|Hólar farm in Öxnadalur, north Iceland, Photo by Rajan Parriker, posted at http://blog.parrikar.com/|
"[F]or the next twelve years "many very deserving persons transplanted themselves and their families to New England," amongst whom were "gentlemen of ancient and worshipful families, and ministers of the Gospel then of great fame at home, and merchants, husbandmen, and artificers, to the number of some thousands." It was reckoned that 198 ships were employed, at a cost of 192,000l, to carry over these emigrants, who for these " twelve years kept sometimes dropping, and sometimes flocking into New England." By the year 1640, the set tlers were supposed to have amounted to 4000 persons, who are said in fifty years to have multiplied into 100,000."
Thus Samuel Wilberforce, an ambitious young canon of the Church of England, writing in his History of the Protestant Episcopallian Church in America , and quoting a mysterious document found in the A medievalist would laugh. Brought up on the old church historians' claims of curious manuscripts found in the library ofo the Bishop of London's Consistorial and Eipscopal Court library at Fulham Palace, the ancient county seat of the Bishop. a medievalist would laugh, having been to this rodeo far too many times. (1,2)
And, yet, there is the manuscript. It is no fake. It is William Bradford's memoir, which, apparently, passed through the hands of a relative and amateur historian, who used them as a source, before they ended up in the tower of the Old South Meeting House in Boston. The manuscript was possibly removed, perhaps during the British Revolutionary War occupation, and ended up in Fulham Palace because it contains church records. It was finally returned to Massachusetts a half-century later, and there is a story there, even if the telling of it seems to have made Nineteenth Century bottoms wiggle uncomfortably in their overstuffed chairs.
The reason that I'm making so much of it is that the manuscript was supposed to be there. Boston was in the diocese of London. Odd? On the contrary: we are at this point 1300 years from the first claim to be "metropolitan" of the Atlantic seas. York, Utrecht, Armagh, "Hamburg-Bremen," Canterbury, Lund, Nidaros (Trondheim), London. All have claimed "metropolitan" jurisdiction over the far, sea-washed isles. All have created their own pasts to meet their needs.
Rather than waste time and text on it, here is a diverting path to take through Wikipedia links, following up on Armagh's claim to be the seat of St. Patrick and the archepiscopal see of Ireland. (1>2>3>4 >5>6>7>8>9). It takes a great deal of the medieval mystery out of it to reduce it down tto Kildare forgers versus Armagh fantasists until Dublin usurped Kildare, but it does give you a sense of the way this history floats: three dates for the death of (two?) Patricks in a manuscript copy of a 660(?) hagiography from 808. If the dates given by one writer don't bewilder you, then the utter, albeit polite disagreement of the next authority with all of them will.
So the point of this posting is that this curious arrangement of the far-flung north Atlantic plantations being under a bishop,or (mostly) an archbishop, is worth exploring. Not in Ireland or in the north of England. That would just get too exhausting. Let's try anchoring things instead.