Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2010)|
|The Lord Rich|
|Born||St Lawrence Jewry, London|
|Died||June 12, 1567 (aged 70–71)
|Resting place||Felsted church, Essex|
|Occupation||Lord Chancellor of England|
Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich (1496/7 – 12 June 1567), was Lord Chancellor during the reign of King Edward VI of England from 1547 until January 1552. He was the founder of Felsted School with its associated alms houses in Essex in 1564.
Born in the parish of St Lawrence Jewry in London, Rich was the second son of Richard Rich of Hampshire and Joan Dingley. His grandfather was Richard Rich, who died in 1469.1 He was described as being 54 in 1551citation needed which gives him a birth year of around 1497. He may have had connections with a Rich family prominent in the Mercer's Company in the 15th century. Early pedigrees linking him to a Richard Rich of St Lawrence Jewry are incorrect.1 Beyond that, little is known of his early life.
He may have studied at Cambridge before 1516.citation needed In 1516 he entered the Middle Temple as a lawyer and at some point between 1520 and 1525 he was a reader at the New Inn. By 1528 we know that Rich was in search of a patron and wrote to Cardinal Wolsey, in 1529, Thomas Audley succeeded in helping him get elected as an MP. As Audley's career advanced in the early 1530s so did Rich's through a variety of legal posts, before he became truly prominent in the mid-1530s.1
Other preferments followed, and in 1533 he was knighted and became Solicitor General, in which capacity he was to act under Thomas Cromwell as a "lesser hammer" for the demolition of the monasteries, and to secure the operation of Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy. He had a share in the trials of Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. In both cases his evidence against the prisoner included admissions made in friendly conversation, and in More's case the words were given a misconstruction that could hardly be other than wilful.2 While on trial, More said that Rich was "always reputed light of his tongue, a great dicer and gamester, and not of any commendable fame."3 Rich would also play a major part in the fall of Cromwell.
As King's Solicitor, Rich travelled to Kimbolton Castle in January 1536 to take the inventory of the goods of Catherine of Aragon, and wrote to Henry advising how he might properly obtain her possessions.4
On the 19th of April 1536 Rich became the chancellor of the Court of Augmentations established for the disposal of the monastic revenues. His own share of the spoil, acquired either by grant or purchase, included Leez (Leighs) Priory and about a hundred manors in Essex. Rich also acquired—and destroyed—the real estate and holdings of the Priory of St Bartholomew-the-Great in Smithfield. He built the Tudor-style gatehouse still surviving in London as the upper portion of the Smithfield Gate.5 He was Speaker of the House of Commons in the same year, and advocated the king's policy. In spite of the share he had taken in the suppression of the monasteries, the prosecution of Thomas More and Bishop Fisher and of the part he was to play under Edward VI and Elizabeth, his religious beliefs remained nominally Roman Catholic.
Rich was also a participant in the torture of Anne Askew, the only woman to be tortured at the Tower of London. Both he and Chancellor Wriothesley screwed the rack to torture her with their own hands.6
Rich was an executor of the will of King Henry VIII, as a result of which he became Baron Rich of Leez on 26 February 1547. In the next month he succeeded Wriothesley as chancellor. He supported Protector Somerset in his reforms in church matters, in the prosecution of his brother Thomas Seymour, and in the rest of his policy until the crisis of October 1549, when he deserted to Warwick. He presided over Somerset's trial on 1 December 1551, and resigned his office in January 1552.
Rich took part in the prosecution of bishops Stephen Gardiner and Edmund Bonner, and had a role in the harsh treatment accorded to the future Mary I of England. However, Mary on her accession showed no ill-will to Rich. Lord Rich took an active part in the restoration of the old religion in Essex under the new reign, and was one of the most active of persecutors. His reappearances in the privy council were rare during Mary's reign; but under Elizabeth he served on a commission to inquire into the grants of land made under Mary, and in 1566 was sent for to advise on the question of the queen's marriage. He died at Rochford in Essex, on 12 June 1567, and was buried in Felsted church.
In Mary's reign he had founded a chaplaincy with provision for the singing of masses and dirges, and the ringing of bells in Felsted church. To this was added a Lenten allowance of herrings to the inhabitants of three parishes. These donations were transferred in 1564 to the foundation of Felsted School for instruction, primarily for children born on the founder's manors, in Latin, Greek and divinity. The patronage of the school remained in the family of the founder until 1851.
By his wife Elizabeth Jenks, or Gynkes, he had fifteen children. The eldest son Robert (1537?–1581), second Baron Rich, supported the Reformation. One grandson, Richard Rich, was the first husband of Catherine Knyvet and another grandson Robert, third lord, was created Earl of Warwick in 1618. Rich had an illegitimate son, also named Richard (d. 15987), who was provided for in his will on the condition that he was to be brought up in the study of the common law.8 Richard's grandson via this illegitimate son was the merchant adventurer Sir Nathaniel Rich, and his great-grandson was Nathaniel Rich (nephew of the older Nathaniel), a colonel in the New Model Army during the English Civil War. He also had a daughter named Jane Rich who married Richard Hunt.
Rich is a supporting character in the Shardlake crime novels by C. J. Sansom, which are set in the reign of Henry VIII. Rich is portrayed as a cruel villain who is prepared to subvert justice in order to enhance his property and position. He has a significant role in the plot of Sovereign, the third of the series and in Heartstone, the fifth.
Since the mid-sixteenth century Rich has had a highly negative reputation for amorality, financial dishonesty, double dealing, perjury and treachery that is seldom matched in all of English history.9 The historian Hugh Trevor-Roper dismissed Rich as a man "of whom nobody has ever spoken a good word".10
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Rich, Richard (1496?-1567)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Pendrill, Colin (2000). The English Reformation: crown power and religious change, 1485-1558. p. 144.
- More, Cresacre (1828). In Rev. Joseph Hunter F.S.A. The Life of Sir Thomas More. London: William Pickering. p. 263. Retrieved 14 September 2012.
- Strype, John (1822). "Rich to Henry, 19 January 1535/6". Ecclesiastical Memorials 1. Oxford. pp. 252–255.
- Webb, E.A. (1921). Records of St. Bartholomew's Smithfield. 2 vols. Retrieved 2009-03-29.
- Weir, Alison (1992). The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Pimlico.
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- S.T. Bindoff, ed. (1982). "RICH, Richard (1496/97-1567), of West Smithfield, Mdx., Rochford and Leighs, Essex". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558. Retrieved 14 September 2012. Unknown parameter
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- Carter, P.R.N. (2004). "Richard Rich, first Baron Rich (1496/7–1567)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. OUP. Retrieved 2009-03-29.(UK library card, ATHENS login or subscription required)
- Muriel St Clare Byrne, ed. (1983). The Lisle Letters; an abridgment. University of Chicago Press.
- John Guy, Thomas More (2000)
- W. C. Richardson, History of the court of augmentations, 1536–1554 (1961) ·
- R. S. Sylvester and D. P. Harding, eds., Two early Tudor lives (1962)
- Engebretson, Elizabeth. Richard Rich, the Man Who Kept His Head (Author House Lt. UK 2006 ), a novel
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Sir Humphrey Wingfield
|Speaker of the House of Commons
Sir Nicholas Hare
The Lord St John
(Keeper of the Great Seal)
(Keeper of the Great Seal)
|Peerage of England|
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