Bishop Reginald Peacock and his inviting of heresy

On 4 December 1457 Bishop Reginald Peacock was removed from the Privy Council. The reason was unusual. His writings had been challenged, and were soon deemed to have invited heresy.

Bishop Reginald Peacock

Born in 1395 he was very well educated, becoming a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford in 1417. In 1420 he was ordained a subdeacon, and in the following year, he rose to deacon, then priest. In 1425, Peacock graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity, and at about this time he attracted the attention of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.

Court and the bishopric of Chichester

Duke Humphrey introduced Peacock to court, and he soon gained positions of note. In 1431 he became master of Whittington College, London where he excelled. He then became the rector of St. Michaels in Riola before, in 1444, being created Bishop of Asaph. He was later translated to the bishop’s seat at Chichester in 1450.

Bishop Peacock as a Privy Counsellor

In 1454 Peacock’s genius earned him a place on the Privy Council. However, there was a problem. Peacock had addressed the issue of Lollardy head-on. He wrote the Repressor of overmuch Blaming of the Clergy and other theological books. The books were highly controversial. He had written in English and suggested that non-clerics could question teachings.

‘Inviting heresy’

The opinion that an ordinary layperson could question spiritual matters was his undoing. In 1457 he was removed from the Privy Council. Archbishop Bourchier investigated his works. Peacock’s works were found to be inviting heresy which was an ecclesiastical crime.

He was stripped of his ecclesiastical roles and given a simple choice: retract and repent or be burnt at the stake.

Peacock chose to repent and retract. He delivered his books to the authorities and gave penance for his sins.

Featured Image of Reginald Peacock

Photograph of Bishop Peacock’s portrait as displayed in Chichester Cathedral. Photo taken by myself.


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