RICH, Henry (1590-1649), of Smithfield, London and Kensington, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



19 May 1610

Family and Education

bap. 19 Aug. 1590, 2nd s. of Robert Rich†, 1st earl of Warwick, and 1st w. Penelope, da. of Walter Devereux, 1st earl of Essex; bro. of Sir Robert Rich*.1 educ. privately (Monsieur Beaufort), Eton c.1602-3, Emmanuel, Camb. 1603, MA 1615; travelled abroad (France) 1607; I. Temple 1611.2 m. 9 July 1612, Isabel, da. and h. of Sir Walter Cope* of Kensington,3 4s. 5da.4 cr. KB 2 June 1610, Bar. Kensington 5 Mar. 1623, earl of Holland 24 Sept. 1624, KG 15 May 1625.5 d. 9 Mar. 1649.6

Offices Held

Freeman, Leicester, Leics. 1610;7 commr. survey, L. Inn Fields, Mdx. 1618,8 St. James’s bailiwick, Mdx. 1640;9 j.p. Mdx. 1620-42, Cambridge, Cambs. 1629-at least 1636;10 commr. subsidy, Mdx. 1621-2, 1624,11 sewers, Essex 1625-7, Gt. Fens 1631-46, Cambridge 1631-38, Westminster 1634, Bucks., Herts., and Mdx. 1638-9, Kent 1640,12 Forced Loan, Leicester, Leics. and Mdx. 1626-7, Beds., Bucks., Essex, Herts., Kent, Leics., Northants., Surr., Northampton, Northants, London 1627;13 recorder, Colchester, Essex by 1627-35,14 commr. martial law, Plymouth, Devon 1627,15 gaol delivery, Colchester, Essex 1627-41, Cambridge 1630-41, oyer and terminer, Mdx. 1627-41, Berks. 1640, oyer and terminer and gaol delivery, London 1629-41, Surr. 1640;16 ld. lt. Berks. (jt.) 1628-32, (sole) 1632-43, Mdx. (jt.) 1628-42, (sole) 1642-3;17 chan. Camb. Univ. 1628-d.;18 constable, Windsor Castle, Berks. 1629-48;19 kpr. Hyde Park, Mdx. by 1630;20 Greenwich Park, Kent 1633-d.,21 Nonsuch Palace, Surr. (jt.) 1639;22 high steward, Abingdon, Berks. 1630-at least 1640, Reading, Berks. 1631-at least 1640, Colchester, Essex 1635-at least 1641;23 steward, Crown manors of Sayes Court, East Greenwich, West Greenwich and Lee, Kent 1633, chief steward of the Crown manors of Deptford and Strood, and bailiff of East Greenwich and Sayes Ct., Kent 1633;24 commr. repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral 1631,25 array, Mdx. 1640.26

Vol. siege of Jülich 1610,27 Neths. 1621;28 c.-in-c. of relief forces, La Rochelle 1627;29 gov. Harwich, Essex 1628; gen. of Horse 1639; capt.-gen. 1641; c.-in-c. of militia (north) 1641;30 gen. (roy.) 1648.31

Member, Virg. Co. 1612,32 Somers Is. Co. 1620,33 Guiana Co. 1627;34 gov. Providence Is. Co. 1630-42.35

Member, embassy to France 1616;36 capt. of the guard 1617-33;37 amb. extraordinary, France 1624-June 1625, 28 Dec. 1625-6, Utd. Provinces 1 Sept.-7 Dec. 1625;38 PC 31 July 1625-42,39 [S] 1641;40 gent. of the bedchamber, 1626,41 steward to Queen Henrietta Maria 1626-at least 1641;42 member, Council of War 1626-?30, 1637-8,43 High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1626-at least 1633;44 royal exchanger 1627-at least 1628;45 commr. transportation of felons, 1628-at least 1633;46 c.j. in Eyre (south) 1631-at least 1647;47 commr. execution of poor laws 1631-2,48 farmer of greenwax fines, k.b. and c.p. ?1633-41;49 commr. to swear the queen’s council, officers and servants 1634-7,50 jt. farmer of coal exports to Spanish Neths. 1634-41;51 groom of the stole 1636-42;52 commr. treaty of Berwick 1639,53 Ripon 1640,54 Oxford (parl.) 1643,55 relief of the king’s army and Northern counties 1641, raising and levying money for the defence of Eng. and Ire.,56 affairs of Ire. 1642,57 member, cttee. of safety 1642,58 commr. relief of distressed subjects of the kingdom of Ireland, 1642,59 Admlty. 1642-3;60 member, Assembly of Divines 1643.61


Rich was the younger son of Robert, 3rd Lord Rich, one of the wealthiest peers of England, who was created earl of Warwick in 1618. Although the Richs were among the most important aristocratic patrons of puritan ministers, the family was dogged by scandals, which has led commentators, at the time and since, to question their godliness. Rich’s mother was the mistress of Charles Blount†, 8th Lord Mountjoy, leading to speculation about the former’s parentage; his elder brother Robert contracted a clandestine marriage with the 14-year-old daughter of a judge, and Rich’s own adult life was marked by a succession of extra-marital affairs and duels.62

Rich was apparently the godson of Henri IV of France, and in 1604 his mother tried to arrange for him to be appointed page of the bedchamber to the French king, but to no avail. He did not go to the French court until 1607, when, in November, he received a licence to travel for three years. There is no evidence that he held court office in France, but he nevertheless remained a consistent francophile for the rest of his life.63

Rich had returned to England by May 1610. On the 3rd of that month his kinsman, Henry Hastings, 5th earl of Huntingdon, nominated him for the Leicester seat vacated on the death of Sir William Skipwith. The corporation’s attempts to get him to come to their borough to be made free were unavailing, and consequently Rich was elected in his absence on 9 May, subsequently taking the freeman’s oath in London.64 On 2 June he was one of the knights of the Bath created at the installation of Henry as prince of Wales. Rich is only mentioned once in the surviving records of the fourth session of the 1604-10 Parliament, on 22 June 1610, when he was named to the committee bill for restraint in apparel.65

According to Clarendon, Rich ‘intended to make his profession’ as a soldier, and after the session was ended left for the continent to serve as a volunteer at the siege of Jülich.66 He subsequently went to Paris, leaving to return to England in late November, and consequently missed virtually all the fifth session.67 Early the following year he was admitted to the Inner Temple by the Lent reader, William Towse*.68 In 1612 he married the daughter and heiress of the master of the Wards, Sir Walter Cope*, when property in Smithfield was settled on him, producing an income of £334 p.a. even before he developed the site.69

By early 1613 Rich was regularly taking part in tilts and masques at Court.70 Clarendon described him as ‘a very handsome man, of a lovely and winning presence and a gentle conversation’ and Arthur Wilson stated that his looks ‘equalled the most beautiful of women’.71 His handsome features attracted the attentions of James I, and although Rich is said to have turned aside and spat ‘after the king had slobbered his mouth’, this incident, which may have been apocryphal, does not seem to have marred his progress at Court.72

In 1614 Rich was a candidate for one of the knights of the shire for Norfolk, where his brother owned property. He was nominated by the lord chamberlain, Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, and mustered between 3,000 and 4,000 freeholders for the county court at Norwich on 7 March. However, he failed in his bid for a county seat as the under-sheriff suddenly adjourned the court to Swaffham, where two other candidates were elected.73 He therefore had to be content with his former seat of Leicester, where he was once again nominated by Huntingdon.74 On 9 May the Leicester corporation wrote to Rich, and his colleague, Sir Francis Leigh, at Sir Walter Cope’s house in Westminster, asking them to support measures to prevent ‘depopulation and decay of tillage’ and to suppress the ‘brewing of strong ale and beer’; there is no evidence that Rich heeded their request.75 He made no recorded speeches and received only three committee appointments. On 14 Apr. he was named to attend the conference with the Lords about the bill for settling the succession following the recent marriage of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine. He was also among those instructed to consider a bill to naturalize Sir Francis Stewart* and another Scottish courtier and to consider newly created baronetcies (both on 23 May).76

During the latter part of 1614 Rich was preoccupied with winding up the estate of his deceased father-in-law, whose alleged wealth proved largely mythical. Cope left debts of around £27,000 and all but one of the other executors refused to act. Rich managed to extricate Cope’s Kensington property from the débâcle, but alienated the widow, who was ‘not greatly satisfied with her son-in-law’s courses ... so that she thinks it lost labour to solicit him, who regards her and her own business so little’.77 It is possible that it was the need to redeem his father-in-law’s debts which prompted Rich to seek Court office in earnest.

In the summer of 1616 Rich accompanied James, Lord Hay (later 1st earl of Carlisle) on his ‘very gay and gallant’ embassy to Paris.78 It was reported in October that he returned to Calais to fight a duel with Sir Francis Stewart*, although the cause of the dispute is unknown.79 In 1617 he offered £5,000 to another Scottish favourite, Thomas Erskine, Viscount Fentoun, for the captaincy of the yeomen of the Guard, but before the transfer could be completed the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil†) intervened with a rival bid of £6,000. Salisbury had the backing of Buckingham, but in face of strong opposition from the queen he relinquished his claim to Rich, ‘especially because he [Rich] pretended the loss of it would be the ruin of his fortunes’.80

Rich subsequently took pains to ingratiate himself with Buckingham, and indeed, in 1619, the Privy Council had to intervene to prevent a duel between Rich and Buckingham’s brother, Sir Edward Villiers*, whom Rich accused of making trouble with the favourite.81 Rich failed to secure Huntingdon’s nomination at Leicester in 1620, or a seat elsewhere, but he participated in the opening of the third Jacobean Parliament in his capacity as captain of the guard, leading the ‘horse of estate’.82 In March 1621 he was nominated by the Prince’s Council for the newly enfranchised borough of Pontefract, but was not returned.83 In the summer the French ambassador in London, who hoped Rich would succeed Sir Edward Herbert* at the English embassy in Paris, described him as a moderate and good Protestant, rather than a puritan, without connections to Spain and well disposed toward France, where he was already known.84 However, Herbert remained in post and Rich decided to return to the field, serving as a volunteer in the Dutch army, where, according to Dudley Carleton*, he ‘carried himself nobly’ and ‘won much love and respect’.85

In 1623 Rich was raised to the peerage as Baron Kensington and he was sent as extraordinary ambassador to Paris, together with Carlisle, the following year. He was responsible for wooing Henrietta Maria on Prince Charles’s behalf with great spirit and fluency, and he was promoted to the earldom of Holland in 1624 and invested with the Garter in 1625. After the assassination of Buckingham in 1628 there was widespread speculation that Holland would become Charles’s new favourite, but, although he was appointed groom of the stool in 1636, and accumulated patents and pensions worth many thousands of pounds, he never became influential in policy-making. Initially a parliamentarian in the Civil War, he changed sides in August 1643, but was received at Oxford with freezing indifference. He promptly returned to Westminster, but was not readmitted to the Lords. After the war he was influential behind the scenes attempting to find a compromise settlement between the king and the Presbyterians, but, after the rise of the New Model Army, threw in his lot with the royalists again. He was taken prisoner in the Second Civil War and beheaded by order of the Rump on 9 Mar. 1649. In his will, dated 28 Feb. 1648, he expressed ‘sad and terrible contrition ... that to my original sin I have added such actual and habitual crimes’. His son Robert succeeded as 5th earl of Warwick in 1675, but none of his descendants sat in the Commons.86

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Paula Watson / Ben Coates


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