SAVAGE, Richard, Visct. Colchester (c.1654-1712), of Rock Savage, Cheshire and Ealing Grove, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1681
1689 - 14 Sept. 1694

Family and Education

b. c.1654, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Thomas Savage, 3rd Earl Rivers, by 1st w. Lady Elizabeth, illegit. da. and coh. of Emmanuel Scrope, 1st Earl of Sunderland.  m. (1) 21 Aug 1679, Penelope, da. and h. of Roger Downes of Wardley, Cheshire, 1 da.; (2) lic. 28 Jan. 1688, aged 34, Margaret, da. and coh. of Sir Richard Stydolph, 1st Bt., of Norbury, Mickleham, Surr., wid. of Thomas Tryon of Bulwick, Northants. s.p.; 1s. 2da. illegit.  suc. fa. as 4th Earl Rivers 14 Sept. 1694.

Offices Held

Capt. R. Eng. Regt. [I] 1672, Duke of Buckingham’s Ft. 1673, Ld. Gerard’s horse 1678–9; lt.-col. 4 Horse Gds. 1686–Nov. 1688; col. 3 Drag. Gds. 1688–92, 3 Horse Gds. 1692–1703, R. Horse Gds. 1712–d.; maj.-gen. 1693; lt.-gen. 1697; gen. 1712; PC 25 Nov 1708; constable of the Tower 1710–d.; envoy to Hanover 1710–11; master gen. of the Ordnance 1712–d.1

Constable, Liverpool Castle 1701–d.; vice-adm., Essex 1705.2


Described as ‘one of the greatest rakes in England in his younger days’, Colchester was a man of great drive and determination who established a military reputation for bravery. He had supported Exclusion in the early 1680s, and though reconciled to the court by 1685 his Whig instincts again came to the fore in 1688 when he was among the first army officers to enlist in the cause of William of Orange. He remained a committed Whig until the late 1700s, when frustration at his lack of military preferment led him into an alliance with Robert Harley* which lasted until his death in 1712 and brought him the preferment which he felt due.

Returned unopposed for Liverpool in 1690, Colchester was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) and quickly confirmed his loyalty to the new regime, obtaining a commission for superstitious lands in Cheshire, Shropshire and Lincolnshire on 8 Apr. 1690. The following day he carried to the Lords the bill to recognize William and Mary as King and Queen. He saw service in Ireland in the summer of 1690, distinguishing himself at Cork in September, and though it is questionable whether he had returned to England for the 1690–1 session, Harley listed him in April 1691 as a Court supporter. Having accompanied the King to Flanders in the summer of 1691, Colchester returned to England for the 1691–2 session. On 16 Nov. he was sent to the Lords to desire a conference regarding the papers taken by Sir Ralph Delaval* from a French sloop, and the following day he was appointed to manage the resulting conference. Eight days later he was named to the committee examining the charge of the army in Ireland in 1692, an appointment reflecting his military experience and one which prefigured the overall military theme of much of his subsequent Commons activity. On 27 Nov., in company with his fellow Liverpool Member Thomas Norris, Colchester unsuccessfully moved that the report from the committee investigating transport ships be referred to the supply committee, and three days later he was appointed to the committee examining the army estimates. His other significant activity this session included a speech in support of the East India Company in a debate on its charter (18 Dec.); being sent to the Lords to request a conference on the treason trials bill (7 Jan. 1692); and his presentation of a clause on behalf of the Catholic Lord Dover to the bill vesting forfeited estates in the crown (4 Feb.).3

Colchester accompanied the King to Flanders again in the summer of 1692, and memories of his prominent defection during the Revolution led to his exclusion from the general pardon offered in James II’s declaration of that year. Colchester returned to England for the 1692–3 session. During the debate on the King’s Speech on 15 Nov. he recommended that ‘the motion for a supply for carrying on a vigorous war against France’ be given early consideration by the committee of the whole. On the 23rd, during a debate on the war, Colchester felt the need to explain the defeat at Steenkerk. He argued that ‘the chief occasion of the ill success there, was the wrong information given to the King of the ground we were to pass’, and that although the allies had fought well, the sheer numbers of French troops ‘bore us down’. Later in the same debate he praised the bravery of Hon. Thomas Tollemache*. He intervened again on 3 Dec. during the debate on supply, advocating that funds be raised for 54,000 troops to serve in Flanders the coming year, and countered the assertion that the Dutch had fielded only 18,000 troops the previous summer with the claim that they had in fact fielded 30,000. On 16 Dec. he was named to the committee ordered to draft a mutiny bill. He carried this bill to the Lords on 22 Feb. 1693. In March he was awarded a 99-year lease of land near Epping Forest. It was probably on this basis, his consistent support of his military offices and the King’s war policy that he was classed as a placeman in four separate lists of 1693.4

After a summer’s campaigning in Flanders, Colchester returned to Parliament for the 1693–4 session, once more offering the House the benefit of his military experience. In a debate on 5 Dec. 1693 on the land forces to be voted for the 1694 campaign he warned that ‘if you do not increase your forces, the honour of England will be lost’ and submitted that ‘if we can come up with equal numbers to the French we shall beat them’, while at the same time protesting ‘my love of country, and my religion’. Perhaps stirred by his own oratory, he even held out the prospect that ‘if we keep up our number, the king of France will come to ask a peace at the House of Commons’. On 3 Feb. 1694 he was the sole Member appointed to draft a mutiny bill, which he presented three days later. He was subsequently appointed, on 5 Mar., to the conference committee upon the Lords’ amendments to this bill. Colchester’s references to his military expertise appear to have alienated at least one Member, as in a debate in April Henry Cornewall, himself a former officer, commented that though Colchester ‘spoke much of soldiery, he himself [Cornewall] had seen but one campaign, which he thought more than the Lord had done’. The occasion of these comments was probably the last time Colchester addressed the Commons; his father’s death on 14 Sept. removed him to the Lords as Earl Rivers.5

The new Earl remained both politically and militarily active. His Whig loyalties undimmed, he allied himself in the Lords with the Junto, and his rise up the military ladder continued under William III and in the early years of Anne’s reign. In 1706 he was placed in command of the intended descent on France, but unfavourable conditions first delayed the departure of his forces and then forced him to land in the Spanish peninsula. Once there, he immediately clashed with his fellow general, Galway, and when the ministry indicated its support for his rival, returned home. Unable to gain further appointments, Rivers became increasingly alienated from the ministry. In January 1710 he was appointed lord constable of the Tower of London against the will of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), thanks, according to Swift, to Harley’s influence, and during the ministerial changes of that year Rivers was one of the Whig peers who transferred their allegiance to the emerging Harley ministry. His growing importance was reflected in his appointment in August 1710 as envoy to Hanover, in order to calm any fears the ministerial changes may have raised in the mind of the Elector, and the following year he returned to Hanover to reassure the Elector of the ministry’s intentions in its peace negotiations. He continued to gather high honours, notably his appointment in June 1712 to be commander-in-chief in Britain in the absence of Ormond, but during the summer of 1712 his health rapidly deteriorated. He died at his house at Ealing Grove on 18 Aug. and was buried in the family chapel at Macclesfield on 4 Sept. His will was the cause of a great deal of comment in London society, causing even his friend Swift to write that ‘I liked the man, and detest his memory’. His one legitimate daughter was left only £100 p.a., while the majority of his estate went to his male heir, a Catholic priest, and to ‘his chief wench’. He also left a number of legacies to what Swift described as ‘20 paltry whores’. His daughter and her husband, Lord Barrymore (James Barry*), secured possession of Rivers’ Cheshire and Lancashire estates in 1712, however, and an Act of 1720 settled the Rivers estates upon the descendants of his daughter.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Richard Harrison


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 271; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 540; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 104.
  • 2. Luttrell, v. 112, 550.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 571; Luttrell Diary, 23, 43, 88, 117–18, 170.
  • 4. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 116; Luttrell Diary, 230–1, 290; Grey, x. 258–9.
  • 5. Grey, x. 343; Chester City RO, Earwaker mss CR/63/2/691/139, Sir Willoughby Aston, 2nd Bt., to Sir John Crewe, 7 Apr. 1694.
  • 6. G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 202, 431; G. M. Trevelyan, Eng. under Q. Anne, ii. 295–6; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1327–8; E. Gregg, Q. Anne, 300; Swift Stella ed. Davis, 195, 262–3, 362–3; PCC 219 Barnes.