Rodyard (Rudyard), William de (c.1275–c.1349), dean of St Patrick's cathedral, Dublin, and chancellor of Ireland's first university, was born in the latter half of the thirteenth century, most probably in Rudyard, Staffordshire. There is no extant evidence relating to his early life or career, but he was certainly ordained, and he most probably attended a university and attained a higher degree, as he is referred to as 'Master de Rodyard' in later records.
Although it is hard to establish much of de Rodyard's career, what is available demonstrates an able churchman, member of the judiciary and royal administrator. The earliest mention of him occurs in May 1306 when the canons of St Patrick's issued a document in defence of their liberties. The chapter, held at St Patrick's, was attended by twelve canons including the dean Thomas de Chaddesworth (qv) and de Rodyard, who was named as treasurer of the cathedral. Clearly he had been present in Ireland for some time by this date, since he had risen to one of the four top positions in the cathedral. The next mention of him occurs in December 1310 when he was named as among those present at the justiciar's court in Ballymore, Co. Kildare. His presence there indicates that he was acting as an itinerant justice, travelling with the justiciar John Wogan (qv) as he held courts throughout the English-held parts of medieval Ireland.
In 1310 there were indications that de Chaddesworth was increasingly unable to fulfil his duties as dean. In that year Alexander Bicknor (qv), also a canon of St Patrick's, was appointed vice-dean on account of de Chaddesworth's infirmity. Early the following year, in 1311, de Rodyard was temporarily appointed vicar-general of the archdiocese of Dublin by Archbishop John Lech (qv), a position he held until Walter Thornbury was appointed on 1 October 1312. De Chaddesworth died, most probably in March 1311, and while it is possible that de Rodyard was appointed dean the same year a court record from the following year would suggest otherwise. In January 1312 the justiciar held a court at Ross, Co. Wexford. De Rodyard was present, and he is described as custos of the vacant bishopric of Ferns and not dean of St Patrick's – a title that would certainly have taken precedent.
Before the end of 1312 de Rodyard was elected dean of St Patrick's cathedral, a position that enjoyed substantial revenues and a great deal of ecclesiastical and administrative power. The canons of St Patrick's and Christ Church were responsible for choosing the archbishops of Dublin and assisting them in religious governance, while the royal government relied heavily on the ranks of the clergy for administrative positions such as treasurer, chancellor and justiciar. De Rodyard appears to have excelled in both spheres. In 1313 he was one of three canons from St Patrick's nominated for the vacant archbishopric of Dublin. He declined the position, perhaps in deference to Bicknor and Thornbury who were also nominated, but it clearly demonstrated the esteem in which he was held. In 1315, in his capacity as dean, he was closely involved in the defence of the English colony against the threat caused by the Scottish invasion led by Edward Bruce (qv), brother of Robert I of Scotland. In that year he attended a parliament that involved most of the church and administrative hierarchy, as well as almost all the English nobility in Ireland and many Gaelic Irish lords. The following March his cathedral suffered damage and looting when the citizens of Dublin set fire to the suburbs in the hope of deterring the Scottish army from a siege of the town. In March 1317 the pope authorized the archbishops of Dublin and Cashel, and de Rodyard as dean of Dublin, to publish letters of excommunication against the Bruce brothers, while on 10 April they were commanded to publish sanctions and threat of excommunication against any religious orders or priests supporting the Scottish in Ireland.
The next mention of de Rodyard in the records is in 1321 when Bicknor, now archbishop of Dublin, established a university attached to St Patrick's cathedral. His predecessor Lech had received papal approval for a stadium generale in 1312 but his untimely death stalled the project. The new university consisted of two faculties – theology and law – and de Rodyard was appointed chancellor, having first been awarded a doctorate in canon law from the newly-erected university. Although the institution never appears to have flourished there is evidence to suggest that it continued, in name at least, until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.
During the 1320s de Rodyard's name became associated with one of the most famous trials in medieval Ireland when Dame Alice Kyteler (qv) was accused of witchcraft and sorcery. In 1324 the bishop of Ossory, Richard Ledrede (qv), accused Kyteler, her son William Outlaw (qv) and their servants of communicating with demons, of having the name of the evil one stamped on the sacred host and of offering sacrifices to Satan. The bishop flogged Kyteler's maidservant, Petronilla of Meath, until she confessed to everything, and it was mainly her testimony that provided evidence against the other members of the group. Kyteler, fearing prosecution, fled to Dublin where she was cited to appear in court before de Rodyard. When she made her appearance she begged for a day on which to answer which he granted and, having received sufficient bail, allowed her to go. Kyteler apparently took the opportunity and fled to England and freedom. Petronilla was not so lucky. She was the first person to be burned for heresy in Ireland, as witchcraft was not yet on the statute books. Ledrede refused to let the matter rest and in 1328 accused the officials involved of heresy. The justiciar Roger Outlaw (qv), a relative of Kyteler and her son William, commissioned an inquiry into the bishop's accusations and de Rodyard was one of six who cleared them of any accusations.
At about the same time as Ledrede was making his accusations in Kilkenny, de Rodyard was appointed a papal legate and charged with making inquiries into the activities of the Franciscans in Ireland, who had been in turmoil since Bruce's invasion. In April and again in May 1324 de Rodyard issued his findings, declaring that many Gaelic Irish friars were 'gravely suspect and a danger to the king's peace' (Calendar of Ormond deeds, i, no. 575). He recommended that rebellious friars should be distributed throughout the other houses of the order in Ireland, excepting three or four of the least suspect, and that no Irish friar should be appointed to a position of authority.
De Rodyard's knowledge of the law was clearly extensive, given his qualification as a doctor of canon law and his position as an itinerant justice. In November 1327 he was appointed justice of the common bench at Dublin, and he continued to be reappointed almost continuously (with a break of just forty days in total) until April 1332. In addition, he was trusted by the church hierarchy and enjoyed a close relationship with the archbishop of Dublin. In 1329 the pope empowered him to hear the archbishop's confession of certain crimes, apparently at the request of Bicknor himself. The last mention of de Rodyard in the records is when he was briefly appointed deputy treasurer of Ireland, serving from 13 March 1331 until 3 June 1331, but it must be assumed that he continued to live for another decade at least, since his successor William de Bromley was not elected until 1349. His place of burial is unknown.