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

RUMBOLD, RICHARD (1622?–1685), conspirator, born about 1622, entered the parliamentary army as a soldier at the age of nineteen. In February 1649 he was one of eight privates who petitioned Lord Fairfax for the re-establishment of the representative council of agitators, and used seditious language against the council of state. For this offence four were cashiered, but Rumbold escaped punishment (Clarke Papers, ii. 193; Somers Tracts, ed. Scott, vi. 44). Rumbold confessed at his trial in 1685 that he had been one of the guards about the scaffold of Charles I, and stated that he served under Cromwell at Dunbar and Worcester (State Trials, xi. 882). In June 1659 he was a lieutenant in Colonel Packer's regiment of horse (Commons' Journals, vii. 698). After the Restoration Rumbold married the widow of a maltster, and carried on that trade at the Rye House, near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, on the road between London and Newmarket. He was a man of extreme republican views, and in 1682, when some of the whigs plotted an armed insurrection against Charles II, Rumbold became engaged in a subsidiary conspiracy for the assassination of Charles II and the Duke of York. The king and his guard were to be attacked by Rumbold and forty men as they passed the Rye House on the way to London. The preparations of the conspirators do not seem to have gone beyond buying arms and using much treasonable language, and an accident prevented any attempt to execute their design in April 1683, which was the date originally fixed. In June 1683 one of the plotters revealed the conspiracy to the government. The witnesses represented Rumbold as the principal promoter of the assassination plot. He had devised the expedients and attempted to provide the means for its execution. In their discussions he was wont to speak of the murder under the name of ‘lopping.’ One witness deposed that Rumbold was commonly called Hannibal by the conspirators, ‘by reason of his having but one eye,’ and that it was usual at their meetings ‘to drink a health to Hannibal and his boys’ (State Trials, ix. 327, 366, 385, 402, 407, 442). On 23 June the government issued a proclamation offering a reward of 100l. for Rumbold's arrest, but he succeeded in escaping to Holland. A true bill on an indictment of high treason was found against him at the Old Bailey on 12 July 1683 (Luttrell, Diary, i. 262, 267).

In May 1685 Rumbold joined the Earl of Argyll in his expedition to Scotland. He was commissioned as colonel of a regiment of horse which was to be raised after landing, and commanded the few horsemen who were got together. He was in command also at the skirmish between Argyll's men and the forces of the Marquis of Atholl at Ardkinglass (State Trials, xi. 877; Marchmont Papers, iii. 43, 51). Rumbold accompanied Argyll into the lowlands, became separated from the rest of the rebels in their disorderly marches, and was captured, fighting desperately, by a party of country militia (Wodrow, History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, ed. 1830, iv. 295, 313). As he was severely wounded, the Scottish government had him tried at once, lest he should escape his punishment by death. He was tried on 26 June, protested his innocence of any design to assassinate the king, was found guilty, and was sentenced to be executed the same afternoon. In his dying speech he declared his belief that kingly government was the best of all government so long as the contract between king and people was observed. When it was broken, the people were free to defend their rights. Divine right he scoffed at. ‘I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another; for none comes into the world with a saddle upon his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him’ (State Trials, xi. 873–81). The court which tried Rumbold ordered his quarters to be placed on the gates of various Scottish towns, but the English government had them sent to England to be set up on one of the gates of the city and in Hertfordshire (ib. p. 875; Mackintosh, History of the Revolution, p. 32).

Rumbold had a brother William who was also implicated in the Rye House plot, and apparently in Monmouth's rebellion. He was pardoned by James II in 1688 (Luttrell, Diary, i. 444).

[Authorities referred to in the article; Burnet's Own Time, ed. 1833, iii. 32; Fox's Historof the Reign of James II, pp. 216, clvi.]

C. H. F.