Rugg, William (DNB00)

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RUGG or REPPES, WILLIAM (d. 1550), bishop of Norwich, was descended from an old Shropshire family, who were large landholders in that county as far back as the thirteenth century. He was the son of William Rugg of North Reppes in Norfolk, and appears to have been educated in the priory of Norwich, and to have been sent as one of the scholars of that house to pursue his studies at Cambridge, where he entered at Caius College, proceeded B.D. in 1509, and commenced D.D. in 1513. When Bishop Nix visited the monastery of Norwich on 27 April 1514, Rugg was the sacrist there, and preached the Latin sermon usually delivered on such occasions. The disclosures made at this visitation give a bad impression of the state of discipline in the house. According to the almost invariable practice, on his becoming a monk professed at Norwich, he dropped his surname, and was distinguished by the name of his birthplace, by which he was commonly, but by no means always, known. In 1520 he appears as prior of the cell of Yarmouth. Six years later he was sub-prior of Norwich, and a charge of undue familiarity with ‘the wardroper's wife’ was preferred against him, but apparently without foundation. In 1530 (April 26) he was installed abbot of St. Bennet's, Hulme, a mitred abbey, which gave him a seat in the House of Lords. The abbey was visited by Bishop Nix on 14 June 1532; the discipline was found to be very lax, and the monastery was in debt more than six hundred pounds—that is, the outstanding liabilities amounted to rather more than a year's net income. Rugg took a prominent part in obtaining the judgment of the university of Cambridge in favour of the divorce of the king from Queen Catherine; and on 7 June 1534 he, with twenty-five of the monks of St. Bennet, signed the attestation that ‘the Bishop of Rome had no authority in England.’ At the death of Bishop Nix on 14 Jan. 1536, an act of parliament was passed whereby the ancient barony and revenues of the see were transferred to the king, and the estates of the abbey of Hulme and of the priory of Hickling were handed over as a new endowment for the bishopric of Norwich. Hereupon Rugg was nominated bishop, and consecrated apparently (for there is some doubt upon the exact date) on 11 June 1536. That same summer his name appears among the signatories to the ‘Reasons to justify princes in summoning a General Council, and not the Pope of Rome by his sole authority.’ He was concerned in the compilation of the Bishops' Book, and in 1539 he took part in the debate on the Six Articles. On the question of whether there were two or seven sacraments, he sided with the king against Cranmer. In August 1538 he was commissioned to dispute with one of the observant friars—Antony Browne—who persisted in denying the king's supremacy. He did his best to induce the poor man to recant, but in vain (Gasquet, Henry VIII and the Engl. Monast. ii. 250–3). In 1540 he was one of three commissioners for dealing with charges of heresy. For his conduct in this capacity he was accused of cruelty, and nothing we hear of of him tends to lessen the unfavourable impression which his contemporaries conceived regarding him. The later years of his life appear to have been much troubled by his financial embarrassments; he was heavily in debt, and was compelled at last to resign his bishopric about Christmas 1549, receiving an annuity of 200l., to be paid quarterly, and a discharge from all liability for dilapidations and waste in his diocese. He survived his resignation some nine months, died 21 Sept. 1550, and was buried in Norwich Cathedral. He appears never to have married.

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr.; Visitations of the Diocese of Norwich, Camden Soc. 1888; Blomefield's Hist. of Norfolk, iii. 347; Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, ed. Stubbs, 1858; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII. vols. vii. xi. xii.; Strype's Mem. II. ii. 170; Strype's Cranmer, ii. 1045.]

A. J.