DAVIES, RICHARD (1501? - 1581), bishop and biblical translator

Name: Richard Davies
Date of birth: 1501?
Date of death: 1581
Spouse: Dorothy Davies (née Woodforde)
Parent: Sioned wraig Dafydd ap Gronw
Parent: Dafydd ap Gronw
Gender: Male
Occupation: bishop and biblical translator
Area of activity: Literature and Writing; Religion; Scholarship and Languages
Author: Glanmor Williams

The son of Dafydd ap Gronw, curate of Gyffin, and his wife, Jonet, both sprung from gentle stock. He entered New Inn Hall, Oxford, proceeding M.A. on 28 June 1530 and B.D. 28 June 1536. Probably attracted to Protestantism at Oxford, he became rector of Maidsmorton, Buckinghamshire, in 1549, and vicar of Burnham, 1550, being nominated to both by the Crown. He married Dorothy Woodforde of Burnham.

Upon the accession of Mary, Davies was summoned before the Privy Council in 1553, and was later deprived of his livings. He and his family withdrew to Frankfort in 1555, and remained in exile until 1558.

In 1559 he headed a royal commission for the visitation of Hereford, Worcester, and the Welsh dioceses. On 4 December 1559 he was elected bishop of St Asaph, being consecrated at Lambeth 21 January 1560. Because his see was poor (£187 11s. 6d.) he was allowed to hold 'in commendam' his Buckinghamshire livings and two benefices in S. Asaph. Early in 1560 he sent a certified list of his clergy to archbishop Parker.

Elected bishop of S. Davids to succeed Thomas Young 21 March 1561, he took the oath 18 May, but the first notice in his register does not occur until September 1561. He took his place in Convocation and the House of Lords regularly, but without distinction. Both secular and ecclesiastical authorities made use of his talents as an administrator in Wales. A member of the Council of the Marches, he often acted as a special commissioner for it and for the Privy Council. In 1566 he tendered advice on the election of bishops to Llandaff and Bangor. Severe in his criticism of the selfseeking of officials, Davies was himself accused of grave injustice and partiality by Fabian Phillips. His register (1561-6), his reports of 1563, 1570, and 1577, and his Funeral sermon on the death of the earl of Essex, 1577, are valuable sources of information for his diocesan activity. His greatest difficulties in dealing with the clergy were their poverty, pluralism, ignorance, and conservatism, and the shortage of preachers and ordinands. He had also to contend with the persistence of Romanist beliefs and customs among the people, and with the rapacity and religious luke-warmness of the gentry. In particular, he had a bitter struggle from 1566 to his death to vindicate his rights over the church of Llanddewi-brefi. He was accused by his successor and by later writers of recklessness, simony, and nepotism, in disposing of episcopal lands and advowsons. The chapter records show that while he was not above reproach, he was not as culpable as has been suggested.

Davies attained fame as a scholar, being consulted by archbishop Parker, who delegated to him the translation of Joshua - 2 Samuel for the ' Bishops' Bible,' 1568. He maintained learning and hospitality at his palace, was a generous patron of poets, and wrote some mediocre verses himself. To expedite the translation of the Bible into Welsh after the Act of 1563 he invited William Salesbury to Abergwili. The outcome of their collaboration was the Prayer Book (Lliver gweddi Gyffredin ) and New Testament (Testament Newydd ein Arglwydd Iesu Christ ) of 1567. The authorship of the former has been usually attributed to Davies, but its style is much more characteristic of Salesbury. Davies wrote the prefatory Epistol at y Cembru, as well as translating 1 Timothy and Hebrews - 2 Peter for the Testament. A quarrel is said to have prevented their promised completion of the Old Testament, but Davies left manuscript proof of his further attempts at translating parts of the New Testament. He died 7 November 1581.


Published date: 1959

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