Rich, Nathaniel (1585?-1636) (DNB00)

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RICH, Sir NATHANIEL (1585?–1636), merchant adventurer, born about 1585, was probably eldest son of Richard Rich, an illegitimate son of Richard, first baron Rich [q. v.] His mother was daughter of John Machell, sheriff of London. He had a legal training, and was admitted a member of Gray's Inn on 2 Feb. 1609–10; but he devoted himself first to political life, and later to the rôle of a mercantile pioneer. He entered parliament as member for Totnes in 1614, represented East Retford in 1621, sat on a royal commission in Ireland in 1622 (Brown, Genesis of the United States, ii. 980), and was member for Harwich in 1624–5, Newport (Isle of Wight) in 1625, and Harwich again from 1626 to 1629. On 8 Nov. 1617 he was knighted at Hatton House.

Rich was connected with the Bermudas Company in 1616, and bought shares in the Virginia Company in 1619. Of the latter company he became a prominent member, and when, in April 1623, there occurred the great split between two factions in the company, he took a leading part on the side of his connection, Robert Rich, second earl of Warwick [q. v.] In May 1624, when the matter came before the House of Commons, he was specially attacked by the opposing faction, but he sat on the Virginia commission of July 1624.

In 1629 Rich, with the Earl of Warwick and others, found the funds for the first voyage of discovery to Providence Island, off the north-east of Yucatan. On 4 Dec. 1630 they received the patent forming the governor and company of adventurers for the plantation of Providence and Henrietta. To this company Rich seems henceforth to have devoted his best efforts. Many matters of importance, especially regulations and affairs requiring legal handling, were left to him. When fresh funds were required he was always the first to respond. He evidently pursued a forward policy, for in 1635 we find him advocating the admission of all the adventurers to the benefits of the trade of the main. A little later, on his motion, the first local council of Providence was appointed. On 7 May 1635 he was appointed deputy governor of the company, and held the post for about a year. He died before 26 May 1636. It was rumoured that overdoses from an ‘antimonial cup’ from Massachusetts hastened his end (Collections of Mass. Hist. Soc. 4th ser. vol. vi. p. 125). In his will he named several of the Rich (Warwick) family; he also left money to schools in the Bermudas. He desired to be buried at Stondon, Essex, the manor of which he owned; he left it to a nephew, Nathaniel, probably Nathaniel Rich (d. 1701) [q. v.]

[Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xi. 256, 5th ser. ix. 335, x. 31, 8th ser. i. 66–7; Cal. State Papers, Colonial, sub voce; Wotton's Baronetage; Lefroy's Memorials of the Bermudas, vol. ii. App. xi.]

C. A. H.