Richard Cox, The Founder
Cox was born in Yorkshire in 1718. His father, Joshua, had made a good living as a lawyer and had moved from his birthplace in Clent in Worcestershire to Yorkshire. He then bought an estate near Quarley in Hampshire. Richard Cox came into the service of the English General, Lord Ligonier, as a clerk in the early 1740s. In 1747 he married Caroline Codrington, daughter of Sir William Codrington who was an established military figure.
Cox's career took off when Lord Ligonier led the Flanders campaigns of the War of the Austrian Succession. In one letter sent back to London, Richard Cox makes a demand that “suitable winter provisions and housing should be made available for the three English companies” and he became entwined with logistics and the general welfare of the troops. Ligonier made Cox his private secretary in the late 1740s, went on to become the Colonel of the First Foot Guards (Grenadier Guards) in 1757, and rewarded Cox with the post of 'military agent' after the incumbent died in May 1758. Thus was born Cox & Co, the forebear of Cox & Kings.
There were about a dozen main agents working for the army at the time and each Regimental Colonel chose one to serve their troops. These agents arranged the payment of officers and men, organised the provision of clothing, acted as intermediaries for the buying and selling of officers' commissions and acted on any special requests from the regimental adjutant. Duties ranged from the shipment of personal effects to the requisition of weapons or supplies. Cox had taken on the most prestigious infantry regiment, and the 63rd Regiment and the Royal Artillery soon followed suit.
In 1765 Cox went into partnership with Henry Drummond, whose family ran the London bank. Cox & Drummond moved from Cox's house in Albemarle Street to Craig's Court, just off what is now Whitehall. By the mid-1760s Cox & Drummond had blossomed to become agents for the Dragoons and eight more Infantry regiments. Success was built on the company’s reputation for keen attention to the welfare of its regiments. In 1763, for instance, when Robert Clive stormed the fortress of Gheria in India, Cox successfully negotiated with the East India Company who had 'borrowed' stores from Cox's clients, the Royal Artillery. He arranged to receive repayment from the East India Company by way of plunder from Gheria. He had this converted into silver in India and shipped back to London where the funds could be reunited with the Royal Artillery.
Back home, Cox's house on Albemarle Street (opposite the present day Ritz Hotel) was famous for its parties. In addition, he was a patron of the arts, being acquainted with David Garrick and other notable actors of the time, and was a founding financial investor in the rebuilding of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. He was also a generous benefactor to St George's Hospital on Hyde Park Corner (now the Lanesborough Hotel). The records of the family estate at Quarley show that Cox spent over £3,000 per annum running it, much of it lavished on his wife.
By 1768, Cox & Drummond was flourishing with a turnover of £345,000 per annum. During the 1770s the company continued to grow, aided by war in the American Colonies and the threat of invasion from France. Cox repeated his good fortune with business partners, taking in Mr Mair upon Drummond’s death in 1772, followed by his own son Richard Bethnell Cox in 1779 and then Mr Greenwood in 1783. It was during this time that the company expanded its banking interests, offering loans and accounts to exclusive members of London's elite. Frederick, Duke of York, introduced Cox's business partner Mr Greenwood to his father George III, as 'Mr Greenwood, the gentlemen who keeps my money'. Greenwood replied rather cheekily that, 'I think it is rather his Royal Highness who keeps my money,' to which George III burst out in laughter and said, 'Do you hear that Frederick? Do you hear that? You are the gentleman who keeps Mr Greenwood's money!'
The company was thriving by the time of the outbreak of war with France in 1793, employing some 35 clerks. In 1795 they served 14 regiments of cavalry, 64 infantry regiments and 17 militia regiments, becoming the largest military agent for the army. Richard Cox died in August 1803, leaving his grandson Richard Henry Cox firmly established, with Mr Greenwood as controlling partner.
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