Nathaniel Rich (merchant adventurer)

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Sir Nathaniel Rich (1585–1636) was an English merchant adventurer and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1614 and 1629.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Nathaniel Rich was born to Jane Machell and Richard Rich of Leez Priory, Essex. His father was an illegitimate son of Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich.[3][4] In 1598 Nathaniel and his sister Margaret, later Dame Margaret Wroth, were with their mother at their father's deathbed at Leez, attended by William Noyes, then 'minister of this place'.[5] Nathaniel matriculated pensioner from Emmanuel College, Cambridge and graduated B.A. in 1604/05.[6] He had a legal training, and was admitted a member of Gray's Inn on 2 February 1609/10,[7] as of Ash, Essex.

Political career[edit]

In 1614 he was elected Member of Parliament for Totnes.[8] He was knighted at Hatton House on 8 November 1617.[9] He was a board member of the Somers Isles Company, and in 1619 bought shares in the Virginia Company. In November 1620, he was listed as one of the shareholders of the Plymouth Council for New England, a group that would open up colonization of New England.[1] In 1621 he was elected MP for East Retford[8] and sat on a royal commission in Ireland in 1622.[10]

Rich became a prominent member of the Virginia Company, and when, in April 1623, there occurred the great split between two factions in the company, he took a leading part on the side of his cousin, Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick.[11][12] In 1624 he was elected MP for East Retford and for Harwich and chose to sit for Harwich.[8] He was specially attacked by the opposing faction of the Virginia Company when the dispute came before the House of Commons in May 1624, but he sat on the Virginia commission of July 1624.[1]

Rich was re-elected MP for Harwich in 1626 and 1628 and sat until 1629 when King Charles decided to rule without parliament for eleven years.[8] In 1629, with the Earl of Warwick and others, he found the funds for the first voyage of discovery to Providence Island, off the north-east of Yucatan. On 4 December 1630 they received the patent forming the governor and company of adventurers for the plantation of Providence and Henrietta. To this Providence Island Company Rich seems henceforth to have devoted his best efforts. Many matters of importance, especially regulations and affairs requiring legal handling, were left to him. When fresh funds were required he was always the first to respond. He appears to have pursued a forward policy, for in 1635 he advocated the admission of all the adventurers to the benefits of the trade of the main. A little later, on his motion, the first local council of Providence was appointed. On 7 May 1635 he was appointed deputy governor of the company, and held the post for about a year.[1]


Rich died before 26 May 1636. It was rumoured to Mathew Cradock that overdoses from an antimonial cup from Massachusetts hastened his end.[13] In his will he named several of the Rich (Warwick) family. He also left money and lands in the Bermudas to maintain schools there.[14][15] He desired to be buried at Stondon Massey, Essex, the manor of which he purchased in around 1610.[16] He left the manor to his nephew Nathaniel Rich, son of his brother Robert Rich who had pre-deceased him.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Rich, Nathaniel (1585?-1636)" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 48. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. ^ G. Yerby and R. Sgroi, 'Rich, Nathaniel (1585-1636), of Warwick House, Holborn, London and Stondon Massey, Essex', in A. Thrush and J.P. Ferris (eds), The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629 (Cambridge University Press, 2010). Read here Archived 27 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ J.R. Browne, 'Sir Nathaniel Riche', Notes and Queries Series 5 Vol. 10, p. 31 Archived 10 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine (John Francis, London 1878); W.D. Pine, 'Sir Nathaniel Rich - Col. Nathaniel Rich', Notes and Queries 8th series Vol. I, p. 66-67. (1892).
  4. ^ Jane Machell (a daughter of John Machell, Sheriff of London 1555-56) married 'Richard Riches' at St Mary Aldermary, City of London in 1574. J.L. Chester, The Parish Registers of St Mary Aldermary, Harleian Society, Registers Vol. V (London 1880), p. 5.
  5. ^ Will of Richard Rich of Leigh, gentleman, Essex Record Office D/ABW 32/91.
  6. ^ J. & J.A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses Part 1 Vol 3 (Cambridge University Press 1924), p. 449. Archived 11 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Admissions 2 February 1609 (Old Style), J. Foster, The Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1521-1887 (Hansard, London 1889), p. 123. Archived 9 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c d Willis, Browne (1750). Notitia Parliamentaria, Part II: A Series or Lists of the Representatives in the several Parliaments held from the Reformation 1541, to the Restoration 1660 ... London. pp. 229–239.
  9. ^ "Knights of England". Archived from the original on 8 January 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  10. ^ A. Brown, The Genesis of the United States, 2 Vols (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston & New York/Riverside Press, Cambridge 1891), II, pp. 979-80. Archived 3 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The Genesis of the United States, II, pp. 980-82.
  12. ^ S.M. Kingsbury, The Records of the Virginia Company of London 4 Vols. Library of Congress.Vol. 4. (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington 1935) Archived 20 November 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Letter of Mathew Cradock to John Winthrop, 15 March 1636/37, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Series IV Vol. 6 (The Society, Boston 1863), pp. 125 ff.
  14. ^ Will of Sir Nathaniel Riche of Dalham, Suffolk (P.C.C. 1636).
  15. ^ J.H. Lefroy, Memorials of the Discovery and Settlement of the Bermudas or Somers Islands 1511-1687, 2 Vols (Longmans, Green & Co., London 1879), II, pp. 122-23 Archived 16 April 2019 at the Wayback Machine, 701.
  16. ^ 'Stondon Massey: Manor', in W.R. Powell (ed.), A History of the County of Essex Vol. 4, Ongar Hundred (V.C.H., London 1956), pp. 242-45. Archived 30 August 2017 at the Wayback Machine (British History Online accessed 4 June 2016).
Parliament of England
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Totnes
With: Lawrence Adams
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for East Retford
With: Edward Wortley 1621–1622
John Holles 1624
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Harwich
With: Christopher Herrys
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Harwich
With: Christopher Herrys
Parliament suspended until 1640