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

FITZJAMES, RICHARD (d. 1522), bishop of London, son of John and grandson of James Fitzjames, who married Eleanor, daughter of Simon Draycot, was born at Redlynch, in the parish of Bruton, Somersetshire. Nothing is known of him till he became a student at Oxford, which Wood says was about 1459. He was elected fellow of Merton College in 1465, and had taken his degree of M.A. before he was ordained acolyte (XIV Kal. Maii, 1471). Fuller speaks of him as being of right ancient and worthy parentage; but Campbell, in his life of his nephew, Sir John Fitzjames [q. v.], speaks of him as of low origin, though he gives no authority for the statement. He served the office of proctor in the university of Oxford in 1473, and in 1477 became prebendary of Taunton in the cathedral church of Wells, in succession to John Wansford, subdean of Wells, resigned. He was afterwards chaplain to Edward IV, and took degrees in divinity. He was principal of St. Alban Hall from Michaelmas day 1477 to the same day 1481, and treasurer of St. Paul's 1483–97 and prebendary from 1485 to 1497. In 1485 he became rector of Aller and vicar of Minehead, both in Somerset, and in 1495 was incorporated M.A. at Cambridge. He held Aller till 1497, when he was succeeded by Christopher Bainbridge, afterwards cardinal and archbishop of York. He was, says Wood, a frequent preacher, but read, not preached, his sermons. On 12 March 1483 he succeeded John Gygur in the wardenship of his college. This post he held till 1507, and won golden opinions for his liberality and excellent government of the college. He considerably enlarged the warden's lodge, and was otherwise so great a benefactor to the college as almost to be considered its second founder. Among other reforms he procured an enactment that no one admitted into the society should be ordained till he had completed his regency in arts, the object being to remedy the ignorance of candidates for holy orders. In 1511, being at that time bishop of London, he was appointed by the university to inquire into its privileges, and the relation in which it stood to the town of Oxford. He also contributed to the completion of St. Mary's Church. In 1495 he became almoner to Henry VII, and was consecrated bishop of Rochester, 2 Jan. 1497, at Lambeth by Cardinal Morton, assisted by the bishops of Llandaff and Bangor. He appears to have been employed at Calais in March 1499 in negotiations for a commercial treaty with the Low Countries, in conjunction with Warham and Sir Richard Hatton, and was one of the bishops appointed to be in the procession for receiving the Princess Catherine of Arragon on her arrival in this country in 1501, and to attend on the Archbishop of Canterbury on his celebration of the marriage with Prince Arthur. In January 1504 he was translated to Chichester, and to London on 14 March 1506, soon after which he resigned the wardenship of his college. During his tenure of this see he did much for the restoration and beautifying of St. Paul's Cathedral. Bernard André commemorates his preaching on Sunday 31 Oct. 1507 at Paul's Cross. He lived till 15 Jan. 1521–2, and was buried in the nave of his cathedral, a small chapel being erected over his tomb, which was destroyed by fire in 1561. In conjunction with his brother John, father of the lord chief justice of England [see Fitzjames, Sir John], he founded the school of Bruton, near the village where he was born. The palace at Fulham was also built by him.

He seems to have been a man of high character and greatly respected, in this respect very unlike his brother the chief justice. While at Oxford he acted as commissary (an office which corresponds to that of the vice-chancellor of this day) in 1481, under the chancellorship of Lionel Woodville, bishop of Salisbury, and again served the same office in 1491 and 1492, under John Russell, bishop of Lincoln; and in 1502, upon the resignation of William Smith, bishop of Lincoln, being then warden of Merton and bishop of Rochester, became, as Wood says, ‘cancellarius natus.’

Fitzjames belonged to the strongly conservative type of bishop. In a letter from Fitzjames to Cardinal Wolsey (printed by Foxe) the bishop defended his chancellor, Horsey, who had been imprisoned on the charge of murdering Hunne, a merchant tailor of London charged with heresy. Fitzjames asked that the cause might be tried before the council, because he felt assured that a jury in London would condemn any clerk, be he as innocent as Abel, as they were so maliciously set ‘in favorem hæreticæ pravitatis.’ Horsey was condemned and afterwards pardoned. Foxe prints a document the authenticity of which Mr. Brewer doubts, to the effect that the king orders Horsey to recompense Roger Whapplot and Margaret his wife, daughter of Richard Hunne, for the wasting of his goods, which were of no little value. It appears from Fitzjames's ‘Register’ that there were a few other cases of prosecution for heresy during his episcopate, all of which ended in a recantation and abjuration. Fitzjames deprecated Dean Colet's efforts at church reform, and from 1511 onwards the dean complained of the persecution he suffered at his bishop's hands [see Colet, John].

[Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, ii. 720; Wood's History and Antiquities, ed. Gutch; Burnet's Reformation; Fuller's Worthies; Lupton's Life of Colet, 1887; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 25, 26, 526; Stubbs's Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum; Foxe's Acts and Monuments; Le Neve's Fasti; Godwin, De Præsulibus; Brewer's Calendar of State Papers; Bernard André's Hist. of Henry VII, ed. Gairdner; Gairdner's Letters of Richard III and Henry VII; Fitzjames's Register.]

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