[This article is included in the People in Portsmouth section of the website solely because Richard Rooth was listed as a Burgess of the Town in 1689. There is no evidence that he ever lived within the town or it's surroundings or indeed played any part in the history of the town, though doubtless he passed through it many times during his service to the crown. In 1689, a total of 100 men were appointed to be burgesses of Portsmouth and although several of them are recognisably local the majority were probably, like Rooth, living elsewhere. It was not uncommon for large numbers of burgesses to be appointed simultaneously but in this case the reason must lie in the wider historical context of the English Monarchy and the Glorious Revolution when on 5th November 1688 William of Orange arrived on English soil to claim the throne from the catholic James II. In December 1689 the English Parliament passed a Bill of Rights which contained the declaration that no catholic should ever ascend to the throne of England and it seems probable that the appointed burgesses would have been predominantly protestant in order to ensure that no catholic could be elected as a Member of Parliament either.]
Little is known of Rooth's early years, apart from the record that he was a member of the Rothe family of Mount Roth or Butler's Grove, Kilkenny, Ireland. He may have been born around 1625.
Rooth entered the navy as a volunteer during the Commonwealth joining his cousin, William Penn (appointed burgess of Portsmouth in 1662), who commanded the Fairfax at Cadiz in 1650. He had become Captain of the Hound in a fleet which left Portsmouth on Christmas Day 1654 for Barbados in order to assault strongholds in the West Indies and took charge of Swiftsure in 1655. [From Richard Rooth's Sea Journal of the western design 1654-1655].
The Biographia Navalis of 1794 reports that Rooth, was appointed by the Duke of York as captain of the Dartmouth, in the year 1660. Dartmouth had been one of the ships that escorted Charles II back from Scheveling. In 1663 he commanded the Harp: and in 1664 was re-commissioned for the Dartmouth. In 1667 Rooth was commanding the St. David; and, in the following year, the Garland. During the time he commanded this ship, which was one of Sir Thomas Allen's squadron in the Mediterranean, he was left, by that admiral, to block up the port of Sallee. While he was employed on this service he had the good fortune to meet with four of their corsairs which were escorting home three prizes which they had taken. On Captain Rooth's attacking them, in conjunction with Captain Bustow of the Francis, they all ran ashore and perished, together with their crews, to avoid falling into the hands of the English.
In 1672 he was made First Lieutenant on board Victory, probably following a period ashore. This position lasted only a year before he regained his former station as Commander, first, of the Lion, having again returned to the Mediterranean, and, secondly, of the Swiftsure. In 1675, he was knighted by King Charles the Second who appointed him to command the Adventure, and was sent to carry over to Tangier the Earl of Inchiquin, lately appointed governor. Lastly, on the 12th of April, 1678, he was removed into the Monmouth: the command of this ship concluded his naval life.
In 1677, King Charles II had awarded Rooth a pension 'during the time he should be unemployed in the Navy' of £150 p.a. as a former Commander in Chief of a Squadron Reportedly it continued to be paid until the abdication of King James but there is evidence that the award was reinstated to be shown in accounts up to 1707.
In January 1689, Richard Rooth was found carrying letters between Britain and King James II in France: -
Upon the 12 of January, the King wrote to the Earl of Tyrconel in Ireland from St Germains to this effect:
"I send this bearer Captain Rooth to you to give notice of my being here, and to be informed how things are with you, that accordingly I may take my measures; hoping you will be able to defend yourself and support my interest there, till summer at least. I am sure you will do it to the utmost of your power, and I hope this King here will so press the Hollanders, that the P. of Orange will not have men to spare to attack you; in the mean time till I hear from you by the bearer all I can get this King to do, is to send 7 or 8000 muskets, he not being willing to venture more arms or any men, till he knows the condition you are in, so that it will be absolutely necessary that you send back this bearer, as soon as may be..."
The Rothe family are reported to have become active supporters of King James II but it seems surprising that Rooth should be acting as courier to James less than a month after he had fled the country but in the turmoil surrounding the Glorious Revolution allegiances would have been somewhat fluid. In the event, Rooth must have proclaimed protestantism by the end of 1689 or he would probably not have been appointed a burgess of the town.
A record of his demise, which probably occurred in Ireland, has not been traced.
[Thanks to Brian Bouchard for the research behind this article]