Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper.jpg
A 1656 Samuel Cooper portrait of Cromwell
Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland
In office
16 December 1653 – 3 September 1658
Preceded byCouncil of State
Succeeded byRichard Cromwell
Member of Parliament
for Cambridge
In office
MonarchCharles I
Member of Parliament
for Huntingdon
In office
MonarchCharles I
Personal details
Born25 April 1599
Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, Kingdom of England
Died3 September 1658 (aged 59)
Palace of Whitehall, London, The Protectorate
Resting placeTyburn, London
  • Robert Cromwell (father)
  • Elizabeth Steward (mother)
Alma materSidney Sussex College, Cambridge
OccupationFarmer, parliamentarian, military commander
Military service
Nickname(s)Old Noll;[1] Old Ironsides
Branch/serviceEastern Association (1643–1645); New Model Army (1645–1646)
Years of service1643–1651
RankColonel (1643 – bef. 1644); Lieutenant-General of Horse (bef. 1644–1645); Lieutenant-General of Cavalry (1645–1646)
CommandsCambridgeshire Ironsides (1643 – bef. 1644); Eastern Association (bef. 1644–1645); New Model Army (1645–1646)
Battles/warsEnglish Civil War (1642–1651):
Royal styles of
Oliver Cromwell,
Lord Protector of the Commonwealth
Arms of the Protectorate (1653–1659).svg
Reference styleHis Highness
Spoken styleYour Highness
Alternative styleSir

Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658)[note 1] was an English military and political leader. He served as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland "and of the dominions thereto belonging" from 1653 until his death, acting simultaneously as head of state and head of government of the new republic.

Cromwell was born into the middle gentry to a family descended from the sister of King Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell. Little is known of the first 40 years of his life, as only four of his personal letters survive along with a summary of a speech that he delivered in 1628.[2] He became an Independent Puritan after undergoing a religious conversion in the 1630s, taking a generally tolerant view towards the many Protestant sects of his period.[3] He was an intensely religious man, a self-styled Puritan Moses, and he fervently believed that God was guiding his victories. He was elected Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in 1628 and for Cambridge in the Short (1640) and Long (1640–1649) Parliaments. He entered the English Civil Wars on the side of the "Roundheads" or Parliamentarians, nicknamed "Old Ironsides". He demonstrated his ability as a commander and was quickly promoted from leading a single cavalry troop to being one of the principal commanders of the New Model Army, playing an important role under General Sir Thomas Fairfax in the defeat of the Royalist ("Cavalier") forces.

Cromwell was one of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant in 1649, and he dominated the short-lived Commonwealth of England as a member of the Rump Parliament (1649–1653). He was selected to take command of the English campaign in Ireland in 1649–1650. Cromwell's forces defeated the Confederate and Royalist coalition in Ireland and occupied the country, bringing to an end the Irish Confederate Wars. During this period, a series of Penal Laws were passed against Roman Catholics (a significant minority in England and Scotland but the vast majority in Ireland), and a substantial amount of their land was confiscated. Cromwell also led a campaign against the Scottish army between 1650 and 1651.

On 20 April 1653, he dismissed the Rump Parliament by force, setting up a short-lived nominated assembly known as Barebone's Parliament before being invited by his fellow leaders to rule as Lord Protector of England (which included Wales at the time), Scotland, and Ireland from 16 December 1653.[4] As a ruler, he executed an aggressive and effective foreign policy. He died from natural causes in 1658 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The Royalists returned to power along with King Charles II in 1660, and they had his corpse dug up, hung in chains, and beheaded.

Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in the history of the British Isles, considered a regicidal dictator by historians such as David Sharp,[5] a military dictator by Winston Churchill,[6] a hero of liberty by John Milton, Thomas Carlyle, and Samuel Rawson Gardiner, and a bourgeois revolutionary by Leon Trotsky.[7] His tolerance of Protestant sects did not extend to Catholics; his measures against them in Ireland have been characterised by some as genocidal or near-genocidal,[8] and his record is harshly criticised in Ireland.[9] He was selected as one of the ten greatest Britons of all time in a 2002 BBC poll.[10]

Early years

Cromwell was born in Huntingdon on 25 April 1599[11] to Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward. The family's estate derived from Oliver's great-grandfather Morgan ap William, a brewer from Glamorgan who settled at Putney in London, and married Katherine Cromwell (born 1482), the sister of Thomas Cromwell, the famous chief minister to Henry VIII. The Cromwell family acquired great wealth as occasional beneficiaries of Thomas's administration of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.[12] Morgan ap William was a son of William ap Yevan of Wales. The family line continued through Richard Williams (alias Cromwell), (c. 1500–1544), Henry Williams (alias Cromwell), (c. 1524 – 6 January 1604),[note 2] then to Oliver's father Robert Williams, alias Cromwell (c. 1560–1617), who married Elizabeth Steward (c. 1564 – 1654), probably in 1591. They had ten children, but Oliver, the fifth child, was the only boy to survive infancy.[13]

Cromwell's paternal grandfather Sir Henry Williams was one of the two wealthiest landowners in Huntingdonshire. Cromwell's father Robert was of modest means but still a member of the landed gentry. As a younger son with many siblings, Robert inherited only a house at Huntingdon and a small amount of land. This land would have generated an income of up to £300 a year, near the bottom of the range of gentry incomes.[14] Cromwell himself in 1654 said, "I was by birth a gentleman, living neither in considerable height, nor yet in obscurity".[15]

Cromwell was baptised on 29 April 1599 at St John's Church,[16] and attended Huntingdon Grammar School. He went on to study at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, then a recently founded college with a strong Puritan ethos. He left in June 1617 without taking a degree, immediately after his father's death.[17] Early biographers claim that he then attended Lincoln's Inn, but the Inn's archives retain no record of him. Antonia Fraser concludes that it was likely that he did train at one of the London Inns of Court during this time.[18] His grandfather, his father, and two of his uncles had attended Lincoln's Inn, and Cromwell sent his son Richard there in 1647.[18]

Cromwell probably returned home to Huntingdon after his father's death. As his mother was widowed, and his seven sisters unmarried, he would have been needed at home to help his family.[19]

Marriage and family

Portrait of Cromwell's wife Elizabeth Bourchier, painted by Robert Walker

On 22 August 1620 at St Giles-without-Cripplegate, Fore Street, London,[16] Cromwell married Elizabeth Bourchier (1598–1665). Elizabeth's father, Sir James Bourchier, was a London leather merchant who owned extensive lands in Essex and had strong connections with Puritan gentry families there. The marriage brought Cromwell into contact with Oliver St John and with leading members of the London merchant community, and behind them the influence of the Earls of Warwick and Holland. A place in this influential network would prove crucial to Cromwell's military and political career. The couple had nine children:[20]

Crisis and recovery

Little evidence exists of Cromwell's religion at this stage. His letter in 1626 to Henry Downhall, an Arminian minister, suggests that Cromwell had yet to be influenced by radical Puritanism.[22] However, there is evidence that Cromwell went through a period of personal crisis during the late 1620s and early 1630s. In 1628 he was elected to Parliament from the Huntingdonshire county town of Huntingdon. Later that year, he sought treatment for a variety of physical and emotional ailments, including valde melancholicus (depression), from the Swiss-born London doctor Théodore de Mayerne. In 1629 he was caught up in a dispute among the gentry of Huntingdon over a new charter for the town, as a result of which he was called before the Privy Council in 1630.[23]

In 1631 Cromwell sold most of his properties in Huntingdon—probably as a result of the dispute—and moved to a farmstead in nearby St Ives (then in Huntingdonshire, now in Cambridgeshire). This signified a major step down in society compared with his previous position, and seems to have had a significant emotional and spiritual impact. A 1638 letter survives from Cromwell to his cousin, the wife of Oliver St John, and gives an account of his spiritual awakening. The letter outlines how, having been "the chief of sinners", Cromwell had been called to be among "the congregation of the firstborn".[22] The language of this letter, which is saturated with biblical quotations and which represents Cromwell as having been saved from sin by God's mercy, places his faith firmly within the Independent beliefs that the Reformation had not gone far enough, that much of England was still living in sin, and that Catholic beliefs and practices needed to be fully removed from the church.[22] It would appear that in 1634 Cromwell attempted to emigrate to Connecticut in America, but was prevented by the government from leaving.[24]

Along with his brother Henry, Cromwell had kept a smallholding of chickens and sheep, selling eggs and wool to support himself, his lifestyle resembling that of a yeoman farmer. In 1636 Cromwell inherited control of various properties in Ely from his uncle on his mother's side, and his uncle's job as tithe collector for Ely Cathedral. As a result, his income is likely to have risen to around £300–400 per year;[25] by the end of the 1630s Cromwell had returned to the ranks of acknowledged gentry. He had become a committed Puritan and had established important family links to leading families in London and Essex.[26]

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беларуская: Олівер Кромвель
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Олівэр Кромўэл
български: Оливър Кромуел
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latviešu: Olivers Kromvels
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македонски: Оливер Кромвел
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संस्कृतम्: आलिवर क्रामवेल
Simple English: Oliver Cromwell
slovenčina: Oliver Cromwell
slovenščina: Oliver Cromwell
српски / srpski: Оливер Кромвел
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Oliver Cromwell
Türkçe: Oliver Cromwell
українська: Олівер Кромвель
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Xitsonga: Oliver Cromwell
粵語: 克倫威爾