Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658)
He was an English military and political leader best known for his involvement
in making England into a republican Commonwealth and for his later role as Lord
Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Born in Huntingdon into the ranks of the middling gentry, he remained relatively
obscure for first forty years of his life, and was forced by personal and
financial circumstances to slip down to the level of yeoman farmer for a number
of years in the 1630s.
A religious conversion experience during the same decade made religion the
central fact of his life and actions.
He returned to Parliament as MP for Cambridge in the Short and Long Parliaments,
and later entered the English Civil War on the side of the Parliamentarian
"Roundheads" side. A brilliant soldier, he rose from leading a single cavalry
troop to eventually command the army.
Politically he took control of England, Scotland, and Ireland as Lord Protector,
from December 16, 1653 until his death.
Cromwell's career is full of contradictions. He was a regicide who debated
whether to accept the crown himself and decided not tothough ironically he had
more power than Charles I. He was a parliamentarian who ordered his soldiers to
dissolve parliaments. Under his rule, the Protectorate advocated religious
liberty of conscience but allowed blasphemers to be tortured. He advocated
equitable justice but imprisoned those who criticised his raising taxation
outside the agreement of Parliament. Admirers hail him as a strong, stabilising
and stately leader who brought international respect, overthrew tyranny and
promoted republicanism and liberty whilst contemporary critics ridicule him as
an overly ambitious hypocrite who betrayed the cause of liberty, imposed
puritanical values and showed scant respect for the nation's traditions.
When the Royalists returned to power, his corpse was dug up, hung in chains, and
beheaded. Cromwell has also been a very controversial figure in English
history—a regicidal dictator to some historians and a hero of liberty to others.