Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rich, Robert (1587-1658)

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RICH, ROBERT, second Earl of Warwick (1587–1658), eldest son of Robert, lord Rich (created Earl of Warwick 2 Aug. 1618), by Penelope Devereux [see Rich, Penelope], was born about June 1587. Henry Rich, earl of Holland [q. v.], was his younger brother. Robert was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 4 June 1603 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 417; Doyle, Official Baronage, iii. 596). He was created a knight of the Bath on 24 July 1603, became a member of the Inner Temple in November 1604, and was M.P. for Maldon in 1610 and 1614 (ib.) He was one of the performers in Ben Jonson's ‘Masque of Beauty’ in 1608–9, and frequently took part in the tiltings before the king (Nichols, Progresses of James I, ii. 186, iii. 646). For one of these tiltings Ben Jonson wrote the verse speech which is printed in his ‘Underwoods’ (No. xxix.). But Warwick, who succeeded to his father's title on 24 March 1619, was of too active and independent a spirit for court life. ‘Though he had all those excellent endowments of body and fortune that give splendour to a glorious court, yet he used it but as his recreation; for his spirit aimed at more public adventures, planting colonies in the western world rather than himself in the king's favour’ (Arthur Wilson, History of the Reign of James I, p. 162). He was one of the original members of the company for the plantation of the Somers Islands or Bermudas (29 June 1614), and on 3 Nov. 1620 was granted a seat on the council of the New England Company (Cal. State Papers, Col. Ser. 1574–1660, pp. 17, 25). He was also a member of the Guinea company, incorporated 16 Nov. 1618. At the same time he sought to increase his fortune by privateering in the Elizabethan fashion. Obtaining in 1616 commissions from the agent of the Duke of Savoy, he fitted out two ships for a roving voyage in the East Indies, which made valuable prizes, but involved him in a long dispute with the East India Company, whose legitimate trade his piracies threatened with ruin (Gardiner, History of England, iii. 216; Cal. State Papers, Col.: Indian Ser. 1617–21, p. lxxxvi).

In April 1618 he sent, under the same commission, a ship called the Treasurer to Virginia and the West Indies, commanded by Captain Elfrith, whose captures from the Spaniards and ‘unwarrantable actions’ caused Warwick still greater difficulties, and were one of the causes of the division of the Virginia Company, about 1620, into two parties, one headed by the Earl of Southampton and Sir Edwin Sandys, the other by Warwick and his kinsman, Sir Nathaniel Rich [q. v.] (Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. ii. 4, 35). Their disputes ran so high that in May 1623 Lord Cavendish, Sir Edwin Sandys, and other opponents of Warwick were confined to their houses by order of the privy council on the charge of intemperate language and misrepresentations (ib. pp. 42–6; Cal. State Papers, Col. 1574–1660, pp. 44–6). Warwick gave Cavendish the lie, and they arranged a duel, which only the vigilance of the government prevented (Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. xi. 519). The end of the matter was the appointment of commissioners to inquire into the government of Virginia, and the revocation of the company's charter (24 July 1624). The king took the government of the colony into his own hands, and appointed a new council, of which Warwick was a member. Warwick's action has been regarded as dictated by purely personal motives, and his party described as ‘greedy and unprincipled adventurers;’ but his subsequent political conduct makes it difficult to accept the view that he was merely a tool of the court (Doyle, The English in America, i. 206; A. Brown, The Genesis of the United States, ii. 981–3).

In 1625 Warwick was appointed joint lord-lieutenant of Essex, and was very active in making preparations against an expected Spanish landing (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1625–6, p. 102). In March 1627 he obtained a liberal privateering commission from the king, and put to sea with a fleet of eight ships to attack the Spaniards (ib. 1627–8, pp. 98, 138, 366). The expedition was a failure. The squadron missed the Brazil fleet it hoped to take, and Warwick, who was accidentally separated from the other ships, narrowly escaped capture (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 285; Court and Times of Charles I, i. 226, 260, 266, 276). In August he returned from his voyage with more credit than profit. ‘He was never sick one hour at sea,’ writes an admiring newsletter, ‘and would as nimbly climb up to top and yard as any common mariner in the ship; and all the time of the fight was as active and as open to danger as any man there’ (ib. i. 261). In 1628 and 1629 he sent out more privateers, and took prizes, which involved him in legal disputes that were unsettled twelve years later (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. pp. 15, 45, 99).

During the early part of the reign of Charles I Warwick gradually became estranged from the court, and allied himself with the puritan opposition. He belonged to a puritan family, was an intimate friend of Sir John Eliot, and ‘loved the Duke of Buckingham little’ (Forster, Life of Eliot, ii. 64, 72, 642). In November 1626 he refused to subscribe to the forced loan (Gardiner, History of England, vi. 150). In the struggle for the petition of right Warwick was one of the band of peers who supported the lower house; and on 21 April 1628 he made a spirited speech against the king's claim to imprison without showing cause (Old Parliamentary History, viii. 69). He showed equal interest in the religious questions at issue, and it was by his procurement that the disputation between Dr. White and Dr. John Preston [q. v.] on Arminianism was arranged (February 1626; Fuller, Church History, ed. 1655, x. 124).

Warwick's colonial ventures brought him into constant association with the leading men of the puritan party, and connected his name indissolubly with the early history of the New England colonies. As a member of the council of the New England Company he was one of the signatories of the patent to John Peirce (1 June 1621) under which the new Plymouth colony existed for the first eight years of the settlement; and as president of the company he signed the second patent to William Bradford (13 Jan. 1630). The patent for the Massachusetts colony to John Endecott and his associates (19 March 1628) was procured by them through the influence of Warwick (Winsor, History of America, iii. 275, 279, 342). With the origin of Connecticut he was equally closely connected. On 19 March 1632 Warwick granted to Lord Say, Lord Brooke, John Hampden, and others what is known as ‘the old patent of Connecticut,’ under which the town of Saybrook was established, and John Winthrop the younger became in 1635 governor of the infant state. The question whether the grant was made by Warwick as president of the council, or as the owner of a prior patent for the territory granted to him by the company, is disputed (ib. pp. 369, 376; Palfrey, History of New England, i. 399; Doyle, The English in America, ‘Puritan Colonies,’ i. 205). In June 1632 a division took place in the New England council, probably connected with the Massachusetts and Connecticut patents, which ended in a demand that the company's great seal, which was in Warwick's keeping, should be returned by him to the council, and in the election of Sir Ferdinando Gorges [q. v.] as president in his stead (Winsor), iii. 370; Palfrey, i. 400). The company surrendered its charter to the king on 7 June 1635, and during the last three years of its existence Warwick ceased to attend its meetings, and turned his attention exclusively to the management of the Bermudas and Providence companies. One of the eight ‘tribes’ into which the Bermudas were divided bore the name of Warwick. In the map of 1626 he appears as the owner of fourteen shares; and he was for many years governor of the company. The patent founding the company of adventurers for the island of Providence (Old Providence or Catalina, off the Mosquito coast) was granted on 4 Dec. 1630, the patentees including Warwick, Lord Say, Lord Brooke, Oliver St. John, and other noted puritans. Pym was treasurer of the company, and Warwick's house in St. Bartholomew's or Brooke's house in Holborn was the usual place of meeting. Warwick was one of the most zealous members of the company. By 1639 he had incurred a debt of 2,430l. in the venture, but offered 2,000l. a year for the next five years on certain conditions. He even declared, in 1636, his resolution of going thither himself as governor, though probably the political situation in England led him to change his purpose (Cal. State Papers, Col. 1574–1660, pp. 123, 222, 290).

Meanwhile, in domestic politics, Warwick rapidly became more prominent in opposition to the policy of Charles I. The revival of the forest laws touched him closely, and at the forest court held for Waltham forest, in October 1634, he opposed Sir John Finch, the attorney-general, on behalf of the gentlemen of Essex (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1634–5, p. xxxiii). The opposition to the payment of ship-money in that county was attributed to his influence; and when called to account by the king he was credited with using the boldest language to Charles himself against the tax (ib. 1636–7, p. 197; Gardiner, viii. 203). After the dissolution of the Short parliament Warwick was arrested and his papers searched by the king's order (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640, p. 152). He was one of the seven peers who signed the letter to the Scottish leaders in June 1640, had his name attached to Savile's forged engagement, and was one of the signatories of the petition of the twelve peers in the following September (ib. p. 640; Oldmixon, History of England, p. 143).

Warwick was equally resolute in his opposition to the Laudian church policy. He promoted puritan clergymen to the livings in his gift, was the intimate friend of Dr. Sibbes [q. v.], and protected Jeremiah Burroughes when he was deprived by Bishop Wren. Calamy terms him ‘a great patron and Mæcenas to the pious and religious ministry,’ and praises his personal piety. Clarendon, on the other hand, describes Warwick's puritanism as mere hypocrisy. ‘He was a man of a pleasant and companionable wit and conversation, of a universal jollity, and such a license in his words and actions that a man of less virtue could not be found out. … But with all these faults he had great authority and credit with that people who, in the beginning of the trouble, did all the mischief; and by opening his doors and making his house the rendezvous of all the silenced ministers in the time when there was authority to silence them, and spending a good part of his estate, of which he was very prodigal, upon them, and by being present with them at their devotions, and making himself merry with them and at them, which they dispensed with, he became the head of that party, and got the style of a godly man’ (Rebellion, vi. 404; Laud, Works, v. 318; Calamy, Funeral Sermon on Warwick, 1658, 4to, p. 36). ‘The Earl of Warwick,’ wrote Lord Conway to Laud in June 1640, ‘is the temporal head of the puritans, and the Earl of Holland is their spiritual; or, rather, the one is their visible and the other their invisible head’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1640, p. 278). At this time, however, Warwick was not reputed hostile to episcopacy itself, although opposed to the prevailing party in the church (Clarendon, Rebellion, iii. 146).

In the debates of the Long parliament Warwick, who was no orator, took little part. He signed various protests made by the popular peers, was one of the committee for religion appointed by the House of Lords, and concurred in the prosecution of Strafford and Laud (Rogers, Protests of the House of Lords, i. 6, 11, 13). On 27 April 1641 he was admitted to the privy council, and was one of the council of regency appointed during the king's visit to Scotland (9 Aug. 1641).

From the time when the king left Whitehall Warwick was one of the most active champions of the parliamentary cause. On 28 Feb. he was nominated lord-lieutenant of the two counties of Norfolk and Essex, and personally executed the militia ordinance in the latter county (Commons' Journals, ii. 489; Lords' Journals, v. 117). On 2 Oct. he was appointed captain-general of a second army which the parliament intended to raise in addition to that under Essex, but a month later (23 Nov.) they resolved to have only a single general, and he resigned his commission (ib. v. 415, 454). On 25 Aug. 1645, during the alarm caused by the king's capture of Huntingdon, he was appointed commander of the forces of the eastern association (ib. vii. 555). He was also a member of the committee of both kingdoms from its first foundation (16 Feb. 1643). It was, however, as commander of the navy that Warwick did most service to the parliamentary cause. On 10 March 1642 the House of Commons voted that Northumberland, the lord high admiral, should be asked to appoint Warwick admiral of the fleet which was then getting ready to put to sea. The king ordered Northumberland to appoint Sir John Pennington, but the commons insisted, and Northumberland accordingly granted Warwick's commission. Charles renewed the struggle three months later by dismissing Northumberland from his office (28 June), on which parliament passed an ordinance directing Warwick to continue in command (1 July). Armed with this authority, Warwick went on board the fleet the next day, overcame the resistance of those officers who adhered to the king, and was able to report to Pym on 4 July that the navy was at the parliament's disposal (Clarendon, Rebellion, v. 36, 376; Lords' Journals, v. 169, 178, 185, 213). Eighteen months later, 7 Dec. 1643, he was appointed lord high admiral in place of Northumberland (ib. vi. 330).

Warwick's ships were chiefly employed in guarding the seas, in intercepting vessels bringing supplies from the continent to the king or the Irish rebels, and in acting as auxiliaries to the land forces of the parliament. They helped in the defence of Hull against the king, and in the capture of Portsmouth (August 1642). In August 1643 Warwick's fleet attempted to relieve Exeter, and in May 1644 he successfully relieved Lyme (Rushworth, v. 680; Gardiner, Great Civil War, i. 207). He also secured Weymouth and sent assistance to the parliamentarians in Pembrokeshire, but failed in his efforts to intercept the queen's voyage from Falmouth to France (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644, pp. 239, 309, 356, 444). Though the king was obliged to rely entirely on ships hired abroad and on those belonging to the ports under his control, Warwick found the navy insufficient for the many services expected from it, and in February 1644 he addressed a remonstrance to parliament on the subject (Lords' Journals, vi. 419). He complained again in the following year about his want of money and supplies (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1644–5, p. 279). But in spite of these and other difficulties he appears to have been both an efficient and a popular commander. He was so secure of the support of the sailors that on 18 Oct. 1644 he issued a proclamation ordering that ‘none shall obey the command of their superior officers … if the same commands be tending towards disloyalty to the Parliament’ (English Historical Review, viii. 491). In the same year there appeared ‘Laws and Ordinances of the Sea, established for the better Government of the Navy, by Robert, Earl of Warwick’ (London, 1644, fol.) Warwick's command ended with the passing of the self-denying ordinance, and he laid down his commission on 9 April 1645, declaring that he resigned it back to parliament with the greatest cheerfulness, and should be ready to serve ‘the great cause of religion and liberty’ in any capacity (Lords' Journals, vii. 312). On 19 April the government of the navy was entrusted to a committee of six lords and twelve commoners, of whom Warwick was the chief (ib. vii. 327).

Warwick had been previously appointed governor of Jersey and Guernsey, and had made several attempts to reduce the islands. On 25 Sept. 1645 he was reappointed, and seems to have held the office till 1647 (ib. vii. 599; Hoskins, Charles II in the Channel Islands, i. 220, 274, 353).

Of more historical importance was Warwick's connection with the colonies. On 2 Nov. 1643 the Long parliament entrusted the government of the colonies to a commission of six lords and twelve commoners, headed by Warwick. He bore the title of lord high admiral and governor-in-chief of all the islands and other plantations subject to the English crown (Husband, Ordinances, 1646, p. 378). Massachusetts was impatient of any control, and treated the admiral's warrant with little respect when it was pleaded as an excuse for attacks on royalist merchantmen in Boston harbour. But it accepted the jurisdiction of the commissioners by obtaining from them a grant of the territory on the mainland of Narragansett Bay (10 Dec. 1643). Three months later, however, Warwick and his brother commissioners granted to Roger Williams a patent incorporating Providence and two other towns under the title of Providence Plantation (14 March 1644), and thus Warwick became associated with the foundation of the state of Rhode Island (Cal. State Papers, Col. 1574–1660, p. 325; Doyle, Puritan Colonies, i. 358–70; Palfrey, History of New England, ii. 163, 215). So far as his separate action can be traced, Warwick consistently used his influence in favour of religious freedom. He intervened with the Massachusetts government on behalf of Samuel Gorton [q. v.], who called his settlement at Shawomet by the name of Warwick, which it still bears (ib. ii. 216). He issued, on 4 Nov. 1645, a declaration establishing freedom of worship in the Bermudas (Lefroy, Bermudas, i. 600). His zeal for religion showed itself also in the support which he gave to the movement for the conversion of the Indians (Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. p. 274).

In English politics Warwick originally was counted among the presbyterians. In 1646 he was named among the presbyterian and Scottish party in the House of Lords, and in January 1647 he acted with the presbyterian leaders in the endeavour to formulate a scheme of settlement which would be acceptable to the king (Gardiner, Great Civil War, iii. 105, 213). He was one of the commissioners employed by parliament in April 1647 to persuade the army to engage for service in Ireland (Lords' Journals, ix. 152; Waller, Vindication, pp. 76, 82). But in June following, when the army refused to disband and marched on London, Warwick expressed unbounded confidence in the excellence of Fairfax's intentions. After the presbyterian riots of July he retired into Essex, pledging himself to co-operate with Fairfax in vindicating the independence of parliament, and refusing to obey the summons of the lords to return to his seat in the house (Clarke Papers, i. 137, 222; Lords' Journals, ix. 370; Rushworth, vii. 742). In the spring of 1648 he used his influence to hinder the presentation of a royalist presbyterian petition from the county of Essex (Hamilton Papers, Camd. Soc. pp. 171, 197). Viewing these facts and Warwick's subsequent conduct, Clarendon's assertion that Warwick was privy to his brother Holland's engagement for the king, and had even promised to join him, must be rejected. It is unsupported by other evidence (Clarendon, Rebellion, xi. 5, 24, 69). On 27 May 1648 the greater part of the parliamentary fleet in the Downs revolted to the king, and two days later parliament reappointed Warwick to the post of lord high admiral, in the hope that his popularity would secure the fidelity of the sailors. He went on board at once, and finding, after some futile negotiations, that it was impossible to win back the crews of the nine revolted ships, devoted himself to getting together a new fleet and discharging disaffected sailors and officers (Lords' Journals, x. 290, 297, 313, 355, 414). By the end of August Warwick felt strong enough to offer battle to Prince Charles and the revolted ships off the mouth of the Medway, but a storm prevented the intended action, and want of provisions obliged Prince Charles to retreat to Holland without fighting (ib. x. 483, 488, 494). Warwick blockaded the prince's ships in Helvoetsluys in September, remaining off the Dutch coast till the end of November, when the winter weather obliged him to return to England (ib. x. 522, 595, 625; Gardiner, Great Civil War, iv. 210). He had succeeded in regaining four of the prince's fleet, and in preventing the rest from preying upon English trade, while restoring the spirit and the discipline of the parliamentary fleet. A pamphlet impugning his fidelity to parliament gave him an opportunity of summing up his services (A Declaration of the Earl of Warwick in answer to a Scandalous Pamphlet, &c., 1648, 4to).

Nevertheless, the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords was a measure too extreme for Warwick to approve, nor could the independents leave the control of the fleet in his hands. On 23 Feb. 1649 parliament repealed the act constituting Warwick lord high admiral, and transferred the government of the navy to the council of state. His interposition on behalf of the life of his brother, the Earl of Holland, met with no success (Clarendon, Rebellion, xi. 504). Therefore, while not actively hostile to the republic and its governors, Warwick took no part in public affairs during the Commonwealth. When Cromwell became protector, however, Warwick gave him both support and encouragement. At Cromwell's second inauguration (26 June 1657) Warwick bore the sword of state before the Protector and helped to invest him in his robe of purple velvet (Cromwelliana, p. 165). The marriage of Cromwell's daughter Frances with Warwick's grandson and heir, Robert Rich (14 Nov. 1657), gave a still clearer proof of Warwick's feelings towards the Protector (ib. p. 159; Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 177; Thurloe, vi. 573). Robert Rich died on 16 Feb. 1658 (ib. vi. 820). In his touching answer to the Protector's letter of condolence, Warwick ended by congratulating Cromwell on his ‘prudent, heroic, and honourable management’ of public affairs. ‘Others goodness is their own; yours is a whole country's, yea three kingdoms, for which you justly possess interest and renown: with wise and good men virtue is a thousand escutcheons. Go on, my lord, go on happily, to love religion, to exemplify it. May your lordship long continue an instrument of use, a pattern of virtue, and a precedent of glory’ (Godwin, Hist. of the Commonwealth, iv. 530).

Warwick died on 19 April 1658, and was buried at Felsted, Essex, on 1 May. Clarendon says that he was extremely lamented by Cromwell, and adds that he ‘left his estate, which before was subject to a vast debt, more improved and repaired than any man who trafficked in that desperate commodity of rebellion’ (Rebellion, vi. 404, xv. 145). Clarendon's view that Warwick was a jovial hypocrite is scarcely borne out by other contemporary evidence. The ‘jollity and good humour’ which he mentions are indeed confirmed. ‘He was one of the most best-natured and cheerfullest persons I have in my time met with,’ writes his pious daughter-in-law (Autobiography of Lady Warwick, ed. Croker, p. 27). Edmund Calamy, however, in his sermon at Warwick's funeral, enlarges on his zeal for religion; and Warwick's public conduct during all the later part of his career is perfectly consistent with Calamy's account of his private life (A Pattern for All, especially for Noble Persons, &c., 1658, 4to, pp. 34–9).

Vandyck's portrait of Warwick was engraved by Houbraken and Vertue. There are also engraved portraits by Hollar and Faithorne, while Ricraft, in his ‘Survey of England's Champions,’ 1647, and Vicars in ‘England's Worthies,’ 1647, both give portraits and memoirs of Warwick.

Warwick was three times married: first, to Frances, daughter of Sir William Hatton, knt., 24 Feb. 1605 (Winwood Papers, iii. 49); she died in August 1634. Secondly, Susan, daughter of Sir Rowe Rowe, lord mayor of London in 1607, and widow of William Halliday, alderman of London; she died on 16 Jan. 1645–6, and was buried at St. Lawrence's Church, near the Guildhall in London (Autobiography of Mary, Countess of Warwick, p. 15; Wheatley and Cunningham, London Past and Present, iii. 450). Thirdly, Eleanor, daughter of Sir Edward Wortley, and Dowager Countess of Sussex, on 30 March 1646. Many of this lady's letters are given in the ‘Memoirs of the Verney Family,’ where she is nicknamed ‘old men's wife’ (i. 241–75, iii. 427). Her portrait by Van Somer is there reproduced.

Warwick's eldest son, Robert, baron Rich, of Leighs, Essex, joined the king at York, but never bore arms; and the fine imposed upon him by parliament was remitted at his father's petition. He married twice: first, Anne, daughter of William Cavendish, earl of Devonshire; secondly, Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Cheke. He died on 30 May 1659, leaving only three daughters (Cal. of Committee for Compounding, p. 1729; Autobiography of Mary, Countess of Warwick, p. 27). The second son, Charles Rich, married Mary Boyle, daughter of the first earl of Cork, succeeded his brother as fourth earl of Warwick, and died 24 Aug. 1673 [see Rich, Mary, Countess of Warwick]. The third son, Hatton Rich, died without issue on 28 Feb. 1670, as did Henry, the fourth son, and the title of Warwick then passed to Robert Rich, son of the first earl of Holland (ib. p. 31). Of Warwick's daughters, Lucy Rich married John, second baron Robartes, and Frances married Nicholas Leke, second earl of Scarsdale. Another daughter, Anne, became the second wife of Edward Montagu (1 July 1626), and died in February 1642. Two characteristic letters from Warwick on the education and marriage of his grandchildren are printed in the Duke of Manchester's ‘Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne’ (i. 377, 380).

[Authorities given in the article. The best life of Warwick is that contained in Alexander Brown's Genesis of the United States, 1890, ii. 980; Sargeaunt's History of Felsted School, 1889, p. 110; Morant's Essex, ii. 101; Herald and Genealogist, v. 444–6.]

C. H. F.