Burne, Owen Tudor (DNB12)

BURNE, Sir OWEN TUDOR (1837–1909), major-general, born at Plymouth on 12 April 1837, was eleventh child in a family of nineteen children of the Rev. Henry Thomas Burne (1799-1865), M.A., of Trinity College, Cambridge, by his wife Knightley Goodman (1805-1878), daughter of Captain Marriott, royal horse guards (blue). The father resigned orders in the Church of England in 1835 to join the 'Holy Catholic Apostolic Church,' founded by Edward Irving [q. v.]. To that church his children adhered. Owen's eldest brother was Col. Henry Burne, and another brother, Douglas (d. 1899), was manager of the bank of Bengal.

Educated at home by his father and at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, Owen received a commission in the 20th East Devonshire regiment (now the Lancashire fusiliers) on 15 May 1855. After some months at the depot at Parkhurst, Isle of Wight, Burne joined his regiment in the Crimea, in charge of a draft of 200 recruits, on 3 April 1856. Peace had just been proclaimed in London, and he returned home in July. After a year at Aldershot, he embarked with his regiment for India to assist in the suppression of the mutiny. On the voyage he studied Hindustani to good purpose.

On reaching Calcutta in November 1857 the regiment was ordered to Oudh to clear away the mutineers between Benares and Lucknow. Owing to his knowledge of Hindustani, Burne, who had been appointed adjutant of his regiment, was made brigade-major to Brigadier Evelegh, commanding a brigade in the 4th infantry division under Brigadier Franks. His first brush with the rebels was on 19 Feb. 1858 at Chunda, where guns were captured. After some hard fighting his division joined Sir Colin Campbell's army before Lucknow on 4 March, and established itself in outworks near the Dilkusha on the outskirts of the city, where it was exposed to a heavy fire. On 11 March Burne performed a feat of jallantry, for which he was recommended without result for promotion and the Victoria Cross. Communication was interrupted between the right and left attacks, and Burne, who was sent to ascertain the cause, Eound that the Nepalese troops had retired in a panic from their intermediate position, which had been occupied by the enemy; after bringing them back to the front as best he could, he made in safety a most perilous return journey. On 14 March, when Franks's division attacked the Kaisar Bagh and Imambara, the keys of the enemy's position, he was brigade-major of the column of attack, and was one of the first to get through the gate of the Kaisar Bagh. He was actively engaged until Lucknow fell on 21 March. Promoted lieutenant on 10 April 1858, le continued on the staff of Evelegh's Brigade in the vicinity of Lucknow, and was busy in clearing the country round rebels in spite of sickness and the hot weather. Later Burne re-joined as adjutant the 20th regiment, which took part with a field force under Sir John Campbell in operations in Northern Oudh. He next acted as staff officer to a column under Brigadier Holdich in the final operations in Oudh under Sir James Hope Grant [q. v.] in 1859. Several times mentioned in despatches, he received the medal with clasp for Lucknow, and being promoted captain on 9 Aug. 1864, was made brevet-major for his services in the mutiny (Jan. 1865).

Meanwhile Burne's efficient work as adjutant, while his regiment was quartered at Goudah, some sixty miles from Lucknow, had greatly impressed Sir Hugh Rose, the commander-in-chief in India, who inspected the regiment on 14 Dec. 1860. In the following spring Rose unexpectedly appointed him, in spite of his junior rank, military secretary. The choice, though confirmed from home, caused friction between the commander-in-chief there and Rose. As a result, at the end of 1862 Burne resigned the post, becoming private secretary to Sir Hugh. In 1865 Burne went with Sir Hugh to England, and when Rose took the Irish command, he became one of his aides-de-camp. For his aid in suppressing the Fenian conspiracy of 1867 Burne received the thanks of government.

At the end of 1868 he returned to India as private secretary to Lord Mayo, the newly appointed governor-general. Burne not only was the confidential friend and companion of the viceroy but was in complete political accord with his views (see Burne's Letters on the Indian Administration of Lord Mayo, 1872). He was with his chief at the Andaman Islands on 6 Feb. 1872, when the viceroy was assassinated. He remained at Calcutta as private secretary to Lord Napier and Ettrick, governor of Madras, who temporarily assumed the office of viceroy, but left on the arrival of Lord Northbrook, the new viceroy, in May 1872, when the five secretaries to the government of India, home, foreign, public works, finance, and commerce, presented him with a silver vase accompanied by a warmly appreciative letter. On 19 June 1872 Burne reported in person to Queen Victoria at Osborne the details of Lord Mayo's death, and was created C.S.I.

In August he was appointed to the newly instituted post of political aide-de-camp to the duke of Argyll, secretary of state for India. The duties were to take charge of all native embassies and chiefs visiting England, and to assist the India office generally on native questions. In the summer of 1873 he took part in the entertainment of the Shah of Persia. In April 1874 he became assistant secretary to the political and secret department of the India office, and being promoted lieutenant-colonel on 16 July, he succeeded Sir John Kaye [q. v.] as secretary and head of the political and secret department in October. In that capacity he was in continual personal consultation with the marquis of Salisbury, secretary of state, on the Central Asian and the Afghanistan questions.

In April 1876 Burne arrived once more in India as private secretary for a two years' term to the new viceroy, Lord Lytton [q. v.]. To Burne was largely due the success of the ceremonial proclamation at Delhi of Queen Victoria as Empress of India, which he described in the ‘Asiatic Quarterly’ (January 1887), but Afghan policy was among the principal matters which occupied his attention. When he left India in the beginning of 1878 Lytton wrote to him: ‘You have done for me, and been to me, all that one man could have done or been.’ Created C.I.E. on 1 Jan. 1878, he returned to the India office in February, was promoted K.C.S.I. in July 1879, and became colonel in the army. In 1880 he ably negotiated with the Nawab Nazim of Bengal a settlement highly satisfactory to the Indian exchequer, and the affairs of Maharaja Duleep Singh were placed under his supervision. In December 1886 he joined the council of India, filling the vice-presidency in 1895 and 1896, and retiring on 31 Dec. 1896, when he was made G.C.I.E. He had been promoted major-general in 1889.

Burne had literary aptitude, and from 1879 was a regular contributor to ‘The Times’ on Eastern questions and an occasional contributor to magazines. He wrote ‘Clyde and Strathnairn’ for the Oxford series of ‘Rulers of India’ in 1891; and an autobiography entitled ‘Memories’ (1907). He was a royal commissioner for numerous international exhibitions, and was member of the international congress of hygiene and demography (1894). After his retirement from the India office he busily engaged in philanthropic, mercantile, and other public work, acting as chairman of the council of the Society of Arts (1896–1897) and as member of the advisory committee of the board of trade (1903). He died after a long illness at his house in Sutherland Avenue, Maida Vale, on 3 Feb. 1909. He was buried with military honours at Christchurch Priory, Hampshire.

A portrait, painted by Mrs. Leslie Melville, is in the possession of the family. Sir Owen was twice married: (1) on 20 Nov. 1867, at Dublin, to Evelyne, daughter of Francis William Browne, fourth Baron Kilmaine; she died on 22 April 1878; (2) on 9 Aug. 1883, in London, to Lady Agnes Charlotte, youngest daughter of Douglas, the nineteenth earl of Morton, who survived him. By his first wife Sir Owen left three sons, two of whom joined the army and the other the navy, and two daughters.

[Kaye and Malleson's History of the Indian Mutiny; India Office Records; The Times, 4, 9, and 10 Feb. 1909; Memories by Sir O. T. Burne, 1907; Lord Lytton's Correspondence, ed. Lady Betty Balfour, 1899.]

R. H. V.