Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick (5 June 1587 – 19 April 1658)

A colonial administrator and admiral, Robert was the eldest son of Robert Rich, earl of Warwick and his wife Penelope (Devereux), and succeeded to the title in 1619. His A younger brother was Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland.  He was heavily involved in colonial ventures early in his career, joining the Bermudas, Guinea, New England and Virginia companies. His enterprises involved him in disputes with the East India Company (1617) and with the Virginia Company, which in 1624 was suppressed through his action. In 1627 he commanded an unsuccessful privateering expedition against the Spaniards.

His Puritan connections and sympathies, while gradually estranging him from the court, promoted his association with the New England colonies. In 1628 he indirectly procured the patent for the Massachusetts Bay colony and granted the " Saybrook " patent of Connecticut in 1631. Compelled the same year to resign the presidency of the New England Company, he continued to manage the Bermudas and Providence Companies, the latter of which, founded in 1630, administered Old Providence on the Mosquito Coast. Meanwhile in England, Warwick opposed the forced loan of 1626, the payment of ship-money and Laud's church policy.

In March 1642 the Commons, in spite of the king's veto, appointed him admiral of the fleet, and in July he gained the whole navy for the parliament. He raised forces in Norfolk and Essex on the outbreak of the English Civil War, and as Lord High Admiral (1643-45) he did good service in intercepting the king's ships and relieving threatened ports. In 1643, Warwick was appointed head of a commission for the government of the colonies, which the next year incorporated Providence Plantation, aftewards Rhode Island, and in this capacity he exerted himself to secure religious liberties.

Three years later, the Earl was approached by Samuel Gorton and his followers in an attempt to establish their own colony in lands south of Providence, Rhode Island called Shawomet. Gorton had wanted the Massachusetts Bay Colony to stop its encroachments against him and his followers, and lobbied heavily to the "Governor in Chiefe and Lord High Admiral of the English Plantations in America" for the establishment of a town charter for Shawomet. Rich ruled in Gorton's favor and issued an order to Massachusetts to allow the residents of Shawomet and other lands included in the patent to "freely and quietly live and plant" without being disquieted by external pressures.[1] In return, Gorton renamed the town Warwick.

Reappointed by Parliament.[2] as Lord High Admiral in May 1648, in the vain hope that his influence with the sailors would win back the nine ships which had revolted to the king, he collected a new fleet and blockaded them at Helvoetsluys. Warwick also retook the 'Castles of the Downs' (at Walmer, Deal, and Sandown) for Parliament, and became Deal Castle's captain 1648-53.[3] Dismissed from office on the abolition of the House of Lords in 1649, he retired from public life, but was intimately associated with Oliver Cromwell, whose daughter Frances married his grandson and heir Robert Rich in 1657. He died on the 19th of April 1658.


Robert Rich married first, Frances Hatton, daughter of Sir Frances Hatton and Elizabeth Gawdy. His second wife was Eleanor Wortley (m. 30 March 1646), widow of Henry of Ditchley, 1st Baronet Lee of Quarendon.



  1. Austin, John Osborne (1887). Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. pp. 302–305. ISBN 9780806300061.
  2. 'July 1642: Ordinance for the Earl of Warwick to remain in his Command of the Fleet.', Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660 (1911), p. 12. URL: Date accessed: 13 April 2007.
  3. 13 July 1648 - 'Taking of Walmer Castle' URL: Date accessed: 6 August 2007.

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