John Okey (1606
- 1662), parliamentarian soldier
John was baptised 24th August 1606 at St Giles-in-the-Fields,
London. He was the sixth child of William Okey and his wife Margaret
Wetherley. At the same church, on 21st January 1630, John married
Susanna Pearson. By 1640 he was running a ship chandler's business
near the Tower of London. His first wife died and in 1658 he married
Mary, the widow of John Blackwell. Okey was both a Baptist and
At the outset of the civil war Okey enlisted in the
Earl of Essex's parliamentarian army. A summary of his career during
the civil war is as follows:
- quartermaster and then captain of horse
- Major in Hesilrige's regiment
- 1643 at the defence of Lichfield
appointed colonel of a regiment of dragoons
- 1645 fought at the battle of Naseby
- 1645 fought at Burroughbridge
- fought at Bath, Somerset
- fought at the siege of Bristol (where he was captured)
- present at the siege of Exeter
- 1648 took part in the battle of St Fagans
- 1648 at the siege of Pembroke Castle
- 1648 entered London with Thomas Fairfax
Okey was appointed as one of the commissioners at
the trial of Charles I, and he subsequently was present at most
of the court sittings and was one of the signatories on Charles
I's death warrant. He was also charged,with other officers, with
the task of overseeing the king's execution.
In 1649 Okey was involved in pursuing the mutinying
Leveller troops finally defeating them at Burford, Oxfordshire.
As a result of his participation in the suppression, he was awarded
an honourary MA at Oxford University.
From 1650 to late 1651 Okey was in Scotland serving
under Cromwell and Monck. During this time he participated in
the siege of Stirling, the storming
Dundee and the occupation of Aberdeen. From 1652 he was back in
London pressing for religious reforms.
From 1654 John was back in Scotland and took part
in Monck's sweep through the highlands. In 1654 he was returned
as MP for Linlithgow, Queens Ferry, Perth, Culross and Stirling.
However he was unable to take up his seat becasuse of his refusal
to take the engagement of the Instrument of government.
Okey was subsequently instrumental in the document entitled The
Humble Petition of Several Colonels of the Army which was
critical of Cromwell and the protectorate. As a result he was arrested
and tried by court martial. He was sentenced to death, but Cromwell
commuted the sentence, cashiering Okey out of the army instead.
Okey retired to Bedfordshire where he acquired much
crown property during the 1650s including lands at Leighton Buzzard,
the honour of Ampthill, the manor of Millbrook, and Brogborough
Lodge. In addition he also owned a share of Newmarket House, Cambridgeshire,
lands in Scotland, a residence in Middlesex and the lease on a
number of propertys in London. He lived both at Brogoborough Round
House and Hackney and was an active JP in Bedfordshire and Middlesex.
In 1656 and 1657 he was arrested for suspected involvement
in Fifth Monarchist activity, both times he was held for only a
In 1658, following the death of Oliver Cromwell,
Okey was elected to represent Bedfordshire in Richard Cromwell's
parliament. Following the collapse of this government, John was
reappointed to the command of a regiment. In 1659 he supported
the Rump in its quarrell with Lambert and Fleetwood, but without
backing from his regiment he was dismissed from his post. Later
the same year he was involved in a failed attempt to take control
of the Tower of London.
When the Rump regained control in December 1659 Okey
was appointed as a parliamentary commissioner for running the army.
In February 1660 Monck dismissed him from the army. Fearing Monck
was going to bring back the Stuarts, Okey joined Lambert in an
attempted coup d'état. Okey managed to evade capture at
Daventry when Lambert was detained.
At the Restoration Okey fled to Germany, but in 1661
he travelled to the Netherlands where the English ambassador, Sir
George Downing arrested him and sent him back to England. After
a short trial Okey was executed on 19th April 1662 and his body
interred within the Tower of London.