Okey, John (DNB00)
OKEY, JOHN (d. 1662), regicide, was, according to Wood, 'originally a drayman, afterwards a stoker in a brewhouse at Islington near London, and then a poor chandler near Lion-key in Thames Street in London' (Fasti, 19 May 1649). Ludlow states that he was a citizen of London, had been 'first a captain of foot, then captain of horse, and afterwards major in the regiment of Sir Arthur Haslerig' (Memoirs, ed. 1894, ii. 333). He was quartermaster of a troop of horse in Essex's army in 1642, and, as captain of horse, Okey took part in the defence of Lichfield in April 1643 (Valour Crowned, or a True Helatum of the Proceedings of the Parliament Forces in the Close at Lichfield, 4to, 1643 ; Peacock, Army Lists, p. 48). In the new model Okey was colonel of the dragoons, and fought at Naseby, where his regiment was set to line the hedges on the left flank of the parliamentary army (A Letter from Colonel Okey to a Citizen of London, 4to, 1645). On 13 July Burrough Hill fort in Somersetshire surrendered to him, and he led the storming party at Bath on 29 July. On 1 Sept., during the siege of Bristol, he was taken prisoner by a sally of the garrison, but was released when it capitulated, and took part in the siege of Exeter (Sprigge, Anglia Bediviva, ed. 1854, pp. 75, 84, 104, 173). Okey adhered to the army in its dispute with the parliament in 1647 (Rushworth, vi. 471). During the second civil war he served in South Wales and took part in the battle of St. Fagan's (8 May 1648 ; Phillips, Civil War in Wales, ii. 351), He was appointed one of the king's judges, attended every sitting of that body excepting three, and signed the warrant for the king's execution (Nalson, Trial of Charles I).
Okey assisted in the suppression of the levellers in May 1649, and was one of the officers created masters of arts at Oxford on 19 May 1649 (Wood, Fasti), He took no part in the Irish campaign, but accompanied Cromwell to Scotlana in July 1650, and was left behind under the command of Monck when Cromwell pursued Charles II into England in August 1651. In August 1651 he captured some Scottish commissioners who were raising forces near Glasgow, and in September took part in the storming of Dundee, of which he has left a graphic account (Old Parliamentary History, xx. 23 ; Mackinnon, Coldstream Guards, i. 43).
Politically, Okey belonged to the extreme party in the army, was one of the presenters of the petition of 12 Aug. 1652, and was eager for the dissolution of the Long parliament (Mercurius Politicus, 12-19 Aug. 1652). Cromwell's expulsion of it, however, aroused his fears and suspicions, and he disapproved of the terms of the instrument of government and of Cromwell's assumption of the protectorate (Ludlow, ii. 347, 356, 406). In the parliament of 1654 Okey sat as member for Linlithgow and other Scottish boroughs. In November 1654 he and two other colonels circulated a petition, intended to be presented to parliament, setting forth their objections to the new constitution. For this ofience he was arrested, tried by court-martial, and condemned ; but, on submitting himself to the Protector's mercy, was pardoned as to his life, and simply cashiered (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1653-1654, p. 302 ; Thurloe, iii. 64, 147 ; Burton, Diary, iv. 167 ; Vaughan, Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell, i. 85, 88). He retired to Bedfordshire, where he had bought a lease of the lordship of Leighton Buzzard and also the honour of Ampthill and Brogboro' Park (Cal, State Papers, Dom. 1660-1, p. 248; Lysons, Bedfordshire, pp. 39, 127, 683). Parliament had also settled upon him lands to the value of 300l. a year for his services in Scotland, so that, in spite of the loss of his commission, he was a rich man (Commons' Journals, vol. vii.) In 1657 Okey was concerned in getting up a protest against Cromwell's proposed assumption of the crown, entitled 'The Humble and Serious Testimony of many Hundreds of Godly People in the County of Bedford' (Thurloe, vi. 228-30). He had been apprehended in July 1656 on suspicion of a share in the plots of the fifth monarchy men, and he appears to have been again arrested in the spring of 1658 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1656-7, p. 581 ; ib. 1657-1658, p. 340 ; Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep.) In Richard Cromwell's parliament he represented Bedfordshire, but his speeches were few and brief (Burton, Diary, iii. 41, 43, 78, 248). When the Long parliament again took the place of Richard, one of their first acts was to vote Okey the command of a regiment (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658-9, p. 383). In October 1659 he supported the parliament against the army, but was deserted by his regiment when he sought to 'resist Lambert, and was cashiered by the council of officers (Ludlow, ii. 134-7 ; Thurloe, vii. 755, 774 : Commons' Journals, vii. 796). He continued, nevertheless, actively to oppose Lambert's action, planned the surprise of the Tower, and when his scheme was discovered took refuge with Admiral Lawson and the fleet (Ludlow, ii. 169, 176). When the parliament was restored Okey regained his regiment, and was one of the seven commissioners appointed on 26 Dec. for the temporary government of the army (Commons' Journals, vii. 797, 805). As one of the commanders of the parliament's guard, he forcibly kept the secluded members out of the house when they tried to take their seats (27 Dec. 1659), and was consequently indicted for assault (Old Parliamentary History, xxii. 31; Prynne, A Copy of the Indictment found by the Grand Jury of Middlesex against Colonel Matthew Alured, Colonel John Okey, and others, 4to, 1660). Two months later Monck deprived him of his regiment and gave it to Colonel Rossiter (Mercurius Politicus, 29 March-5 April 1660). Okey joined Lambert in his attempted rising, and was with him at Daventry, but contrived to escape when Lambert was taken (Kennett, Reg. and Chron. Eccl. and Civil, p. 119). At the Restoration he fled from England, though, it is said, not till he had sought an interview with the king, and unsuccessfully begged for pardon (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 207). Capitally excepted from the act of indemnity, he sought a refuge in Germany, and was admitted as a burgess of Ilanau. In 1662 Okey and two other regicides, Barkstead and Corbet, went to Delft in Holland, intending to meet some friends. Okey called himself by the name of Frederick Williamson, and is said to have taken the additional precaution of obtaining from Sir George Downing, the English minister to the United Provinces, an assurance that he had no warrant for his arrest. But Downing's assurances were false, and all three were arrested and shipped off to England. As they had already been attainted by act of parliament, only proof of their identity was required, and the jury at once found a verdict of guilty (16 April). All three were executed on 19 April (Ludlow, ii. 330-4). In Okey's speech on the scaffold he professed that he acted without any malice against the king, and had gained nothing by his death, saying that he was fully satisfied of the justice of the cause for which he had fought, but exhorting his friends to submit peaceably to the existing government (The Speeches, Discourses, and Prayers of Colonel John Barkstead, Colonel John Okey, and Mr. Miles Corbet, together with an Account of the Occasion and Manner of their Taking; Mercurius Publicus, 10-24 March 1662; Pontalis, Jean de Witt, i. 281).
On the ground that Okey had shown 'a sense of his horrid crime,' and recommended submission to the king, Charles II granted his wife, Mary Okey, license to give her husband's remains Christian burial (21 April). Preparations were made to bury him at Stepney, but the order was revoked two days later, on the ground that the relatives intended to turn the funeral into a political demonstration. He was consequently privately interred in the Tower (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661-2, pp. 344, 346). A portion of his forfeited property was regranted to his widow by the Duke of York (Lysons, Environs of London, ii. 460). His portrait was engraved by P. Stent.
[Authorities mentioned in the article; Noble's Lives of the Regicides, ii. 104; Ludlow's Memoirs, ed. Firth, 1894. The following contemporary tracts may be added to those already named: A Narrative of Colonel Okey, Colonel Barkstead, &c, their Departure out of England, and the Unparalleled Treachery of Sir G. D., 1662; The Speeches and Prayers of John Barkstead, John Okey, &c, with some due and sober Animadversions, 1662; Colonel John Okey's Lamentation, or a Rumper Cashiered (a ballad, 1669).]