England’s Commonwealth: Richard Cromwell

On the 4th October 1626, Richard Cromwell was born in Huntingdon to parents Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell.

He served in the Parliamentary army during the First Civil War, but with the death of his older brother; Oliver in 1644, his military career ended.  Richard was now the eldest son and heir of Oliver Cromwell.

In May of 1649, Richard married Dorothy, the daughter of Richard Mayor of Hursley in Hampshire.  Richard and Dorothy lived on the Mayor’s estate, where his wife bore him nine children, of which only four survived to reach adulthood.  Richard enjoyed his new life, amongst the local gentry, and devoted himself to hunting.  He became the local magistrate, and played a minor role in local government.

His new lifestyle came at a price, his love of good living, led to him falling into debt, as he exceeded his allowance, again and again.

In 1653, when Richard was 27, his father Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.  Richard’s status changed, as he was addressed as “Lord Richard,” son of the protector.

In September of 1654, Richard was elected as MP for Hampshire in the First Protectorate Parliament, and in November of 1655 appointed to the Committee for Trade and Navigation.

In the Second Protectorate Parliament (1656-1658) was elected as MP for Cambridge University, and in July of 1657 succeeded his father as Chancellor of Oxford University.

The “Humble Petition and Advice” constitution of 1657, required Oliver Cromwell to name his successor as Lord Protector.

Oliver brought his son; Richard into the public eye, as his duly selected successor, and so it was father and son were often seen together at many public ceremonies and meetings.

Richard was appointed to the Upper House of Parliament in 1657, and Council of State.  In January of 1658, appointed to the post of honorary colonel in the cavalry, and in the May, a warship was named in his honour; “Richard.”

On the 3rd September 1658, Oliver Cromwell dies, and his position as Lord Protector passes to his son Richard Cromwell.

A group of military officers petitioned that the new commander who replaces Oliver Cromwell, should be a military man, one who had, won the trust of his army, riding side by side in battle.

Richard had inherited a 13-man Council of State, consisting of Charles Fleetwood John Disbrowe’s group representing the army and John Thurloe for the civilian group.

Without Oliver Cromwell, the head of England’s Republic, England’s Commonwealth, the country gradually slipped into chaos, with his son Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector.

Richard was unpopular, he was no Oliver, and the regime was heavily in debt, and a gulf had opened between Army and Parliament.

Richard appointed Charles Fleetwood to Lieutenant-general, whilst he retained the position of Supreme Commander.  He appointed his brother, Henry Cromwell as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, giving him full authority over the army.

In January of 1659, Richard summoned Parliament, to vote on higher taxation to support the army at its current size.  Parliament rejected the request, and put forward a counter proposal, to reduce the size of the army, and they would have tighter control on it.  Charles Fleetwood and John Disbrowe called upon Richard to firmly reject the suggestion.

Richard refused, and soon found out who the army obeyed, for when he summoned the army in London, to rally round him at Whitehall, they unanimously followed their officer’s, amassing at St.James’s.

On the 21st April, Major-general Disbrowe confronted Richard at Whitehall and insisted he dissolve Parliament.  Richard’s hands were tied, he had no alternative, and so it was in the early hours of the 22nd April that Parliament was dissolved, and the Council of Officer’s controlled the government.

Richard was placed under house arrest at Whitehall Palace.  The remaining members of the old Rump Parliament were recalled, and on the 14th May the House of Commons formally destroyed Richards seal, as Lord Protector.

Parliament treated him with honour, paying off his debts, granting him a pension, upon his resignation as Lord Protector in 1659.

In the summer of 1660, Richard left his family and fled into exile on the continent until 1680, when he returned, living in Cheshunt, Herfordshire under the assumed name of John Clarke until his death in 1712.

The Commonwealth: Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell was born on the 25th April 1599 in Huntingdon to parents Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward, and baptised on the 29th April at St.John’s Church.

On the 22nd August 1620, Oliver Cromwell marries Elizabeth Bourchier at St.Giles Church, Cripplegate, London.

Elizabeth and Oliver’s children: Robert (1621), Oliver (1623),  Bridget (1624), Richard (1626), Henry (1628), Elizabeth (1629), James (1632), Mary (1637), Frances (1638).

In 1627 King Charles creates unrest, as he pushes through a tax to raise funds for war, without parliamentary consent.  Parliament replies on the 26th May 1628, by issuing a Petition of Rights, that he needs their permission to levy taxes on his subjects.  Also he cannot impose martial law on civilians or imprison them without due process.

Cromwell becomes a Member of Parliament for the Huntingdon constituency for 1628-1629, and in the latter part of 1628, consults with Theodore de Mayerne, a London doctor, for depression.

In January of 1629, the House of Commons delegates voice their opposition, in having goods confiscated, for failure to pay tonnage and poundage, believing it to be a breach of the Petition of Right act.

In March of 1629, Charles orders a parliamentary adjournment to proceedings.  Sir John Finch, speaker of the house, is restrained in his chair, in an attempt to delay proceedings on Catholicism, poundage and tonnage issues.  Charles replies by dissolving Parliament, and imprisoning eight parliamentary leaders.

In 1630 Cromwell’s financial status changes, leading to the sale of his Huntingdon properties.  He moves to St.Ives.  This time in his life has profound changes; he undergoes a Puritan conversion and becomes a “Servant of God.”

In 1633, Charles I appoints William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury.  Laud visits each and every diocese to enforce conformity in services across the land.  Some regarded this, as moving closer to Roman Catholicism.

In 1635, King Charles issues a writ, aimed at collecting “Ship-Money” tax, under the pretext of fighting off piracy.  He took this tax a step further, by imposing it inland, one’s goods could be taken for non-payment of tax.

In 1636, the Cromwell’s received an inheritance from his uncle, and they moved to Ely.  The inheritance provided him with property and employment as a tithe collector for Ely Cathedral.

In 1638, Charles I attempted to force the Book of Common Prayer on Scotland, and the Presbyterians opposed it.

In the summer of 1639, having limited funds, Charles puts together an English force of poorly trained warriors; and the Bishop’s Wars with Scotland began in earnest.

King Charles summoned the Short Parliament in 1640 bringing an end to eleven years as solo ruler, after only three weeks it was dissolved on the 5th May 1640, when he was refused funds for his war with Scotland.

Cromwell returns to Parliament as member for Cambridge, and moves his family from Ely to London.

On the 3rd November, King Charles, close to bankruptcy summons the Long Parliament, another request by him for funds.  At this time Parliament declares his “Ship Tax” is illegal, and on the 11th November they impeach the Earl of Stafford and Archbishop Laud on the 18th December.

On the 16th February 1641, the Triennial Act is past, which states by law that Parliament has to sit at least once every three years.

Oliver Cromwell puts forward a bill, for the abolition of Bishops and the House of Commons created the Protestation Oath against property.

A reluctant King Charles agrees to the Act of Attainder on the 5th May against the Earl of Stafford, who was executed on the 12th May.

On the 5th July Parliament dissolves; Courts of High Commission, Star Chamber, Council for Wales and suppression of powers of the Privy Council.  Then on the 1st September the House of Commons passes a bill, which saw the destruction of altar rails, crucifies etc as introduced by Archbishop Laud.

The uprising of 1641 in Ireland has Parliament and King in total agreement, than an army should be dispatched to stamp out hostilities, but neither trusted the other, as to who should lead it.   On the 7th December, Parliament introduced the Militia Bill, proposing the appointment of a Lord-General, governed by Parliament, not the King.  Charles refuses to surrender his control of armed forces, thus blocking the bill.  He replies by attempting to arrest five opponents of Parliament, against the King.

On the 10th January 1642, King Charles and the Royal family depart London and set up court in York.

In March, Parliament announces they would be acting independently of the King, in matter’s regarding the defence of the realm.  Then on the 1st June Parliament issues Nineteen Propositions which required the King to give up his control of the military, and the right to appoint ministers.  On the 18th June, the King rejects the request.

On the 22nd August, King Charles felt he had no choice, and raised his standard at Nottingham.  The English Civil War of 1642-1648, between Parliament and the King had begun.

In the September, Oliver Cromwell receives his commission, his army recruited from Cambridgeshire, become warriors fighting for Parliament.

In October 1642, Royalists won a tactical victory over Parliamentary forces at the “Battle of Edgehill” led by Oliver Cromwell.  Then in 1643 defeated Parliamentary forces once again at the “Battle of Chalgrove Field, “and captured Bristol.

In the spring of 1643, Cromwell is promoted to Colonel of Horse, and in the autumn promoted again to Lieutenant General and Governor of Ely.  On the 2nd July, his army achieved victory over Royalists at “Marston Moor” but failed to destroy all of the Royalist forces.

In February of 1645, Cromwell gets what he has called for: The New Model Army, created by Parliament, made up of fully trained soldiers, with General Fairfax as Command-in-Chief and Oliver Cromwell as Lieutenant General, in charge of cavalry.

On the 14th June, Cromwell’s New Model Army proves its worth, crushing Royalist forces at the “Battle of Naseby.”

In April of 1646, King Charles, barely escapes with his life from the “Siege of Oxford,” surrendering at Newark to Scottish forces.  They held him until the 30th January 1647 when they handed him over to Parliamentary forces in the north of England.

Whilst King Charles is prisoner at Holmby House, he plots his restoration and return to King and ruler of England.  In June of 1647, is moved to Hampton Court Palace, then Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.

In November 1647, an agreement is made between King Charles and Scotland, to attack England, leading to the second English Civil War.  In 1648, King Charles turns down Parliament’s proposals for peace.  Cromwell steps in, and leads the New Model Army, crushing Royalist forces in Wales, and putting a stop to the Scottish invasion of England.  So it was, the second English Civil War, ended on the 28th August.

In January of 1649, a court of justice had been convened by the House of Commons, to hear the case against King Charles I.  For, he had been accused of treason against England; pursuing his own objectives, rather than those of England.

Charles, refused to plead, in the belief the court was unlawful, and that the monarch, had absolute authority of his kingdom, granted to him by God.

The court challenged the question of sovereign immunity, stating the King of England, was not a person, but an office to govern by the laws of the land.

On the 26th January 1649, the court had found him guilty, and sentenced him to death.  On the 30th January 1649 King Charles I of England was beheaded in front of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.

An act of Parliament was passed, on the 30th January 1649, forbidding the automatic succession of the son of Charles I.  On the 7th February, the office of the King had been abolished.

On the 9th February 1649, King Charles I was buried in Henry VIII’s vault, in St.George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

On the 18th May, an Act was passed, which declared that England was a Commonwealth, governed by a council, appointed by Parliament.

The Scottish and Irish, proclaimed they would assist Charles II, claim his rightful place, as King of England.  In the August, Cromwell led his army to Ireland, crushing any rebellion in favour of Charles II, by ultimate destruction of Royalist garrisons and those loyal to the cause.  Then in July of 1650, his army crushed loyal Scottish supporters of Charles II.  Defeating Dunbar and entering Edinburgh as the victor.

In 1651, Oliver Cromwell became Chancellor of Oxford University.

On the 3rd September, Scottish forces led by Charles II, come face to face with Cromwell’s forces at the “Battle of Worcester.”  Charles II had no choice, but flee into exile in Holland.

Oliver Cromwell, a successful leader in the English Civil War, became one of England’s most powerful men.  On the 20th April 1653, angered that Parliament are stopping many reforms, marches into Parliament and dissolves it.

On the 16th December, a reluctant Oliver Cromwell, becomes Lord Protector of England’s Commonwealth.  He wore a purple robe, lined in velvet and carried a golden sceptre at the ceremony.  Similarities to a coronation were there, but the oath changed to “Save the Lord Protector.” In the eyes of the people, Cromwell was now King of England, in all but name.  In 1657, supporters of Cromwell put forward that he should appoint himself as, King Cromwell, but he rejected the offer.

On the 3rd September 1658, Oliver Cromwell dies at Whitehall and is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Without Oliver Cromwell, the head of England’s Republic, England’s Commonwealth, and the country slipped into chaos, with his son Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector, until his resignation in May of 1659.

Parliament and the Monarchy were restored in 1660, under King Charles II.

On the 30th January 1661, twelve years to the day, of King Charles I execution.  The bodies of Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector), John Bradshaw (President, at trial of Charles I) and Henry Ireton (Cromwell’s son-in-law and General in the English Civil War), were removed from Westminster Abbey.

They were hung from Tyburn gallows in chains, and beheaded at sunset.  Their bodies tossed into common graves, and heads placed on spikes at Westminster Hall from 1661-1685.

Oliver Cromwell had transformed the social and political establishment of his times.  Parliament owed him much, for victory in the English Civil War.  One who played a major part in the execution of King Charles I, who went on and defeated the Royalists in Scotland and Ireland.  As Lord Protector of his country, he ruled it as a military dictatorship, one ruled by fear.

One is left with the question, was it right to push for the execution of Charles I? 

Was Parliament’s motives right, they wanted to be outright rulers, without interference from Kings?