Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Richard (d.1184)

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RICHARD (d. 1184), archbishop of Canterbury, a Norman by birth and of humble parentage, received the monastic habit in early life at Christ Church, Canterbury, and after his schooldays were over was admitted a monk there. Archbishop Theobald made him one of his chaplains, and in that office he was associated with Thomas Becket, afterwards archbishop. His high character and affability led to his appointment as prior of St. Martin's, Dover, in 1157 (Gervase of Canterbury, ii. 397; Monasticon, iv. 530). When Archbishop Thomas returned to England in December 1170, he sent Richard on a mission to the younger king Henry at Winchester. Richard was not well received by the courtiers, who tried to prevent him from seeing the young king; and when at last he obtained an audience, he was sent back without any satisfactory answer (Memorials of Becket, i. 115, iii. 482).

After Thomas Becket's murder, on 29 Dec. 1170, the see of Canterbury remained vacant for two years and a half. Disputes arose as to the right of election [see under Odo of Cantebury, (d. 1200)]. At length, on 3 June 1173, letters having come from the king and the cardinal-legates urging an election, a meeting was held in St. Catharine's Chapel, Westminster, between the bishops and the monks, who insisted that the choice should fall on one of their own body. Both Odo, prior of Canterbury, and Richard, prior of Dover, were proposed. The monks supported Odo, who represented the party of Becket; but Gilbert Foliot [q. v.], bishop of London, and the other bishops declared for Richard, who was elected accordingly. The justiciar, who was present, gave the royal assent, and Richard, as archbishop-elect, took the oath of fealty to the king ‘saving his order,’ nothing being said as to his observance of ‘the customs of the kingdom,’ or, in other words, the constitutions of Clarendon (Diceto, i. 369). His election, though represented as the act of the chapter (Robert de Torigni, p. 37), and though no doubt to some extent a compromise, was evidently a defeat for the monks, and was probably due to the wish of the king conveyed through the justiciar; for Henry was, of course, anxious not to have an archbishop who would carry on Becket's policy.

Richard was solemnly received at Canterbury on the 8th, but his consecration was forbidden by the younger king, who appealed to Rome, on the ground that the election had been made without his consent. The bishops-elect, whose consecration was stopped in like manner, the chapter of Christ Church, and others sent messengers to Rome to answer the appeal. Richard himself went to Rome shortly afterwards, accompanied by Reginald FitzJocelin [q. v.], bishop-elect of Bath. At Rome Richard was strongly opposed by the young king and his father-in-law, Louis VII of France, who had a powerful party in the Roman court. They alleged that the election was simoniacal, and that Richard had sworn fealty without the usual qualification (saving his order), both which charges he disproved, and, further, that he was of illegitimate birth. Alexander III at last confirmed Richard's election on 2 April 1174, consecrated him at Anagni on the 7th, and gave him the pall, the legatine office, and a letter confirming the primacy of his see (Diceto, i. 388–90; Gesta Henrici II, i. 69, 70).

Richard embarked at Astura on 26 May, landed at Genoa, and on 23 June, having arrived at St. Jean de Maurienne, joined Peter, archbishop of Tarantaise, in consecrating his companion, Reginald, to the see of Bath. On 8 Aug. he met the elder Henry on his landing at Barfleur. The king received him with good humour, made him dine with him, and bade him go on to England (ib. p. 74). He entered London on 3 Sept., and while he was there heard of the burning of his cathedral, which took place on the 5th, when Conrad's choir was totally destroyed (Gervase, i. 3 sqq., 250). In obedience to the pope's bidding he remained some weeks in London, entered Canterbury, where he was received with rejoicing and enthroned on 5 Oct., and the next day consecrated four bishops-elect to English sees. The restoration of the cathedral was taken in hand at once under an architect named William of Sens.

Immediately after his enthronisation Richard held a legatine visitation of his province; and as he rode with a great train, his visits were specially grievous to the religious houses that had to receive him. At St. Oswald's priory at Gloucester, over which the archbishop of York claimed jurisdiction, the clerks and officials of Archbishop Roger refused to acknowledge his authority, and he accordingly cited and suspended them from all ecclesiastical functions. This caused a quarrel between him and Roger, who lodged an appeal against him at Rome (Diceto, i. 396). On 18 May 1175 Richard held a synod at Westminster in the presence of the two kings, when he delivered an eloquent and learned sermon, and published from an elevated platform a series of canons, which he declared were based on the rules of the orthodox fathers, and were not innovations (Gesta Henrici II, i. 84–9). After the council Richard accompanied the two kings on a pilgrimage that they made to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury, and joined Henry in commanding the chapters of religious houses where the headship was vacant to proceed to election, there being then twelve abbacies vacant in his province. On 27 Sept. he visited Peterborough and deposed the abbot for gross misconduct. The cardinal-deacon Uguccione Pier Leoni having arrived as legate in England in the end of October, the king received him at Winchester on 1 Nov., and arranged a truce between the two archbishops, which was to last until the following Michaelmas, Richard giving up his claim over St. Oswald's and absolving the clerks of Roger (Gesta Henrici II, i. 105–6).

On 25 Jan. 1175–6 Richard attended the council of Northampton, where, among other matters, the Scottish bishops who were present were called upon by Henry to own subjection to the English church. Archbishop Roger claimed the obedience of the bishops of Glasgow and Whitherne. Richard, however, asserted the claim of his see over the Scottish church, and so the bishops left without having acknowledged the authority of either. Further disputes on the rival claims of the two archbishops took place at a council which met at Westminster on 14 March. On 15 Aug. the king, at a council held at Winchester, in vain endeavoured to make a lasting peace between them, and only succeeded in arranging a truce for five years. After which Richard escorted the king's daughter, Joan or Joanna (1165–1199) [q. v.], as far as St. Gilles, where she was met by the ships of her future husband, William II of Sicily.

While Richard was diligent in promoting the material prosperity of his see by building, imparking, improving land, and the like, and was strenuous in resisting the attacks upon it of the archbishop of York, he by no means satisfied the requirements of the more ardent followers of his predecessor. They considered him weak and unfaithful to the cause for which Becket had suffered martyrdom. He evidently had no sympathy with the high pretensions of the extreme clerical party. He certainly seems to have approved of the king's ecclesiastical policy during the years that he was archbishop, and he pointed out in a letter to three of his suffragan-bishops one mischief that was done to the church by clerical immunity in matters of criminal jurisdiction. While the murderer of a layman was punished with death, a man might murder a clerk and escape only with sentence of excommunication (Peter of Blois, Ep. 73). In spite of his monastic training, he was far more a man of affairs than a monk, and the dissatisfaction with which he was regarded by the high clerical party is freely expressed in a letter addressed to him by Peter of Blois [q. v.], who says that the king disapproved of his carelessness in matters of discipline, and had often urged him to show greater energy (ib. Ep. 5). Peter afterwards became his chancellor, and then warmly defended him against the accusations of meanness and nepotism (ib. Ep. 38).

In 1177 Richard carried out the king's wishes by assisting him to change the college of the Holy Cross at Waltham in Essex into an abbey of regular canons, and by settling nuns from Fontevrault at Amesbury in Wiltshire. He attended the council that Henry held at London on 13 March on the dispute between the kings of Arragon and Navarre, and was a witness to the sentence of adjudication. On 20 April he received the king at Canterbury, and kept Easter with him at Wye in Kent. Along with the bishops of the kingdom he attended the council at Winchester on 1 July to advise the king with reference to his disputes with Louis VII of France; and the cardinal-legate in France threatening to lay England under an interdict, Richard and the bishops appealed to the pope against him. Towards the end of the year Roger, the abbot-elect of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, requested benediction, but refused to comply with the archbishop's demand for a profession of obedience unless qualified with a salvo. Richard would not admit a qualified profession, and Roger went to Rome, where he obtained privileges from Alexander III in contempt of the archbishop. He returned in 1178, bringing letters ordering his benediction, and giving a commission to the bishop of Worcester to perform the ceremony. Hearing of this, Richard went to St. Augustine's declaring that he had come to give the benediction; but the abbot-elect was not in the monastery, having withdrawn himself so as not to receive it from the archbishop, who thereupon appealed to Rome. Henry upheld him; for it was believed that the abbot-elect had made his house immediately subject to the pope, and had promised a yearly tribute, to the prejudice of the rights of both king and archbishop. Roger went back to Rome, and excited the anger of Alexander against Richard by representing him as disobedient to the pope's command. Richard, who was summoned to the Lateran council, went as far as Paris, and then returned to England, acting, it is said, on the advice of flatterers, and held back by his own timidity (Gervase, i. 276), though it seems likely that he never intended to go to the council, and was therein acting with the approval of his suffragans (Rog. Hov. ii. 171).

Alexander himself gave Roger the benediction in February 1179, with a saving of the rights of the see of Canterbury, and in 1180 sent letters to him and to the king declaring that the archbishops of Canterbury were to hallow future abbots without requiring the profession. Richard maintained that the charters on which the convent based its claim to exemption were not authentic, and attacked its claims over churches to which the convent presented. After prolonged disputes these charters were proved to be spurious, and finally, in 1183, the king compelled the convent to make an agreement with him, by which it gave up many privileges claimed by it, and really gained nothing in return (Gervase, i. 275–6, 296; Gesta Henrici II, i. 209; Thorn, cols. 1824–6, 1830–7; Elmham, pp. 420 sqq.). It was not alone in the case of St. Augustine's, where the rights of his own see were concerned, that Richard showed his dislike of the attempts made by monasteries to gain exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. He opposed the attempt of the abbot of Malmesbury to refuse profession of obedience to the bishop of Salisbury, and wrote strongly to Alexander III on the evils arising from exemptions (Peter of Blois, Ep. 68).

Meanwhile, on 23 Aug. 1179, Richard received King Henry and Louis of France at Canterbury. In November 1182 he crossed to Normandy, to obtain the king's help in his strife with St. Augustine's. The see of Rochester being vacant, he appointed to it his clerk, Waleran, archdeacon of Bayeux, and consecrated him at Lisieux on 19 Dec. This infringed the rights of the convent of Christ Church, and there was much anger there about it; but the matter was arranged by the bishop going thither and swearing fealty to the convent. Richard spent Christmas with the king at Caen, and pronounced sentence of excommunication against those who disturbed the peace between the king and his sons. In July he accompanied Henry to Le Mans, where the young king had been buried, and brought the body to Rouen for burial there (Gesta Henrici II, i. 303–4; Will. Newb. iii. c. 7; Gervase, i. 20). He returned to England on 11 Aug. On 14 Feb. 1184 he fell sick suddenly at Halling in Kent, while on his way to Rochester, and, being taken with violent colic, died there on the 16th. His body was taken to Canterbury and honourably buried in the north aisle of the cathedral on the 18th.

Richard was accused by the more zealous of Becket's followers of sacrificing the liberties of the church and allowing the oppression of the clergy, and his character is treated harshly by monastic writers, to whose independence he was opposed. While it was probably not of an heroic sort, it seems likely that the line that he took in ecclesiastical matters, and specially with respect to clerical immunities, was the result of conviction rather than of sloth or timidity, and that he saw no harm to the church in the king's endeavours to prevent it from becoming a separate body, independent of the secular power. That he was remiss in the discharge of his office does not seem proved by facts, and he was certainly diligent in promoting the material prosperity and upholding the rights of his see. That he did not live up to the high standard which the most earnest churchmen held to become his position may be allowed, and it may be that he was more active in temporal administration than in purely spiritual things. While he was but moderately learned and was ignorant of law—then the study most in vogue among the clergy—he made friends of learned men, among whom were Peter of Blois and Giraldus Cambrensis; and Peter of Blois describes how such men resorted to the archbishop's court, and after prayers or meals would pursue intellectual exercises, reading, arguing, and deciding legal cases. Richard was not a great archbishop, but it was perhaps well for the church and the kingdom that he preferred a moderate to an heroic policy, and kept on good terms with the king (Will. Newb. iii.c. 8; Gervase, ii. 399; Peter of Blois, Epp. 6, 38); Gir. Cambr. De Rebus a se gestis, c. 5, and De Invectionibus c. 18, ap. Opera, i. 53, 144).

[Gervase of Cant., Gesta Hen. II, R. de Diceto, Rog. Hov., Gir. Cambr., Elmham's Hist. Mon. S. Aug. (all Rolls Ser.); W. de Newburgh (Engl. Hist. Soc.); R. de Torigni (Société de l'Histoire de France);Peter of Blois, ed. Giles;Thorne's Chron. ed. Twysden; Hook's Archbishops of Canterbury.]

W. H.