig they had no power to meet a situation of the kind. If there was a new King, they could change the Collect to fit – but there was no provision for meeting the case of there being no King. Accordingly the only thing they could do was to come to the Synod and ask it to cut the knot’. [Provided temp prayers] ‘It would have been unfair to the clergy to leave the matter optional. They wd have been under pressure to pray or not to pray for the King, & wd have offended one side, or the other, by the exercise of their discretion’,
p.2 ‘A similar situation existed in America in cent xviii when the Republic came into being. No change was made to any lawful authority in the State prayers & many of the Episcopal clergy conceived it to be their duty to continue using them as before – with the result that a good many of them had to escape for their lives to Canada or face public opprobrium if they stayed’.
‘Well, in view of the inflamed state of opinion in Eire in the last 3 months, one can see that it might have meant the burning of some Churches, or physical attacks on our clergy in one part of the land or another, of State prayers had been continued’. ‘The Church’s governing body has spoken, and the Bishops – who asked it to speak must obey’ [i.e. use temp prayers]
Maude’s efforts and the sincerity of his campaign reveal a link with the past that he and others found painful to let go. The full text of Dr Moffitt’s essay on the subject is available here.
For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood