1. Why is it significant that Philip Ludwell III embraced “the Greek Church” in the 1700s?
In 1738, the year Ludwell was received into the Orthodox Church, the Protestant Reformation was barely two hundred years old. His action pointed toward a different Christian path to both Catholicism and Protestantism, the tensions between whom were a source of ongoing conflict in Europe and the Americas.
2. Where did Ludwell learn about Eastern Christianity?
This question is still the focus of investigation. We know that the young Ludwell owned books that contained early Christian writings and descriptions of the more contemporary life and faith of the Greek Church. His grandfather Philip Ludwell I may have married a Greek woman in his old age and himself have become Orthodox. Likewise, William Byrd of Westover, whose first wife was Philip Ludwell III’s first cousin, was in touch with Russians in London and his second wife may have been half Greek. Lastly, we know that a relative back in England, John Ludwell, was involved in the non-juror movement within the Anglican Church that was actively seeking union with the Orthodox in the early 18th century.
3. Ludwell is not written up in the history books. Was he just an obscure country gentleman?
No. Some sources suggest he was the wealthiest man in British America and the largest landowner in colonial Virginia. He served both as a representative on the Virginia House of Burgesses and as a member and later President of the Royal Governor’s Council. He represented Virginia in negotiating the Treaty of Paris in 1763 that brought an end to the French and Indian war.
4. How was he any different than any other major landowner in the American colonies?
He was a slaveowner but sources point in the direction of his great reticence about this institution that was progressively taking on a more explicitly African and dehumanizing character during his lifetime. He argued in the House of Burgesses in the 1740s for a much higher tax on the importation of slaves and he may have been holding services on his plantation and possibly baptizing his slaves in the 1740s and 1750s.
5. What do we know of his family?
Some sources suggest they are of distant German origin but they came to America from the village of Bruton in Somerset, England. The great early Governor of Virginia, Sir William Berkeley also came from Bruton and their families seem to have been related from at least the sixteenth century. The grandfather of Philip Ludwell III, also Philip Ludwell, came to Virginia in 1660 and briefly served as the Royal Governor of Carolina. Philip Ludwell III’s mother Hannah was of the Harrison family who were to give two Presidents to the United States. His wife Frances was a first cousin of George Washington’s wife Martha. Frances’ sister was the grandmother of General Robert E Lee. There are many more such connections that could be noted here! Philip Ludwell III had three daughters who survived to adulthood and all were received into the Orthodox Church in 1762 in London.
6. Why did he move to London and end his days there?
The move to London in 1760 seems to have been motivated by Ludwell’s desire to be close to more regular church life and to facilitate his daughter’s reception as noted in the previous question. The initial intention was to return to Virginia but it seems that his health deteriorated and he eventually saw out his days in London. The cause of his death is not presently known but there is evidence of increasing sickness over a number of years prior to his death in 1767.
7. How could Ludwell have possibly maintained a devotion to Eastern Orthodox rituals and beliefs all by himself in the New World, when the Colonies were so isolated from Old World Western Civilization?
This division into “old” and “new” worlds is a construct that historians are increasingly challenging in our time. In the eighteenth century the Eastern seaboard of what is now the United States and Canada was part of a single trans-atlantic world. The Atlantic Ocean was the super-highway of this time: A crossing from Norfolk, Virginia to London, England would take between two to six weeks depending on winds and currents. Nevertheless, the fact that Ludwell preserved his Faith in Virginia for twenty years is remarkable. The likelihood is that he, like other Virginia landowners of his time, would have led Christian worship for his family, servants, and slaves on his plantation and that in his case this would have incorporated specifically Orthodox forms.
1. What kind of activities and research do the Associates organize?
These will include site visits, church services, conferences, visits to archives, and social gatherings.
2. Are donations to the Associates tax deductible?
A 501c3 application to the IRS is pending and we hope that our status will be confirmed no later than early 2017. But we have been advised that in the meantime any donations should be considered as tax deductible to the greatest measure allowed by the law and that any possibility of the IRS retrospectively ruling them to be taxable is very slight.
3. Aside from monetary donations, how can I help?
Many talents could be used to help. These range from organizational management to archaeology. We are starting with three specific projects and as these take shape under a Project Group leader we will be seeking help in particular areas. If you think you have time and a relevant ability please contact us.
Credit for page header image: Nightview of Green Spring Plantation from the nursery, showing the forecourt and manor house. Courtesy National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, Jamestown Collection. This is a conceptual rendering ONLY.