Bishop; b. c. 1343; d. Aug. 23, 1406. He studied civil law at Oxford and received a licentiate in civil law in 1370. In that year, because of the prominence of his family, he was made bishop of Norwich by papal provision; he received a papal dispensation since he was only 27. He suppressed the Peasants' Rebellion of June 1381 in East Anglia, delivering peterborough and its monks from the rebels and hanging three captive rebels at Wymondham on his own authority. In 1382 Pope urban vi commissioned him to raise and conduct an English crusade against the French supporters of the Avignon anti-pe clement vii in Flanders (see western schism). The indulgences, with absolution from punishment and guilt, which were conceded to him for the crusade by Pope Urban VI, stimulated the project but also provided an occasion for John wyclif to attack the Church in general and the crusade in particular. Parliament, which at the time was weighing the value of an English expedition to Spain under John of Gaunt's leadership against the crusade to Flanders, opted—with the support of the Commons and the Church—for the bishop's crusade. But the crusade ended in disaster, and on his return Despenser was impeached by the Commons for the misconduct of the war, found guilty by the Lords, and condemned to lose the temporalities of the see (1383). However, these were restored in 1385. A steadfast supporter of Richard II, he only reluctantly accepted Henry IV (1399). He is buried in Norwich cathedral.
Bibliography: t. f. tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval England, 6 v. (Manchester, Eng. 1920–33). e. powell, The Rising in East Anglia in 1381 (Cambridge, Eng.1896). a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 (Oxford 1957–59) 2169–70. r. l. poole, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 1885–1900; repr. with corrections, 1908–09, 1921–22, 1938) 14:410–412. a. b. steele, Richard II (Cambridge, Eng. 1941; repr. 1963).
Revd Dr William M. Marshall
R. L. Storey