Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Robert Rich, 3rd Earl of Warwick

A portrait of Robert Rich, 3rd Earl of Warwick, attributed to 17th century artist John Greenhill, was returned to Lydiard House in 2010 after more than 70 years in private ownership.  The painting that had once hung in the State Bedroom had been sold in the 1940s dispersal sale when the house and parkland was acquired by Swindon Corporation.


Robert Rich was born in c1611, the eldest son of the 2nd Earl of Warwick and his second wife Frances Hatton.  Robert the 2nd Earl, described as a 'Puritan pirate' in C.V. Wedgewood's seminal work The King's Peace/The King's War, was active in various colonial ventures and no friend of Charles I.  He was involved in securing the patent for the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the 'Saybrook' patent in Connecticut.  While at home in England he opposed the king's fund raising Ship Money tax and Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud's, church policy.



However, his son Robert barely raised his head above the historical parapet. The only mention of Robert junior during the English Civil Wars is that he joined the King at York but never bore arms.

Robert married twice.  His first wife was Lady Anne Cavendish, the daughter of William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire and his wife the Hon. Christian Bruce. This marriage produced a son and heir also named Robert who later married Oliver Cromwell's daughter Frances.



Following Anne's death in 1638 Robert married his cousin Anne Cheeke, picture below in the white dress.  Three daughters were born of this marriage, Anne, Mary and Essex.



It was Mary who married Henry St John in 1673 and became mother of the Tory politician Henry, Viscount Bolingbroke, born at Lydiard House.

Robert came into his inheritance in 1658 but died the following year.  His son had predeceased him so the title went to his younger brother Charles along with guardianship of his three young daughters.

If Robert made a mark on 17th century history it has been largely lost or overlooked.   But not so his portrait which returned with a flourish to Lydiard House.  The purchase was made possible by grants from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Treasures for Ever Scheme, the Art Fund and the Friends of Lydiard Park.


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