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.

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