Morrissey Thomas E. ,
Miscellanea: Quidam Magister Riccardus and Richard Fleming Bishop of Lincoln: A Note ,
Antonianum, 67/4 (1992) p. 529-533
In a recent article Isaac Vazquez Janeiro produced an interesting bit of detective work on the identification of a previously not identified doctor in theology who was very deeply involved in the process against John Hus at the Council of Constance.1 Vazquez Janeiro argued convincingly for Diego Moxena as the man left unnamed in the sources,2 and based his argument on an analysis of these sources, the dates and an examination of who were the most likely candidates for the time frame and the people involved.3 In all Vazquez Janeiro provides a very stimulating example of sleuthing. I would like on the basis of recent research to add just one correction to his account. Vazquez Janeiro cited the sources on a critical disputation at Constance which involved Hus and which a «certain Master Richard» directed.4 As part of his argument Vazquez Janeiro parenthetically suggested that this «magister Riccardus» was Richard Fleming.'
Fleming was at the Council of Constance as part of the English delegation and apparently saw himself as representing both Oxford University and the King of England.6 Vazquez Janeiro also pointed out that there had been a story about Fleming and the ideas of Wyclif at Oxford earlier in Fleming's career,7 although other historians dismiss this charge of leanings toward Wycliffism as unfounded.8 Since it is known that the charges against Hus, in fact the whole case against him, were linked not just with the long festering rivalry, not to say hostility, between the Germans and the Czechs at the University of Prague,9 but were also linked with ideas attributed to Wycliffe and long seen as suspect at best if not already condemned by legitimate ecclesiastical authority,10 Fleming there
fore would be a very attractive and convenient choice, but unfortunately certain facts militate against this nomination.
Vazquez Janeiro gave the parameters for the disputation or discussion during which Hus was alleged to have made certain incriminating statements as late 1414, specifically between 3 November when Hus arrived in Constance11 and 28 November of that year12 when Hus was arrested.13 Now the absolutely first date for which we know definitely that Fleming was at Constance is January 6, 1417 when he preached the sermon for the day to the council.14 Furthermore the evidence indicates that there had been a fierce dispute at Constance for some months from October, 1416 on into early 1417 and that this dispute concerned the right of the English to have the status of a separate and independent Nation at the council.15
A few years later at the Council of Pavia-Siena when this issue was revived, Fleming who was then present at that council took a prominent part in the disputes and could be called the leading spokesman for the English cause there.16 From the evidence it is unlikely that his voice would not have been heard during the earlier controversy, since he was to be so outspoken at Pavia-Siena on this issue.17 We also know from other incidents that Fleming was an ardent supporter of the cause of England and its claims over against France during his career.
The evidence so far then seems to preclude or at least the burden of proof leans very heavily against identifying Richard Fleming with the unidentified «magister Riccardus» whom the source mentions. This is admittedly an argument so far from silence, i.e., that we have no positive proof or evidence that Fleming was at the council in the time period stipulated and it seems likely that with the issue of England's status so disputed at that time, we would have some evidence of his presence if he had been at Constance that much prior to early 1417.
But there is a further problem with identifying Fleming with the unknown Master Richard. It appears that Fleming was not among the group whom Henry V initially selected to represent England and its monarch at the council. In October, 1414 just prior to the opening of the Council of Constance Henry had nominated Nicholas Bubwith and Robert Hallam, bishops of Bath and Wells and of Salisbury respectively as well as others to serve on this mission.18 The original group of delegates to Constance from England appears to have been delayed in arriving in Constance and this had disrupted the expected schedule of events at the council. Thus the general session scheduled for December 14, 1414 was put off until January 14, 1415 but then Emperor-Elect Sigismund prevailed upon the council to delay even longer in order to give an opportunity for the English and delegates of other nations to take part in the general session, and so it actually took place on February 4, 1415,19 since the English group arrived only on January 31, 1415.20 In 1416 Henry decided to add additional members to this delegation, which was quite small, and this second group reached Constance in September, 1416.21 The members of Henry V's second and later delegation included the bishop of Coventry and Lichfield and the bishop of Norwich who arrived on September 24, 1416 and the bishop of London who came into Constance on September 27, 1416.22 It appears likely that Richard Fleming was a part of this later delegation and thus was not present at Constance to preside over the disputation at which Hus was supposed to have made the incriminating statements. Even more compelling is the evidence presented by Aubrey Gwynn that no member of the English delegation had arrived at the Council of Constance in the Fall of 1414, i.e., at the time when the supposed divulging of his beliefs by Hus took place.23 Thus to all intents and purposes whoever this «quidam magister Riccardus» was, he was not Richard Fleming and so any further attempt to identify him will have to go in another direction. The results of my research then are only on the negative level in that I have been able to say who could not have been this Richard but have not been able to advance beyond this at the present time.