Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Perceval, Richard

PERCEVAL, RICHARD (1550–1620), colonist and politician, born in 1550, was eldest son of George Perceval or Percival (1561–1601), a large landed proprietor of Somerset, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter and coheiress of Sir Edward Bampfylde of Poltimore, Devonshire. He was educated at St. Paul's school. Becoming a student at Lincoln's Inn, he offended and alienated his father by his extravagance, and still more by a rash marriage with Joan, seventh daughter of Henry Young of Buckhorn Weston in Dorset, ‘with whom he had no fortune.’ Having ‘ruined himself by his riots, he was now left to recover himself by his wits.’ He went into Spain, and lived there four years till his wife's death; he then returned to England, and vainly sought a reconciliation with his father. Through his friend Roger Cave of Stamford, who had married Lord Burghley's sister, he was introduced to the lord treasurer, who employed him in secret affairs of state. In 1586 he was credited with deciphering packets containing the first sure intelligence of the project of the armada. The queen rewarded him with a pension, and later with a place in the duchy of Lancaster; and Burghley, when his son Robert Cecil became master of the court of wards, made him ‘secretary’ of that court. This success won back for him his father's favour, and he inherited from him real estate of considerable value (1,700l. a year, according to Lodge). At the end of the queen's reign he was sent into Ireland to see if the court of wards could be extended there with profit to the crown; but his report was unfavourable. In 1603–4 he sat in parliament for Richmond in Yorkshire, and took some part in ‘matters of trade and revenue,’ and in the business of the union with Scotland. In 1610, on Sir William Fleetwood's disgrace as receiver-general of the court of wards, the office was vested in commissioners, of whom Perceval was one. On the death of his patron and ‘master,’ Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, on 24 May 1612, Perceval lost all his employments in England; but on a new settlement of the court of wards being projected in Ireland, he was made registrar or clerk of the court in 1616. He now sold a great part (1,200l. a year, according to Lodge) of his ancient patrimony, and invested the sum realised in purchases and mortgages in the county of Cork, thus laying the foundation of the prosperity and property of his family there. In 1618 he returned to England to secure his appointment against the claims of a competitor, and, though obliged to resign part of his salary, he saved his post and obtained a discharge of all his debts to the crown.

In 1609 his name appears in the list of members of the London or Virginian Company, incorporated on 23 May of that year, and in 1610 he appears as the donor of 37l. ‘towards the supply of the plantation begun in Virginia.’

Perceval died in Dublin on 4 Sept. 1620, in his sixty-ninth year, and was buried in St. Audoen's Church. By his first wife he had three sons and two daughters; by his second, Alice, daughter of John Sherman of Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, two sons and two daughters. The younger son, Sir Philip [q. v.], became his heir, and is separately noticed. The earls of Egmont descend from him.

Richard's portrait and that of his wife were engraved by J. Faber for the ‘History of the House of Yvery,’ 1742 (Bromley).

Richard Perceval was doubtless the author of the well-known Spanish-English dictionary, ‘Bibliotheca Hispanica, containing a Grammar with a Dictionarie in Spanish, English, and Latin,’ London, 1591, 4to. It is dedicated to Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex [q. v.] The name of the author is spelt Richard Percyvall. A copy is in the British Museum Library. A second edition, edited and enlarged by John Minsheu [q. v.], appeared in 1599 under the title ‘A Dictionarie in Spanish and English …’ fol.; this edition appeared in two parts, one containing the dictionary and the other the grammar. A third edition appeared in 1623.

[Cal. English State Papers, Dom. 1599–1607 (where several official letters from Perceval are noticed); Irish State Papers, 27 Sept. 1608, and 3 May 1611; Lodge's Peerage of Ireland ed. Archdall (which takes its facts from Anderson's History of the House of Yvery), ii. 233–238. The figures of income credited to Perceval's employments are contradicted by the sums assigned in the Issue Books, e.g. of 1610 and 1612. Brown's Genesis of U.S.A., pp. 214, 467, 963–4; Granger's Biogr. Dict. ii. 89.]

C. R. B.