Lincoln, Richard (c.1706–1763), archbishop of Dublin, was a native of Dublin. His father, according to a later critic, was ‘an alderman ... a tradesman’, very likely the Nicholas Lincoln, ‘merchant of Capel Street’ who stood surety for Cornelius Nary (qv) and another priest in 1704. Alternatively his father was Michael Lincoln, also an alderman in 1688. Since he was said to be ‘under fifty’ in 1755, one may suggest 1706 as the year of his birth. By 1727 he was a theology student at the Irish College of Salamanca, from which he returned after ordination to Dublin in 1730. At first he was ‘assistant’ in the parish of St James, the term ‘curate’ being then illegal, but by 1733 was already a member of the diocesan chapter. From 1736 he was archdeacon of Glendalough. Early in 1741 he obtained collation to the parish of St Nicholas in Francis St. – the best in the city – which he held for the rest of his life. However, his entry into Francis St. chapel was delayed for six months because three assistant priests prevented him from saying mass there and ‘engrossed all the collections to themselves’.
No more is known of his career until 1753, when an anonymous critic based in Dublin informed James III, the Old Pretender, at Rome that Lincoln was of the ‘meanest extraction’, hostile to the Stuarts, and a contender for the see of Dublin. None the less, on 21 November 1755 he was named coadjutor with right of succession to the aged archbishop John Linegar (qv). His consecration as titular bishop of Arad took place at Dublin ‘in the greatest secrecy’ on 11 January 1756; eighteen months later (21 June 1757) he automatically became archbishop of Dublin on Linegar's death. Patrick Fitzsimons (qv) and Richard Campbell were at once named his vicars general. Only a few months later, circumstances obliged him to issue a pastoral letter urging a ‘peaceful submissive bearing’ to civil authority, declaring that no power on earth could dispense from the taking of false oaths, and inviting prayers for the king and royal family ‘that they might continue to show clemency towards their catholic subjects’. He was thus perhaps the first Irish bishop to disown the Stuarts in public, nine years before the death of the Pretender, James III. This move enabled Lincoln to help undermine a parliamentary bill under consideration from 1755 which would have required the registration of the secular clergy in return for their explicit allegiance to George II. Despite this political engagement, the archbishop did not encourage the Catholic Association, then in its infancy: submission and proven loyalty would suffice. A second exhortation (March 1762) invited prayers for the king's success in war and the ‘spiritual and temporal happiness’ of the royal family.
In diocesan affairs, Lincoln was anything but submissive and in his early years (1757–9), at least, was much concerned about catholic education. His energetic protest to the Charter School board, objecting to their admission of catholic children, elicited in 1757 only a threat to put the law on him should he attempt to interfere. Two of his letters (1759) mention that all catholic schoolmasters were liable to transportation; there were then sixty teachers in thirty rural parishes, but the problem grew daily worse in the city as the number of children increased; an indication that there were now more literate catholics than before. With respect to his suffragan dioceses, Dr Lincoln became involved, unhappily so, in the affairs of Ossory alone. James Dunne, bishop of Ossory from 1749 and a loyal Jacobite, lived at Dublin from 1753 to 1757, having been excluded from Kilkenny by the protestant bishop; he was, besides, in failing health and burdened by debt. Yet he found no brotherly support in the capital. Lincoln wrongly accused him of having incurred vast debts, and in 1758 actually gave the administration of Ossory to the bishop of Kildare. Even after the appointment of a new bishop – Thomas Burke (qv), a friar and an ardent Jacobite – to Ossory in 1759, Lincoln continued to interfere, ignoring explicit commands from Rome to stay out of a dispute in Kilkenny which did not concern him.
The archbishop conducted visitations of his entire diocese, certainly in 1757 and 1762 and possibly on other occasions. He is said to have encouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart, a Jesuit devotion fostered by his former teachers at Salamanca and implicitly by Stephen Usher (or Ussher) SJ (1700–62), the son of a prominent Dublin merchant, to whom he was related. What little else is known of his activities is largely contentious. Even his predecessor Linegar complained that Lincoln was not the ‘man of peace’ Dublin and even Ireland so urgently needed. Charles O'Conor (qv), a founding member of the Catholic Association, used to refer to him as the ‘hyper-doctor’, overbearing and slow to forgive. He insulted even the aged viscount Nicholas Taaffe (qv), count of the Holy Roman Empire, who travelled from Vienna to Dublin in 1762 to help his coreligionists. ‘I find there is no calming him’, said Taaffe, even after he had offered to ask Lincoln's pardon on his knees. Cardinal Corsini at Rome admitted that even he would not be acceptable as a mediator to Lincoln: ‘although I alone was the one who caused him, a parish priest, to be raised to the primatial see of Dublin.’
Lincoln's two great contests were with the regular clergy of Dublin, first on the question of approval for faculties, and then with respect to confraternities and religious processions. While yet only coadjutor in 1757, he had lamented the shortage of secular priests, which forced him to rely on the parochial help of fifty-eight friars whom he could not easily move around to suit himself. In February 1759, withdrawing all faculties already granted, even by his predecessors, he summoned all friars to a general examination and then issued faculties, but to none for more than a year. After a second examination a year later, he capriciously refused faculties to the most senior friars while granting them to the very youngest. What Lincoln sought was the abolition of the ‘privileges’ of the regular clergy and their complete subjection to the bishops. Thus he pressed on to challenge their traditional forms of public devotion, already practised at Dublin since the 1720s. Warming to his task, Dr Lincoln laid down stringent rules for the friars of Dublin in April 1761, stating precisely when exposition and processions of the Blessed Sacrament might be held. Even though Rome's decision on the case, a decision affecting the entire country, greatly modified these rulings, Lincoln was pleased with the result.
Dr Lincoln, after a short illness, died at his house in Smithfield, Dublin on 21 June 1763, his anniversary as archbishop, and was buried four days later in the family plot in St James's churchyard. His will reveals nothing about his family or circumstances, beyond the fact that he left £200 to Richard Campbell, his vicar general, and everything else to his stepmother and executrix Mary Lincoln. No monument marks his grave nor is any portrait known to survive.