Reginald Pecock

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Reginald Pecock
Bishop of Chichester
Church Catholic
See Diocese of Chichester
In office 1450–1457
Predecessor Adam Moleyns
Successor John Arundel
Ordination 1421
Personal details
Died circa 1461
Thorney Abbey
Previous post Bishop of St. Asaph

Reginald Pecock (or Peacock; c. 1395– c. 1461) was an English prelate, Scholastic, and writer.


Pecock was probably born in Wales, and was educated at Oriel College, Oxford.

Having been ordained priest in 1421, Pecock secured a mastership at Whittington College, London in 1431 where he was also parish priest of St. Michael's.[citation needed] On 14 June 1444 he was consecrated as Bishop of St Asaph,[1] and Bishop of Chichester on 23 March 1450.[2] In 1454 he became a member of the privy council. He joined the debate on primitive Christian doctrine in his Repressing of over mich wyting [blaming] the Clergie, 1449, and Book of Faith, 1456. These were both more cogent than the Lollard tenets, and sought to stay the Lollard movement by setting aside ecclesiastical infallibility, and taking the appeal to Scripture and reason alone.[3] It was principally Pecock's appeal to reason and his attack on the primacy of episcopal authority for which he was deprived in 1458.

In attacking the Lollards Pecock put forward the following religious views: he asserted that the Scriptures were not the only standard of right and wrong; he questioned some of the articles of the creed and the infallibility of the Church; he wished "bi cleer witte drawe men into consente of trewe feith otherwise than bi fire and swerd or hangement" and in general he exalted the authority of reason. Owing to these views the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier, ordered his writings to be examined. This was done and he was found guilty of heresy. The manuscript record, however, does not support these accusations and general opinion is that Pecock was wrongly accused and convicted due to political not theological reasons.

Pecock was removed from the privy council and he only saved himself from a painful death by privately, and then publicly (at St Paul's Cross, 4 December 1457), renouncing his opinions. Pecock, who has been called "the only great English theologian of the 15th century,"[citation needed] was then forced to resign his bishopric in January 1459,[2] and was removed to Thorney Abbey in Cambridgeshire, where he doubtless remained[citation needed] until his death about 1461.[2]

Stained glass window in Chichester Cathedral depicting Reginald Peacock, Ralph of Luffa and Wilfrid, all Bishops of Chichester

The bishop's chief work is the famous Represser of over-much weeting [blaming] of the Clergie, which was issued c. 1449-1455. In addition to its great importance in the history of the Lollard movement the Represser has an exceptional interest as a model of the English of the time, Pecock being one of the first writers to use the vernacular. In thought and style alike it is the work of a man of learning and ability.

A biography of Pecock is added to the edition of the Repressor published by Churchill Babington for the Rolls Series in 1860.

Linguistic Innovations: Reginald Pecock was one of the most prolific creators of new words in the English language. He is the twenty-second most prolific creator of English words with 715 new attestations in the Oxford English Dictionary and Middle English Dictionary combined. Although scholarship has traditionally seen his efforts as an attempt to elevate the status of English, statistical analysis of his language use has shown the opposite to be true. He creates twice as many Latinate words as Germanic words.

Works extant[edit]

  • The repressing of over mich wyting [blaming] of the Clergie [1449]; by Reginald Pecock; Ed. by Churchill Babington; London, Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860.
  • The Book of Faith(1456), ed. J. L. Morison, (Glasgow, 1909).
  • The Donet, ed. E. V. Hitchcock, (London, 1921).
  • The Follower of the Donet, ed. E. V. Hitchcock (Oxford, 1971).
  • The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy, ed. C. Babington, (2 vols, London, 1860).
  • The reule of crysten religioun, by Reginald Pecock ... now first edited from Pierpont Morgan Ms. 519, by William Cabell Greet; London, H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1927; & New York, 1971); Millwood, N.Y., Kraus Reprint, 1987.


  1. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 296
  2. ^ a b c Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 239
  3. ^ Alexander Gordon Heads of English Unitarian History 1895


  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Lowe
Bishop of St. Asaph
Succeeded by
Thomas Bird
Preceded by
Adam Moleyns
Bishop of Chichester
Succeeded by
John Arundel