List of entries |  Feedback 
  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Oliver Cromwell

Ruler of the whole of Great Britain as Lord Protector during the central years of the *Commonwealth, from 1653 to 1658. Born in *Huntingdon into a family prominent in local affairs, his first public career was in politics – as an MP for Huntingdon in 1628 and then for Cambridge in the *Long Parliament of 1640. With the start of the *English Civil War, Cromwell raised a troop of cavalry in Cambridgeshire on behalf of parliament. He rapidly proved himself a brilliant soldier and was largely responsible for the successes of the *New Model Army.

Prominent among those demanding the execution of Charles I, and one of the political leaders of the new *Commonwealth, he was also appointed commander-in-chief of the parliamentary army sent to put down unrest in *Ireland in 1649. He did this with considerable severity, intended as an example (in particular in the massacre of the royalist garrison at *Drogheda in September). A similar campaign in Scotland (1650–1) was equally effective, and he capped these successes with the defeat of *Charles II at the battle of *Worcester in 1651.

By now there were deep religious differences between parliament (*Presbyterian and inclined to the suppression of all dissent) and the army, in which there were many mutually tolerant sects, linked by the *Congregationalist doctrine that each group had the right to be self-governing. Cromwell, by now the most powerful man in the land, sided with the army and in 1653 personally ejected the rump of the *Long Parliament from the House of Commons. He replaced it with the *Barebones Parliament, the failure of which led rapidly to his own supreme power under the *Protectorate.

In religious matters he ruled with a considerable degree of tolerance (allowing the *Jews to return, for example, after nearly 400 years) and a new efficiency brought Britain successes abroad, particularly in the *Anglo-Dutch Wars. Cromwell died in 1658 of malaria, first contracted during his campaigns in Ireland. Many of his domestic reforms were repealed in the *Restoration, when the high feeling against him led to his body being exhumed from Westminster Abbey. It was hung in chains at Tyburn and his head was stuck on a pole on top of Westminster Hall, where it remained for some 25 years.

A  B-BL  BO-BX  C-CH  CI-CX  D  E  F  G  H  IJK  L  M  NO  P  QR  S-SL  SM-SX  T  UV  WXYZ