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Onslow, Richard (1601-1664) (DNB00)


ONSLOW, Sir RICHARD (1601–1664), parliamentary colonel, descended of an ancient family settled at Onslow, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire, was second son and heir of Edward Onslow, knight, of Knoll, Surrey and Isabel, daughter of Sir Thomas Shirley of Preston Place, Sussex. Richard Onslow (1528–1571) [q. v.] was his grandfather (Surrey Archæological Collections, vol. iii. appendix; Harl. MS. 1430, f. 35). Onslow the grandson succeeded to the family estate of Knoll on the death without issue of his elder brother, Sir Thomas, in 1616. He was knighted at Theobalds in June 1624, served as knight of the shire for Surrey in the parliament of 1628, and was appointed justice for the county (State Papers, Dom. 13 Feb. 1633–4, cclx. 58). In November 1638 he was one of the deputy-lieutenants of Surrey.

He sat for Surrey in both the Short and the Long parliaments, and, on the outbreak of the civil war, became a strong parliamentarian, raising a regiment of his own by command of the commons (Whitelocke, p. 87). In August 1642 he forcibly seized at Kingston Justice Mallet, who was on the point of adjourning the sessions and repairing to the king (Lords' Journals, v. 264; Commons' Journals, ii. 704). He was appointed one of the sequestrators for the county of Surrey in 1643, and at the siege of Basing House in May 1644 he was one of the colonels in command (Clarendon, viii. 123; State Papers, Dom. vols. dii. and diii. passim). On 1 July 1645 the commons ordered him a payment of 400l. out of the excise for money advanced to Sir William Waller's lifeguard (Commons' Journals, iv. 191; Lords' Journals, viii. 469). The tradition that he lay for a time under suspicion of privately sending money to the king originated in the invectives of the poet George Wither. In his office as justice of the peace for the county, Onslow had quarrelled with Wither, whom he deposed from the command of the militia in the east and middle division of Surrey (August 1644), and later from the commission of peace. In his ‘Justiciarius Justificatus,’ Wither assailed him in consequence with great irony (State Papers, Dom. dii. 9). Complaints of the book, made in the House of Commons on 10 April 1646, were referred to a committee; and on 7 Aug. it was voted that the insinuations were false and scandalous, and that the poet should pay 500l. damages, and have his book burned at Guildford (Commons' Journals, iv. 505, 531, 639; Whitelocke, 223).

Sir Richard was one of the forty-eight members secluded by the army on 5 Dec. 1648 (Dugdale, Short View, pp. 362–3). He was, however, nominated colonel of a regiment in 1651 (State Papers, Dom. Interreg. i. 48), and sat with his eldest son, Arthur, as knight of the shire in the two parliaments of Cromwell, 3 Sept. 1654 and 17 Sept. 1656. In April 1655 he was one of the Surrey county commissioners for executing the ordinance for ejecting scandalous ministers, and on 9 April 1657 he was one of the select committee appointed to attend the Protector to receive his doubts and scruples on taking the office of king. Further, he was one of those called by Cromwell to his house of peers on 20 Dec. 1657, and sat in Richard Cromwell's parliament in 1659. He was nominated one of the council of state which was hastily chosen on the night of the declaration for a free parliament, 24 Feb. 1659–60 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. vii. 462). Throughout the period of the Commonwealth he was on terms of close intimacy with Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper (afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury). Onslow sat, with his son Arthur, in the Convention parliament; but there was some question at the time of exempting him from the Act of Indemnity at the Restoration. A paper of reasons or charges was drawn, instancing inter alia his arrest of Sir Thomas Mallet in July 1642, his pulling down the king's powder-mills at Chilworth, November 1642, and his comparing King Charles to a hedgehog (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. v. 3). He seems, however, to have been left unmolested, partly through the influence of Sir Ralph Freeman, whose son had married his daughter, and who gave evidence to the lords' committee for petitions that Sir Richard had been instrumental in the acquittal of Lord Mordaunt on the occasion of his trial with Dr. Hewitt (ib. 11th Rep. vii. 103). As positive signs of Stuart favour, Onslow's son Arthur in 1666 received a grant of the reversion of the knighthood of Sir Thomas Foot, his father-in-law; and his son-in-law, Sir Anthony Shirley, also received a knighthood on 6 March 1666–7.

Sir Richard died on 19 May 1664, in the sixty-third year of his age, and was buried at Cranley. His portrait is preserved at Knoll. His wife Dame Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Arthur Strangwaies of Durham and London, died on 27 Aug. 1679, aged 78. His son, Sir Arthur (1621–1688), who was also buried in Cranley Church, was father of Richard, first lord Onslow [q. v.], and of Foot Onslow, father of Arthur Onslow (1691–1768) [q. v.]

[State Papers, Dom. Car. I and Interreg.; Lords' and Commons' Journals; Brayley's History of Surrey, ii. 54, v. 170; Aubrey's History of Surrey, iv. 88; Surrey Archæol. Collect. vol. iii. Appendix; Harl. MS. 1430, p. 35; Addit. MS. 6167, f. 445; Hist. MSS. Comm. 7th Rep. pp. 103, 462, 676, 687; Clarendon's Rebellion; Collins's Peerage, vii. 243; Dugdale's Short View of the Troubles; Whitelocke's Memorials; Diurnal Occurrences, 1654, p. 88; Parliamentary History; Wither's Justiciarius Justificatus.]

W. A. S.