Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marisco, Richard de
MARISCO or MARSH, RICHARD de (d. 1226), bishop of Durham and chancellor, was perhaps a native of Somerset; we know that Adam Marsh or de Marisco [see under Adam] was his nephew (Cal. Rot. Claus. ii. 136; Chron. Lanercost, p. 24). The first mention of Richard de Marisco is as an officer of the exchequer in 1197 (Maddox, Hist. Exch. ii. 714), and as one of the clerks of the exchequer he was in constant attendance on the king after 1207 (Cal. Rot Pat. i. 89–100). In 1209 he received a prebend at Exeter, which he soon after exchanged for the rectory of Bampton, Oxfordshire (ib. i. 80, 87). In the following year he was John's adviser in the persecution of the Cistercians, the beginning of a long course of action which made him exceedingly unpopular with the clergy and monastic orders. He was archdeacon of Northumberland before 4 May 1212 (Cal. Rot. Chart. p. 186). On 20 July 1212 he was presented to the vicarage of Kempsey, Worcestershire (Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 93), and in November of the same year was sheriff of Dorset and Somerset. As one of the clergy who had officiated for the king during the interdict, he was in this year suspended, and sent to Rome (Ann. Mon. iii. 40); while at Rome he took part in the negotiations for the relaxation of the interdict. In the following February he appears as archdeacon of Richmond, and on 16 Aug. received a prebend at York (Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 93, 95, 102, 103, 105; Cal. Rot. Chart, p. 190). He was also in 1213 and 1214 one of the justiciars before whom fines were levied. He was abroad with John in the spring of 1214, but in May was sent home. John at the same time recommended him to the monks of Winchester for election as bishop, and on 28 June notified the legate that he had given his consent to the election (Cal. Rot. Pat. i. 139); the election was not, however, confirmed. During 1213 he is spoken of as 'residens ad scaccarium;' Dugdale says he was chancellor, but Foss considers this an error, and the real date of his appointment to that office was 28 or 29 Oct. 1214 (cf. Cal. Rot Chart, p. 202); Matthew Paris (ii. 633), however, calls him 'regis cancellarius,' in 1211, but this is probably a mistake.
As chancellor he signed the charter granting freedom of election to the churches on 15 Jan. 1215. During the end of 1214 and spring of 1215 he was engaged with the dispute as to the election of Abbot Hugh at Bury St. Edmunds (Mem. St. Edmund's Abbey, ii. 105–12, Rolls Ser.) In September 1215 he was sent abroad by John to raise forces for his service, and on a mission to the pope (Cal. Rot. Pat. p. 182). Marisco continued to be chancellor after John's death, and in accordance with a recommendation made by Pope Honorius (Royal Letters, i. 532) he was, as a reward for his fidelity, promoted to the bishopric of Durham through the influence of the legate Gualo (Ann. Mon. ii. 288). His election took place on. 29 June 1217, and he was consecrated at St. Oswald's, Gloucester, by Walter de Gray, archbishop of York, on 2 July (ib. iv. 408). In December 1217 he absolved Alexander of Scotland and his mother from their excommunication at Berwick (Chron. Melrose, p. 132). In 1219 he was a justice itinerant for Yorkshire and Northumberland. At Durham, Bishop Richard was soon involved in a quarrel with his monks, on whose privileges he is alleged to have encroached. The monks appealed in 1220 to the pope, who issued letters of inquiry to the Bishops of Salisbury and Ely. The prelates discovered 'strange and abominable things' at Durham. Richard de Marisco, who had already gone to Rome in his turn, by prayers and bribery obtained absolution; but the pope, when he learnt the truth, declared he had been shamefully deceived, though he could not quash his decision (Ann. Mon. iii. 67). Matthew Paris says that the pope did refer the dispute back to the Bishops of Ely and Salisbury. In any case, the quarrel was not ended, and Richard was on his way to London to plead his suit, when he died suddenly at Peterborough on 1 May 1226. He had suffered from ophthalmia. His body was taken back for burial at Durham. The dispute with the monks was so costly that it long burdened the bishopric of Durham, and so it was said that Richard was bishop for fifteen years after his death.
As a harsh superior, Richard de Marisco found no favour in the eyes of monastic chroniclers; their statements must therefore be accepted with caution. Nevertheless they are unanimous in their condemnation of him as the worst of John's evil advisers. Matthew Paris says he was of John's household and manners, and a courtier from his earliest years (iii. 43, 1 11); he also relates a story, that in 1224 John appeared in a dream to a monk at St. Albans, and declared that he had suffered many torments for his evil deeds at the advice of Richard de Marisco (iii. 111—113). The Waverley annalist complains of Richard's tyranny as John's minister, and says that, after employing him as proctor for various sees during their vacancy, John intended to make him a bishop ; but the clergy cried out for free election, that 'an ape in the court might not become a priest in the church' (Ann. Mon. ii. 288). In another place it is asserted that John called Richard de Marisco his god, when speaking to the regular and secular clergy (Cont. Will. Newburgh, Chron. Steph. Henry II, ii. 512). He bequeathed his library to Adam de Marisco (Cal. Rot. Claus. ii. 136).
[Matthew Paris; Annales Monastici; Walter of Coventry; Shirley's Royal and Historical Letters of the Reign of Henry III (all in Rolls Ser.); Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Foss's Judges of England, ii. 400–4.]