Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Barre, Richard

BARRE, RICHARD (fl. 1170–1202), ecclesiastic and judge, acted as the envoy of Henry II to the papal court, both shortly before and immediately after the murder of Thomas Becket. On the first occasion he was the bearer of a haughty and even minatory message from the king demanding that the pope should absolve all those who had been excommunicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The mission, it need hardly be said, failed of its object. The letter from Alexander III to the Archbishop of York, which Foss connects with it, is without a date, and its authenticity, as well as the date to which, if authentic, it should be assigned, has been the subject of much controversy, both questions being still unsettled. On the second occasion Barre was despatched in company with the Archbishop of Rouen, the Bishops of Evreux and Worcester, and others of the clergy, to express to the pope the king's horror and detestation of the murder. The Archbishop of Rouen got no further than Normandy, falling ill by the way, and Barre was sent forward to Italy alone. On reaching Tusculanum he was refused audience by the pope; but on the arrival of others of his party two, ‘qui minus habebantur suspecti,’ were admitted, and in the end the embassy was successful in averting the impending excommunication. Barre was entrusted with the custody of the great seal on the coronation of the heir apparent in 1170, but on the revolt of the prince in 1173 he offered to surrender it to the king, disclaiming all allegiance to his son. Henry, however, refused to receive him. Barre probably succeeded Richard de Ely, otherwise FitzNeale, as archdeacon of Ely in 1184. However this may be, he is known to have held that post between 1191 and 1196. He was appointed one of the justices of the king's court at Westminster 1195–6, and his name is found as one of those before whom fines were levied there as late as the beginning of the reign of King John. In the third year of that reign he acted as one of the coadjutors of Geoffrey FitzPiers in the business of levying amerciaments in Leicestershire.

[Rymer's Fœdera, i. 29; Matthew Paris's Majora, ii. 248–9; Chronicle of the Reigns of Henry II and Rich. I (Stubbs), i. 20–2; Le Neve, i. 350; Dugdale's Chron. Ser. 5; Fines (Hunter), 1–4; Rot. Cancell. (Hardy), p. 14, Pref. p. x.]

J. M. R.