Richard entered his father's closet, forced a cabinet, and helped himself. The earl, in a fury, demanded of the lord chief justice a warrant for his son's arrest; the latter, however, denied the facts, and brought evidence of his father's declaration that there was no money in the house. The chief justice persuaded the earl to desist from further proceedings, but Richard by this escapade earned for himself the name of ‘Tyburn Dick,’ which clung to him for some time.
Upon the death of his elder brother, Thomas, about 1680, Richard acquired the title of Viscount Colchester, and he was elected M.P. for Wigan in 1681. On 23 May 1686 he obtained a lieutenancy in the fourth troop of horseguards, commanded by Captain Henry Jermyn, baron Dover [q. v.], his senior officer being Patrick Sarsfield (Dalton, Engl. Army Lists, i. 75, 118). Handsome and unscrupulous, he made a reputation as a rake, sharing in the nightly diversions of debauchees like Lords Lovelace and Mohun, and William, lord Cavendish. Though he subsequently became a firm tory, his political views were at this time those of his associates. On the news of the landing of the Prince of Orange he set out to join the prince simultaneously with Lord Lovelace; more fortunate than the latter, he arrived at Exeter with four of his troopers and sixty retainers, and had the distinction of being the first nobleman to give in his adherence to William (cf. Lord Kenyon's Papers, Hist. MSS. Comm. 14th Rep. App. iv.; Boyer, William III, p. 139). He accompanied William to London, where his influence with the new king was eagerly solicited by his friends in the north, and in the Convention parliament he sat for Liverpool.
Soon after his accession William disbanded the fourth troop of guards; but Colchester was no loser by the change, being first given Fenwicke's troop, and promoted in January 1692 to command the third troop in place of Marlborough, who was in temporary disgrace. He led the grenadiers under a heavy fire in the van of the attacking force when Cork was taken in September 1690, and he accompanied William to Flanders in 1691 and 1692 (ib. p. 284). In the latter year he was excepted by name in the pardon promulgated by James II, and was in 1693 promoted major-general by a commission dated from The Hague on 1 April. He was invalided at Brussels during the battle of Landen, and succeeded his father as fourth Earl Rivers in September 1694, but he served through the campaign of 1695, and was favourably noticed for his coolness under fire. In February 1699, when a large portion of the army was disbanded, his troop was retained. During the summer of this year the fierce rivalry between the three troops, commanded respectively by Ormonde, Albemarle, and Rivers, was accentuated by a quarrel between the commanders themselves, arising from some disputed point of etiquette. This difference was with some difficulty composed upon the interposition of the king; and the three troops were reviewed together in Hyde Park, in token of their reconciliation, in November. In November 1701 Rivers obtained the lord-lieutenancy of Lancashire and governorship of Liverpool in place of the Earl of Macclesfield, whom he had recently enabled to obtain a long-sought divorce from his wife. He resigned these appointments early in 1702, and served for a year with the army in Flanders under Marlborough, who made him lieutenant-general in November 1702. Anxious to push his fortunes at court, he sold his regiment and his troop for 6,000l. a few months later (Luttrell). His ambition was to obtain a command in chief. Marlborough wrote highly of his claim, and when, in the summer of 1706, the government decided upon a descent upon France, in accordance with a scheme first conceived by Guiscard, the command was given to Rivers. Shovel was to convoy an army of about ten thousand foot and twelve hundred horse to the mouth of the Charente, where it was hoped that Rivers would be able to effect a junction with the Camisards. Michael Richards [q. v.] was to command the train, and Guiscard the Huguenots, with whom, however, no very clear understanding had been arrived at; otherwise the scheme was a promising one. The general was directed to publish upon landing a manifesto declaring that it was his intention neither to conquer nor to pillage, but to restore the liberties of the French people, the States-General, and the edict of Nantes. The troops were embarked at Portsmouth early in July, and sailed as far as Torbay; but the expedition was frustrated by persistent contrary winds, and in October the destination of the army was changed to Lisbon. Rivers reached Lisbon after a stormy voyage, and thence proceeded to Alicante, arriving on 8 Feb. Confinement in transports for four months had reduced the men on the active list from ten to scarcely more than seven thousand, and Rivers was severely mortified when, little more than a fortnight after his arrival, a despatch arrived from Sunderland nominating Galway [see Massue de Ruvigny, Henri de] commander-in-chief in the Peninsula. He