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Archibald Campbell Tait

1811-1882. Archbishop of Canterbury from 1868. Born of Scottish Presbyterian parents, he went from Glasgow University to Balliol College, Oxford, where he subscribed to the Thirty-Nine Articles* in accordance with the university statutes. In 1836 he took Anglican orders. He was one of the four tutors who publicly protested against Tract 90 in 1841. In 1842 he succeeded Thomas Arnold as headmaster of Rugby. Six years later an attack of rheumatic fever left him permanently weak and forced him to take lighter duty as dean of Carlisle. In 1856 Palmerston unexpectedly appointed the inexperienced Tait to the demanding and influential bishopric of London. He declined an invitation to move to York in 1862; and then in 1868 Disraeli, also against expectation, offered him Canterbury. The queen's influence was probably decisive.

By his strong leadership Tait restored the see of Canterbury to its position of preeminence in the Church of England. His chairmanship of the second Lambeth Conference in 1878 ensured its continuance as a regular meeting of Anglican bishops. Tait was a Broad Churchman in theology, though he opposed Essays and Reviews. He retained his Presbyterian distaste for ceremonial, and took vigorous steps to bring to order ritualistic clergymen like A.H. Mackonochie. He was the originator of the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874. A firm believer in the establishment, Tait based his policies on his sense of the weight of opinion among the English people.

See R.T. Davidson and W. Benham, Life of Archibald Campbell Tait (2 vols., 1891); and P.T. Marsh, The Victorian Church in Decline: Archbishop Tait and the Church of England, 1868-1882 (1969).