Peacock, Reynold

, bishop of St. Asaph, and Chichester, in the reign of Henry Vj. is supposed to have been born in Wales about 1390. He was educated in Oriel college, Oxford, of which he was chosen fellow in October 1417, in the room of Richard Garsdale, S. T. P. who was then elected provost of the college. Having studied with a view to the church, he was ordained deacon and priest in 1420 by Fleming, bishop of Lincoln. In 1425 he took his degree of bachelor of divinity, and about this time is supposed to have left the university. Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, was now protector of the kingdom, and being a great patron of learned men, invited Mr. Peacock to court, where he was enabled to make a very considerable figure by his talents. In 1431, he was elected master of the college of St. Spirit and St. Mary, founded by sir Richard Whittington; and with it was appointed to the rectory of St. Michael in Riola, now St. Michael Royal, situated in the street called Tower Royal in Viutry ward. This situation he resigned in 1444, on being promoted to the bishopric of St. Asaph. To whom he owed this preferment seems uncertain, as his patron the duke of Gloucester was now declining in court interest, but perhaps the estimation he was held in at court may account for it. He now was honoured with the degree of D. D. at Oxford, in his absence, and without performing any exercises, an omission for which he was reproached afterwards by his enemies, although it was not then uncommon. In 1447 he preached a sermon at Paul’s cross, in which he maintained that bishops were not under obligation to preach or to take the cure of souls, and that their duties consist entirely in the various acts of church government. This doctrine was not very palatable even then, and he was under the necessity of explaining himself to the archbishop of Canterbury; but it showed, what appeared more clearly afterwards, that he was accustomed to think for himself, and to pay little deference to authority or custom.

In 1449, he was translated to the see of Chichester, and now began to give opinions which were ill suited to the times in which he lived. Although he had taken great pains both in his preaching and writings to defend the established church against the disciples of Wickliffe, now called Lollards, he gave it as his opinion, that the most probable means of reclaiming them was by allowing them the use of | their reason, and not insisting on the infallibility of the church. The clergy, we may suppose, were not satisfied with such doctrine; and many of the learned men of the universities were so highly offended with it, and with his writing in the English language on subjects which ought to be concealed from the laity, that they at last prevailed with the archbishop of Canterbury to cite him. The archbishop accordingly issued his mandate, in Oct. 1457, ordering all persons to appear who had any thing to allege against the bishop of Chichester; and his books being found to contain various heretical opinions, he read a recantation, first in the archbishop’s court at Lambeth, and afterwards at St. Paul’s cross, where his books were burnt, as they also were at Oxford. He was likewise deprived of his bishopric, and confined in Thorney abbey, in Cambridgeshire, where it is supposed he died about 1460. His biographer has given an ample account of his writings, all of which remain in ms. except his “Treatise of Faith,” published by Wharton in 1688, 4to. He appears to have been a man of learning, and an acute reasoner. The opinions for which he suffered were not perhaps so decided as to procure him admittance to the list of reformers; but it is evident that he was one of the first who contended against the infallibility of the Romish church, and in favour of the holy scriptures being the principal guide. In 1744 the rev. John Lewis, of Margate, published “The Li/e” of this prelate, which, as he justly styles it, forms a “sequel to the Life” of Wickliff, and is an useful introduction to the history of the English reformation. 1


Life as above.