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Rushook, Thomaslocked

(d. 1393)
  • R. G. Davies

Rushook, Thomas (d. 1393), bishop of Chichester, was prior of the Dominican house at Hereford by 1352 and still in 1354. Presumably he was professed there and was probably of a local family, there being the village of Rushock in Worcestershire. Where he obtained his degree of DTh is unknown, and it is not mentioned until as late as April 1383. By 1373 he was provincial of his order in England, when he was asked by the crown for his opinion on the pope's claim to churches' temporalities. In June 1378, together with the other officers of the English province, he was deposed in a general council of the order at Carcassonne after a dispute with the master-general. On 10 November the crown authorized him to appeal to the pope, and all English Dominicans were prohibited from impeding him in the continued exercise of his office or in his appeal. On 25 August 1379, after a hearing of the case by Cardinal Nicolò Carracciolo and benefiting from the circumstance of the great schism, Rushook was restored to his office by Urban VI. Perhaps this crisis brought him to the attention of the royal court. By 5 May 1379 he had been appointed confessor to the boy king, Richard II. On 6 October 1380 he was granted for life the office of chirographer of the common bench, but the appointment was reversed on 20 December because the incumbent was still alive. In November 1381 there was a petition in parliament that he should not 'come to or live in the king's household save only at the four principal feasts of the year' (RotP, 3.101); this was rejected by the government, but such open criticism is early testimony to the dislike Rushook could inspire and of his perceived influence with the young king: John Gower later described him as 'a fawning confessor and a professor of evil who lay hidden under the wings of the king, a friar black within and without' (Wright, 1.421).

Rushook resigned his office as provincial on becoming archdeacon of St Asaph on 9 June 1382; his new office was a personal gift from the king, quite anomalous and even uncanonical for a friar to hold. On 14 or 15 January 1383 he was papally provided as bishop of Llandaff and consecrated in the Blackfriars house in London on 3 May. On 18 October he was given the rectory of Newland, Gloucestershire, to supply an adequate income. He remained in attendance on the king as his confessor. Apart from one or two personal favours for friends, there is no official sign of his influence. However, on 16 October 1385 he was translated on the king's nomination to Chichester, against the election of Richard Scrope by the chapter, who may well have been indicating their explicit dislike for Rushook.

While continuing as king's confessor Rushook can be seen travelling and working in his diocese at least in December 1386 and June–August 1387; no register survives to give a clearer picture. However, Rushook was among those who gave formal witness to the decision of the leading judges in Richard II's favour at Nottingham on 25 August 1387, against the establishment by the Wonderful Parliament in the previous year of a supervisory commission over his rule. Hostile sources even said that Rushook was to the fore in threatening the justices if they decided otherwise. Unsurprisingly, he suffered when leading magnates took military action and had Richard's advisers purged in the Merciless Parliament. In January 1388 Rushook was one of those ordered from court. Not without courage, he still attended the parliament. On 6 March he was attacked so fiercely by the Commons there that, had the clergy present not stood firm on his privilege, he might have faced capital punishment. He was impeached for treason, tried in person, and on 12 May found guilty; his goods were held forfeit to the crown as of 1 October 1387, as too the temporalities of his see. Rushook himself was sentenced to exile in Cork in Ireland, with a maximum subsistence of £26 6s. 8d. p.a., 'if any of his friends wish to give him as much' (RotP, 3.244). On 8 July he received a safe conduct to be at Bristol by 1 August and in Cork by 29 September.

The king's opponents were thorough; by 17 November 1388 they had had Rushook translated to the see of Kilmore, which although in Ireland was well outside English control. However, armed with information from friends of the bishop about his misery, and now somewhat recovered in personal authority, on 10 March 1390 Richard II granted him an annuity of £40. He was paid for the last time on 25 January 1393, so probably he died soon afterwards. As a Dominican, he could make no will. He was, for no obvious reason, buried at Seal in Kent. Although Richard had not dared recall him as confessor, he made his position clear enough by employing Rushook's young companion and chaplain from the Hereford house, John Burghill, instead. He was to attract similar abuse. It should be pointed out, however, that those close to Richard II were rarely parasites or incapable; indeed usually he favoured talent. Rushook's sins seem those of unpopular loyalty rather than of personal demerit.

Sources

  • R. G. Davies, ‘The episcopate in England and Wales, 1375–1443’, PhD diss., University of Manchester, 1974, 3.ccxxxviii–ccxl
  • C. F. R. Palmer, ‘The king's confessors’, The Antiquary, 22 (1890), 265–6
  • RotP, 3.101, 243–4
J. Strachey, ed., , 6 vols. (1767–77)