Oxburgh, Heward (d. 1691), Jacobite soldier and landowner, of Boveen, King's Co., was of unknown parentage but probably a member of a Norfolk gentry family. He, or his parents, perhaps came to Ireland as part of the plantation of King's Co. in the 1620s. He was in any case in the service of William Parsons (d. 1652), of Parsonstown, or Birr, before 1641. The Norfolk Oxburghs were protestant, but Heward was catholic. He suffered transplantation under the Cromwellian regime, being allocated 952 acres in Connaught in 1655, and appears on the Dublin statute staple as a debtor, of Lisenacade, Co. Galway, in 1657. He was a titulado in Crimkill, King's Co., in the 1659 ‘census’, and Sir Lawrence Parsons (qv), son of William, described him in 1692 as his tenant and servant for thirty years.
When Sir Lawrence Parsons withdrew for safety to England with his family in April 1687, he entrusted the management of his estate to Oxburgh, at that time described as a captain. Oxburgh undertook to remit £500 annually but at the end of a year Parsons had apparently received only £200, prompting his return to Birr where he found ‘his servant Captain Oxburgh highly advanced to the dignity of sheriff of the county, who lorded it over his neighbours at a great rate, and was grown and swollen to such a height of pride he scarce owned his master’ (Birr Castle MSS, A/24, ff 1–2). Oxburgh had indeed become the Jacobite grandee of the county, having raised – apparently with the Parsons rentals – a regiment of foot for King James II (qv). He strenuously denied wrongdoing, and insisted he was a friend to Parsons, who nonetheless underwent the ordeal of imprisonment and trial for treason after falling into the power of his former agent.
More moderate Jacobites attempted to restrain Oxburgh's treatment of Parsons: Patrick Sarsfield (qv), who came to review his regiment at Birr in April 1689 (and who greatly reduced its size) interposed on his behalf, while Colonel Garrett Moore (qv) reported sympathetically on his condition to the earl of Tyrconnell (qv). Oxburgh sat for King's Co. in the Irish parliament summoned by James II in 1689, while his son Heward was returned for Philipstown. Heward Oxburgh, perhaps the younger, was burgomaster (or mayor) of Philipstown in 1688, and Heward senior was one of those named provost marshal in 1689 to enforce martial law in the King's and Queen's counties.
Oxburgh, who appears to have died with two of his sons in 1691 at the battle of Aughrim, was married to Clare (Mac)Coghlan. The Birr Castle narrative suggests she was a more extreme Jacobite than her husband, describing her as a ‘a great upholder of the Irish, and of a great family among them . . . a stiff bigoted papist’ (MS A/24, ff 54–5). The couple had at least four sons and two daughters. Both daughters were married to Jacobite officers, and most if not all of the sons served James II in arms, for which they were outlawed.
Henry Oxburgh (d. 1716), third but eldest surviving son of Heward, was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1682, and was a counsel in chancery in Ireland in 1687. Parsons at his treason trial in 1689 fee'd him – to obtain his local influence rather than his legal services – but was to be disappointed. A captain in his father's regiment, Henry Oxburgh succeeded to the colonelcy on his father's death. He is said to have enlisted for King William (qv) after the surrender of Limerick, but to have been disbanded soon after. He was mentioned as one of several Catholic officers in 1695 who might be willing to raise soldiers to serve in the armies of King William's catholic allies on the Continent, but nothing seems to have come of this proposal.
His claim under the articles of Limerick was admitted on 13 June 1692, though at the end of the year he was arrested with other former Jacobite officers during an invasion scare. He was a leading ‘articleman’, and appears in association with others such as John Rice and Nicholas Purcell (qv); the three were among those instructing an agent in England for Irish catholics in 1692, while they lobbied at the English privy council against the Irish association bill in 1697. He lived with his widowed mother in King's Co., on the estate settled on him by his father at the time of his marriage in 1687. Irish privy council proclamations of 1705 and 1714, naming him as one of the catholics licensed to bear arms in Ireland, give his abode as Bovin (i.e. Boveen), King's Co. He was thus in the reigns of King William and Queen Anne a typical articleman, living under the new regime in relative comfort as a catholic landed gentleman. However his career diverged dramatically from most of his associates in the autumn of 1715, when he took a leading role in the Jacobite rising in Britain against the newly installed Hanoverian monarch, George I. He was one of several Irish catholic gentlemen, including Charles Wogan (qv), who travelled in the north of England, posing as tourists, to gather intelligence for the rising. He accepted a colonel's commission in October in the English contingent of the earl of Mar's Jacobite army, commanded by the earl of Derwentwater and Thomas Forster MP. After a progress through north-eastern England, the expedition encountered a Hanoverian force at Preston, where Forster decided to surrender. Oxburgh was sent to treat with the Hanoverian commander General Wills, who would accept only an unconditional capitulation.
In the narrative subsequently published by Robert Patten, a Church of England clergyman who was chaplain to Forster and later a crown witness, it was claimed that Forster, though nominally superior, was dominated by Oxburgh whom the other rebels, according to Patten, thought ‘fitter for a priest than a field-officer’ (p. 121). However Patten also, in discussing allegations of misbehaviour, gave Oxburgh the character of a gentlemanly old soldier, who conducted himself with restraint during the brief Lancashire campaign.
With other important prisoners he was brought to London, where he was arraigned on 7 May 1716. On 14 May he was hanged, drawn and quartered and his head was set up on Temple Bar. Popular discontent with the government at this time in England, and notably in London, had a tory flavour; and, while openly declared Jacobitism may have been rare, there was sympathy for the rebels and a degree of revulsion at the executions. In his trial Oxburgh asserted that he was led by General Wills to believe that a voluntary surrender would entitle him to the king's clemency. In his dying speech (which was printed several times) he reproached George I, or at least his representatives, for acting in bad faith. He appears to have been accorded the status of a martyr for a while among Jacobites in England and in exile. In the aftermath of the 1715 rebellion a forfeited estates commission was established to seize the property of rebels. Oxburgh, whose estates in Ireland were found to be worth £500 a year, and the 2nd duke of Ormond (qv) were the only owners of Irish lands to suffer forfeiture at this time.
He was married, but nothing is known of his wife. He left at least one son, James, and two daughters. After Henry's death, Queen Mary, widow of James II, interested herself in the welfare of his children. James Oxburgh, after a brief period in the French army, entered the Spanish service in 1718. An associate of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and of the Irish protestant Jacobite, George Kelly (qv), James rose steadily through the ranks of the Hibernia regiment. As Don Diego Oxburgh he became brigadier in 1760, when 68 years old.