27 June 2016
During the intercessions at the Choral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, yesterday [26 June 2016] the saints who were commemorated included Richard FitzRalph (1300-1360), who is commemorated in the Calendar in the Book of Common Prayer in the Church of Ireland and in Exciting Holiness in the Church of England on this day [27 June].
Richard FitzRalph, who was Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Dean of Lichfield, and Archbishop of Armagh, was one of the leading theologians of the 14th century. Although he is often remembered for his conflict with the Franciscan friars in his diocese, he was a leading philosopher in his day.
This Dundalk-born theologian played an important role in dialogue with the Armenian Church and was one of the first Western scholars to seek to understand the Quran. In the aftermath of the Crusades, he one of the early pioneers of Muslim-Christian dialogue.
Richard FitzRalph was born ca 1299 or 1300 into a prosperous Anglo-Norman burgess family in Dundalk, Co Louth, then the northern-most outpost of the Pale. His contemporaries referred to him to as Hibernicus.
When he was about 15, he went to Oxford to study arts and theology, and he was a Fellow of Balliol College when he received his MA in 1325.
At Oxford, FitzRalph acquired skills in logic and metaphysics, impressive knowledge of the Bible, and a high level of competence as a theologian and preacher. From this period date his Quaestio biblica and his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, which survives in revised form. He was the most important secular theologian to lecture on the Sentences in the later 1320s and was prepared to present both sides of an argument without taking a personal decision.
In 1326, he was presented as Rector of Athboy in the Diocese of Meath, by King Edward II. But he seems to have remained in Oxford, and he was at University College (then University Hall), Oxford, where he received a doctorate in theology in 1331. Soon after, he became Vice-Chancellor of the University – an almost unparalleled achievement for someone still in his early 30s and for an Irishman.
Around this time, Richard gained the patronage of John Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter (1327-1369), and spent a year at the University of Paris as mentor of Grandisson’s nephew, John de Northwode. Richard owed his early Church appointments to Grandisson’s support and acquired a number of benefices in the Diocese of Exeter, and, possibly, also a canonry in Armagh.
In 1332, Richard was appointed Chancellor of the University of Oxford by the Bishop of Lincoln. However, his time in office was overshadowed by strife between town and gown or the students and the people of Oxford, as well as between the northern and southern nations within the university community.
These conflicts resulted in the ‘Stamford Schism’ and the brief establishment of an alternative university at Stamford in Lincolnshire. The dispute was brought before the Pope in Avignon, where Richard represented the university. This was the first of his four lengthy visits to Avignon, where papal patronage and contacts in the Curia would play an important part in his later career.
On his first visit to Avignon, only five years after concluding his lectures on the Sentences, Richard was consulted as one of the 18 leading theologians of Europe by Pope Benedict XII to correct the views of his predecessor, John XXII, on the beatific vision.
While he was at Avignon, Richard earned his reputation as a preacher, and on 17 December 1335 he was appointed Dean of Lichfield on the nomination of Pope Benedict XII.
Richard was appointed Dean of Lichfield – “notwithstanding that he has canonries and prebends [in the collegiate churches] of Crediton [in Devon] and Bosham [in Sussex], and has had provision made for him of the Chancellorship of Lincoln and the canonries and prebends of Armagh and Exeter, all of which he is to resign.” One position that is often ascribed to him but that he did not hold was Archdeacon of Chester.
Richard’s first step as Dean of Lichfield was to present himself to the Bishop of Lichfield, who received him as a guest in Brewood Manor on 12 April 1336. The bishop instituted him to the deanery on the following day, and he was installed in Lichfield Cathedral on 20 April 1336.
At his installation, he pledged: ‘I, Richard, Dean of the Church of Lichfield, will keep the continuous residence that is required in the said Church, according to the manner and custom of the same.’
At first, he was an active and engaging Dean of Lichfield. Two days after his installation, Richard presided at a special meeting of the chapter of Lichfield Cathedral. On 26 June 1336, Dean Richard was asked by the chapter to investigate irregularities in the church in Cannock. In May 1337, he engaged William de Ramessey in a new project of rebuilding and restoration of the cathedral.
However, Richard left Lichfield for the Papal Court in 1337. The chapter members seem to have expected that this would be short visit and that the dean would soon return to Lichfield, for they agreed to pay his expenses while he was away and forwarded regular payments. Instead, this became his second and longest visit to Avignon, and he remained there until 1344.
The dean was not a good correspondent, and his prolonged absence seriously hampered the business of the Chapter in Lichfield, including a case involving the Prior and the monks of Coventry.
On the other hand, a long drawn-out suit in the Papal Court between the Cathedrals of Lichfield and Coventry was decided in favour of Lichfield Cathedral in the winter of 1339-1340, presumably due to the dean’s intervention in Avignon.
During this visit to Avignon, Richard wrote the work that earned his reputation as a theologian. His Summa de Quaestionibus Armenorum arose from lengthy debates with representatives of the Orthodox Churches, who were seeking papal support against a Turkish threat.
In Avignon, Richard also discussed the questions of papal primacy and ecclesiastical authority that were later debated at the councils of Basle (1431-1438) and Ferrara-Florence (1439-1440). His Summa documents Richard’s approach to the Bible and his emphasis on scriptural proof, sola scriptura. It also reveals the beginning of his preoccupation with dominion and its dependency on grace, which was further developed by John Wyclif.
Eventually, Richard returned to Lichfield, although there is no notice of this in the Chapter Acts Book, as Henry Savage (1854-1939), Dean of Lichfield (1909-1939), noted in a public lecture on Saint Chad’s Day 1928.
He was in Lichfield in 1345-1346, and during those years he preached a series of sermons in Lichfield and the neighbourhood, between Lady Day, 25 March 1345, and Advent Sunday, 3 December 1346.
These include sermons in Cannock on 21 May 1346 and in the Chapel of Saint Nicholas in Lichfield the next day, 22 May 1346. Dean Savage asks whether this was a chapel in the cathedral or in the Franciscan Friary in Lichfield, but points out that “there is no evidence on this point.”
His other 15 local sermons include nine preached in Lichfield Cathedral, one in the chapel and two in the graveyard of Saint John’s Hospital, two at Brewood, and one at Burton on Palm Sunday 1346. All were preached ‘in the vulgar tongue.’
With the death of Archbishop David Mag Oireachtaigh in 1346, the cathedral chapter of Armagh immediately elected Richard FitzRalph as his successor, and he received papal confirmation on 31 July 1346. In this appointment he was following in the steps of Stephen de Segrave, who was Dean of Lichfield when he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in 1324 by Pope John XXII.
Richard remained in England, possibly in Lichfield, for a year. Early in 1347, he did homage to King Edward III and received the temporalities of his see before being consecrated bishop by his former patron, Bishop John Grandisson, in Exeter Cathedral on 8 July 1347.
He travelled to Ireland early in 1348, where his first recorded sermon was preached in Dundalk on 24 April 1348.
Back in Ireland, his early sermons invited comparison between Christ’s coming to the Jews and the archbishop’s return to his own people in Dundalk and Drogheda.
Richard kept a careful account of his sermons. The shorter sermons were summarised, while the longer, more theological sermons were written in full. He also sent many of his priests to study at Oxford to further their learning.
The texts show he was preoccupied with social problems in Ireland – 29 sermons were preached in Dundalk, Drogheda, Dublin and various places in the Diocese of Meath to the clergy, whom he criticised for their laxity of vocation, merchants, whom he attacked for wasteful extravagances and underhanded trading practises, and the general population, among whom he was very popular as a preacher.
At a time of often hostile racial relations between the colonists and natives, he took an honourable stand in denouncing discrimination against the Gaelic Irish. At times severe, this was balanced by his very fair and serious approach as pastor of his people, whether they were English, Anglo-Irish or Gaelic.
He was pastorally minded, concerned with reform and visitation, and vigorously defended his rights as Primate of All Ireland against the claims of the Archbishop of Dublin. He promoted interest in the cult of Saint Patrick, above all by promoting the pilgrimage of the Hungarian knight, George Grissaphan, to Saint Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg.
However, he spent much of his episcopate outside Ireland. He was on a third visit to Avignon from 1349 to 1351, having been sent there by King Edward III as his representative in 1349. When he preached in Avignon in August 1349, he painted a dramatic picture of Irish society, maintaining that violence was conditioned by the cultural clash between the two nations and lamenting the Irish reputation for theft and dishonesty.
Richard’s attitude to the friars, whom he had initially respected, altered radically when he became Archbishop of Armagh. He identified the cause of tension between the two nations with the presence of the friars in confessional and pulpit, and he accused them of disrupting parochial authority. In Avignon, he also took part in the negotiations between the Armenian Apostolic Church and Pope Clement VI.
He began to examine the biblical and legal foundations, and consequent justification, of their profession and made the first clear statement of his criticism while preaching before Pope Clement VI on 5 July 1350.
He returned to his diocese in 1351, and his report on the Black Death is the earliest evidence of its arrival in Ireland. On his return, he threw himself into his work with vigour. In Dundalk, he became involved in a personal and bitter attack on the orders of mendicant friars. He sought to withdraw their privileges in regard to confession, preaching and other acts as they were undermining his secular clergy in their parishes.
He preached in several places, including Dundalk and Louth in the Diocese of Armagh and Athboy, Kells and Trim in the Diocese of Meath, and in 1355 he carried out an archiepiscopal visitation of the Diocese of Meath.
Later, he developed his arguments on the poverty question in his treatise De Pauperie Salvatoris (On the Poverty of the Saviour). When he was in London on routine business in 1356, he circulated this next, and so made the mendicant controversy more acute.
Richard’s friend, Richard Kilvington, Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, allowed the archbishop to defend himself in a series of sermons preached during the winter and spring of 1356-1357 at Saint Paul’s Cross, the most prominent pulpit in London. The sermons led to a case being brought against Richard to Pope Innocent VI in Avignon on 8 November 1357. There he also dealt with his critics in the eighth book of De Pauperie Salvatoris.
Richard paid a fourth visit to Avignon in 1357 to discuss his dispute with the friars with Pope Innocent VI. He died at the papal court in Avignon around 10 to 20 November 1360.
The dispute between Richard and the friars had dragged on inconclusively, and the case passed into oblivion after his death.
Ten years after his death, his body was recovered in 1370 by Stephen de Valle, Bishop of Meath, and was brought back to Dundalk. He was buried in the Church of Saint Nicholas. It is said that pilgrims who visited his tomb in Dundalk
Many a mile did walk
but had never seen so good a man
as Richard of Dundalk.
The local cult of Saint Richard of Dundalk led to calls for his canonisation, and with the support of several Irish bishops, a commission was convened in Rome at the end of the 14th century to examine the matter.
Richard’s papers were preserved, presumably initially by Dean Kilvington. Along with William Ockham, Thomas Bradwardine, and Adam Wodeham, Richard FitzRalph became one of the four most frequently cited theologians from these islands.
However, his writings were reflected in some of the teachings of John Wyclif on dominion and scriptural proof. The friars pointed to their enemy as the source of Wyclif’s thinking, while Lollard sources referred to him as noster sanctus Armachanus (our Armagh saint). These reactions damaged Richard’s posthumous reputation at the Papal Curia.
His memory was venerated in Dundalk for several centuries and miracles were reported in connection to him. His Defensio Curatorum was printed several times in the late 15th century, and through the works of Archbishop James Ussher, Luke Wadding and other Irish theologians, the memory of Richard FitzRalph was kept alive in the first half of the 17th century.
One topic in which he had an influence is his teaching on dominium or lordship. In his treatise De pauperie Salvatoris (1356), Richard argued that grace alone entitled a person to lordship over temporal things. Some centuries later Lutheran thinkers held that rights, and hence the authority of secular rulers, were dependent on God’s grace. So, if a ruler was a heretic or a sinner, his laws could not be binding in conscience – only a righteous ruler could be a just legislator. An unrighteous ruler could be deposed, and the ‘unrighteous’ included unbelievers.
In his On the Civil Power, Francisco de Vitoria (ca 1485-1546) asked whether non-Christians have legitimate sovereigns in view of the Spanish discovery of the ‘New World’. He states: ‘Richard FitzRalph, Archbishop of Armagh, a man of otherwise blameless character and intelligence, certainly argues in his De pauperitate Saluatoris that not merely unbelief but any mortal sin impedes any kind of power or dominion (dominium or jurisdiction, either public or private; in the mistaken belief that the true title and foundation of all power is grace.’
Vitoria fought against the notion of dominium through grace since, as a consequence, Christians would be entitled to take the lands, wealth and property from the native Americans, because Christians could and should exercise dominium over all unbelievers and over the whole world. This, of course, would render natural rights, or those which belong to human beings precisely because they are human, null and void. It was natural law theory that enabled de Vitoria to mount an impressive argument against this position.
His study of the Quran was marked by scholarly care and scrupulous attention to the text, and he formed an idea of the Islamic Christ as “a pure and blessed one” - a concept that must compel Christians to accept Muslims as partners in dialogue rather than enemies in the world.
Collect (Among the Cloud of Irish Witnesses, George Otto Simms and Brian Mayne, 1994):
Holy and merciful God,
you gave Richard FitzRalph not only gifts of piety and learning
but also such compassion for those were suffering and in need
that he strove to care for them:
Enable the members of your church after his example
to seek holiness in life and integrity of intellect
with a like concern for the helpless;
for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
As calm begins to settle after the storm created by the Brexit results on Friday morning, and as all of us begin to consider the practical implications for political relationship on these islands, I spent some of the weekend reading a book that illustrates how intertwined relations between Ireland and England were 500 or 600years ago.
I picked up John Ashdown-Hill’s book, The Third Plantagenet: George, Duke of Clarence, Richard III’s Brother, during a visit to Lichfield earlier this month.
John Ashdown Hill is the author of The Last Days of Richard III, and this is the first full biography of George, Duke of Clarence, the middle brother of Kings Richard III and Edward IV.
John Ashdown-Hill is the author of a number of books on late mediaeval English history, with a focus on the House of York and Richard III, and he played a key role in identifying the bones of Richard III when they were discovered in a car park in Leicester on 25 August 2012. Subsequent DNA research proved that the mtDNA of the bones matched the sequence from Richard III’s descendants that John had identified in 2004.
John Ashdown-Hill is also the author of The Dublin King, The True Story of Edward Earl of Warwick, Lambert Simnel and the Princes in the Tower. This book explores the background to key events in Dublin a year after Richard III’s death.
A boy claiming to be Richard III’s heir and the rightful King of England was crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in 1487. The Tudor government insisted his real name was Lambert Simnel and that he was a pretender to the throne. In The Dublin King, John Ashdown-Hill questioned that official view and explored the 500-year-old story of the boy-king crowned in Dublin. He also looked at links between the story of the boy known as Lambert Simnel and the story of George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Richard III, and the story of the ‘Princes in the Tower.’
Until now, little has been written about George, Duke of Clarence, who is less well-known than his brothers Edward IV and Richard III. In The Third Plantagenet, John Ashdown-Hill sets out to write the biography of an English prince who was born in Dublin Castle.
George Plantagenet (1449-1478), Duke of Clarence, was the son of Richard Plantagenet (1411-1460), Duke of York and grandson of Edward III. This is the Richard of York who is the subject of the popular mnemonic, ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain,’ to remember the order of the colours of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
Richard had begun to challenge Henry VI for the crown when he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1449. He arrived at Howth on 6 July 1449, and his son George was born in Dublin Castle on 21 October 1449. He was baptised in Saint Saviour’s Priory or Blackfriars in Dublin and his godfathers were James Butler, 4th Earl of Ormonde, and James FitzGerald, 6th Earl of Desmond.
George was the middle brother of King Edward IV and King Richard III, and played a key role in the dynastic struggle known as the Wars of the Roses. Although he was a member of the House of York, he switched his loyalty to the House of Lancaster, and then reverted to the House of York. He was later convicted of treason against his brother, Edward IV, and was executed – the myth is that he was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. He appears as a character in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part 3 and Richard III, in which his death is attributed to the machinations of Richard III.
George had spent part of his early childhood in Dublin Castle and in Trim Castle, Co Meath. Despite his youth, he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1462. In 1469, he married Lady Isabel Neville, the elder daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the ‘Kingmaker.’
Clarence actively supported his elder brother’s claim to the throne. But when Neville deserted Edward IV to ally with Margaret of Anjou, consort of the deposed King Henry, Clarence supported him and was deprived of his office a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Henry VI rewarded Clarence by making him next in line to the throne after his own son, justifying the exclusion of Edward IV. After a short time, however, Clarence was secretly reconciled with Edward. When Warwick was killed in battle in 1471, the re-instated Edward IV restored his brother Clarence to royal favour.
Although most historians now believe Isabel died of consumption or after childbirth, Clarence was convinced she had been poisoned by one of her ladies-in-waiting. Clarence’s mental health deteriorated and he was entrapped in another rebellion against his brother Edward.
Eventually, Clarence became a prisoner in the Tower of London and was tried for treason against his brother Edward IV. He was privately executed at the Tower on 18 February 1478, and a rumour soon gained ground that he had been drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. Shakespeare portrays Clarence as weak-willed and changeable, and several lines refer to his penchant for wine.
In this book, John Ashdown-Hill asks whether Clarence was for York or for Lancaster. Who was really responsible for his execution? Did he drown in a barrel of wine? And did “false, fleeting, perjur’d Clarence” provide the role model for the later defamation in the 16th century of Richard III?
Where was Clarence buried and what became of his body? Can the DNA used by Ashdown-Hill to test the remains of Richard III reveal the truth about the supposed “Clarence bones” in Tewkesbury Abbey?
John Ashdown-Hill seeks to expose many of the the myths surrounding this central Plantagenet figure. For example, is his death by drowning in a butt of Malmsey wine a story with a unique mythology of its own? Ashdown-Hill suggests that in this era, this form of drowning was considered a kinder means of execution than hanging or beheading.
Perhaps Ashdown-Hill is at his weakest when he relies on Wikipedia as a source, and there are idiosyncrasies such as his irritating references to Ireland as ‘Eire’ or his insistence on using quotation marks every time he refers to the ‘Tudor’ dynasty.
Buried in this book is his speculation about the parentage of Edmund and Jasper Tudor. They were the sons of Henry VI’s widowed mother, Catherine of Valois, but the author claims there is no evidence that Owen Tudor was their father, and speculates instead that they were the illegitimate sons of her lover Edmund Beaufort (1406-1455), Duke of Somerset.
Perhaps Ashdown-Hill is at his most fascinating when the book deals with the descendants of Clarence and his posterity. George and his wife Isabel Neville were the parents of four children:
1, Anne of York (1470-1470), who was born and died in a ship off Calais.
2, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1473-1541), ‘Blessed Margaret Pole,’ who married Sir Richard Pole and was executed by Henry VIII.
3, Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick (1475-1499), the last legitimate Plantagenet heir of the direct male line. He was executed by Henry VII for attempting to escape from the Tower of London.
4, Richard of York (1476-1477), born at Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, and died at Warwick Castle.
Ashdown-Hill speculates strongly that the boy who was crowned king as Edward VI in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on 24 May 1487 and who is known in history as Lambert Simnel, was the this third child, Edward, Earl of Warwick, and no imposter. He argues for the possibility that Edward’s father had managed to send this child abroad in 1477.
This is the case he develops in his subsequent book, The Dublin King. Could the boy have been sent to Ireland for protection in the household of Gerald Mór FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare? Od did he remain in England until 1485?
Whatever happened to this boy, Ashdown-Hill traces the descendants of Clarence through his second and only surviving daughter, Margaret Pole, who was beatified as a martyr by Pope Leo XIII in 1886.
One of sons, Cardinal Reginald Pole (), the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury (1500-1558).
Through her eldest son, Henry Pole (1492-1539), 1st Baron Montagu, who was executed for treason by Henry VIII, he traces the descendants of Clarence to a number of interesting people, including Simon Abney-Hastings, 15th Earl of Loudon, who he hails as the senior living representative of the ‘Third Plantagenet’; the journalist Petronella Wyatt, daughter of Woodrow Wyatt and also a descendant of the Wyatt family of architects who originated in Weeford outside Lichfield; and Carole Latimer, who is also descended from Bishop Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), one of the Anglican martyrs of the Reformation executed at Oxford by Mary I.
Through her daughter, Ursula Pole (1504-1570), who married Henry Stafford (1501-1563), 1st Baron Stafford, he traces the Clarence descent to King Albert I of Belgium and to the Roe family of Co Wexford and Co Tipperary. If my friend the late Terry Roe, one of Ireland's most colourful and delightful genealogists, knew of this connection, I can only imagine the fun she would have had tracing further links with the Roe family in Ireland.