- Oliver Cromwell was famous for being the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland after King Charles I was defeated in a war.
- Cromwell agreed that Charles I should be executed.
- After King Charles I was executed, Cromwell was in charge of the Commonwealth of England.
Table of Contents
His Years as a Young Man
Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25, 1599, in Huntingdon.
Although he was born into a wealthy family, he wasn’t as rich as some other people in his family.
Cromwell’s grandfather built a big, fancy house on the edge of Huntingdon, would have parties, and invite important people, like the king. They would go hunting in Huntingdon.
Oliver got greatly influenced by his tutor Thomas Beard when he was young. Beard was a Puritan.
Cromwell went to study at the college in Cambridge that was mostly for Puritans. Later, he moved to London to study law.
Cromwell married Elizabeth Bourchier and returned to Huntingdon to manage the family estate.
Oliver looked after the estate, his widowed mother, and his wife Elizabeth and their nine children.
He was concerned with agriculture. He relocated to the cathedral city of Ely to work on some recently acquired property. He was also responsible for collecting the local taxes.
He tried to immigrate to Connecticut, one of the Puritan New England colonies, but he was unsuccessful.
Puritanism and Cromwell
Cromwell had a religious conversion when he was young. He turned into a Protestant who believed God had chosen him for a particular purpose.
Cromwell had a solid puritan faith, and he found it challenging to live in a church that still had ceremonies like the old religion.
Oliver wanted to be where the gospel was preached. He became more and more religious.
Oliver Cromwell changed when he was in his early 40s. King Charles I started to change the Church that Cromwell disagreed with.
Puritanism was suppressed during the eleven years of the “Era of Personal Rule” when Charles I governed without parliament.
Cromwell believed these changes were against what God wanted, and he felt it was his duty to stop them.
When the chance came, he decided to run for Parliament. The town of Cambridge chose him, and this was a place where there were a lot of religious and political controversies.
He was an educated man who represented the class of people attracted to Puritanism and politics.
He held a seat in the House of Commons and used his position to attack the Anglican Church for its Catholic practices.
Cromwell agreed with the Puritans that the Anglican Church needed reform, and they wanted to get rid of the bishops and change the church.
Cromwell also criticized the King in Parliament, especially his passionate and frequently loud speeches because of his religious passion.
Cromwell sided with the radicals who challenged the Stuart monarchy’s rule. They believed in annual parliaments to hold the government more accountable.
Civil War in England
A Civil War happened in England in 1642. On one side were the people who supported King Charles I, and on the other side were the people who thought he was a tyrant.
People who fought against the king included some of the aristocracy, small landowners, and people in business. Men like Oliver Cromwell were a part of this group.
After Parliament proclaimed its authority over naval and military forces, Charles abandoned his capital for the north of England, and this began the English Civil War.
The conflict spread to Scotland, Ireland, and Wales and lasted for almost nine years.
Some people fought against the king because they feared that England would become Catholic again, and they thought this would be bad for the country.
Oliver Cromwell was one of the few people willing to take action. He left London and went straight to his constituency in Cambridge.
Oliver had a band of supporters who helped him keep the Colleges of Cambridge from sending their silver to York to help pay for the king’s army. Cromwell also made sure that none of the weapons in the city left either.
Cromwell got quickly promoted through the army’s ranks due to a lack of experienced professionals. He started as a captain of the cavalry.
Oliver Cromwell spent the autumn raising a troop of sixty horsemen from Ely.
With these men, he defended Cambridge. Later in October, they joined the main army of Parliament led by the Earl of Essex.
Later, Cromwell got a job leading a cavalry regiment in the Eastern Association, Parliament’s army in East Anglia.
Cromwell was very busy fighting in wars. He traveled 2,000 miles and participated in many battles against the king’s supporters.
Oliver Cromwell was made second in command when a new national army was created.
Oliver Cromwell led his army to victory and defeated the king’s forces. He did this in a few short years by becoming a great soldier.
Cromwell was a country gentleman and member of parliament who had no military experience before becoming a great general.
Cromwell led parliamentary forces to victory over a royalist army at the Battle of Marston Moor. This was an important battle because Cromwell’s troops were able to win, and they got a new name, “Ironsides.”
Cromwell’s most famous military role was Lieutenant General of the New Model Army. He served under Lord Thomas Fairfax.
The New Model Army was an organization that reflected the new ideas about equality and freedom unleashed by the civil war.
Soldiers were not promoted because of their aristocratic heritage but because they had merit.
The troops were also recruited for their beliefs and their military abilities.
Cromwell explained this in a letter that said:
I would rather have a plain russet-coated captain who knows what he fights for and loves what he knows than what you call a gentleman and is nothing else.
The New Model Army had innovative tactics and strategies that helped them win the Battle of Naseby in 1645.
“A Cruel Necessity”
After the military victory, the parliamentarians argued about what to do next. Some wanted Cromwell to rule, while others wanted a return to Parliament. Cromwell sided with the army, which wanted religious toleration.
Cromwell wanted a settlement with the king, but only if King Charles I agreed to let Cromwell’s candidates be ministers and guarantee religious liberty for Protestants.
Charles chose this moment to flee to Scotland, where he gained a new alliance with his earlier antagonists. Charles always wanted to be on both sides of the conflict, which would cost him his life.
Cromwell and most parliamentarians believed that the king was dishonest and that war needed to get renewed.
Cromwell distinguished himself in this second phase of the war by suppressing a rebellion in South Wales, defeating the invading Scots at Preston, and securing Yorkshire.
With new upheavals, Parliament Commons dissolved the House of Lords and monarchy.
Charles was sent back to England by the Scots, but Cromwell and the army thought he should be tried and executed for treason.
Cromwell thought that the king’s beheading was a “cruel necessity”. King Charles I was beheaded in 1649.
With England now being a Commonwealth, Cromwell turned to the subjugation of Ireland and Scotland.
The Irish resistance was crushed in the town of Drogheda. Cromwell’s forces killed both soldiers and civilians, and Oliver believed God was punishing these people for their sins.
Scotland was subdued similarly.
The Rump Parliament
After Charles’ execution, Parliament tried to rule the county by itself. But many people believed it was a disaster and wanted a king again. This system had worked for hundreds of years.
The Rump Parliament, because it had been regularly purged over time as it grew more radical, now governed England.
The government’s incompetence and lack of concern became apparent to the public, which led to a decline in support for the government.
When the Rump Parliament introduced measures to keep things the same by bringing in more people who agreed with them, Cromwell and the army took action.
Cromwell believed that all the new liberties were at stake, and he decided that he needed to take authority away from parliament to protect these liberties.
When Cromwell told the MPs this, they were stunned. He informed them that God had abandoned them and that there must be other people who could help carry out His work.
The Barebones Parliament
Now that the troublesome Rump Parliament was gone, Cromwell set about making a government that would be genuinely godly. This new government got designed by the Puritan “saints” themselves to reflect a Biblical model of government.
The Barebones Parliament was called like that because it had a member called Praise-God Barebones (a common Puritan name at the time).
This Parliament was not successful because it failed to meet Cromwell’s expectations.
Like their counterparts in the Rump, the Barebones Parliament members argued about unimportant details and wasted time, which led to their dismissal in December.
During the long course of the civil war and revolution, the House of Lords and monarchy were abolished, which changed the traditional structure of the English government.
There were not many other options left for Cromwell. The obvious thing to do was to establish a government with some legitimacy.
So the army chiefs drew up the Instrument of Government, appointing Cromwell as head of state with the title Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.
Cromwell got offered the crown, but he turned it down. He did, however, agree to become Lord Protector and rule as a “King in all but name.”
This was the first time that England didn’t have a monarch in a very long time.
The executive authority rested with a council of state, and the legislative power rested with a single house made up of “God-fearing men,” meaning Puritans.
This lasted less than two years, Cromwell chose to rule without Parliament. He was essentially a military dictator who got supported by the army’s power.
The new government was unpopular because the people didn’t like the Puritan law agents.
As the chief of state, Cromwell lacked the divine sanction, and he also did not have any constitutional basis for his rule.
As the head of state, Cromwell lacked the power of a monarch, and he also did not have any constitutional basis for his rule.
Although he promoted freedom of worship, with only a few exceptions, and sincerely tried to create what he called a godly commonwealth, Cromwell was willing to silence or suppress those who challenged his vision.
Oliver Cromwell was an influential leader who had a lot of control over the country. He wasn’t technically a king, but he had a lot of the same power.
Cromwell lived in two different palaces. He was called Your Highness by the people who worked at the palaces.
Only twenty years ago, he had been a farmer who struggled to make a living in this house. But now, he was the Head of State.
After Cromwell’s Death
Oliver Cromwell died in the Palace of Whitehall in London on his 59th birthday.
He died from a fever. People now think that he caught malaria when he fought in Ireland a decade earlier.
Cromwell was given a funeral fit for a king and buried in the Chapel of Kings at Westminster Abbey in London.
Although Richard Cromwell, his son, wanted to keep the government going after his father died, the army did not feel loyal.
The government was becoming increasingly challenging to run, so a change was necessary.
In 1660, the Long Parliament got called back to London to help restore the Stuart monarchy.
King Charles II got restored to the throne. He wanted revenge for what happened to his dad.
The men who had murdered King Charles I were hunted down and killed. Even though he was already dead, Cromwell did not get away without consequences.
When Cromwell’s corpse was dug up, he was hanged and beheaded. His decaying head was on display in London in a pole above Westminster Hall for a few years, and his body got buried at the foot of a nearby gallows.
Some people say that the head was blown off during a storm, and a soldier found it, and then it passed through many different hands.
In 1960, the skull of Oliver Cromwell was given to his old Cambridge College, Sydney Sussex, and got buried in secret.
Even today, and especially in England, Cromwell gets frequently praised as a champion of religious freedom.
He is also often reviled as a fanatic who took part in the dismantling of England’s constitutional structure, which led to dictatorship.
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