It is perhaps significant that Richard does not seem to have had any family near him during his illness; his bequests appear to be to four of his friends, a situation consistent with that of a young man far from home. Perhaps he had come up from Devonshire hoping to make his fortune in the capital, but fell instead an untimely victim to some foul and horrible disease, a grim lesson to any
other young man from home hankering after the excitement of the big city. It is interesting to observe that William Neate was also dead by the time the will was proved; this suggests the possibility of some epidemic disease. If an epidemic was responsible for the two deaths, it is unlikely to have been the bubonic plague,* which in Seventeenth-Century London peaked in 1603 (estimated 33,347 deaths due to the plague), 1625 (41,313 plague deaths recorded), 1636 (10,400 plague deaths recorded) and 1665 (the Great Plague with 68,596 recorded deaths), but from which there are no deaths recorded between 1610 and 1625. More likely it would have been smallpox, which became prominent in Britain in the Seventeenth Century, with 1614 being the worst year all over Europe and the East. Or possibly it might have been that unmentionable disease known euphemistically throughout Europe as the
French pox (except in France where it was attributed to the Spanish), which reached epidemic proportions in Europe for almost thirty years from 1494 and became widely prevalent again in England during the reign of James I (1603-25).