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Cromwell, Oliver

Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658). General and Lord Protector. Despite all that has been written about him, it is still difficult to appreciate the unique character of Cromwell's career, and the impact that it made on his contemporaries. No private person until then had taken power to rule a great European kingdom, no subject had taken it upon himself to sit in judgement on his lawful sovereign, condemn him with the formality of a lawful process, and publicly execute him as a criminal. In a country governed by custom, precedent, and the common law, Cromwell completely changed the ancient frame of government, reforming Parliament and imposing a written constitution. By conquest he incorporated the separate kingdoms of Scotland and Ireland into a single commonwealth with England. He remains the only British statesman whose entire career depended on the control and use of military power. Yet his achievement proved to be totally ephemeral. He left no political heirs or legacy. Two centuries were to elapse before his reputation recovered. The New England which his friends created across the Atlantic, and to which he once thought of emigrating, was to flourish: the new regenerate England he tried to create collapsed and vanished completely.

A provincial gentleman of modest means, Cromwell first became prominent in the second session of the Long Parliament (1641–2). When the abortive Army plot of royalist officers apparently showed that Charles I intended to renege on his acceptance of the constitutional safeguards enacted in the first session, and a catholic rebellion broke out in Ireland, Cromwell urged Parliament to assume control of both the army destined for Ireland and the home militia. He soon became identified with what has been termed the war party. He believed that the military defeat of the king's forces must precede negotiations for a settlement, whereas a more numerous ‘peace party’ advocated a defensive strategy while a compromise was negotiated, even if the royal forces continued offensive operations. A ‘middle party’ also hesitated before becoming committed to all-out war against their sovereign. Cromwell also had to overcome obstruction at the local level from the county committees preoccupied with the defence of their region, making a general offensive strategy impossible. He made the forces maintained by the Eastern Association the most formidable of the parliamentarian armies, but his practice of commissioning men of determination and ability, regardless of their social status and religious positions, provoked hostility. Cromwell's men contributed decisively to the victory at Marston Moor (July 1644), but his political associates had to publicize his role to counter their opponents' attribution of the victory to Parliament's Scottish allies.

Cromwell deplored the failure to follow up this victory effectively, and used it to oust irresolute leaders. He denounced his own neighbour and superior officer, Lord Manchester, and helped pass the self-denying ordinance. This barred peers and MPs, with exceptions of whom Cromwell was one, from commands and set up a central army, the New Model, of which he became second in command. This made short work of the royalists. At Naseby, Cromwell annihilated Charles's field army (June 1645). But once the war became concerned with mopping up royalist fortresses and islands, with Charles I in Scottish hands, a majority of peers and MPs worked to bring the army under direct parliamentary control. They allowed army pay to fall into arrears. Soldiers were refused indemnity to cover wartime actions. The reconquest of Ireland was not to be entrusted to the New Model. Instead its regiments were to be disbanded, the soldiers re-enlisted in new units commanded by a new set of officers nominated by Parliament. A new established church on presbyterian lines would mean restricted toleration for the independents and other sects who were strongly represented in the army. Cromwell shared his men's resentment. He emerged as the chief military politician, eclipsing his superior, Lord Fairfax. Cromwell took the lead, first in representing army grievances, but soon in a wider sense claiming to speak and act as the embodiment of the ‘cause’ for which it had fought the war. In June 1647 Cornet Joyce took Charles into the custody of the army. Marching on London the army forced the Commons to send away the most conspicuously anti-army MPs. In July it issued the Heads of the Proposals, a manifesto for a new constitutional settlement, which it discussed with Charles, whose responses were characteristically ambiguous. The manifesto did not go far enough to satisfy the more radical officers and men. Influenced by Leveller ideas, the radicals published an Agreement of the People: this was discussed in the Putney debates of the army council, a body representing all ranks and units which Cromwell had accepted as a sounding-board for opinions (October–November).

During this period of rapid and frequent change Cromwell developed the techniques which enabled him to keep control over the army for the rest of his life. Historians have condemned him for failing to manage Parliament effectively, but most have overlooked his skill and success in managing the army, manipulating patronage—promotions, appointments, secondments, and dismissals—and using intimidation or persuasion according to circumstances. He could not depend on politicized radicals obeying orders. He had to break up networks of officers that could develop into challenges to his authority, he had to balance the factions—ambitious opportunists (like Lambert), religious fanatics (Harrison), professionals (Monck, Montagu). He learned that neglect of the interests and grievances of ordinary soldiers led to their politicization. Above all he knew that army unity must be maintained—and it was disunity among the officers that brought down the Commonwealth in 1659–60 after Cromwell's death.

In November 1647 Cromwell personally suppressed a potentially infective Leveller-inspired mutiny in a single regiment. Early in 1648 royalist risings broke out in Wales, Kent, and Essex and a Scottish army invaded on Charles's behalf. Cromwell and Fairfax reacted with great speed, annihilating enemy forces. It was clear that Charles had planned these risings at a time when he was negotiating with both Parliament and the army, and trying to widen the breach between them. Despite this a majority in Parliament still wished to continue negotiating with him, whereas opinion in the army now accepted that as a ‘man of blood’ he had to be punished. Cromwell clearly inspired the action that followed although he personally stayed in the background. Colonel Pride, backed up by armed soldiers, prevented MPs who were unacceptable to the army from entering the Commons. Many were arrested; the purged House that subsequently worked with the army was known as the Rump. In similar fashion Cromwell did not himself decide that Charles should be put on trial but his was the guiding spirit that led the small group of army officers and their parliamentary associates to make and implement the decision. By killing the king the regicides made any future compromise impossible; they committed treason and their lives were forfeit. Cromwell's body was to be exhumed in 1660 and hung from a gallows in a macabre form of legal retribution—with obvious psychopathic overtones. It also made Cromwell and the regime outcasts in Europe. The survival of each successive form of republican government depended on the physical power of the army, and of the navy in preventing foreign intervention.

In 1649–51 Cromwell was almost continuously on campaign away from Westminster. His militarily successful Irish campaign of 1649–50 has been universally condemned for its ruthlessness, especially for the massacres at Drogheda and Wexford, and the planned ethnic cleansing of three Irish provinces. Cromwell's methods actually represented a direct revival of those used in Elizabeth's Irish wars and he saw them as a reprisal for atrocities committed by the Irish rebels in 1641. In 1650–1 he was engaged in war against the Scots who crowned Charles II king of Scotland. Cromwell defeated them at Dunbar and finally Worcester in successive Septembers, 1650 and 1651. Then in May 1652 the Rump became involved in war against the Dutch. These wars delayed half-hearted attempts to draft a definitive constitutional settlement, and necessitated heavy taxation and expenditure, of which many MPs and officials took corrupt advantage. Absorbed by routine work of government the Rump lost sight of the cause which to Cromwell remained paramount.

Cromwell's second major coup, his ejection of the Rump by force on 20 April 1653, opened the way for an experiment to create a form of government that would be in accord with what he took to be God's will. He and the army council named a constituent body to draft a godly constitution, Barebone's or the ‘Nominated’ Parliament. This reflected the influence on Cromwell of the religious radicals, the ‘fanatics’ or Fifth Monarchy men. He saw them as fellow-seekers for God's truth who believed that all public as well as private life should be governed by God's providential dispensation. By contrast Cromwell never sympathized with the Levellers because their principles and interests were secular and their leaders mainly deists or atheists. The fanatics in Barebone's Parliament disappointed Cromwell by wanting the abolition of tithe and universities, seeing a salaried and learned ministry as unnecessary. After moderates dissolved the ‘Parliament’ Cromwell infuriated the fanatics further, and interest groups associated with the Rump, by ending the Dutch War, giving the defeated enemy lenient terms (March 1654). After Barebone's Parliament came a written constitution, the Instrument of Government (December 1653), introducing a form of government based on a balance of power and duties between a reformed single-chamber parliament elected by a new representative system, an elected council, and the executive, Lord Protector Cromwell. But this constitution was to be superseded in 1657 by the Humble Petition and Advice which established an upper house in Parliament and empowered the lord protector to designate his successor. Neither constitution gave the impression of a governmental system built to last. This explains Cromwell's reluctant refusal in 1657 to assume the familiar title of king.

In the short term Cromwellian government worked, at a price. He maintained army discipline and unity but he could not eradicate all potential radical activists. Parliaments were called, but known opponents had to be kept out of the 1656 Commons. Quakers as well as catholics and Prayer Book Anglicans were excluded from toleration. The costs of maintaining the army, aggravated by a Spanish war that began in 1655, produced an accumulation of debt that would have ended in an insoluble crisis, the army demanding pay and resisting disbandment, the nation unable or unwilling to provide it. But the greatest change brought about by the institutionalization of the Protectorate was the erosion of the ‘cause’ which Cromwell embodied, the establishment of a form of government in which the godly, not a monarch, wielded power and guided (or compelled) the nation into ways laid down by God. Previous rulers—even Elizabeth—had failed to undertake and complete all the tasks required of a godly prince. Cromwell's missionary cause was to create a godly nation, but by 1658 few still shared his zeal. His court at Whitehall was full of civilian careerists, the army of mercenaries, ambitious officers, and political radicals biding their time. And the nation generally wanted no more than order, stability, lower taxes, and fewer soldiers, things that the exiled Stuarts could promise, as none of Cromwell's successors could.

J. R. Jones

Bibliography

Gregg, P. , Oliver Cromwell (1988);
Morrill, J. , Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1990);
Smith, D. L. , Oliver Cromwell (Cambridge, 1991).

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Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658)

CROMWELL, OLIVER (15991658)

CROMWELL, OLIVER (15991658), military leader and ruler of England. Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, was a descendant of Henry VIII's great minister Thomas Cromwell. A native of Huntingdon, he married Elizabeth Bourchier, the daughter of a London merchant, in 1620. Through her he established connections with the London merchant community and with leading Puritans in Essex. His long, stable marriage produced nine children.

In 1628 he was elected to Parliament for Huntingdon. At about the same time, he underwent a spiritual crisis and religious conversion, from being a conventional Protestant to a passionate, "born-again" Puritan, that shaped the rest of his life. By 1631, however, he had fallen on hard times, and had to move to smaller quarters in St. Ives, where he worked as a yeoman farmer for several years. In 1636 he inherited substantial property, and with this dramatic increase in his income he resumed the status of a minor country gentleman.

CIVIL WAR

In 1640 Cromwell was returned as member of Parliament (M.P.) for the borough of Cambridge. He quickly made his mark in the Long Parliament, serving on eighteen important committees. When in August 1642 civil war broke out, he went back to Cambridge to recruit a troop of cavalry. Soon he was promoted from captain to colonel and effectively became the senior army officer in East Anglia. Devoid of military experience, he nevertheless devised a strategic plan for the defense of the region and made it work. In recruiting he insisted that no test except that of godliness be applied to those volunteering for service. "If you choose godly men to be captains of horse," he wrote to the Suffolk committee, "honest men will follow them . . . I had rather have a plain, russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else" (Carlyle, letter XVI, September 1643). In minor engagements Cromwell developed the ability to lead a cavalry charge and then regroup his men and lead them a second and third time against the foe. This would stand him in good stead later at Marston Moor and Naseby.

In August 1643 the Long Parliament created an army in East Anglia under the command of the earl of Manchester. Cromwell was named lieutenant general of the cavalry and Manchester's second-in-command. Early in 1644 he was appointed to the Committee of Both Kingdoms, the chief executive body in charge of the war against the king. His star was on the rise.

At the end of June 1644 the combined armies of the English Parliament and the Scottish Estates laid siege to York. When the king's main field army under Prince Rupert arrived to raise the siege, the result was the greatest of the battles of the civil war, Marston Moor (2 July 1644). Cromwell commanded the left wing of the 28,000-strong allied army and directed the final, decisive charge, scattering the royalist army and killing over four thousand of them. "God made them as stubble to our swords," he wrote afterward. (Carlyle, letter XXI).

The aristocratic generals on the parliamentary side were strangely reluctant to follow up this stunning victory. Open feuding erupted between Essex and Manchester on the one side, and Cromwell and his radical parliamentary allies on the other. The way out of the impasse was a resolution of self-denial (9 December 1644) under which all members of both houses were required to surrender their commissions and make way for new commanders. At the same time the Commons proceeded to construct a new army under centralized command and with solid financing on the ruins of the three older armies of Essex, Manchester, and Waller. By June 1645, on the eve of the battle of Naseby, the post of lieutenant-general of the cavalry of the New Model Army was still vacant. At the insistence of the commanderin-chief, Sir Thomas Fairfax, Cromwell was allowed to fill the post in defiance of the Self-Denying Ordinance.

He rode onto the battlefield at Naseby on 13 June 1645, and the outcome of the English Civil War was decided the next day in the space of two hours. Cromwell scattered the royalist cavalry facing him and then regrouped to assist Fairfax in shattering the royalist infantry in a great coordinated charge. The next twelve months were little more than a mopping-up operation culminating in the surrender of the royalist headquarters at Oxford and the king's flight to the Scots army.

For Cromwell the New Model Army's unbroken chain of victories was the incontestable proof that the sun of God's favor shone upon them. He used the army's successes to plead for the cause closest to his heart: liberty of conscience. Parliament's response was to thank him for his pains, but to ignore his heartfelt pleas. In June 1646 he returned to his seat in Westminster to join his war party friends in the struggle to win the peace.

When the Presbyterian peace party decided to disband most of the New Model Army and pack the rest off to Ireland to fight the rebels there, Cromwell threw in his lot with the officers and rank-and-file who chose to rebel rather than submit. The king was seized and removed to army headquarters; London was invaded and the Presbyterian ringleaders in Parliament expelled. Charles was offered a settlementThe Heads of the Proposalsmore generous than any terms Parliament had put on the table. He chose instead to make a secret agreement with the Scots to renew the war for his English kingdom.

Meanwhile, at Putney, Cromwell and his son-inlaw Henry Ireton faced a challenge from Levellerinspired soldiers and officers disenchanted with his prolonged dallying with the king. With great difficulty he prevented the Army Council from adopting the radically democratic Agreement of the People as the army's preferred constitution for England.

Further political argument was curtailed by the second civil war, which broke out in early 1648. Before setting off to snuff out the brushfires of royalist discontent, Cromwell attended the officers' three-day prayer meeting at Windsor. His call to repentance unleashed a flood of bitter tears from his comrades over the army's failure to follow the ways of God. They then bound themselves to call "Charles Stuart, that man of blood" to account for all his mischief (Allen, p. 5). After quelling the revolts in Wales Cromwell marched north to link up with Lambert, who was guarding the northern approaches against a Scottish invasion. Together they fell upon the Scots at Preston, completely liquidating their dispirited army (17 August 1648). It was the first major battle in which Cromwell had been commander-in-chief.

REGICIDE AND REPUBLIC

By the time he arrived back in London the army had published its demand for the king's trial and purged the House of Commons (6 December 1648) for persisting in negotiations with the "man of blood." Cromwell supported these measures, and while he may initially have hoped that the king could be forced to abdicate, when this proved unfeasible he accepted the "cruel necessity" of regicide. No one was more zealous in rounding up signatures for the king's death warrant, and seeing that the beheading actually took place, than Cromwell. King Charles I was beheaded on 30 January 1649.

For the next decade Cromwell was continually torn between a yearning for constitutional respectability on the one hand and a hunger for godly reformation on the other. With Fairfax he marched to Burford in May 1649 to suppress a Levellerinspired army mutiny. Passionately committed to the suppression of the Catholic rebellion in Ireland and the elimination of support for Charles II, he led an expedition there in August. Despite his ruthless massacres at Drogheda and Wexford, the Irish were not subdued until 1652. Cromwell was forced to abandon the siege of Waterford, and at Clonmel he lost two thousand men. Before Ireland's subjugation could be accomplished he was recalled to England to prepare for the military threat from the Scots who had crowned Charles II king.

Marching north he met Leslie's army at Dunbar (3 September 1650), where he won his most sensational victory, in no small part because of his willingness to be guided by his brilliant major-general, John Lambert. The following year (to the day) he crushed Charles II and the last remnants of armed royalism at Worcester.

Back in London he found that Parliament was making no progress toward either constitutional settlement or godly reformation. When at last it was on the verge of passing a bill that would have excluded army officers from future Parliaments while erecting few safeguards against the election of conservatives or royalists, Cromwell expelled the members (20 April 1653), replacing them with a nominated assembly of "saints," that is, Puritan "godly men," commonly known as the Barebones Parliament. Their radicalism proved to be alarming, and within months they were prevailed upon to dissolve themselves.

THE PROTECTORATE

Next came a written constitution, the Instrument of Government (December 1653), which provided for a single-chamber Parliament, an elected council of state, and a lord protector. Although he was named to that post for life, Cromwell still had to meet his Parliaments, and he had little control over the makeup of the councils. Far from being a military dictator, and chastened by his many political setbacks, he now described himself as a good constable, set to keep the peace of the parish. During the tenure of the protectorate he formally readmitted the Jews to England, while also leaving Catholics undisturbed in the exercise of their religion. The main thrust of his foreign policy was hostility to Spain. When the expedition to seize Hispaniola ended in failure, Jamaica was taken as the consolation prize (1655).

In 1657, under the Humble Petition and Advice, an upper house was reestablished and Cromwell empowered to name his successor. But with an eye to army opinion and to God, he refused to accept the title of king. By the time he died (3 September 1658), of malaria complicated by pneumonia, the nation was weary of constitutional uncertainty, large standing armies, burdensome taxation, and a bankrupt exchequer. Although Cromwell was one of England's three or four military geniuses, a religious visionary, and a man of towering integrity, in the end he was an indifferent statesman.

Cromwell appears to have nominated his eldest son Richard (16261712) as his successor only hours before his death. A man of little military or political experience, Richard lacked totally the forceful personality of his father. He was eventually brought down by the intractable problems he inherited. Politically he found himself thwarted by the radical republicans in Parliament and the grandees in the army. When it came to a trial of strength with the grandees in April 1659, the grandees won hands down. Richard retired to private life, living in exile from 1660 to 1680.

See also Charles I (England) ; Charles II (England) ; Cromwell, Thomas ; English Civil War and Interregnum ; English Civil War Radicalism ; Military: Battle Tactics and Campaign Strategy ; Parliament ; Puritanism ; Reformation, Protestant .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Source

Cromwell, Oliver. The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell. Edited by W. C. Abbott. 4 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 19371947.

Secondary Sources

Allen, William. A Faithful Memorial of That Remarkable Meeting of Many Officers of the Army in England, at Windsor Castle, in the Year 1648. London, 1659.

Buchan, John. Oliver Cromwell. London, 1934.

Coward, Barry. Oliver Cromwell. London, 1991.

Davis, J. C. Oliver Cromwell. London, 2001.

Firth, C. H. Cromwell and the Rule of the Puritans in England. London, 1901.

Fraser, Antonia. Cromwell, Our Chief of Men. London, 1973.

Hill, Christopher. God's Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. London, 1970.

Morrill, John. Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. London, 1990.

Paul, Robert S. The Lord Protector: Religion and Politics in the Life of Oliver Cromwell. London, 1955.

Ian Gentles

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Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

The English statesman and general Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) won decisive battles in the English civil war. He then established himself and his army as the ruling force in England and later took the title Lord Protector of Great Britain and Ireland.

Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25, 1599, at Huntingdon. His father, Richard Cromwell, was a younger son of one of the richest men in the district, Sir Henry Cromwell of Hinchinbrook, known as the "Golden Knight." Cromwell's mother was the daughter of Sir William Steward, who managed the tithe revenues of Ely Cathedral. Little is known of Cromwell's childhood, except that his circumstances were modest and he was sent to the local school. His schoolmaster, Dr. Beard, was a devout Calvinist; most of Cromwell's intense religious convictions were derived from Beard, whom he venerated throughout his life.

In 1616 Cromwell entered Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He left the following year on the death of his father. For the next few years he lived in London, where in 1620 he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir James Bourchier, a wealthy leather merchant. Cromwell then returned to his small estate in Huntingdon, where he farmed his land and played a modest part in local affairs, acquiring a reputation as a champion of the poor and dispossessed. During these years Cromwell experienced periods of deep melancholy, suffused with religious doubt, but after much spiritual torment he became convinced that he was the instrument of God.

Political Situation in 1640

When Cromwell entered Parliament for Cambridge in 1640, England had been ruled personally by Charles I for 11 years. The King had pursued an authoritarian policy in religion and finance which had distressed many country gentlemen, including Cromwell. Furthermore, Charles had plunged into war with Scotland, which had risen in revolt when Archbishop William Laud had persuaded him to impose the English Prayer Book on the Scottish Church. The Scots rapidly defeated the King; destitute of money and at the mercy of the Scots, Charles I was forced to call Parliament.

The mood of Parliament was highly critical, and there was a closely knit body of Puritan country gentlemen and lawyers who were determined that the power of the King and the Anglican Church should be limited by Parliament. Several of Cromwell's relatives, particularly the influential John Hampden and Oliver St. John, belonged to this group, which was led by John Pym. Cromwell threw in his lot with these men. A middle-aged man without parliamentary experience, he spoke rarely, but when he did it was usually in support of extreme measures. Cromwell soon established his reputation as a firm upholder of the parliamentary cause; he was dedicated to the reform of the Church and of the court and was highly critical of the King.

Civil War

By 1642 the King and Parliament had become so antagonistic that armed conflict was inevitable. At the outbreak of war in August 1642, Cromwell headed a regiment whose prime duty was to defend East Anglia. He rapidly demonstrated not only his skill as a military leader by rapid raids into royalist territory combined with skillful retreat, but also his capacity to mold an effective army from his force of raw recruits.

Under the leadership of the Earl of Manchester, Cromwell's commander, regiments from other counties were brought together in a formidable body, known as the Eastern Association. In 1643 Cromwell's cavalry worsted the royalists in a number of sharp engagements—Grantham (May 13), Gainsborough (July 18), and Wincaby (October 13). These successes helped to create parliamentary supremacy in East Anglia and the Midlands. Cromwell's reputation as Parliament's most forceful general was made the next year, however, at the battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644), when his Ironsides routed the cavalry of Prince Rupert, the most successful royalist general. To Cromwell, whose religious convictions strengthened with every victory that he won, Marston Moor was God's work, and he wrote, "God made them stubble to our swords."

The victories in eastern England, however, were not matched by success elsewhere. After 2 years of war the King was still in the field, and there was a growing rift between Parliament and the army. Many disliked the price paid for alliance with the Scots (acceptance of the Presbyterian form of church government), and most longed for peace. Cromwell, however, yearned for victory. He bitterly attacked the Earl of Manchester, and after complex political maneuvering he emerged as the effective leader of the parliamentary armies. He proved his exceptional capacities as a general on June 14, 1645, when he smashed the royalists' army at Naseby in Northamptonshire. Within 12 months the royalist armies had capitulated.

In 5 years Cromwell had risen from obscurity to renown. A large man with a long, red face studded with warts, he nevertheless possessed considerable presence. His mood was usually somber, thoughtful, and deeply religious. His soldiers sang psalms as they went into battle, and every regiment had its preacher.

The next 3 years taxed Cromwell's skill and faith. His army became riddled with Levellers, whose radical doctrines called for a far more democratic social structure than Cromwell and his fellow generals would tolerate. Parliament and the Scots inclined not only to peace with the King but also to a rigid form of Presbyterianism, which Cromwell disliked. He claimed to believe in toleration, but excepted always Catholics and atheists.

In 1648 the royalists rose again, sided by the Scots, but in a lightning campaign Cromwell smashed both. The republicans were then determined to bring Charles I to trial, and Cromwell did nothing to stop them. At last agreeing that the King was "a man of blood" and should be executed, he signed Charles I's death warrant.

Further Campaigns

The execution of the King settled nothing. Legally, the House of Commons, purged to such an extent that it was called the Rump, ruled. But the army, Scotland, and Ireland were soon in rebellion. The Scottish Presbyterians proclaimed Charles II (Charles I's son) their lawful monarch, and the Irish Catholics did likewise. In England the radicals were a rampant minority, the royalists a stunned majority, but neither had any respect for the Rump.

Cromwell suppressed the Levellers by force and then set about subduing first Ireland and then Scotland. In the former Cromwell fought a tough, bloody campaign in which the butchery of thousands of soldiers at Drogheda (Sept. 11, 1649) and hundreds of civilians at Wexford (Oct. 11) caused his name to be execrated in Ireland for centuries.

On June 26, 1650, Cromwell finally became commander in chief of the parliamentary armies. He moved against the Scots and got into grievous difficulties. At Dunbar in August 1650 he was pressed between the hills and the sea and was surrounded by an army of 20,000 men. But the folly of the Scottish commander, Leslie, enabled Cromwell to snatch a victory, he thought by divine help, on September 3. The next year Charles II and his Scottish army made a spirited dash into England, but Cromwell smashed them at Worcester on Sept. 3, 1651. At long last the war was over and Cromwell realized that God's humble instrument had been given, for better or worse, supreme power.

Cromwell's Rule: 1653-1658

For 5 years after the execution of the King, Parliament tried to formulate a new constitution. Its failure to do this so exasperated Cromwell that on April 20, 1653, he went with a handful of soldiers to the House of Commons, where he shouted at the members, "The Lord be done with you," and ordered them out.

Until his death Cromwell tried to create a firm new constitutional base for his power. His first attempt to establish a constitution by means of a nominated Parliament in 1653 ended in disaster, so the Council of Army Officers promulgated the Instrument of Government, by which Cromwell became Protector in December 1653. He was assisted by a Council of State on whose advice he acted, for Cromwell believed sincerely in the delegation and sharing of power. For 8 months Cromwell and his Council ruled most effectively, sweeping away ancient feudal jurisdictions in Scotland and Ireland and uniting those countries with England under one Parliament, which was itself reformed. When the Parliament met in 1654, however, it soon quarreled with Cromwell over the constitution. He once more took power into his own hands and dissolved Parliament on June 22, 1655.

Cromwell's government became more authoritarian. Local government was brought under major generals, soldiers whom he could trust. This infuriated the radical left as well as the traditionalists. Again attempting to give his authority a formal parliamentary base and also needing additional revenue, Cromwell reconvened Parliament. His successes abroad and his suppression of revolts at home had greatly increased his popularity; thus when Parliament met, he was pressed to accept the crown, but after much soul-searching he refused. He took instead the title Lord Protector under a new constitution—the Humble Petition and Advice (May 25, 1657). This constitution also reestablished the House of Lords and made Cromwell king in all but name. But Cromwell was no Napoleon; there were definite limits to his personal ambition. He did not train his son Richard to be his successor, nor did he try to establish his family as a ruling dynasty. And at the height of his power he retained his deep religious conviction that he was merely an instrument of God's purpose.

Cromwell pursued an effective foreign policy. His navy enjoyed substantial success, and the foundation of British power in the West Indies was laid by its capture of Jamaica (1655). He allied himself with France against Spain, and his army carried the day at the battles of the Dunes in 1658. These victories, combined with his dexterous handling of Scotland and brutal suppression of Ireland, made his personal ascendancy unassailable, in spite of failures in his domestic policy. But shortly after his death on Sept. 3, 1658, Cromwell's regime collapsed, and the restoration of the monarchy followed in 1660.

Critical Assessment

Cromwell's greatness will always be questioned. As a general, he was gifted yet lucky; as a statesman, he had some success but was unable to bring his plans to complete fruition. Although his religious conviction often appears to be a hypocritical cloak for personal ambition, his positive qualities are unmistakable. He believed in representative government (limited to men of property, however). He encouraged reform, and much of it was humane. He brought to the executive side of government a great degree of professionalism, particularly in the army and navy. Britain emerged from the Commonwealth stronger, more efficient, and more secure. Perhaps the most remarkable qualities of Cromwell were his sobriety and his self-control. Few men have enjoyed such supreme power and abused it less.

Further Reading

Cromwell's letters and speeches are collected by Wilbur C. Abbott in The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (4 vols., 1937-1947). The literature on Cromwell is enormous. The best and most complete biography of him is Sir Charles Firth, Oliver Cromwell and the Rule of the Puritans in England (1900; repr. 1961). An excellent brief biography is C. V. Wedgwood, Oliver Cromwell (1939). Maurice Ashley, OliverCromwell and the Puritan Revolution (1958), is also valuable. The problems of Cromwell's character and policies are well explored in Richard E. Boyer, ed., Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan Revolt (1966). Equally valuable is Maurice P. Ashley, ed., Cromwell (1969). Cromwell's career as a general is best studied in C. V. Wedgwood, The King's War (1958); Alfred H. Burne and Peter Young, The Great Civil War: A Military History of the First Civil War, 1642-1646 (1959); and Austin H. Woolrych, The Battles of the English Civil War (1961). The best bibliographical guide is Wilbur C. Abbott, Bibliography of Oliver Cromwell (1929). □

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Cromwell, Oliver

Oliver Cromwell

Born: April 25, 1599
Huntingdon, England
Died: September 3, 1658
London, England

English statesman and general

The English statesman and general Oliver Cromwell won decisive battles in the English civil war. He then established himself and his army as the ruling force in England and later took the title Lord Protector of Great Britain and Ireland. A remarkable ruler, Cromwell helped reestablish England as a leading European power following several years of decline.

Early life

Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25, 1599, in Huntingdon, England. His father, Richard Cromwell, was a younger son of one of the richest men in the district, Sir Henry Cromwell of Hinchinbrook, who was known as the "Golden Knight." Little is known of Cromwell's childhood, except that his circumstances were modest and he was sent to the local school and developed intense religious beliefs.

In 1616 Cromwell entered Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He left the following year after the death of his father. For the next few years he lived in London. In 1620 he married Elizabeth Bourchier, the daughter of Sir James Bourchier, a wealthy leather merchant. Cromwell then returned to his small estate in Huntingdon. There he farmed his land and played a small part in local affairs, earning a reputation as a champion of the poor. During these years Cromwell experienced periods of deep depression. After much spiritual torment he became convinced that he was the instrument of God.

Political situation in 1640

When Cromwell entered Parliament (the governing body of England) in 1640, Charles I (16001649) had ruled England for eleven years. The king had pursued policies in religion and finance, which had disagreed with many country gentlemen, including Cromwell. Furthermore, Charles I had plunged into war with Scotland, who soundly defeated the king.

The mood of Parliament was highly critical. Cromwell joined men in Parliament who believed Parliament should limit the power of the king and the Anglican Church. A middle-aged man without parliamentary experience, Cromwell rarely spoke, but when he did it was usually in support of extreme measures. Cromwell was dedicated to the reform, or improvement, of the Church and of the court. He was also highly critical of the king.

Civil war

By 1642 there was no way to avoid war between the King and Parliament. At the outbreak of war in August 1642, Cromwell was assigned a small army of men. He rapidly demonstrated not only his skill as a military leader but also his ability to develop an effective army from his force of raw recruits. Under the leadership of the Earl of Manchester, Cromwell's commander, regiments from other counties were brought together as one force, known as the Eastern Association. Cromwell's reputation as Parliament's most forceful general was made in 1644 at the battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644). Cromwell's Ironsides defeated the cavalry (troops) of Prince Rupert, the most successful general of the royalists who fought for the king.

The victories in eastern England, however, were not matched by success elsewhere. After two years of war, the king was still in the field, and relations between Parliament and the army were growing sour. Many disliked the price paid for alliance with the Scots and most longed for peace. Cromwell, however, yearned for victory. He bitterly attacked the Earl of Manchester. He soon emerged as the effective leader of the parliamentary armies. He proved his exceptional abilities as a general on June 14, 1645, when he defeated the royalists' army at Naseby in Northamptonshire. Within a year the royalist armies had surrendered.

End of the war

In 1648 the royalists rose again, allied with the Scots, but in a lightning campaign Cromwell overtook both. The republicans were then determined to bring Charles I to trial, and Cromwell did nothing to stop them. At last agreeing that the king was "a man of blood" and should be executed, he signed Charles I's death warrant.

The execution of the king settled nothing. Legally the House of Commons ruled, but the army, Scotland, and Ireland were soon in rebellion. In Ireland Cromwell fought a tough, bloody campaign in which he butchered thousands of soldiers at Drogheda (September 11, 1649) and hundreds of civilians at Wexford (October 11). On June 26, 1650, Cromwell finally became commander of the parliamentary armies. At Dunbar in August 1650 he was pressed between the hills and the sea and was surrounded by an army of twenty thousand Scots. But mistakes by the Scottish commander, Leslie, enabled Cromwell to seize victory. Cromwell believed this victory was the work of God.

The next year Charles II and his Scottish army made a spirited dash into England, but Cromwell overtook them at Worcester on September 3, 1651. At long last the war was over and Cromwell realized that God's humble instrument had been given, for better or worse, supreme power.

Cromwell's rule: 165358

For five years after the execution of the king, Parliament tried to formulate a new constitution. On April 20, 1653, Cromwell went with a handful of soldiers to the House of Commons, a part of Parliament. He shouted at the members, "The Lord be done with you," and ordered them out.

For a while Cromwell and his Council ruled most effectively, sweeping away ancient tribal rule in Scotland and Ireland. He then united those countries with England under one Parliament, which was itself reformed. When the Parliament met in 1654, however, it soon quarreled with Cromwell over the constitution. He once more took power into his own hands and dissolved Parliament on June 22, 1655.

From Cromwell's rule local government was brought under major generals, soldiers whom he could trust. This infuriated many. Under a new constitution and a reestablished Parliament, Cromwell took the title Lord Protector. This move also reestablished the House of Lords, another part of Parliament, and made Cromwell king in all but name. But Cromwell did not desire power as other great rulers had. He did not train his son Richard to be his successor, nor did he try to establish his family as a ruling dynasty. And at the height of his power he retained his deep religious belief that he was merely an instrument of God's purpose.

Cromwell pursued an effective foreign policy. His navy enjoyed substantial success in the West Indies and he allied himself with France against Spain. These victories, combined with his effective handling of Scotland and brutal conquering of Ireland, made him a popular and powerful ruler. Shortly after his death on September 3, 1658, Cromwell's government collapsed, and the restoration of the monarchy (sole ruler) followed in 1660.

Cromwell's legacy

Cromwell's greatness will always be questioned. As a general, he was gifted yet lucky. As a statesman, he had some success but was unable to realize many goals. Britain emerged from the Commonwealth stronger, more efficient, and more secure. Perhaps the most remarkable of Cromwell's qualities were his seriousness and his self-control. Few men have enjoyed such supreme power and abused it less.

For More Information

Fraser, Antonia. Cromwell, the Lord Protector. New York: Grove Press, 2001.

Litton, Helen. Oliver Cromwell: An Illustrated History. Dublin: Wolfhound, 2000.

Sherwood, Roy. Oliver Cromwell: King in All But Name, 16531658. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

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Cromwell, Oliver

Oliver Cromwell (krŏm´wĕl, krŭm´–, –wəl), 1599–1658, lord protector of England.

Parliamentary General

The son of a gentry family, he entered Cambridge in 1616 but probably left the next year. Cromwell entered Parliament in 1628, standing firmly with the opposition to Charles I, and was active in the Short and Long Parliaments (1640), although not a conspicuous leader. During the first civil war (see English civil war) he rose rapidly to leadership because of his military ability and his genius for organizing and inspiring the parliamentary armies. His own regiment, the Ironsides, distinguished itself at Marston Moor (1644) and in numerous minor engagements.

In 1644 he pressed for a thorough reorganization of the parliamentary forces and was appointed (1645) second in command to Sir Thomas Fairfax (later Baron Fairfax of Cameron) in the resulting New Model Army, which defeated the king at Naseby in 1645. In the quarrel between the army and Parliament following the first civil war, Cromwell supported the sectarians in the army and approved the seizure (1647) of Charles from Parliament. However, he favored a moderate settlement with the king (as opposed to the radical proposals of the Levelers) until Charles's flight to Carisbrooke (1647) and secret dealings with the Scots caused him to lose all hope of further negotiations with the king.

In the second civil war he repelled the Scottish royalist invasion at Preston (1648). His political power was enhanced by the removal of Presbyterian leaders from Parliament in Pride's Purge (see under Pride, Thomas), and at the king's trial (1649) his was the leading voice demanding execution.

Lord Protector

In 1649, after the proclamation of the republican Commonwealth, Cromwell led a punitive expedition into Ireland, especially remembered for the massacre of the royalist garrison at Drogheda. He then initiated a policy of systematic dispossession of the Irish, transferring their lands to Protestant proprietors. In 1650 he invaded Scotland and routed the Scottish royalists at Dunbar; later he defeated the Scots and Charles II himself at Worcester (1651) and left the rest of the conquest of Scotland to Gen. George Monck.

Cromwell, now virtual dictator of the Commonwealth, dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653 after it had failed to effect reforms demanded by the army and had sought to perpetuate its power. His attempt to replace it by the Nominated (Barebone's) Parliament (see Barebone, Praise-God), appointed by himself from nominations of the Independent congregations, resulted in a reckless, hopelessly divided body that was finally forced to dissolve itself. A group of army officers then drew up the constitutional document known as the Instrument of Government (1653), by which Cromwell became lord protector (see Protectorate). The Parliament of 1654, which was elected under the terms of the same document, wanted to prepare a new constitution and was soon dissolved.

After that Cromwell resorted to open military government, dividing England into 11 districts, each administered by a major-general. Another, more amenable Parliament was summoned in 1656, and in 1657 it presented to Cromwell a new constitution known as the Humble Petition and Advice and offered him the crown. He declined the crown but accepted (with some modifications) the Humble Petition, which further increased his power and set up a second legislative chamber. The second session of this same Parliament, however, challenged the new constitution, and Cromwell dissolved it (1658) seven months before his death.

Cromwell's foreign policy was governed by the need to expand English trade and prevent the restoration of the Stuarts, and by the desire to build up a Protestant league and enhance the prestige of the English republic. He approved the Navigation Act of 1651, which led to the first (1652–54) of the Dutch Wars, and he pressed the war against Spain (1655–58) as a means of encroaching on Spanish rights of colonization in America. The Dutch war resulted in several important naval victories for the English under Admiral Robert Blake, but the Spanish war, apart from the sinking of a Spanish fleet (also by Blake), brought only Jamaica and imposed a great strain on English finances.

Character and Influence

Opinions of Cromwell have always varied widely. His military skill and force of character are universally recognized. He met the task of holding together the gains of the civil wars and the discordant groups in the Puritan party in what seemed the only practical way. This involved force and intolerance, which were evidently alien to him personally, for he professed love for both toleration and constitutional government. Only Jews and non-Anglican Protestants (excepting Quakers) were tolerated during his rule, however, and he found it impossible to cooperate with Parliament in governing. His government, dependent on his own strong character, costly in its foreign policy, and representing a break in English institutions and a minority religious viewpoint, could not survive him long, and he was succeeded briefly as protector by his son Richard.

Bibliography

See the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell (ed. by W. C. Abbott et al., 4 vol., 1937–47); biographies by M. P. Ashley (1969), J. E. C. Hill (1970), C. V. Wedgwood (rev. ed. 1973), and A. Fraser (1973); M. P. Ashley, The Greatness of Oliver Cromwell (1957, repr. 1966); writings on the period by S. R. Gardiner and Sir Charles Firth.

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Cromwell, Oliver

Cromwell, Oliver (1599–1658) Lord Protector of England (1653–58). A committed Puritan, Cromwell entered Parliament in 1628 and was an active critic of Charles I in the Long Parliament (1640). His tactical and organizational abilities became apparent in the first of the English Civil War, when his Ironsides helped defeat the Cavaliers at Marston Moor (1644). In 1645 he was made second in command to Sir Thomas Fairfax, and helped form the New Model Army. After a decisive victory at Naseby (1645), Cromwell emerged as the leading voice of the army faction. He favoured a compromise with Charles I, but Charles' duplicity convinced him of the need to execute the king. In the Second Civil War, he defeated the Scottish Royalists at Preston (1648). Cromwell's political influence was strengthened in Pride's purge (1648) of Parliament. The Rump Parliament pressed for Charles' execution and established the Commonwealth republic (1649). Cromwell ruthlessly suppressed opposition in Ireland, and defeated Charles II in the Third Civil War (1651). The failure of Barebone's Parliament (1653) led to the “Instrument of Government” that established the Protectorate. Cromwell became a virtual military dictator as “Lord Protector”. The Humble Petition and Advice (1657) offered Cromwell the throne, but he refused. Cromwell's expansionist foreign policy was both anti-Stuart and pro-Protestant. The Dutch Wars (1652–54) and the war (1655–58) with Spain were financially exorbitant. He was succeeded by his son Richard Cromwell.

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