William Prynne (1600 – 24 October 1669), an English lawyer, voluble author, polemicist and political figure, was a prominent Puritan opponent of church policy under William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury (1633–1645). His views were presbyterian, but he became known in the 1640s as an Erastian, arguing for overall state control of religious matters.
Born at Swainswick, near Bath, Somerset, William Prynne was educated at Bath Grammar School and Oriel College, Oxford. He graduated as a BA on 22 January 1621, entered as a student of Lincoln’s Inn in the same year, and was called to the bar in 1628.
According to Anthony Wood, he was confirmed in his militant puritanism by the influence of John Preston, then a lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn. In 1627 he published his first of over 200 works, a theological treatise entitled The Perpetuity of a Regenerate Man’s Estate. This was followed in the next three years by three others attacking Arminianism and its teachers. In the preface to one of them he appealed to Parliament to suppress anything written against Calvinist doctrine and to force the clergy to subscribe to the conclusion of the Synod of Dort.
Prynne was a strong disciplinarian. After arguing that the custom of drinking healths was sinful, he asserted that for men to wear their hair long was “unseemly and unlawful unto Christians”, while it was “mannish, unnatural, impudent, and unchristian” for women to cut it short.