Theophilus Oglethorpe

Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe (14 September 1650 – 10 April 1702) was an English soldier and MP.


The son of Sutton Oglethorpe, he came of an old Yorkshire family from Bramham and he had loyally supported King Charles I against the Cromwellian forces, and in consequence suffered severely at the hands of the Puritans with his home and lands being confiscated. With the restoration of the Monarchy, the Oglethorpes, as good Royalists came back into favour, and young Theophilus, soon a dashing major of Dragoons lodged adjacent to Whitehall, fell in love with Eleanor Wall, 'sempstriss' to the King and who lodged at the palaces. They were married and continued in Royal favour, becoming particularly attached to the Duke of York, afterwards James II; Theophilus became his principal equerry, and in the new Parliament elected following his accession to the throne, Theophilus was elected MP for Morpeth.

Theophilus played a prominent part in the defeat of James, Duke of Monmouth at Sedgemoor, being hailed as something of a hero. However, his fortunes changed with those of the King, and when James II was forced to abdicate, Oglethorpe accompanied his King to France. His retirement from the Army following the Glorious Revolution in 1688/9, and from all other offices, officially burying himself in his new home at Westbrook, served as a cloak for the continued plotting of himself and his wife, Eleanor, on behalf of the 'king over the water'.

The result was that Theophilus was soon the subject of a warrant as a Jacobite conspirator. Following various alarms and adventures he was finally captured on 30 May 1691, but received light punishment being required to pay a fine of forty shillings for failing to take the oaths of allegiance to William and Mary. In and out of the country, he continued occasionally hiding at Westbrook and from time to time plotting and counter-plotting until after the death of Queen Mary II. Throughout the whole of this time, although loyally devoting himself to the Stuart cause, Theophilus had remained a Protestant as his father had been, and when James II finally rid his court at Saint-Germain of all non-Catholics in response to the pressure of his French hosts, Theophilus, after twenty years of service to the Stuarts, ruefully returned to Godalming and, in the late autumn of 1696, took the oath of loyalty to William III.

In 1698 he was elected Member of Parliament for the Surrey borough of Haslemere. Sir Theophilus died in 1702.


Three of his sons – the oldest, Lewis, his second son, also called Theophilus, and a third James, all sat subsequently for the same constituency (Haslemere) as their father.

His son, Lewis Oglethorpe, who was a keen and devoted follower of Marlborough, gave up politics for the Army but died of a wound in the Battle of Schellenberg in 1704. The younger Theophilus became an even more ardent Jacobite than his father and soon relinquished his parliamentary duties, his position as Squire of Westbrook, and his native lands and spent the rest of his life abroad involved in all the intrigues and plans that continuously surrounded the Stuart case, dying at the Court of St-Germain. James Oglethorpe, after also seeing active military service, had a thirty-year career in Parliament and was the founder of the colony of Georgia. Daughter Anne Oglethorpe lived at Westbrook, the family estate at Godalming, after the Glorious Revolution; from there she served as an agent in the Jacobite cause. Daughters Eleanor Oglethorpe de Mezieres, Luisa Oglethorpe de Bersompierre, and Frances Oglethorpe Noyel de Bellegarde, Marchess des Marches, married into Savoyard nobility and remained in Europe where they too served the Jacobite cause.

Theophilus Oglethorpe is the main protagonist in John Whitbourn's The Royal Changeling, (1998), which describes the 1685 rebellion with some fantasy elements added. Also, Whitbourn's three book 'Downs-Lord' 'triptych' (1999–2002) constitutes a fantasy treatment of the life and death of Theophilus' son, Theophilus junior.




    Further reading

    Wikisource has the text of the 1885–1900 Dictionary of National Biography's article about Oglethorpe, Theophilus.
    Parliament of England
    Preceded by
    Daniel Collingwood
    Sir George Downing
    Member of Parliament for Morpeth
    With: Sir Henry Pickering 1701
    Succeeded by
    Charles Howard
    Roger Fenwick
    Preceded by
    George Woodroffe
    George Rodney Brydges
    Member of Parliament for Haslemere
    With: George Vernon 1698–1701
    George Woodroffe
    Succeeded by
    George Woodroffe
    George Vernon
    Military offices
    Preceded by
    The Earl of Mulgrave
    Colonel of The Holland Regiment
    Succeeded by
    Charles Churchill
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