Bertie, Richard 1517-1582, husband of the Duchess Dowager of Suffolk, was son and heir of Thomas Bertie, of Bersted, in Kent, captain of Hurst Castle, in Hampshire. He was born in the latter county about Christmas Day 1517. He was admitted a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in February 1533-4, proceeded Bachelor of Arts in 1537, and is said to have been a fellow of that house. Subsequently he joined the household of Sir Thomas Wriothesley, lord chancellor, and ultimately earl of Southampton. He was reputed to be a very accomplished gentleman, well versed in the Latin, French, and Italian languages, bold and shrewd in discourse, and quick at repartee. In 1552 he married Catharine, duchess dowager of Suffolk, who was also in her own right Baroness Willoughby of Eresby [see Bertie, Catharine]. On Good Friday 1553-4 he appeared under compulsory process before Bishop Gardiner, the lord chancellor, at his residence, Winchester House, in Southwark, and on the following day a singular conversation respecting the Duchess of Suffolk passed between them. The bishop referred to three particulars in which that lady had given him offence. In the lifetime of the duke she had at a dinner selected the bishop as the man she loved least. In her progress she had caused a dog to be carried in a rochet, calling it in derision by the name of Gardiner. When the bishop was in the Tower he veiled his bonnet to her out of his chamber window, whereupon she remarked that it was merry with the lambs when the wolf was shut up. In fine, Bertie was urged by the bishop to persuade the duchess to conform to the catholic religion. Bertie frankly declared, however, that that would be quite hopeless unless she could be satisfied of the truth of catholicism. He was then dismissed in a friendly manner, and soon afterwards contrived, through the bishop's instrumentality, to obtain the queen's license to leave the realm, and to pass and repass at pleasure, for the purpose of obtaining payment of certain debts due from the emperor and others abroad to the duchess as executrix of her former husband. He sailed from England in June 1554.
Subsequent events impressed him with a sense of the danger to which the duchess would be exposed by remaining in this country; he therefore returned to England, and on 1 Jan. 1554-5, with much difficulty and risk, got her away from London in disguise, with a few attendants. They lay hid in Kent until 5 Feb., when they embarked at Gravesend, and thence went to Santon in Cleves; but they were soon obliged to leave that place by night. After enduring great hardships they reached Wesel, where on their arrival they could find no shelter, and suffering from cold and hunger they were about to pass the night in the church porch, when they casually discovered Francis de Rivers, minister of the refugee Walloons there, by whose kind aid they were comfortably settled in a hired cottage. There the duchess was delivered of a son, who, from the circumstances of his birth abroad, during the wanderings of his parents, was named Peregrine, and who afterwards became Lord Willoughby de Eresby [see Bertie, Peregrine].
Bertie and the duchess found themselves insecure at Wesel, as a plan to entrap them had been matured by Lord Paget. On a friendly hint from Sir John Mason they therefore removed first to Strasburg, and then to Weinheim, in the palatinate of the Rhine, where they remained until they began to be in want and almost in despair. At this juncture they received a kind invitation from Sigismund Augustus, king of Poland, who had been apprised by John Alasko [see Laski] of their distress. In April 1557 they left Weinheim. Before they reached Frankfort they narrowly escaped murder; but, after encountering much trouble and danger, they arrived in Poland, where they were well received by the king, and generously placed by him in the earldom of Kroze, in Samogitia. They continued there in great quiet and honour until they received intelligence of the death of Queen Mary, soon after which time they returned to England.
Bertie sat in the parliament which assembled on 11 Jan. 1562-3 as one of the knights for the county of Lincoln, his colleague being Sir William Cecil, secretary of state. He was in Queen Elizabeth's retinue when she visited Cambridge in August 1564, and on that occasion the degree of M.A. was conferred upon him by the university. In 1572 he claimed to be summoned to the House of Lords in right of his wife's barony, and it appears that for a short period his claim to be so summoned was recognised as valid. The Duchess of Suffolk died in 1580, and his son Peregrine soon afterwards succeeded to the barony of Willoughby. Bertie died at Bourn, in Lincolnshire, on 9 April 1582, and was buried at Spilsby in the same county. In Spilsby church there is a stately monument to his memory and that of the Duchess of Suffolk. Besides his son Peregrine he had issue by the Duchess of Suffolk a daughter, Susan, born in England in 1554, who was successively wife of Reginald Grey, earl of Kent, and of Sir John Wingfield. His portrait, painted by Holbein in 1548, has been engraved. He wrote a Narrative of the Troubles of Catharine, Duchess of Suffolk, during the Reign of Queen Mary, which is printed in Foxe's Acts and Monuments.
Lady Georgina Bertie's Five Generations of a Loyal House, pt. i., containing the lives of Richard Bertie and his son Peregrine, Lord Willoughby (London, 1845)
Memoir of Peregrine Bertie, eleventh Lord Willoughby de Eresby (1828)
Foxe's Acts and Mon.
Biog. Brit. (Kippis), ii. 280
Cooper's Athenę Cantab. i. 453
Craik's Romance of the Peerage, iii. 61-82.
Contributor: T. C. [Thompson Cooper]