Edward was a monk of Rievaulx and reputedly
led a rather dissolute life when he was studying at the Cistercian
college of St Bernard’s, Oxford, now St John’s. He
received the degree of Bachelor of Divinity in 1525, following
eleven years of study. Five years later, in 1530, Edward was elected
to the abbacy of Rievaulx but in 1533 his behaviour was questioned
when Rievaulx’s patron, the earl of Rutland, made a formal
complaint of his conduct to the king’s advisor, Thomas Cromwell.
A royal commission was sent to investigate these allegations and
a Dr Legh arrived at Rievaulx to force Kirkby to confess and resign
from office. Although most of the community remained loyal to its
abbot and refused to accept his deposition, the monks were eventually
forced to back down and accept the appointment of a new abbot,
Roland Blyton, who had presided over Rufford, Nottinghamshire.
Kirkby retired to Jervaulx where he was caught up in the popular
uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace and sentenced to death
for his participation. However, he was later reprieved and appointed
vicar of Newport, Essex (1539-46). In 1543 Kirkby also acquired
the benefice of Kirkby Misperton and in 1546 he resigned from Newport
to become rector of St Nicholas Olave in London. Kirkby, it seems,
had died by 1557.