Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oxburgh, Henry
OXBURGH, HENRY (d. 1716), Jacobite, was a member of a Roman catholic family of Irish origin. He was born in Ireland, and served for a short period in James II's army, being a captain in the regiment of his kinsman, Sir Heward Oxburgh of Bovin, King's County; but he migrated to France in 1696, and took service under Louis XIV. He returned to England about 1700, and purchased an estate in Lancashire. Retaining strong Stuart predilections, he was unwilling to forego the hopes with which the aspect of affairs during the last years of Anne's reign had inspired the Jacobite party. In the spring of 1715 it was understood that he was to hold a command in the English contingent of Mar's Jacobite army. Early in October the Jacobite general in England, the incompetent Thomas Forster [q. v.], granted him a colonel's commission in the name of the Pretender. After joining the Scottish contingent at Rothbury on 19 Oct., and dispersing, without bloodshed or violence, the posse comitatus which had mustered, some twenty thousand strong, under the Earl of Carlisle, the small Jacobite force under Forster and Derwentwater [see Ratcliffe, James, third Earl, (1686–1716)] occupied the small town of Penrith. Thence a party was detached under Oxburgh to Lowther Hall to search for arms, and, if possible, to seize Viscount Lonsdale. The latter had discreetly left the mansion in the care of two aged women. Neither there nor at Hornby Castle, the seat of the notorious Colonel Francis Charteris [q .v.], whither Oxburgh conducted a foraging party on 9 Nov., were any depredations committed. An inferior British force under General Wills, subsequently reinforced by General Carpenter, was encountered at Preston, and Forster promptly surrendered all notion of further resistance. On 13 Nov. he sent Oxburgh to negotiate the capitulation of the town. Oxburgh proposed that the insurgents should lay down their arms as prisoners of war, but he found Wills by no means inclined to treat. He would not enter upon terms with rebels. After entreaty, Wills only relented so far as to promise that if the rebels would lay down their arms to surrender at discretion, he would protect them from being cut to pieces until he received further orders from the government. This sturdy officer had only one thousand men under his command; nevertheless the rebels, numbering 462 English and 1088 Scots, were finally induced by Forster to accept these terms, and in the course of the day laid down their arms. Colonel Oxburgh was conveyed, with the other Jacobite officers, to London, and committed to the Marshalsea prison. He was arraigned on 7 May 1716, and, after a purely formal defence, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on Monday, 14 May 1716. The fact of his head being displayed upon one of the spikes on the top of Temple Bar provoked much indignation among the tories, and caused a certain amount of reaction in the popular feeling towards the remaining Jacobite prisoners. In the document which he left in the hands of the sheriff at the time of his execution, Oxburgh stated: ‘I might have hoped from the great character Mr. Wills gave me at Preston (when I treated with him for a surrender) of the clemency of the Prince now on the throne (to which, he said, we could not better entitle ourselves than by an early submission) that such as surrendered themselves Prisoners at Discretion, on that Prospect, would have met with more lenity than I have experienced, and I believe England is the only country in Europe where Prisoners at Discretion, on that Prospect, would have met with more lenity than I have experienced, and I believe England is the only country in Europe where Prisoners at Discretion are not understood to have their Lives saved.'
Patten described Oxburgh as ' of a good, mild, and merciful disposition, very thoughtful, and a mighty zealous man in his conversation, and more of the priest in his appearance than the soldier.' A rough portrait was engraved to adorn his dying speech, and this has been reproduced for Caulfield's 'Portraits of Remarkable Persons' (ii. 138-41).[Mahon's Hist. of England, i. 254; Burton's Hist. of Scotland, viii. 311; Patten's Hist. of the Late Rebellion, 1717, p. 115, &c.; Hibbert-Ware's State of Parties in Lancashire in 1715, passim; D'Alton's King James's Irish Army List, p. 851; Historical Register, 1716, pp. 222-3; Cobbett's State Trials; Doran's Jacobite London, i. 214; Lives of Twelve Bad Men, ed. Seccombe, pp. 123-7; Noble's Continuation of Granger, iii. 461; A True Copy of a Paper delivered to the Sheriffs of London by Colonel Oxburgh, 1716, fol.]