Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland

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Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland and 1st Baron Kensington (baptized 19 August 1590 – 9 March 1649) was an English aristocrat, courtier and soldier.

Contents

Life

He was the son of Robert Rich, 1st Earl of Warwick and of Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich, and the younger brother of Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick. He began his career as a courtier and soldier in 1610, swiftly becoming a favourite of King James I of England, but fell out of favour on the accession of Charles I. He was created Earl of Holland in 1624. He was the lover of Marie de Rohan.

On Sunday, 9 July 1648, seven months prior to the execution of King Charles, the Earl and his army of approximately 400 men entered St Neots in the county of Huntingdonshire. The Earl's men were hungry and weary, following their escape from Kingston upon Thames, where the Parliamentary forces had completely overwhelmed them. Of his original army of 500, the Earl escaped with around 100 horsemen and were immediately followed by a small party of Puritan and Parliamentary horsemen. After much hesitation regarding in which direction they should flee, the Earl decided on Northampton, and the group made their way via St Albans and Dunstable. Upon the outskirts of Bedford the group turned eastward towards St Neots town. En route from Kingston, the Earl was joined by the young Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Peterborough. Colonel John Dalbier, an experienced German soldier, had also joined them. The Roundheads hated Dalbier, as he had previously served with them under the 3rd Earl of Essex until taking up arms in favour of the Cavaliers cause.

The field officers of Holland’s force sought only rest and safety. Colonel Dalbier called a council of war, where many officers voted for dispersing into the surrounding countryside. Others suggested they should continue northwards. Colonel Dalbier advised on the strategic position of St Neots and the fact that the joint remnants of Buckingham and Holland’s forces had increased sufficiently since the retreat from the Roundheads at Kingston. He suggested they meet and engage their pursuers. He further added that, by obtaining a victory, the fortunes of war could be turned in their favour. Due to his vast experience as a soldier, his words were listened to with respect. He further offered to guard them through the night in case of a surprise attack, or meet the death of a soldier in the defence of the town. A vote was taken and Dalbier’s plan was adopted.

The Earl of Holland who, it was said, "had better faculty at public address than he had with a sword," joined the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Peterborough in addressing the principal residents and townsfolk of St Neots. Buckingham spoke at length, claiming "they did not wish to continue a bloody war, but wanted only a settled government under Royal King Charles." Assurances were also given that their Royalist troop would not riot or damage the townfolks’ property. Of the latter, it is recorded that they were faithful to their promise.

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