Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rich, Mary

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RICH, MARY, Countess of Warwick (1625–1678), seventh daughter and thirteenth child of Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork [q. v.], by his second wife Catherine, only daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton [q. v.], was born at Youghal on 8 Nov. 1625. Her mother dying in 1628, Mary and her younger sister Margaret (d. 1637) were brought up by the wife of Sir Randall Clayton at Mallow. In 1638, when she was not yet thirteen, Lord Cork brought her to England, and strongly but unsuccessfully urged her marriage with James Hamilton, only son of James, first viscount Clandeboye, and afterwards (1647) Earl of Clanbrassil. The irate father, in his diary for 1639 (Lismore Papers, ed. Grosart, 1st ser. v. 101), writes: ‘Mr. James Hamylton, being refuzed by my unruly daughter Mary, departed 2 Sept. to ye bath.’

The same force of character was displayed in Mary Boyle's determination to marry Charles Rich, second son of Robert, second earl of Warwick (1587–1658) [q. v.]; this suit, owing to Rich's want of fortune, was strongly disapproved by her father, whose six elder daughters had all made brilliant matches. She was banished his house to a little country seat near Hampton Court. Here Charles Rich visited her frequently, and quietly married her at Shepperton church on 21 July 1641 (par. reg.). Her father having, through the intervention of the Earls of Warwick and Holland and Lord Goring, acquiesced in the match (Chester, Marriage Licenses, p. 1116), gave her a dowry of 7,000l. (Lismore Papers, 1st ser. v. 182, 194, 222).

With occasional visits to London, Mary Rich spent the remainder of her life at Leighs Priory, near Felsted, Essex, the seat of her brother-in-law, the third earl of Warwick. She endeared herself to his large family, brought up the earl's daughters her nieces, and lived on affectionate terms with her husband's two stepmothers and sisters-in-law. She developed a pietistic temperament. Winter and summer she retired every morning to the ‘Wilderness’ garden to pray and meditate. Her house was the resort of pious puritan ministers of Essex and bishops and divines from London, and her works of charity were widely known. By no means a recluse, she kept in constant touch, through her sisters, Lady Ranelagh, Lady Goring, and others, with the life of the metropolis, and after 1660 went occasionally to court, though she was always glad to return to ‘delicious Leez.’

Her husband succeeded his elder brother Robert as fourth earl of Warwick in 1659, and died, after twenty years of gout, on 24 Aug. 1673. His entire estate was left at his wife's disposal for life, which gave rise to the saying that he had given it ‘to pious uses.’ Lady Warwick died at Leighs on 12 April 1678, and was buried in Felsted church. ‘The Virtuous Woman Found,’ a funeral sermon preached by Anthony Walker, D.D., formerly domestic chaplain to the earls of Warwick and rector of Fyfield, Essex, was published in London 1686 by Nathaniel Ranew [see under Ranew, Nathaniel], together with 1. ‘Rules for a Holy Life, in a Letter to George, Earl of Berkeley.’ 2. ‘Occasional Meditations upon sundry Subjects.’ 3. ‘Pious Reflections upon several Scriptures,’ all by Lady Warwick. A portrait is prefixed.

Lady Warwick had two children, Elizabeth (b. 1642) and Charles, lord Rich. The latter, born in 1643, married, in 1662, Ann Cavendish, daughter of William, earl of Devonshire; he predeceased his father, who was succeeded in the title by his cousin Robert, second earl of Holland.

The diaries kept by Lady Warwick from July 1666 to November 1677, together with a volume of ‘Occasional Meditations,’ passed into the hands of her domestic chaplain, Thomas Woodroffe, who after her death annotated them. All the manuscripts (with the exception of four ‘Diary Papers,’ missing when they came into Mr. Woodroffe's hands) were acquired by the British Museum in 1866 (Addit. MSS. 27351–8). Woodroffe transcribed short portions, under the title of ‘Collections out of my Lady Warwick's Papers’ (these are now numbered Addit. MS. 27351 in the British Museum). Extracts from 1666 to 1672 were edited for the Religious Tract Society in 1847 by Barham, from another transcript, then in the possession of the Rev. Nathaniel G. Woodroffe, vicar of Somerford-Keynes, Wiltshire. In 1848 ‘Some Specialities in the Life of M. Warwick’ (the original manuscript of which is Addit. MS. 27357) was edited by Thomas Crofton Croker [q. v.] for the Percy Society, from a copy owned by Lord Brooke. [Biographies of Lady Warwick, by C. Fell Smith, 1901, and by Mary E. Palgrave, 1901; Home Life of English Ladies in the Seventeenth Century, pp. 145–228; Lord Cork's True Remembrances in Birch's Life of Robert Boyle; Budgell's Memoirs of the Boyles, p. 25; Leez Lachrymans: A Funeral Sermon for Charles, Earl of Warwick, by Anthony Walker, 1673; The Holy Life of Mrs. Elizabeth Walker, pp. 128, 148, 150, 175; Anderson's Memorable Women of the Puritan Times.]

C. F. S.