Rich, Robert (1714-1785) (DNB00)

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RICH, Sir ROBERT (1714–1785), fifth baronet, lieutenant-general, born in 1714, was second but eldest surviving son of Field-marshal Sir Robert Rich (1685–1768) [q. v.] Adopting, like his father, the profession of arms, he received a commission as ensign in his father's old regiment, the grenadier guards, 5 July 1735, and became lieutenant and captain therein 9 July 1739. He was appointed the following month aide-de-camp to the colonel of his regiment, Field-marshal Sir Charles Wills, on whose death, 25 Dec. 1741, he came into a legacy of 5,000l. (Chester, Registers of Westminster Abbey). He sold out from the guards in June 1744 and exchanged into a foot regiment; and, having probably served in Flanders in that year, took part as lieutenant-colonel of Barrell's foot in the action at Falkirk on 17 Jan., and was in the thick of the fight at Culloden on 16 April 1746. The brunt of the action was borne by his regiment, which lost seventeen men killed and 108 wounded out of a total of fifty killed and 259 wounded in the English army. Rich was himself severely wounded, his left hand being clean cut off, and the elbow of his right arm stiffened. John Duncan, the chaplain of the 4th dragoon guards (who had been presented to that post by Field-marshal Rich), happily carried him off the field of battle in time to save his life. So serious were his wounds that his death was reported in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ of May 1746. After his recovery he succeeded Lieutenant-general William Barrell as colonel of the 4th or king's own regiment of foot on 22 Aug. 1749, and, taking his regiment to Minorca in the spring of 1754, took part in the gallant defence of that island against overwhelming numbers. After a siege of several weeks it was surrendered by Governor Blakeney to the Duc de Richelieu on 29 June 1756. Meanwhile, on 24 April 1756, Rich was appointed governor of Londonderry and Culmore Fort, whereupon he resigned the colonelcy of the 4th foot. He was promoted to the rank of major-general on 16 Jan. 1758, and advanced to lieutenant-general 10 Dec. 1760. On 7 Feb. 1771 he wrote to the Earl of Sandwich, asking the king's permission to resign his post as major-general on the Irish establishment, his constitution having been ‘shattered in the service, and quite broke down by a series of ill-health.’ At the same time he petitioned that, in consideration of the hardships he had endured, he should be assigned some post on the English establishment. His resignation was at once accepted. On the death of his father, in 1768, he succeeded to the title and estates, but speedily became involved in a harassing dispute which clouded the remainder of his life. On 3 Feb. 1768 General Conway, who had been secretary of state (1765–8), was appointed to the colonelcy of the 4th dragoons in the room of Rich's father; and on making his inspection of the regiment found fault with the men's accoutrements, and called upon Rich, Viscount Orwell, and Colonel William Bradford, who were the executors of the elder Rich, to make good the alleged deficiencies of the soldiers' appointments. After vainly seeking relief, the executors agreed to satisfy the claim. General Conway then made a further demand for horse furniture, with which the executors declined to comply. But the board of general officers of 1774 decided that the claim was justified. Lord Orwell and Colonel Bradford obeyed the order, but Rich continued his resistance. The king thereupon dismissed him, first from his post as governor of Londonderry, and on 3 Oct. 1774 from the service. Sir Robert published, in 1775, ‘A Letter to Lord Barrington, Secretary of War,’ who had supported Conway, stating his case at length. These proceedings extended over six years, and attracted much attention. On Rich's sustained opposition to the government F. Ayerst based, in 1853, an absurd endeavour to identify him with the author of the ‘Letters of Junius.’ Rich died at Bath, aged 71, on 19 May 1785, when the baronetcy became extinct. He married in 1752 Mary, daughter of Peter Ludlow and sister to Earl Ludlow. By his will, dated 27 May 1784, he left all his estates, comprising Roos Hall, Suffolk, and Waverley Abbey, Surrey, and other property, to his only daughter, Mary Frances, who had married at St. John's Church, Windsor, on 4 Jan. 1783, the Rev. Charles Bostock; the latter assumed the surname and arms of Rich in 1790, and was created a baronet on 11 June 1791.

[Private information supplied by Sir Charles Rich, bart.; A Letter to Lord Barrington, Secretary at War, by Sir Robert Rich, 1775; The Ghost of Junius, by F. Ayerst, 1853; Gent. Mag.; Burke's Extinct Baronetage; Beatson's Political Index; Notes and Queries.]

W. R. W.