(1st E. Holland)
Born: ABT 1590
Notes: Knight of the Garter.
Father: Robert RICH (1° E. Warwick)
Mother: Penelope DEVEREUX (B. Rich)
Married: Isabel COPE ABT 1616
1. Frances RICH (B. Paget of Beaudasert)
2. Robert RICH (5º E. Warwick)
3. Susan RICH (C. Suffolk)
4. Isabella RICH
5. Mary RICH
Baptised at the church of Stratford-le-Bow, London, on 19 Aug 1590, was second son of Robert, first Earl of Warwick, by his wife, Penelope Devereux. Robert Rich, second Earl of Warwick, was his elder brother. He was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, was knighted on 3 Jun 1610, and was elected M.P. for Leicester in 1610 and 1614. In 1610 he served as a gentleman volunteer at the siege of Juliers. Rich was more qualified to succeed as a courtier than as a soldier, and his handsome person and winning manners made his rise rapid: ‘His features and pleasant aspect equalled the most beautiful women’. From the first James regarded him with favour which sometimes found expression in gifts of money, sometimes in unpleasing caresses. He was made gentleman of the bedchamber to Charles, prince of Wales, and on 5 Nov 1617 captain of the yeomen of the guard.
On 8 Mar 1623 he was created Baron Kensington, that title being selected because he had married Isabel, daughter and heiress of Sir Walter Cope of Kensington. In Feb 1624 he was sent to Paris to sound the French court on the question of a marriage between Prince Charles and the Princess Henrietta Maria. He proved acceptable to the Queen-mother and the court, sent home glowing descriptions of the beauty of the princess, and made love as the prince's representative with great spirit and fluency. On his own account he also made love to Madame de Chevreuse. But when it came to drawing up a marriage treaty, Kensington showed his incapacity to deal with the political questions raised by the alliance which was to accompany the match. He was ‘careless of any considerations beyond the success of the marriage’, and willing to comply with the demand of the French for an engagement to tolerate the English catholics, though well aware that the King was pledged against it. His letters contrast most unfavourably with those of Carlisle, his partner in the embassy. As a reward for his pliability to Buckingham's wishes, he was raised to the rank of Earl of Holland (15 Sep 1624). He was again sent to Paris (conjointly with Sir Dudley Carleton) in 1625 to negotiate a peace between Louis XIII and the Huguenots, and in the same year accompanied Buckingham on a mission to the Netherlands.
He was elected K.G. on 13 Dec 1625. In Oct 1627 Holland was placed in command of the fleet and army which were to reinforce Buckingham at the Isle of Rhé, but contrary weather and want of money prevented his sailing, and, when he did start, he met Buckingham's defeated force returning. He was severely blamed for the delay, but it was rather due to the general disorganisation of the government than to his remissness. On Buckingham's death, Holland was chosen to succeed him as chancellor of the university of Cambridge. On 28 Mar 1628 he was appointed for life governor and captain of Harwich and Landguard-point. He was also (Sep - Nov 1628) master of the horse, and was appointed constable of Windsor (27 Oct 1629) and high steward to the Queen (1 Dec 1629). Like his brother, the Earl of Warwick, Holland took part in colonisation. He was the first governor of the Providence Company (4 Dec 1630), and one of the lords-proprietors of Newfoundland (13 Nov 1637). But he preferred monopolies and crown grants as a quicker method of increasing his fortune. On 15 May 1631 he was created chief justice in eyre south of Trent, and became thus associated with one of the most unpopular acts of the reign, the revival of the obsolete forest laws. Holland used his position at court and his influence with the Queen to cabal against the King's ministers. He intrigued against the pacific and pro-Spanish policy of Portland, and challenged his son, Jerome Weston, to a duel. For a few days the King placed him under arrest, and he was obliged to make a submissive apology, though the Queen's intercession saved him from severer punishment on 13 Apr 1633. As chancellor of Cambridge he did nothing to enforce uniformity, and resisted, though without success, Laud's claim to visit the university as metropolitan. With Strafford he was on still worse terms. They exchanged frigid complimentary letters, but the opponents of the lord-deputy habitually looked to Holland for support. Over Sir Piers Crosby's case they had an open quarrel, caused by Holland's refusal to be examined as a witness, and embittered still further by the slanders which Holland circulated against Strafford. In letters to intimate friends Strafford wrote of Holland with well-deserved contempt. In 1636 Holland hoped to be appointed lord high admiral, but was given the more appropriate post of groom of the stole and first lord of the bedchamber. By the Queen's influence, however, he was made general of the horse (2 Feb 1639) in place of the much more capable Essex. His sole exploit was the unlucky march to Kelso and the hasty retreat thence (3 June 1639), whereby he covered himself and the King's army with ridicule. But whether he was really to blame for the failure may be doubted, and the imputations on his courage were undeserved. His command also involved him in a quarrel with the Earl of Newcastle, which the intervention of the King prevented from ending in a duel. In the second Scottish war Conway was appointed general of the horse instead of Holland. The latter's animosity to Strafford and the King's chief ministers, and the suspicion that he inclined too much to the party which desired peace with the Scots, were apparently the causes. In the privy council on 5 May 1640 he backed Northumberland in opposing the dissolution of the Short parliament. During the early part of the Long parliament he acted with the popular party among the peers, and gave evidence against Strafford, though aiming at his exclusion from office, not at his death. The Queen, whose favour he had lost for a time, won him back with the promise of the command of the army, and on 16 Apr 1641 he was made captain-general north of the Trent. He carried out the business of disbanding the army with success, but the refusal of the King to grant him the nomination of a new baron reopened the breach between him and the court. Holland wrote to Essex hinting plainly that Charles was still tampering with the officers. When the King in Jan 1642 left Whitehall, Holland, though still groom of the stole, refused to attend his master, and declined to obey a later summons to York (23 Mar 1642). On 12 Apr 1642 Lord Falkland, by the King's command, obliged him to surrender the key which was the ensign of his office. This deprivation was instigated by the Queen. She had contracted so great an indignation against Holland, whose ingratitude towards her was very odious, that she had said ‘she would never live in the court if he kept his place’. In Mar and Jul 1642 the parliament chose Holland to bear its declarations to the King, but in each case Charles received him with pointed disfavour, by which the Earl ‘was transported from his natural temper and gentleness into passion and animosity against the King and his ministers’. He was one of the committee of safety appointed by parliament on 4 Jul 1642. After Edgehill he made two exhortations to the citizens of London, one urging them to defend the city; and another on 10 Nov about the proposed negotiations with Charles.
At Turnham Green on 13 Nov he appeared in arms himself, marshalled Essex's army, and is credited with dissuading that general from fighting. During the early part of 1643 Holland was one of the leaders of the peace party in the lords, and in Aug he endeavoured to induce Essex to back the peace propositions with the weight of the army. When this plan failed, he made his way to the King's quarters, confidently expecting to be received back into favour and restored at once to his old office of groom of the stole. In the privy council, however, only Hyde and one other were in favour of giving him a gracious reception; the rest exaggerated his ingratitude, and the King himself complained with bitterness that Holland made no attempt to apologise for his past misconduct. Therefore, though he attended the King to the siege of Gloucester, and charged in the King's regiment of horse at the first battle of Newbury, Charles gave the post he desired to the Marquis of Hertford; and, finding that there was nothing to be gained at Oxford, Holland returned to London. The House of Lords had him arrested, but, as he had returned at the special invitation of Essex, they readmitted him to sit (13 Jan 1644), and persuaded the commons to release his estates from sequestration. To the kingdom at large Holland explained that he found the court too indisposed to peace, and the papists too powerful there for a patriot of his type. The commons were less easily satisfied than the lords, and obliged the upper house to pass an ordinance disabling the peers who had deserted the parliamentary cause from exercising their legislative powers during the existing parliament without the assent of both houses. An ordinance for the readmission of Holland and two other deserters was brought forward in 1646, but failed to pass the second reading.
In Dec 1645 Holland petitioned parliament for some pecuniary compensation for the losses which the civil war, and his adherence to the parliamentary party, had entailed upon him. His office of first gentleman of the bedchamber had been worth £1,600 a year; he had lost also two pensions of £2,000 a year apiece, a share in the customs on coal worth £1,300 a year, and a legal office worth £2,000 a year, besides smaller salaries as chief justice in eyre and constable of Windsor. Moreover, the King owed him £30,000. The commons, however, laid aside the petition, and negatived a proposal to give him a pension of £1,000.
Under these circumstances Holland turned once more to the King's side. In September 1645 he had ndeavoured to mediate between the Scottish commissioners and the English presbyterian leaders, suggesting to the French agent, Montreuil, that the King should take refuge in the Scottish army. He was also one of the authors of the scheme of settlement put forward by the presbyterian peers in Jan 1647. When the second civil war began he resolved to redeem his past faults by taking up arms for the King. He procured a commission as general from the Prince of Wales, and proceeded to issue commissions to royalist officers. Lady Carlisle pawned her pearl necklace to supply him with funds, and through her he carried on a correspondence with Lauderdale and Lanark. On 4 Jul Holland left London, and the next day appeared in arms at Kingston, intending to raise the siege of Colchester. He issued a declaration asserting that he sought a personal treaty between Charles and the parliament, a cessation of arms during the treaty, and the restoration of the King to his just regal authority. Holland's preparations had been made with so little secrecy that they had no chance of success; nor could he get together more than six hundred men. On 7 Jul he was defeated by Sir Michael Livesey near Kingston; on 10 Jul what remained of his forces were surprised at St. Neots by Colonel Scroope, and Holland was sent prisoner to Warwick Castle. On 18 Nov the two houses agreed that he and six others should be punished by banishment, but the army resolved that the authors of the second civil war should not be allowed to escape, and on 3 Feb 1649 a high court of justice was erected to try Holland and other culprits. The proceedings opened on 10 Feb; Holland pleaded that his captor had given him quarter for life, but his plea having been overruled by the court, he was sentenced to death 6 Mar. Fairfax interceded for Holland, and Warwick used all his influence to save his life; nevertheless, the parliament by 31 to 30 votes refused to reprieve him. On 9 Mar he was beheaded in company with the Duke of Hamilton and Arthur, Lord Capel. On the scaffold Holland made a long and rambling speech, protesting his fidelity to the protestant religion and to parliaments, and the innocency of his intentions in his late attempt. ‘God be praised, although my blood comes to be shed here, there was scarcely a drop of blood shed in that action I was engaged in’.
Holland left a son Robert, who became in 1673 fifth Earl of Warwick. Of his daughters, Isabella married Sir James Thynne; Frances married William, lord Paget; Mary married John Campbell, third Earl of Breadalbane; Susan, James Howard, third Earl of Suffolk.
A doubtful portrait of Holland was No. 95 in the Vandyck exhibition of 1886. Engraved portraits are contained in ‘Tragicum Theatrum Londini celebratum,’ 1649, 12mo (p. 232), and in Houbraken's ‘Heads of Illustrious Persons’.
Dalton, Life of Sir Edward Cecil
Wilson, History of the Reign of James I
Cousin, Madame de Chevreuse
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