Fletcher, Dr. Richard

, bishop of Bristol, Worcester, and London, is generally said to have been a native of Kent, and as such is placed by Fuller among the Worthies of that county, where that name has been very common; otherwise, as he was one of the first fellows of Bene‘t college, Cambridge, upon archbishop Parker’s foundation, there would have been reason to suppose him a native either of Norwich or Norfolk, the Parker fellowships being appropriated to the natives of those places. He was, however, a scholar of Trinity college in 1563, where (as he proceeded M. A. and removed to Bene’t college in 1569) he had probably been admitted the year before. On his removing to Bene’t, he entered upon the business of pupils, and other offices of the college; and in 1572 went to Oxford, where he was incorporated A. M. In September of that year, he was instituted to the prebend of Islington in th church of St. Paul, London, upon the presentation of Matthew Parker, gent, son to the archbishop, who probably had the patronage of that turn made over to him by bishop Grindal, in order to carry on his father’s scheme of annexing prebends to the fellowships he had founded. Accordingly he held this with his fellowship; and was made president upon Mr. Norgate’s promotion to the mastership the year following, but seems to have left the college soon after, with a testimonial of his learning and good behaviour, as well as of his having acquitted himself with credit in the offices of the college, in the public schools, and in the pulpit. In 1581 he proceeded D. D. and became chaplain to the queen, to whom he had been rero.nmcMiJed by archbishop Whitgift for the deanry of Windsor, but she chose rather to bestow on him that of Peterborough in 1583. In 1585, the prebend of SuttonLonga in the church of Lincoln was given to him, and he was likewise parson of Aidcrkirke in that diocese, and was presented by sir Thomas Cecil to the church of Barnack. Soon after this, he was appointed to attend upon the execution of Mary queen of Scots, at Fotheringhay castle, | in which office some biographers have censured him for his endeavouring to bring that unhappy princess over to the protestant religion. In his speech, however, to her, as preserved by Strype, we see nothing more than an honest zeal, which perhaps men of cautious tempers would have reserved for a more promising opportunity.

In 1589, queen Elizabeth, with whom he was in high favour, promoted him to the bishopric of Bristol, and about the same time made him her almoner. Sir John Harrington says that he took this see on condition to lease out the revenues to courtiers, an accusation to which Browne Willis seems inclined to give credit. He was, however, translated to Worcester in 1592, and about two years after that to London, in consequence of his particular solicitation to the lord treasurer. Soon after he was promoted to the see of London, he gave out twenty-seven articles of inquiry to the churchwardens upon his primary visitation; and by these means, according to Neal, many of the nonconformists, or rather puritans, as they were at this time called, suffered imprisonment. But he was soon interrupted in these proceedings, by marrying, for his second wife, the widow of sir John Baker, of Sisingherst in Kent, a very handsome woman. Queen Elizabeth, who had an extreme aversion to the clergy’s marrying, was highly offended at the bishop. She thought it very indecent for an elderly clergyman, a bishop, and one that had already had one wife, to marry a second: and gave such a loose to her indignation, that, not content with forbidding him her presence, she ordered archbishop Whitgift to suspend him from the exercise of his episcopal function, which was accordingly done. He was afterwards restored to his bishopric, and in some measure to the queen’s favour: yet the disgrace sat so heavy on his mind, that it is thought to have hastened his end. He died suddenly in his chair, at his house in London, June 15, 1596; being, to all appearance, well, sick, and dead, in a quarter of an hour. He was an immoderate taker of tobacco; the qualities of which being then not well known, and supposed to have something poisonous in them, occasioned Camden to impute his death to it, as he does in his Annals of Elizabeth’s reign. He was buried in his cathedral, near bishop Aylmer, but without any monument. Of his character it is not easy to form a very favourable judgment, nor does it appear that he is censurable for any great errors, except that | he was perhaps too compliant with some of the caprices of his royal mUiress His appearance and person wr re stately, which made him be called Prcsul spttndidus, hut this did not arise from pride, as those who were most intimate with him commended his modesty and humility. There are no works ascribed to his pen, except some regulations for the better government or his diocese, and the reformation of his spiritual courts, which are printed among the records in Collier’s *' Ecclesiastical History." By his first wife, whose name is not known, he had the more celebrated subject of the following article. 1


Biog. Brit. Masters’s Hist, of C. C. C. Cambridge. —Strype’s WhitgifX, p. 322, 393, 418, 428. Harrington’s Brief View. Neal’s Puritans.