Regium Donum - Encyclopedia

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REGIUM DONUM, or Royal Gift, an annual grant formerly made from the public funds to Presbyterian and other Nonconformist ministers in Great Britain and Ireland. It dates from the reign of Charles II., who, according to Bishop Burnet, after the declaration of indulgence of 1672 ordered sums of money to be paid to Presbyterian ministers. These gifts or pensions were soon discontinued, but in 1690 William III. made a grant of £1200 a year to the Presbyterian ministers in Ireland as a reward for their services during his struggle with James II. Owing to the opposition of the Irish House of Lords the money was not paid in 1711 and some subsequent years, but it was revived in 1715 by George I., who increased the amount to X 2000 a year. Further additions were made in 1784 and in 1792, and in 1868 the sum granted to the Irish Presbyterian ministers was £45,000. The Regium Donum was withdrawn by the act of 1869 which disestablished the Irish church. Provision was made, however, for existing interests therein, and many Presbyterian ministers commuted these on the same terms as the clergy of the church of Ireland.

In England the Regium Donum proper dates from 1721, when Dr Edmund Calamy (1671-1732) received L500 from the royal bounty "for the use and behalf of the poor widows of dissenting ministers." Afterwards this sum was increased to £1000 and was made an annual payment "for the assisting either ministers or their widows," and later it amounted to £1695 per annum. It was given to distributors who represented the three denominations, Presbyterians, Baptists and Independents, enjoying the grant. Among the Nonconformists themselves, however, or at least among the Baptists and the Independents, there was some objection to this form of state aid, and in 1851 the chancellor of the exchequer announced that it would be withdrawn. This was done six years later.

See J. Stoughton, History of Religion in England (1901); J. S. Reid, History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (Belfast, 1867); and E. Calamy, Historical Account of my own Life, edited by J. T. Rutt (1829-30).

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