Kelly, Ralph (DNB00)

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KELLY or O'KELLY, RALPH (d. 1361), archbishop of Cashel, was born at Drogheda, co. Louth. He was educated in a convent of Carmelites at Kildare, where he became one of the brotherhood, and in 1336 he was made prolocutor and advocate-general for his order under Peter de Casa, the master-general. In 1345 he was advanced to the archbishopric of Cashel by Pope Clement VI, and obtained restitution of the temporalities from Edward III on 4 April of the following year, as appears from the exchequer records. He was a high-spirited prelate, and maintained the privileges of the church against the temporal power. In 1346, when a parliament, held at Kilkenny, granted a subsidy to the king, Kelly opposed the levy, and summoned a meeting of his suffragan bishops at Tipperary, who decreed that all beneficed clergymen contributing to the subsidy should ipso facto be deprived of their benefices, and be incapable of holding any preferment within the province; and that the laity who contributed should be ipso facto excommunicated, and their children to the third generation disqualified for any benefice within the same limits. In pursuance of these decrees the archbishop and his suffragans openly excommunicated several offenders in the leading street of Clonmel. For this offence an information was exhibited against him to the king's damage of 1,000l., in answer to which he pleaded that by Magna Charta the church was to remain free, and that all were to be excommunicated who should infringe the liberties granted thereby. He was, however, convicted, and had a day given him ten several times to move in arrest of judgment. What further came of it does not appear. The other bishops were convicted upon the like information.

In 1353 he had a vehement dispute with Roger Cradock, bishop of Waterford. Two Irishmen found guilty of heresy, or, according to another account, of contumely offered to the Virgin Mary, before the bishop, had been burned by his order, without any license from the archbishop. Ware adds that ‘on Thursday after St. Francis's Day, a little before midnight, the archbishop entered privately into the churchyard of the Blessed Trinity at Waterford by the little door of St. Catherine, guarded by a numerous troop of armed men, and made an assault on the bishop in his lodgings, and grievously wounded him and many others who were in his company, and robbed him of his goods.’

Kelly died at Cashel on 20 Nov. 1361 (Annals of Nenagh), and was buried in his cathedral in that city. He was a man of learning, and wrote a ‘Book of the Canon Law,’ and one, or (as some say) seven ‘Books of Familiar Letters,’ and other works, none of which are extant.

[Sir James Ware's Works, ed. Harris, i. 478, 533, ii. (Writers of Ireland) 85; Cotton's Fasti Ecclesiæ Hibernicæ, i. 8; King's Church Hist. of Ireland, i. 651; D'Alton's Hist. of Drogheda, ii. 51.]

B. H. B.