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Cromwell, the Lord Protector

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Cromwell, the Lord Protector

  Also by Antonia Fraser




  The Lord Protector

  Antonia Fraser

  Grove Press

  New York

  Copyright 1973 by Antonia Fraser

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published in Great Britain as Cromwell: Our Chief of Men by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.

  ISBN: 0-394-47034-6

  Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 73-7270

  Manufactured in the United States of America


  To Hugh

  who encouraged and accompanied me with love

  Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud

  Not of war only, but detraction rude,

  Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,

  To peace and truth thy glorious way hast ploughed…

  John Milton


  Author’s Note xiii


  1 By Birth a Gentleman 3

  2 His Own Fields 23

  3 Growing to Authority 44

  4 Grand Remonstrance 65


  5 Noble and Active Colonel Cromwell 91

  6 Ironsides 120

  7 Happy victory 150

  8 Falling Out Among Themselves 179

  9 The Game at Cards 207

  10 The Mischievous War 236

  11 Providence and Necessity 262


  12 All Things Become New 299

  13 Ireland: Effusion of Blood 326

  14 Scotland: The Decision of the Cause 358

  15 A Settlement of the Nation 391

  16 At the Edge of Prophecies 424


  17 Grandeur 455

  18 Briers and Thorns 484

  19 At Work in the World 520

  20 Jews and Major-Generals 554

  21 A Royal Sceptre 586

  22 Old Oliver, New Ideas 619

  23 The Great Captain 653

  24 Cromwell’s Dust 678

  References 707

  Reference Books 728

  Author’s Note

  To write the biography of Oliver Cromwell is admittedly an ambitious undertaking. In view of the wonderful wealth of material on the subject in existence, to say nothing of the living giants of seventeenth-century research who stalk the land, I hope it may not also seem presumptuous. My aim has however been a different one from that of the scholars from whose works I have derived such benefit. I have wished more simply to rescue the personality of Oliver Cromwell from the obscurity into which it seemed to me that it had fallen, just because there has been such an invaluable concentration on the political and social trends of the age in which he lived. It is at least possible to claim that Cromwell was the greatest Englishman. In the hopes of explaining to the general reader something of this remarkable man, I have set about my task – as one historian put it to me, half in jest-of “humanizing” Oliver Cromwell.

  In this context my debt to previous workers in the field will be obvious to all students of the period. In the field of biography alone there are two excellent modern studies: Robert S. Paul’s The Lord Protector: Religion and Politics in the Life of Oliver Cromwell (1955) and Christopher Hill’s God’s Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1970) whose sub-titles show their special fields. There is John Buchan’s highly readable biography first published nearly forty years ago and going still further back Sir Charles Firth’s unrivalled Oliver Cromwell and the Rule of the Puritans in England (1900). This is without delving further into the plethora of works pertinent to the subject, foremost among them W. C. Abbott’s four-volume edition of Cromwell’s Writings and Speeches 1937-47, which replaced the equivalent work of Carlyle amended by Mrs Lomas, as the standard work of reference. In all of this, my criterion for the inclusion of material has been its relevance to the nature of the man himself, and its contribution to a rounded portrait of his character.

  I have therefore taken the usual liberties in correcting spelling and paraphrasing documents, as and when it seemed necessary to me to make sense to the average reader today; I have, for example, altered the spelling of the word chief in the opening line of Milton’s sonnet quoted previously, in accordance with modern usage. I have also ignored the fact that the calendar year was held to start on 25 March during this period, and have used the modern style of dates starting on i January throughout. In the case of material, I wish to thank particularly the Duke of Sutherland for permission to quote from the Bridgewater MSS; Lady Celia MilnesCoates, Sir Berwick Lechmere Bt, Mr Raleigh Trevelyan and Lord Tollemache for permission to quote from their respective MSS; the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. Edward Heath, and the Chairman of the Chequers Trust for permission to reproduce pictures and documents from Chequers; the Trustees and Curator, Mr Brian Wormald, of the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon for permission to reproduce their pictures, relics and documents. I have been much helped not only by the works of others, as I hope will be made clear by the references, but also by the advice of certain experts in the field. I am most grateful to Dr Maurice Ashley, himself an authority on Cromwell and President of the Cromwell Association, for generous help at all stages and also for his valuable criticisms of my manuscript (although its warts are of course my own); to Mr H. G. Tibbutt for introducing me to Dr Williams’s Library, many suggestions on reading matter, and lastly for reading the proofs; and to Brigadier Peter Young for kindly checking the maps.

  To the following I am indebted in many different ways: Mr Nigel Abercrombie; Sir John Ainsworth Bt, National Library of Ireland; Mr Jonathan Aitken; Mr A. C. Aylward, Clerk of the Peace, Huntingdon & Peterborough, Professor Thomas Barnes and the Librarian, University of California at Berkeley; Mr Geoffrey Berners, Mr E. G. W. Bill, Lambeth Palace Library; Dr Karl Bottigheimer; Mr M. S. Bull of Putney; Miss Anne Caiger, Assistant Archivist of the Huntingdon Library, San Marino, California; Mr Robert Carvalho, Mr Edmund de Rothschild and the Jewish Library for assistance on the subject of the readmission of the Jews; Fr J. Clancy SJ; Mr J. W. Cockburn, Deputy City Librarian, Edinburgh; Mr E. J. Cowan of Edinburgh University; Lt-Col Leslie Cromwell; Dr Chalmers Davidson and Mr E. Gaskell, Librarian of the Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine for consultation on the subject of Cromwell’s health and death; Mr R. N. Dore; Dr A. I. Doyle, University Library, Durham; the Marquess of Exeter; Fr Francis Edwards SJ for permission to use the Farm St MSS; Mr J. M. Farrar, Cambridgeshire County Record Office; Dr Roger Fiske; Earl Fitzwilliam; Mr Michael Foot MP; Mr R. M. Card, Northumberland County Record Office; Professor Alexander Gieysztor of the Historical Institute, Warsaw for research into Cromwell’s alleged correspondence with Chmielnicki; Mr Peter Foster; Mrs I. M. Hare representing the Cromwell Bush family; Sir Nicholas and Lady Henderson, then of the British Embassy, Warsaw; Dr J. Hetherington of Birmingham; Mrs Margaret Hodson of Rugeley; Dr A. E. J. Hollaender, Guildhall Library; Mr J. P. C. Kent, Department of Coins & Medals, British Museum; Professor Frank Kermode; Hon. Mrs Edward Kidd of Holders, and the Bridgetown Museum, Barbados; Mr A. Lewis, Harris Museum, Preston; the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon. Selwyn Lloyd and Miss H. M. Prophet of the Department of the Environment over the portrait of Mr Speaker Lenthall; Mr William Mclntyre, Clerk of the Council, Gainsborough; Mrs Alice Roosevelt Longworth; Dr A. L. Murray, Assistant Keeper of the Scottish Records Office; Dr G. F. Nuttall; Mr E. C. Newton of the East Sussex
County Record Office for permission to read the Calendar of the Bright Papers and an unpublished paper on the Protectoral Trade Committee; Mrs Owen, University Library, Cambridge; my brother Mr Thomas Pakenham of Tullynally Castle for the use of the Pakenham MSS; Dr S. R. Parks, Curator, Osborn Collection, Yale University Library; the Rev. G. H. Parsons of Burford; Mr C. F. Penruddock, then Secretary of the Chequers Trust; my uncle Mr Anthony Powell for information concerning Cromwell’s Welsh pedigree; the Rev. R. L. Powell of All Saints, Huntingdon; the Rev. E. L. B. C. Rogers of St Giles’, Cripplegate; Dr T. I. Rae, National Library of Scotland; Lord De Ramsey; Sir David Renton MP; Sir Ronald Roxburgh; Dr E. C. Smail; Sir Christopher and Lady Soames, then of the British Embassy, Paris; Mr John Seymour; Mr Patrick Shallard; Mr Quentin Skinner for kindly showing me in advance of publication his essay on Thomas Hobbes, in The Interregnum, edited by Professor G. E. Aylmer; Mr C. Stafford Northcote; Mr F. B. Stitt, Staffordshire County Record Office; Dr Roy Strong, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, for help over illustrations; Mr G. H. Tait, Deputy Keeper of the Department of British & Mediaeval Antiquities, British Museum; Mr Taylor Milne, then the Secretary of the Institute of Historical Research; Mr Keith Thomas; M. Marcel Thomas, Conservateur en Chef des Manuscrits, Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris; Mr E. W. Tomlin, Cultural Attache to the British Embassy, Paris; Dr Thomas Wall of the Irish Folklore Commission; Mr Esmond Warner; Dr Charles Webster; Mr L. Peter Wenham; Mr Eric W. White; Mr A. D. Williams, Pembroke Castle Museum; Captain and Mrs Malcolm Wombwell of Newburgh Priory; Miss Lilian Wood; Mr Douglas Woodruff.

  I would like to thank Mr Tony Godwin and Miss Gila Curtis of Weidenfeld and Nicolson; Mr Bob Gottlieb of Knopf; Mr Graham Watson of Curtis Brown; the Librarian and staff of the House of commons; Mr Douglas Matthews of the London Library; Miss Kate Fleming for help in checking references; my secretary and temporary secretary Mrs Charmian Gibson and Mrs Jane Sykes, and Mrs V. Williams and her staff for typing. Lastly from my mother I derived the benefits of criticism of the high quality which only she could give, and from my father some equally unique insights into the nature of Puritanism. As for my husband and children, who have been in the front line for four years, I have sometimes thought that there should be a campaign medal for the families of those who write very long books, in which case they would all, from the oldest to the youngest, certainly be awarded it.


  Eilean Aigas 3 September 1972

  Calendar of Events in the Life of Oliver Cromwell

  1599—25 April—Born at Huntingdon.

  1603—Death of Queen Elizabeth. Accession of King James I

  1616—Cromwell goes to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

  1617—June—Death of his father, Robert Cromwell. Leaves Cambridge and returns home.

  1620—22 August—Marries Elizabeth Bourchier at St Giles, Cripplegate, London.

  1621—Birth of his son Robert.

  1623— Birth of his son Oliver.

  1624—Birth of his daughter Bridget.

  1625—Death of King James I. Accession of King Charles I.

  1626—Birth of his son Richard.

  1628—Birth of his son Henry.

  —March—Enters House of Commons as MP for Huntingdon.

  —May—Petition of Right.

  —September—Consults the doctor Sir Theodore Mayerne.

  1629—March—Dissolution of Parliament by King Charles I. Cromwell returns to the country. Birth of his daughter Elizabeth (Bettie).

  1631—Moves to St Ives.

  1636—Moves to Ely.

  1637—Birth of his daughter Mary.

  —November—Ship-money case brought against John Hampden.

  1638—First Bishops War. Birth of his daughter Frances.

  1639—Death of his son Robert.

  1640—April—Short Parliament. MP for Cambridge.

  —November—Long Parliament. MP for Cambridge again.

  1641—October—“Irish massacres”.

  —27 November— Grand Remonstrance.

  1642—January—Five Members escape the King’s attempt to arrest them. King leaves London.

  —22 August—King raises the standard at Nottingham.

  —23 October—Battle of Edgehill.

  1643—February—Cromwell a Colonel in the Eastern Association.

  —13 May—Battle of Grantham.

  —28 July—Battle of Gainsborough. Cromwell made Governor of Isle of Ely.

  —September—Parliament accepts Scottish Solemn League and Covenant.

  —10 October—Battle of Winceby.

  1644—Cromwell made Lieutenant-General. Death of his son Oliver.

  —2 July—Battle of Marston Moor.

  —27 October—Second Battle of Newbury.

  —9 December—Self-Denying Ordinance proposed.

  1645—14 June—Battle of Naseby.

  —10 July—Battle of Langport.

  —October—Siege of Basing House.

  1646—8 January—Assembles at Crediton in Devonshire for Spring campaign.

  —27 April—The King escapes to the Scots at Newark.

  —24 June— Surrender of Oxford.

  1647—February—Cromwell ill.

  —March onwards—Troubles with the Army agitators.

  —3 June—Cornet Joyce seizes the King at Holdenby House. Cromwell leaves London for the Army.

  —6 August—Army marches into London.

  —28 October—Start of the Army debates in St Mary’s Church, Putney.

  —11 November—King flees, ending up at Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight.

  1648—3 January—Vote of No Addresses.

  —30 April—Outbreak of Second Civil War.

  —3 May—Cromwell leaves London for Wales.

  —July—Siege of Pembroke Castle.

  —17 August—Battle of Preston in Lancashire.

  —October—Cromwell in Edinburgh. Proceeds to besiege Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire.

  —6 December—Pride’s Purge of the House of Commons. Cromwell returns to London that evening.

  1649—20 January—Trial of King Charles I opened.

  —30 January—Execution of King Charles I.

  —May—Cromwell ends Leveller mutiny at Burford.

  —15 August—Lands in Ireland.

  —11 September—Battle of Drogheda.

  —October onwards—Siege of Wexford.

  1650—April—Siege of Clonmel.

  —26 May—Cromwell leaves Ireland for England.

  —June—Leaves London for Scotland.

  —3 September—Battle of Dunbar.

  1651—February—Cromwell ill at Edinburgh.

  May—Ill again in Edinburgh.

  —3 September—Battle of Worcester.

  —December—First discussion with Whitelocke over the “settlement of the nation”.

  1652—April—First Anglo-Dutch War.

  —November—Second discussion with Whitelocke over the settlement.

  1653—20 April—Dissolution of Rump of Long Parliament.

  —July—Inception of Barebones (or Nominated) Parliament.

  —16 December—Cromwell becomes Protector.

  1654—April—Peace with Dutch.

  —September—First Protectorate Parliament./ Cromwell’s coaching accident. / Death of his mother.

  —December—Start of the expedition to the West Indies (Western Design).

  1655—22 January—Cromwell dissolves First Protectorate Parliament.

  —March—Penruddock’s rising.

  —April—Failure of assault on Hispaniola.

  —May onwards—Help given to Piedmontese Protestants. / Seizure of Jamaica.

  —9 August—Appointment of Major-Generals

  1656—17 September—Second Protectorate Parliament.

  1657—Sindercombe assassination plot fails.

  —23 March—Anglo-French treaty to attack Spanish Netherlands signed

  —March-May—Offer to Cromwell of the kingship.

  —8 May—Rejects kingship

  —26 June—Installation as Lord Protector.

  —September—Mardyck acquired by England

  —November—Marriages of Mary and Frances Cromwell.

  1658—4 February—Cromwell dissolves Second Protectorate Parliament.

  —4 June—Battle of the Dunes in which Anglo-French forces defeat the Spaniards. / Acquisition of Dunkirk.

  —6 August—Death of his daughter Bertie Claypole.

  —3 September—Death of Oliver Cromwell


  The Government of Himself

  He first acquired the government of himself, and over himself acquired the most signal victories, so that on the first day he took the field against the external enemy, he was a veteran in arms, consummately practised in the toils and exigencies of war.

  JOHN MILTON on Oliver Cromwell

  1 By Birth a Gentleman

  I was by birth a gentleman, living neither in any

  considerable height, nor yet in obscurity.


  In the spring and on the eve of the seventeenth century, a son was born to Robert and Elizabeth Cromwell of Huntingdon. The child was named Oliver; the date was 25 April 1599, four years before the end of the long reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The house where this unexceptional birth took place lay in the main High Street of the little town: for all its modesty it did provide its own echoes of English history, having been built on the site of a thirteenth-century Augustinian Friary, and in the course of its structure many of the original stones and part of the original foundations had been used.* (* Now known as Cromwell House and used by the Huntingdon Research Centre for their library. Since 1968 it has been marked by a large painted version of the Cromwell coat of arms on the exterior.)

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