Richard Neile

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The Most Reverend
Richard Neile
Archbishop of York
Installed 1631
Term ended 1640
Predecessor Samuel Harsnett
Successor John Williams
Personal details
Born 1562
Died 31 October 1640[1]
Nationality British
Denomination Church of England
Alma mater St. John's College, Cambridge

Richard Neile (1562–1640) 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.

Early life

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, on the recommendation of Gabriel Goodman to St John's College, Cambridge,[2] as a poor scholar, admitted scholar on 22 April 1580, and matriculated on 18 May. 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. He took the degree of doctor in divinity in 1600.[3]

He preached before Queen Elizabeth, and became vicar of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire (resigned in 1609), and on 5 November 1605 he was installed Dean of Westminster. He resigned the deanery in 1610.[3]


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]


  1. Frederick Maurice Powicke, E. B. Fryde. Handbook of British Chronology. Second Edition, London, 1961, p. 265.
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  4. Morrill, pp.25–26.
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Church of England titles
Preceded by Bishop of Rochester
Succeeded by
John Buckeridge
Preceded by Bishop of Lichfield
Succeeded by
John Overal
Preceded by Bishop of Lincoln
Succeeded by
George Montaigne
Preceded by Prince-Bishop of Durham
Preceded by Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by
Walter Curle
Preceded by Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
John Williams
Political offices
Preceded by Lord Lieutenant of Durham
Title next held by
John Howson