Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland, 1590-1649

Distrusted both by King and Parliament after twice changing sides during the English Civil War, he was executed in 1649 for his part in inciting the Second Civil War.

Portrait of the Earl of HollandThe younger brother of the Earl of Warwick, Henry Rich was an adroit courtier and became a favourite of King James I, the first Duke of Buckingham and King Charles I. During King James' reign he was created Baron Kensington, then Earl of Holland in 1624. In the 1630s he became a favourite of Queen Henrietta Maria, who used her influence to have him appointed groom of the stole in 1636 and even to replace the Earl of Essex as lieutenant-general of horse in the First Bishops' War in 1639. Holland's cavalry retreated from the Scots at Kelso, leading to a collapse of morale in the English army and the beginning of negotiations between the King and the Covenanters.

Holland opposed the dissolution of the Short Parliament in 1640 and gave evidence against the Earl of Strafford at his trial. Although the King made efforts to secure his allegiance, Holland remained in London when the royal family was forced to leave the capital in January 1642, and he declined to join the King when he issued his call-to-arms at York. In July 1642, Holland was appointed to Parliament's Committee of Safety and led a delegation that presented Parliament's terms for peace to the King at Beverley, which were coldly received. When the King's army marched on London after the battle of Edgehill, Holland is said to have dissuaded the Earl of Essex from ordering an attack on the Royalists at Turnham Green.

During 1643, Holland became associated with the "Peace Party" in Parliament which attempted to secure an end to the civil war through a negotiated settlement with the King. In August 1643, however, he was one of seven peers who left Westminster after Parliament voted against re-opening negotiations. Together with William Russell, Earl of Bedford, Holland went to offer his services to the King in person, apparently expecting to be reinstated to his former high offices. He was received with cold courtesy by the King, while the Queen remained implacably hostile towards him. Holland's indignant refusal to accept his reduced status made him a laughing-stock at Court. He returned to London in November 1643 claiming that Catholic influence at Oxford had prompted his return to Parliament, but he was not allowed to resume his seat in the House of Lords. Holland continued to work for a negotiated settlement, and in 1645 was active in negotiations for a separate peace treaty between King Charles, the Scottish Covenanters and the English Presbyterians.

In July 1648, during the Second Civil War, Holland accompanied the second Duke of Buckingham and Buckingham's brother, Lord Francis Villiers, in leading a Royalist insurrection at Kingston in Surrey. Within a week of declaring for the King, Lord Francis had been killed, Buckingham had fled abroad and Holland was a prisoner. Along with other Royalist leaders, he was brought to trial and condemned to death for inciting a second civil war. His brother the Earl of Warwick and Lord-General Fairfax both interceded on his behalf but Parliament upheld the death sentence by 31 votes to 30. The news of the vote brought about a profound spiritual conversion in Holland just before his execution at Westminster on 9 March 1649.


S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol.i (London 1888)

R. Malcolm Smuts, Henry Rich, first earl of Holland, Oxford DNB, 2004