Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pike, Richard (fl.1625)

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PIKE or PEAKE, RICHARD (fl. 1625), adventurer, born at Tavistock, Devonshire, took part as a common soldier in the attack on Algiers which was made by a force under the command of Sir Robert Mansell in the winter of 1620–1. After some leisure at home, Pike in the autumn of 1625 joined as a volunteer the expedition to Cadiz, and, sailing in the Convertine with Captain Thomas Portar, arrived at Cadiz on 22 Oct. 1625. After taking part in the capture of the fort of Puntal, at the entrance to the harbour, he sallied out into the neighbouring country, unaccompanied, to gather oranges, and was made prisoner, after a smart encounter with fourteen Spanish musketeers. The Earl of Essex, the vice-admiral, learning of the mishap, vainly offered to ransom him; and the English fleet sailed away on the 27th without him. Pike was sent to Xerez, and was brought before the Duke of Medina-Sidonia and other Spanish dignitaries, who closely examined him as to the equipment and future intentions of the English ships. Angered by his questioners' importunity, he accepted an offer which they mockingly made him to fight a Spanish champion in a hand-to-hand combat with rapier and poniards. Pike easily disarmed his opponent. Thereupon, armed with a quarter-staff, which he described as his national weapon, he gave battle to three Spaniards armed with rapiers and poniards. He killed one of his foes and disarmed the other two. His judges were so much impressed by his prowess that they gave him money, and one of them, the Marques Alquenezes, entertained him at his house. News of his exploits reached Madrid, and the king (Philip IV) summoned him to court, He was presented on Christmas day 1625 to the king, the queen, and Don Carlos, the infante. He declined the king's offer of a yearly pension to serve him by land or sea, but gratefully accepted one hundred pistolets and permission to return to England. Passing through France, he arrived at Foy, Cornwall, on 23 April 1626. On 18 May he came to London, and delivered a challenge to the Duke of Buckingham, with which he had been entrusted by a brother-in-law of the Conde d'Olivares (Court of Charles I, i. 104).

In July 1626 Pike published an account of his encounter with the three Spaniards in a tract (now rare) called ' Three to One.' It was dedicated to Charles I. Although Pike apologises at the outset for writing with 'fingers fitter for the pike than the pen,' he tells his story with admirable spirit. A friend (J. D.) contributed at the close some verses in Pike's praise. The tract (a copy of which is in the British Museum, catalogued under Peeke) was reprinted in Arber's English Garner (i. 621).

Pike's adventures were also dramatised in 'Dicke of Devonshire, a tragi-Comedy,' which was first printed from the Egerton MS. 1994 by Mr. A. H. Bullen in his 'Collection of Old English Plays,' 1883, ii. 1-99. The piece is assigned by Mr. Bullen to Thomas Heywood—a more intelligible suggestion than Mr. Fleay's proposal to assign it to Robert Davenport. Pike's courage was commemorated later in the century in a broadside ballad entitled 'A Panegyric Poem, or Tavestock's Encomium,' which is reprinted in Mrs. Bray's 'Tamar and the Tavy,' and contains the lines:

Search whether can be found again the like
For noble prowess to our Tav'stock Pike,
In whose renown'd never-dying name
Live England's honour and the Spaniard's shame.

[Bullen's Introduction to his Old Plays, ii. 1 sq.; Mrs. Bray's Tamar and Tavy.]

S. L.