Nathaniel Rich (soldier)

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Colonel Nathaniel Rich (died c. 1701) sided with Parliament in the English Civil War. He was a colonel in Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army.


Sir Nathaniel Rich was probably his uncle, and in 1636 left him his manor of Stondon, Essex, he being then under age. Rich was educated at Felsted School (1632-1637), St Catharine's College, Cambridge and Gray's Inn.[1] At the start of the civil war, like many other young gentlemen from the inns of court, he entered the lifeguards of the Earl of Essex. In the summer of 1643 he received a commission as captain, raised a troop of horse in the County of Essex, and joined the Earl of Manchester's army. In December 1644 he held the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and was one of the witnesses on whom Cromwell relied to prove his charges against Manchester. When the new model army was formed, Rich, in spite of some opposition from the House of Commons, became colonel of a regiment of horse. He fought at Naseby, distinguished himself in an attack on the royalist quarters on March 1646 when he led a party of horse and dragoons that routed a royalist outpost at St Columb Major, Cornwall. He was also one of Fairfax's commissioners at the surrender of Oxford. In the quarrel between the army and the parliament Rich at first discouraged petitioning; afterwards, however, he made himself the mouthpiece of the grievances of his regiment, and strongly opposed disbanding. He took part in drawing up the 'Heads of the Proposals of the Army,' and in the negotiations with the parliamentary commissioners. In January 1648 Rich's regiment was quartered in London at the Mews to guard [ 120 ] the parliament, and on 1 June it formed part of the army with which Fairfax defeated the Kentish royalists at Maidstone. Rich was then detached to relieve Dover, and recover the castles on the coast which had fallen into the hands of the royalists. He retook Walmer Castle about 12 July, Deal on 25 Aug, and Sandown a few days later.

During the political discussions of the army in 1647 and 1648 Rich was a frequent speaker. He was in favour of the widest toleration, but had scruples about manhood suffrage, and feared extreme democracy. He had doubts about the execution of the king, but appears to have held it necessary that he should be tried, and approved of the establishment of the republic. His own religious views inclined towards those of the Fifth-monarchy men. In February 1649 Rich was admitted to parliament as member for Cirencester, having been elected two years previously, but hitherto excluded in consequence of a double return. In December 1650 he was charged with the suppression of a royalist rising in Norfolk.

Edmund Ludlow includes Rich among the honest republican enthusiasts of the army who were deluded by Cromwell to assist him in overthrowing the Long parliament 189k4. In 1655 he became an open opponent of the Protector's government, and was deprived of the command of his regiment, which was given to Colonel Charles Howard. Rich was summoned before the Protector's council in February 1655, charged with opposing the levy of taxes and stirring up disaffection, and then committed to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms. From August to October 1656 he was again in confinement. The reasons for his opposition to the Protector's government and his refusal to give the security demanded are set forth by Rich in a letter to Lieutenant-general Fleetwood. On the restoration of the Long parliament in 1659, it offered Rich the post of English resident in Holland, which he refused, and gave him back the command of his regiment. When Lambert expelled the Long parliament in October 1659, Rich, who succeeded in retaining his command, seconded the endeavours of Ludlow for the parliament's restoration. In December his regiment was sent by the army leaders to besiege the parliament's commissioners in Portsmouth, but at their colonel's instigation they went over in a body to the parliamentary side, joined the forces in Portsmouth, and marched with them to London. He received the thanks of the parliament on 28 December 1659. In February 1660, perceiving that Monck's policy would lead to the restoration of the monarchy, Rich attempted to induce his regiment to declare against it, but Monck cashiered Rich, and appointed Ingoldsby colonel in his place. Rich was arrested by order of the council of state. He was liberated in a few days, and as he had not been one of the king's judges, he was not excluded from the act of indemnity. Nevertheless his principles made him suspected by the government of Charles II, and on 10 January 1661, during the excitement caused by Venner's plot, he was again arrested. On 18 August 1662 Rich was transferred to the charge of the governor of Portsmouth. His confinement was not very strict, and in 1663 he married Lady Anne Kerr, daughter of Robert Kerr, first earl of Ancrum. In a letter to her brother William, third earl of Lothian, she described Rich as a prisoner 'for no crime, but only because he is thought a man of parts' and 'so resolved upon his duty to his majesty, that I am assured if it were in his power it would never be in his heart ever to act against him directly or indirectly'. Thanks to the influence of his new connections and the intervention of Lord Falmouth, Rich obtained his release in 1665. His will was proved in March 1702.


By his second wife Rich had no issue. By his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edmund Hampden, knight, and sister of John Hampden, he had two sons, Nathaniel and Robert. Robert succeeded in 1677 to the estate and baronetcy of his distant relative and father-in-law, Sir Charles Rich.

Eltham Palace[edit]

In 1648 Nathaniel Rich purchased Eltham Palace and the lands attached to it. By this time the parks had been broken up and the deer destroyed. A few years later in 1656 John Evelyn wrote in his Diary "Went to see his Majesty's house at Eltham; both the palace and chapel in miserable ruins, the noble wood and park destroyed by Rich the rebel." After the Restoration, the manor of Eltham was leased by Charles II to Sir John Shaw[2]


  1. ^ "Rich, Nathaniel (RC637N)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ .'Eltham, Lee and Lewisham', Old and New London: Volume 6 (1878), pp. 236–248. URL: Date accessed: 27 July 2010.