Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tracy, Richard
TRACY, RICHARD (d. 1569), protestant reformer, was descended from a family which had been settled at Toddington, Gloucestershire, since the twelfth century (A Short Memoir of the Noble Families of Tracy and Courtenay, 1798). William de Tracy [q. v.], the murderer of Thomas à Becket, is said to have belonged to it, and many of its members acted as sheriffs and representatives of Gloucestershire in parliament.
Richard's father, William Tracy (d. 1530), was justice of the peace in the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, and was made sheriff in 1513 (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vols. i–iv.). He adopted Luther's religious views, and shortly before his death in 1530 he made a will in which he expressed his belief in justification by faith and refused to make any bequests to the clergy. Objection was taken to the will as an heretical document when it came to be proved in the ecclesiastical courts, and eventually it was brought before convocation. After prolonged discussions, the will was pronounced heretical on 27 Feb. 1531–2 by Archbishop Warham, Tracy was declared unworthy of Christian burial, and Warham directed Dr. Thomas Parker, vicar-general of the bishop of Worcester, to exhume Tracy's body (Wilkins, Concilia, iii. 724). Parker exceeded his instructions, and had Tracy's remains burnt at the stake. The incident created some sensation; Richard Tracy, who, with his mother, was executor to the will, induced Thomas Cromwell to take the matter up, and Parker had eventually to pay a fine of 300l. Tracy's will became a sort of sacred text to the reformers; possessing copies of it was frequently made a charge against them. In 1535 was published ‘The Testament of Master Wylliam Tracie, esquier, expounded both by William Tindall’ (Tyndale [q. v.], who knew Tracy well) ‘and Jhō Frith;’ other editions appeared in 1546 and 1548, both 16mo, and 1550 (?) 8vo, and it is reprinted in the ‘Works of Tyndale’ (Parker Soc.), iii. 268–83 (the will is also printed in Hall's Chronicle, pp. 796–7; Foxe, Actes and Mon.; Atkyns, Gloucestershire, pp. 410–11; and Rudder, Gloucestershire, pp. 771–2). Latimer, Bale, and Pilkington all used the incident to illustrate the temper of the Romanist clergy (Latimer, Works, i. 46, ii. 407; Bale, Works, p. 395; Pilkington, Works, p. 653).
By his wife Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Throckmorton, William Tracy had issue two sons. William, the elder, inherited the Toddington estates, and was great-grandfather of Sir John Tracy, who on 12 Jan. 1642–3 was created Baron and Viscount Tracy of Rathcoole in the peerage of Ireland. Robert Tracy [q. v.], the judge, was younger son of the first viscount. The peerage became extinct on the death of Henry Leigh Tracy, eighth viscount, 29 April 1797 (Burke, Extinct Peerage, p. 537; G. E. C[okayne], Complete Peerage, vii. 419–21).
Richard, the younger son of William Tracy, graduated B.A. at Oxford on 27 June 1515, and was admitted student of the Inner Temple in 1519 (Reg. Univ. Oxon. i. 94; Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714). In 1529 he was elected to the ‘reformation’ parliament as member for Wotton Basset, Wiltshire (Letters and Papers, iv. 2692). For the next few years he was engaged in the struggle over his father's will (ib. vi. 17 et seq.). In February 1532–3 he was granted Stanway, a manor belonging to Tewkesbury Abbey, which he made the home of his family. He adopted his father's religious views, and appears to have written a short treatise as early as 1533 (ib. vi. 18). In 1535 Tracy's works were classed as ‘dangerous’ with those of Luther, Melanchthon, Tyndale, and Frith, and probably his ‘Profe and Declaration of thys Proposition: Fayth only iustifieth’ (Brit. Mus.), dedicated to Henry VIII, but with no date, place, or printer's name, was Tracy's earliest work. It was followed in 1544 by ‘A Supplycation to our most Soueraigne Lorde, Kynge Henry the Eyght,’ 8vo (Grenville and Lambeth libraries). In 1543 Bartholomew Traheron [q. v.] , who had been educated at Tracy's expense and was called his ‘son’ (Zurich Letters, ii. 613), dedicated to him his translation of Vigo's ‘Surgery.’
Meanwhile in 1537 Tracy had been placed on the commission of the peace for Gloucestershire, and employed in work connected with the visitation of the monasteries in his shire. In 1538 he was nominated for the shrievalty, but Henry VIII preferred Robert Acton, and in December 1539 he was appointed one of the squires to attend at the reception of Anne of Cleves. His reforming zeal led his friend and neighbour Latimer to express a wish that there were ‘many more like Tracy’ (Letters and Papers, 18 Jan. 1538–9). With Cromwell's fall Tracy lost favour at court, and on 7 July 1546 his books were ordered to be burnt (Wriothesley, Chron. i. 169). In November 1548, during the discussions in convocation and parliament which preceded the issue of Edward VI's first Book of Common Prayer, Tracy published ‘A Bryef and short Declaracyon made wherebye euery Chrysten Man may knowe what is a Sacrament,’ London, 8vo. He quotes largely from St. Augustine, whose works he is said to have known better than Tyndale. In the same year he was appointed, under the act for the abolition of chantries, one of the commissioners of inquiry for Gloucestershire (Leach, English Schools at the Reformation, ii. 79). In May 1551 he was imprisoned in the Tower for ‘a lewd letter,’ probably an attack on Warwick's government. He was released on 17 Nov. 1552. On 9 June 1555 his religious views brought him under the notice of Queen Mary's council, but he ‘did not only clere himself thereof, but shewed a verie earnest desire to be a conformable man from hensfurthe’ (Acts P. C. v. 145). On 19 Sept. following, however, he again appeared on a charge of having ‘behaved himself verye stubburnely towards his Ordinairie which is the Bisshopp of Gloucestre,’ and in January 1556–7 he was in trouble for refusing to pay a forced loan. After Elizabeth's accession Tracy served as high sheriff for Gloucestershire in 1560–1, and in 1565 wrote a strenuous protest to Cecil against the queen's retaining a crucifix in her chapel. He died in 1569.
By his wife Barbara, daughter of Sir Thomas Lucy (d. 1525), Tracy had issue three sons and three daughters. The eldest surviving son, Paul Tracy of Stanway, was created a baronet in 1626.
Besides the works mentioned, Tracy is said to have written ‘The Preparation to the Crosse and to Death .... in two bookes,’ 1540. This treatise, bound up with two by John Frith [q. v.], was found in a cod's belly in Cambridge market in 1626, and was reprinted in that year by Boler and Milbourne. Thomas Fuller (1608–1661) [q. v.], who was at Cambridge at the time, describes the excitement caused by the incident (Worthies, 1840, i. 562; Ussher, Letters, Nos. 100, 101; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 106–7).[Besides authorities quoted see Harl. MS. 1041; Lansd. MS. 979, f. 96; Visitation of Gloucestershire, 1623, pp. 165–7; Lists of Sheriffs, 1898; Gloucestershire Notes and Queries, ii. 388–9; Britton's Toddington, 1840; Strype's Works (general index); Gough's Index to Parker Society's Publications; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. i. 245; Burnet's Reformation, ed. Pocock; Foxe's Actes and Mon.; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib.; Dixon's Hist. of the Church of England, i. 115, 403; Official Returns of Members of Parl.]