Rich, Robert (1685-1768) (DNB00)


RICH, Sir ROBERT (1685–1768), fourth baronet, field-marshal, was second son of Sir Robert Rich, knt. and bart., of Roos Hall, Suffolk, lord of the admiralty from November 1691 to October 1699, and M.P. for Dunwich, from 1689 until his death in 1699. The father was descended from the elder branch of the powerful family of Rich, earls of Warwick and Holland [see under Rich, Richard, first Baron Rich]. Robert's mother was Mary, second daughter of Sir Charles Rich, first baronet, whose baronetcy was limited in the patent to the husband of Mary Rich.

Born on 3 July 1685, and baptised at Beccles on the 13th of the same month, Robert was for some years senior of the four pages of honour to William III (Chamberlayne, Present State of England, 1700), retaining office until August 1702 (Home Office Papers). He was granted a commission as ensign in the grenadier guards on 10 June 1700, and saw service in the wars under the Duke of Marlborough. Before he attained his twentieth year he was twice wounded, first at Schellenberg on 2 July 1704, and afterwards at Blenheim on 13 Aug. in the same year. He became lieutenant and captain soon afterwards. On 9 March 1708 he was made captain of a company in the grenadier guards, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and received his commission as colonel on 24 Oct. 1709. In October 1706 he succeeded, on the death of his brother, Sir Charles Rich, to the title and estates; and in June 1708 fought a duel in Suffolk with Sir Edmund Bacon, bart., whom he ran through the body, with effects wrongly ‘supposed to be mortell’ (Narcissus Luttrell, Diary); Sir Edmund lived until 1755. Rich served in the 18th foot until that regiment was broke, and obtained the colonelcy of the 13th light dragoons on 19 Nov. 1722, from which he was transferred in succession to the command of the 8th light dragoons (23 Sept. 1725) and the 6th dragoon guards (1 Jan. 1731). Sir Robert was furthermore made captain and colonel of the first troop of horse grenadier guards (July 1733), and colonel of Evans's or the 4th dragoons (13 May 1735). The last command he held until his death, over thirty years later. In 1715 Rich entered parliament as member for Dunwich, which he represented until 1722; but he was defeated on seeking re-election in that year. He was, however, returned for Beeralston at a by-election in February 1724, and afterwards sat for St. Ives in two parliaments, from 1727 to 1741, when he retired from parliament. As a member of the House of Commons he consistently supported Sir Robert Walpole, voting for the excise bill (1733) and the convention (1739). On 21 March 1718 he was appointed a groom of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales, on whose accession to the throne as George II he became a groom of the bedchamber to the king in July 1727 (with a salary of 500l. a year). This appointment he enjoyed until his resignation, on account of advancing years, in 1759. He was promoted to the rank of brigadier-general on 30 March 1727, major-general on 12 Nov. 1735, and lieutenant-general on 2 July 1739; and in May 1740 received the coveted life appointment of governor of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea (salary 500l. a year). He was executor to his old friend, Field-marshal Sir Charles Wills [q. v.], who, at his death on 25 Dec. 1741, left him his farm of Claxton in Norfolk, and all his bank stock and other personalty (Chester, Registers of Westminster Abbey). On 24 April 1742 Rich embarked with his regiment of dragoons for Flanders to join the Earl of Stair's army; he fought at Dettingen on 16 June 1743, and on 14 Dec. 1745 his was one of the regiments which marched through London on their way to Kent and Sussex to oppose any landing of the French there. He was one of the three lieutenant-generals placed upon the staff of the army formed under the chief command of field-marshal the Earl of Stair to oppose an apprehended invasion from France, 26 Feb. to 8 Aug. 1744, and he was advanced to the rank of general on 29 March 1747. In August 1756 he was president of the court-martial upon Lieutenant-general Thomas Fowke, governor of Gibraltar, for disobedience of orders in connection with the loss of Minorca, and on 28 Nov. 1757 was made field-marshal of his majesty's forces. He was reappointed governor of Chelsea Hospital on 27 Oct. 1760. He died on 1 Feb. 1768, aged 82.

Rich married, about 1710, Elizabeth, daughter and coheir of Colonel Edward Griffith, clerk of the board of green cloth to Queen Anne, and secretary to Prince George of Denmark. By her he had three sons and a daughter Elizabeth. His eldest son died on 12 Aug. 1752; his second son, Robert (1714–1785), is noticed separately. His daughter married, on 10 Aug. 1749, George, first baron Lyttelton [q. v.]

[Private information supplied by Sir Charles Rich, bart., of Devizes Castle; Beatson's Political Index; Return of Members of Parliament; Stooks Smith's Parliaments of England; Gent. Mag.; Burke's Extinct Baronetage.]

W. R. W.