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Richard Neile (or Neale; 1562 – 31 October 1640) was an English churchman, bishop successively of six English dioceses, more than any other man, including the Archdiocese of York from 1631 until his death. He was involved in the last burning at the stake for heresy in England, that of the Arian Edward Wightman in 1612.

Richard Neile
Archbishop of York
Richard Neile portrait.jpg
Term ended1640
PredecessorSamuel Harsnett
SuccessorJohn Williams
Personal details
Bornbaptised (1562-03-11)11 March 1562
Died31 October 1640(1640-10-31) (aged 78)
DenominationChurch of England
EducationWestminster School
Alma materSt. John's College, Cambridge

Early lifeEdit

Neile was born in Westminster, and baptised on 11 March 1562 at St Margaret's, Westminster.[1]

He was son of a tallow-chandler, though his grandfather had been a courtier and official under Henry VIII, until he was deprived for non-compliance with the Six Articles. He was educated at Westminster School, under Edward Grant and William Camden. He was sent by Mildred, Lady Burghley (wife of Lord Burghley), on the recommendation of Gabriel Goodman to St John's College, Cambridge as a poor scholar,[2] matriculating at Easter 1580, graduating B.A. 1584, M.A. 1587, B.D. 1595, D.D. 1600.[1]

Ordained deacon and priest at Peterborough in 1589,[1] he continued to enjoy the patronage of the Burghley family, residing in their household, and became chaplain to Lord Burghley, and later to his son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury.[2]

He preached before Queen Elizabeth, and became vicar of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire (1590) and rector of Toddington, Bedfordshire (1598).[1] He was appointed Master of the Savoy in 1602, and in July 1603 Clerk of the Closet,[3] a position he would hold until 1632. On 5 November 1605 he was installed Dean of Westminster, resigning the deanery in 1610.[2]


He held successively the bishoprics of Rochester (1608), Lichfield and Coventry (1610), Lincoln (1614), Durham (1617), and Winchester (1628), and the archbishopric of York (1631).

While at Rochester he appointed William Laud as his chaplain and gave him several valuable preferments. His political activity while bishop of Durham was rewarded with a privy councillorship in 1627. Neile sat regularly in the courts of Star Chamber and High Commission. His correspondence with Laud and with Sir Dudley Carleton and Sir Francis Windebank (Charles I's secretaries of state) are valuable sources for the history of the time.

Oliver Cromwell made only one speech during his first stint as a Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in the Parliament of 1628–1629, a poorly received attack against Neile, possibly over disagreement with his form of Arminianism.[4]


Neile was the father of Sir Paul Neile, astronomer and politician, and grandfather of William Neile, mathematician.[5] His brother, another William Neile (1560-1624), was a book-collector who left 880 books to his children at his death.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "Neale, Richard (NL580R)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ a b c Hutton, W. H. (1894). "Neile, Richard" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 40. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. ^ McCullough, Peter (1998). Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching. 1. Cambridge University Press. p. 110. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  4. ^ Morrill, pp.25–26.
  5. ^ "Neile, William" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  6. ^ Westminster Archives, Commissary Court of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster wills, Camden 27.
  • Morrill, John (1990). "The Making of Oliver Cromwell", in Morrill, John (ed.), Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (Longman), ISBN 0-582-01675-4.
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Lancelot Andrewes
Dean of Westminster
Succeeded by
George Montaigne
Preceded by
William Barlow
Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
John Buckeridge
Preceded by
George Abbot
Bishop of Lichfield
Succeeded by
John Overal
Preceded by
William Barlow
Bishop of Lincoln
Succeeded by
George Montaigne
Preceded by
William James
Prince-Bishop of Durham
Preceded by
Lancelot Andrewes
Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by
Walter Curle
Preceded by
Samuel Harsnett
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
John Williams
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Somerset
Lord Lieutenant of Durham
Title next held by
John Howson