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Rich was the eldest son of Robert Rich, 1st Earl of Warwick and his wife Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich, and succeeded to his father's title (Earl of Warwick) in 1619 (a younger brother was Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland). Early developing interest in colonial ventures, he joined the Guinea, New England, and Virginia companies, as well as the Virginia Company's offspring, the Somers Isles Company. Warwick's enterprises involved him in disputes with the British East India Company (1617) and with the Virginia Company, which in 1624 was suppressed as a result of his action. In 1627 he commanded an unsuccessful privateering expedition against the Spaniards.
Warwick's Puritan connections and sympathies gradually estranged him from the court but promoted his association with the New England colonies. In 1628 he indirectly procured the patent for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and in 1631 he granted the "Saybrook" patent in Connecticut. Forced to resign the presidency of the New England Company in the same year, he continued to manage the Somers Isles Company and Providence Island Company, the latter of which, founded in 1630, administered Old Providence on the Mosquito Coast. Meanwhile, in England, Warwick opposed the forced loan of 1626, the payment of ship money, and Laud's church policy.
His Richneck Plantation was located in what is now the independent city of Newport News, Virginia. The Warwick River, Warwick Towne, Warwick River Shire, and Warwick County, Virginia are all believed named for him, as are Warwick, Rhode Island and Warwick Parish in Bermuda (alias The Somers Isles). The oldest school in Bermuda, Warwick Academy, was built on land in Warwick Parish given by the Earl of Warwick; the school was begun in the 1650s (its early records were lost with those of the Warwick Vestry in a twentieth-century shipwreck), though the school places its founding officially in 1662. 
In 1642, following the dismissal of the Earl of Northumberland as Lord High Admiral, Warwick was appointed commander of the fleet by Parliament. In 1643 he was appointed head of a commission for the government of the colonies, which the next year incorporated Providence Plantations, afterwards Rhode Island, and in this capacity he exerted himself to secure religious liberty.
As commander of the fleet, in 1648, Warwick retook the 'Castles of the Downs' (at Walmer, Deal, and Sandown) for Parliament, and became Deal Castle's captain 1648-53. However, he was dismissed from office on the abolition of the House of Lords in 1649, he retired from national public life, but was intimately associated with Cromwell, whose daughter Francis married his grandson and heir, also Robert Rich, in 1657.
Robert Rich was a descendant of Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, who first rose to political prominence and the peerage in the reign of Edward VI, and later as an associate of Thomas Cromwell during the reign of Henry VIII.
Robert Rich married firstly, in February 1605, Frances Hatton (1590-1623), daughter and heir of Sir William Newport alias Hatton (1560-1597) and Elizabeth Gawdy, by whom he had at least five children.
His second wife, whom he married between 12 March 1625 and 20 January 1626, was Susan (née Rowe) Halliday (1582-1646), daughter of Sir Henry Rowe, Lord Mayor of London, and his wife, Susan Kighley, and widow of William Halliday (d.1624), Alderman of London.
His third wife was Eleanor Wortley, widow of Sir Henry Lee and of Edward Radclyffe, 6th Earl of Sussex; after Warwick's death she made yet another marriage to Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester, in modern eyes an unusual marriage since he had previously been married to her step-daughter Anne Rich.
- Lady Frances Rich, later Countess of Scarsdale; married Nicholas Leke, 2nd Earl of Scarsdale (1612-1681)
- Lady Anne Rich m later Countess of Manchester (1604 - 14 February 1641/2), who married Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester in 1625, as his 2nd wife, and had issue, including the 3rd Earl. A double portrait of her and her sister Lady Essex Rich by Anthony van Dyck exists.
- Robert Rich, 3rd Earl of Warwick (1611-1659)
- Lady Lucy Rich, later Countess of Radnor (1615-after 1635), who married John Robartes, 1st Earl of Radnor
- Charles Rich, 4th Earl of Warwick (1611–1673), who succeeded his brother in 1659.
- Lady Essex Rich, part of a double portrait with her sister Anne, by Anthony van Dyck.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Warwick, Sir Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of". Encyclopædia Britannica 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 349.
- 'July 1642: Ordinance for the Earl of Warwick to remain in his Command of the Fleet.', Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660 (1911), p. 12. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=55732. Date accessed: 13 April 2007.
- 13 July 1648 - 'Taking of Walmer Castle' URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=25420#s6 Date accessed: 6 August 2007.
- Aughterson 2004; Gowdy 1919, pp. 39–41; Nicolas 1847, p. 502; Kelsey 2004.
- Aughterson 2004; Gowdy 1919, pp. 39–41; Kelsey 2004.
- "She was a vain, petulant and grasping woman who had reached the top rungs of the social ladder through successive marriages to rich old men." (Miriam Slater, Family Life in the Seventeenth Century: the Verneys of Claydon House 1984:17).
- "Double portrait of the Essex sisters: the countess of Manchester and lady Anne Rich (d. c. 1655)" However, the sisters were the Rich sisters, not the Essex sisters; the Countess of Manchester was Lady Anne Rich (who died circa 1641/2), and her sister was Lady Essex Rich. Source Cracroft's Peerage and other sources.
- Aughterson, Kate (2004). Hatton, Elizabeth, Lady Hatton [née Lady Elizabeth Cecil] (1578-1646). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
- Gowdy, Mahlon M. (1919). A Family History Comprising the Surnames of . . . Gawdy. Lewiston, Maine: Journal Press.
- Kelsey, Sean (2004). Rich, Robert, second earl of Warwick (1587-1658). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
- Nicolas, Harris (1847). Memoirs of the Life and Times of Sir Christopher Hatton. London: Richard Bentley.
Media related to Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick at Wikimedia Commons
The Earl of Sussex
|Lord Lieutenant of Essex
jointly with The Earl of Sussex 1625–1629
The Earl of Portland 1629–1635
The Lord Maynard 1635–1640
The Earl of Carlisle 1641–1642
The Lord Maynard
|Custos Rotulorum of Essex
|Peerage of England|
|Earl of Warwick
(descended by acceleration)