Richard Empson, born about 1450, was the son of Peter Empson (d.1473) and Elizabeth Joseph. John Stow claimed that his father was a sieve maker, but there is no evidence of this. His father, Peter Empson, held property at Towcester and Easton Neston in Northamptonshire.
Early in the reign of Henry VII he became associated with Edmund Dudley in carrying out the King’s rigorous and arbitrary system of taxation, and in consequence he became very unpopular. Retaining the royal favour, however, he was knighted at the creation of the future Henry VIII as Prince of Wales on 18 February 1504, and was soon High Steward of the University of Cambridge, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but his official career ended with Henry VII's death in April 1509.
Thrown into prison by order of the new King, Henry VIII, he was charged, like Dudley, with the crime of constructive treason, and was convicted at Northampton in October 1509. His attainder by Parliament followed, and he was beheaded on 17 August 1510. In 1512 his elder son, Thomas, was "restored in blood", meaning that his father's attainder was reversed so far as it affected him, by Act of Parliament.