Bucke was born either in 1581 or in 1582, the son of Edmund Bucke and a mother whose name is unknown. He was born in the county of Norfolk, England, and attended a local school. On April 26, 1600, he was admitted at age eighteen as a sizar, or student on scholarship, to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. Bucke was married, possibly to Elizabeth Browne, on July 7, 1607, in Tharston Parish, Norfolk, and had at least one daughter before, on the recommendation of the bishop of London, he was appointed chaplain of the expedition headed bythat departed Plymouth Sound for Virginia on June 2, 1609.
The, on which Bucke and his family traveled, ran afoul of a hurricane late in July. After about five days of tumultuous weather, the vessel wrecked on one of the Bermuda islands. During the nine and a half months that the 150 colonists were stranded on the island, Bucke conducted sermons twice on Sundays, mostly on the subjects of thanksgiving and unity, and performed a marriage, two baptisms, and five funerals. Finally able to build two smaller vessels, the party left the island on May 10, 1610, arrived at Point Comfort on May 21, and landed on May 23 at Jamestown. There Bucke made “a zealous and sorrowfull Prayer, finding all things so contrary to our expectations, so full of misery and misgovernment.”
The minister in the colony having died, Bucke found himself the only clergyman in Virginia and conducted twice-daily services in an effort to improve the colonists’ morale during this unsettling period. Later his fellow minister Alexander Whitaker characterized him in 1613 as “an able and painfull Preacher.” In April 1614 Bucke may have performed the marriage ceremony for John Rolfe, with whom he had traveled on the Sea Venture, and Pocahontas, and he later witnessed Rolfe’s will. On July 30, 1619, Bucke opened the initial meeting of the first legislative assembly in Virginia with prayer. At least twice in 1621 he requested‘s assistance in getting the of London to fulfill the terms of its agreement with him, both in payments and in supplying indentured servants, because the terms of the latter already assigned to him were soon due to expire. Bucke resided on a 750-acre tract, including glebe land, in Jamestown promised him by the company and patented in 1620.
Bucke may have returned to England at least once. It is possible that his wife died and that he remarried, perhaps to a woman named Bridget. Bucke had three sons and one daughter born in Virginia between 1611 and 1620. Two of these children won some notice in their own right. Mara Bucke, the eldest, was the subject of a case heard in thein 1624. Following testimony regarding rumors that David Sandys, a minister, planned to steal
the thirteen-year-old away from her guardians’ house and marry her, the court instructed her guardians to give security that they would thwart any marriage attempts. Benoni Bucke, born in 1616, proved incapable of managing his inheritance and, deemed “the first Ideott found in that plantation,” became in 1637 the first subject of a commission to determine competency. The names given the four children born in the colony reflect the possible Puritan philosophy of Bucke as well as the hardships he endured in Virginia: Mara (bitter), Gershon (expulsion), Benoni (sorrow), and Peleg (division).
The exact date of Richard Bucke’s death is unknown. He is not listed among those killed during the Powhatan uprising in March 1622, but the census of January 1624 omitted him and described his four youngest children as living in three different households, which strongly suggests that he was dead by then. On June 21, 1624, the General Court ordered his daughter’s guardians to give £100 security to the executors of the minister’s estate.