before the lord mayor the abuses of which Somerset was accused; he made a similar harangue at the Guildhall on the 8th, and on the 12th rode to Windsor bearing the news of the council's proceedings against Somerset to the king. He presided at Somerset's examination before the council, drew up the articles against him, obtained his confession, and brought in the bill of pains and penalties, by which the Protector was deprived of all his offices.
Rich may have thought that Warwick would reverse the religious policy of his predecessor, or perhaps the marriage of his daughter Winifred with Warwick's son, Sir Henry Dudley, induced him to side against Somerset; but Warwick's triumph failed to improve his position. Probably against his will, he took part in the proceedings against Bonner and Gardiner. The eighth session of the court appointed to try the latter was held at Rich's house in St. Bartholomew's on 20 Jan. 1551, though at another stage of the proceedings Rich appeared as a witness in the bishop's favour. Similarly he was burdened with the chief part in the measures taken by the council against the Princess Mary. In 1550 he was sent to request her to move to Oking or come to court; she refused, but professed herself willing to accept Rich's hospitality at Leighs Priory. The visit was prevented by a dangerous sickness which broke out in the chancellor's household, and necessitated his absence from the council from June to November. More to Rich's taste were the measures he took against Joan Bocher [q. v.] and the sectaries of Bocking (cf. Dixon, Hist. Church of England, iii. 212). In August 1551 he was again sent to Mary at Copped Hall to forbid mass in her household [see Rochester, Sir Robert]. On 26 Oct. a commission was appointed to transact chancery business because of Rich's illness, and on 21 Dec. he resigned the great seal. Fuller, in his ‘Church History,’ relates a story communicated to him by Rich's great-grandson, the Earl of Warwick, to the effect that Rich had written a letter to Somerset, who he thought might yet return to power, warning him against some design of Northumberland. In his haste he addressed it merely ‘to the duke,’ and his servant handed it to the Duke of Norfolk, who revealed its contents to Northumberland. Rich, hearing of the mistake, only saved himself by going at once to the king and resigning the great seal. It is improbable, however, that Norfolk, who made Rich one of his executors, would have betrayed him; at any rate, Rich did not resign the great seal to the king, but to Winchester, Northumberland, and D'Arcy, who were sent to his house for the purpose, and there can be no doubt of the genuineness of his illness. The great seal was entrusted for the time to Goodrich, bishop of Ely; but Rich's ill-health continuing, the bishop was definitely appointed lord chancellor on 19 Jan. 1551–2.
Rich now retired to Essex, where he was placed on a commission for the lord-lieutenancy in May; but he was still identified with the government of Northumberland, whom he appointed his proxy in the House of Lords. In November he recommenced his attendances at the privy council, and continued them through the early part of 1553. He was one of the commissioners who decided against Bonner's appeal early in that year, and on 9 July he signed the council's answer to Mary's remonstrance, pronouncing her a bastard and proclaiming Lady Jane Grey. But immediately afterwards he went down into Essex, and, paying no attention to a letter from the council on 19 July requiring him to remain faithful to Jane, declared for Mary. On the 21st a letter from the council ordered him to retire with his company to Ipswich ‘until the queen's pleasure be further known;’ and on 3 Aug. he entertained Mary at Wanstead on her way to London. His wife attended Mary on her entry into the city, and Rich was at once sworn of her council, and officiated at the coronation.
During Mary's reign Rich took little part in the government, and his attendances at the council were rare. He was one of the peers summoned to try Northumberland, and he was the only peer who voted against Gardiner's bill for the restoration of the see of Durham. But he vigorously abetted the restoration of the old religion in Essex; at Felsted he at once established masses for the dead, and he was a zealous persecutor of the heretics, examining them himself or sending them up to London, and being present at numerous executions. The excessive number of martyrs in Essex is attributed by Foxe to Rich's persecuting activity. In 1557 he was raising forces for the war in France and defence of the Essex sea-coast, and in the following February attended Lord Clinton on his expedition against Brest. In November 1558 he was appointed to accompany Elizabeth to London, and in December was placed on a commission to inquire into lands granted during the late reign. He dissented from the act of uniformity, and in 1566 was summoned to discuss the question of the queen's marriage. He died at Rochford, Essex, on 12 June 1567, and was buried in Felsted church, where a recumbent effigy