ASHBURNHAM, JOHN (c. 1603-1671), English Royalist, was the son of Sir John Ashburnham of Ashburnham in Sussex. He early entered the king's service. In 1627 he was sent to Paris by his relative the duke of Buckingham to make overtures for peace, and in 1628 he prepared to join the expedition to Rochelle interrupted by the duke's assassination. The same year he was made groom of the bedchamber and elected member of parliament for Hastings, which borough he also represented in the Long Parliament of 1640. In this capacity he rendered services by reporting proceedings to the king. He made a considerable fortune and recovered the Ashburnham estates alienated by his father. He became one of the king's chief advisers and had his full confidence. He attended Charles at York on the outbreak of the war with Scotland. In the Civil War he was made treasurer of the royal army, in which capacity he aroused Hyde's jealousy and remonstrances by infringing on his province as chancellor of the exchequer. In 1644 he was a commissioner at Uxbridge. He accompanied Charles in his flight from Oxford in April 1646 to the Scots, and subsequently escaped abroad, joining the queen at Paris, residing afterwards at Rouen and being sent to the Hague to obtain aid from the prince of Orange. After the seizure of Charles by the army, Ashburnham joined him at Hampton Court in 1647, where he had several conferences with Cromwell and other army officers. When Charles escaped from Hampton Court on the 11th of November, he followed Ashburnham's advice in opposition to that of Sir John Berkeley, who urged the king to go abroad, and took refuge in the Isle of Wight, being placed by Ashburnham in the hands of Robert Hammond, the governor. "Oh, Jack," the king exclaimed when he understood the situation, "thou hast undone me!" when Ashburnham, "falling into a great passion of weeping, offered to go and kill Hammond." By this fatal step Ashburnham incurred the unmerited charge of treachery and disloyalty. Clarendon, however, who censures his conduct, absolves him from any crime except that of folly and excessive self-confidence, and he was acquitted both by Charles I. and Charles II. He was separated with Berkeley from Charles on the 1st of January 1648, waited on the mainland in expectation of Charles's escape, and was afterwards taken and imprisoned at Windsor, and exchanged during the second Civil War for Sir W. Masham and other prisoners. He was one of the delinquents specially exempted from pardon in the treaty of Newport. In November he was allowed to compound for his estates, and declared himself willing to take the covenant. After the king's death he remained in England, an object of suspicion to all parties, corresponded with Charles II., and underwent several terms of imprisonment in the Tower and in Guernsey. At the Restoration he was reinstated in his former place of groom of the bedchamber and was compensated for his losses. He represented Sussex in parliament from 1661 till the 22nd of November 1667, when he was expelled the House for taking a bribe of £500 from French merchants for landing their wines. He died on the 15th of June 1671.
He had eight children, the eldest of whom, William, left a son John (1656-1710), who in 1689 was created Baron Ashburnham. John's second son, John (1687-1737), who became 3rd Baron Ashburnham on his brother's death in 1710, was created Viscount St Asaph and earl of Ashburnham in 1730. The 5th earl (b. 1840) was his direct descendant. Bertram (1797-1878), the 4th earl, was the collector of the famous Ashburnham library, which was dispersed in 1883 and 1884.
A Letter from Mr Ashburnham to a Friend, defending John Ashburnham's conduct with regard to the king, was published in 1648. His longer Narrative was published in 1830 by George, 3rd earl of Ashburnham (the latter's championship of his ancestor, however, being entirely uncritical and unconvincing); A Letter to W. Lenthall (1647) repudiates the charge brought against the king of violating his parole (Thomason Tracts, Brit. Museum, E 418 ).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)