Thursday, September 03, 2009

Oliver Cromwell 1599 - 1658

OLIVER CROMWELL, the leader of the English Revolution, died on 3rd September 1658. Cromwell, the MP for Huntingdon, was the leading Parliamentarycommander during the English Civil War which began in 1642 and ended in1649 with the trial and execution of Charles Stuart and the abolition of the monarchy. The Republic of England, or Commonwealth as it was styled in English, was proclaimed soon after.
The fighting had taken a fearful toll in lives and property in England,Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The death toll including civilians came to around 870,000, some 11.6 per cent of the pre-Civil War population. Material damage was immense, particularly in Ireland.In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became head of state, the Lord Protector. Scotlandhad been brought under Commonwealth control. Royalist hopes of acounter-revolution were crushed with the defeat of their forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.The democratic movement born from the New Model Army, the Levellers, was crushed by Cromwell’s supporters and the most militant regiments sent toIreland – in a reconquest whose brutality is remembered to this day.Attempts to set up farming co-operatives by the Diggers, another group bornfrom the Army, were also suppressed.
The republic Cromwell led included England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as colonies in New England and the Caribbean. During its brief life the Commonwealth became a force in Europe. Culturally it inspired the great poetry of Milton and Marvell and other radical and pacifist religiousmovements like the Quakers who are still with us today.
Oliver Cromwell died on 3rd September 1658 and was succeeded by his son,Richard. He was neither a politician nor a soldier. Unable to reconcilerepublican generals with the demands of the rich merchants and landownersto curb the influence of the New Model Army, Richard Cromwell resigned thefollowing year. The government collapsed and the monarchy was restored in1660.Oliver Cromwell’s death had been the occasion of genuine mourning. His funeral, modelled on that of the King of Spain, was the biggest London had ever witnessed.Two years later his body was dug up and ritually hanged in public at Tyburn. Those still alive who had signed Charles Stuart’s death warrant were hanged, drawn and quartered. And the “good old cause” they had fought for was buried with them. It was clear that a great revolution had taken place. It is equally clear that it was incomplete.