RICH, Sir William, 2nd Bt. (c.1654-1711), of Sonning, Berks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1689 - 1698
1698 - 1700
26 Nov. 1705 - 1708

Family and Education

b. c.1654, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Sir Thomas Rich, 1st Bt.†, of Sonning, by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of William Cockayne, Skinner, of London.  m. lic. 28 May 1672, aged 18, Lady Anne (d. 1716), da. of Robert Bruce†, 1st Earl of Ailesbury, and sis. of Thomas†, 2nd Earl of Ailesbury, Hon. James* and Hon. Robert Bruce*, 1s.  suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 15 Oct. 1667.1

Offices Held

High steward, Wokingham 1678–d.; freeman, Reading 1689, Gloucester 1698.2


Rich’s experience of Parliament began early, as a private Act was necessary in the 1672–3 session to confirm his marriage settlement. Despite marrying into a Tory family, Rich was a Whig, being associated with Lord Lovelace (Hon. John†) as early as 1680 and making an interest at Reading in 1685 and 1688. Returned for Reading at the elections for the Convention in 1689 and again in 1690, Rich was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) at the beginning of the new Parliament. Robert Harley* listed him as doubtful, or possibly as absent, in April 1691 when analysing the House in terms of allegiance to Court or Country. Grascome’s list of the spring of 1693, extended to 1695, described him as a Court supporter and a placeman. The ascription ‘placeman’ may reflect confusion with Sir Robert Rich, 2nd Bt.*, an Admiralty commissioner; alternatively, Rich may have held an office in Windsor Forest, for in 1680 he had been mentioned as a possible verderer there, and a Treasury caveat of May 1693 ordered that he be informed before any wood was felled in part of the forest. On 26 Feb. 1694 Rich was granted leave of absence from the House for three weeks, the first of a series of such grants, to recover his health.3

Returned again for Reading in the 1695 election, Rich was forecast as likely to support the Court in the division of 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association in February and on the 19th of that month was granted leave of absence for one month. He had returned by late March, however, when he voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. On 25 Nov. he voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. He received leave of absence on 13 Mar. 1697, and was accorded further leave twice in the following session, on 21 Dec. 1697, for health reasons, and 3 Mar. 1698 for a fortnight, and once more on 23 Mar. 1699. In the 1698 election he switched seats, being returned for Gloucester. On a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments, compiled in around September, Rich was classed as a Court supporter, and was recorded as voting against the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. On an analysis of the Commons according to factions and interests compiled in 1700 his name was marked with a ‘Q’, probably indicating a difficulty in assigning him to any group.

Rich did not stand in the election of January 1701. Indeed, he only returned to the Commons after winning a by-election at Reading in November 1705. His only significant activity in this Parliament was his petitioning on 21 Jan. 1707 for a private bill allowing him to alter his mother’s charitable bequests so that they were charged upon his Berkshire estates rather than upon Astwood Court in Worcestershire. This bill passed both Houses with little difficulty in February. Rich’s name appears on two lists of early 1708, on both of which he was classed as a Whig. However, his parliamentary career ended with his defeat at Reading in the 1708 election. Although ‘infirm and weak in body’ when he made his will in February 1710, he did not die until the following year, being buried on 3 July 1711.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 273; Ashmole, Berks. ii. 398; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1129.
  • 2. Berks. Arch. Jnl. xliii. 49; Berks. RO, Reading corp. diary, 7 Jan. 1688[–9]; Gloucester Freemen (Glos. Rec. Ser. iv), 51.
  • 3. PCC 144 Dycer; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 29; HMC Downshire, i. 12; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1883), 227; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 199.
  • 4. HMC Lords, n.s. vii. 53–54; PCC 76 Barnes; Berks. RO, Sonning par. reg.