The English Civil War
A full biography of Oliver Cromwell is far beyond the potential of this section, not to mention redundant thanks to the tireless efforts of Lady Antonia Fraser. In short, Cromwell was born in the town of Huntingdon in 1599 to one of the wealthiest and most influential families in the area. He attended the University of Cambridge from 1616 and was elected MP for Huntingdon in 1628. His role in local politics was widely established in 1640 when he moved constituency to Cambridge. In the first year of the civil war, he played a prominent role in raising troops for the Parliamentarian cause before being made a colonel in the Eastern Association. His prowess on the battlefield was celebrated amongst his contemporaries, leading to his being made lieutenant-general of the Eastern Association a year later and then the New Model Army that lined up at Naseby.
Cromwell’s rise to success was nothing short of phenomenal. When the King came to trial, Cromwell’s command over the forces had augmented his position as the strongest placed Parliamentary statesman and a key pioneer in the running of a republican England. Cromwell imposed his will on both Ireland and Scotland, forcing a union with England, expanding on the vision of James I, and ruled by elected MPs throughout the union. The so-called commonwealth lasted only four years before Cromwell dismissed the Rump Parliament in 1653. As the year ended, he agreed to be named Lord Protector, ruling England with ‘somewhat of monarchical power’. Over the next four years, elected parliaments came and went. Cromwell’s hold on the nation intensified with the establishment of eleven military regions in England, an introduction of puritanical rules and censorship topped off with bouts of Calvinist-style iconoclasm in the east of England. In 1657 he took seriously a petition by a group of lawyers and MPs with the potential to see the restoration of the monarchy. Whilst refusing the crown, his second inauguration as Lord Protector mirrored much of past coronations and included his being seated in the coronation chair and donning the purple robes of previous kings. A year later, he died at Whitehall, most likely from a combination of malaria and urinary complications, perhaps made worse by the death of his daughter, Elizabeth Claypole. He named as his successor Richard Cromwell, who was ousted after less than a year in office. In 1660, after an interregnum of eleven years following the death of Charles I, the restitution of the monarchy was completed by the succession to the throne of his son Charles II.