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Oliver Cromwell was an English statesman and military leader, widely regarded as one of the most important statesmen in English history. He served as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, having risen to power during the English Civil War as the prominent leader of the parliamentary forces, leading them to victory over the Royalists. After the war, he played a key role in establishing the Commonwealth and served as its head of state.

He became prominent during the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms[2], first as a senior commander in the Parliamentarian army and then as a politician. A leading advocate of the execution of Charles I in January 1649, which led to the establishment of The Protectorate[3], he ruled as Lord Protector from December 1653 until his death in September 1658. Cromwell remains a deeply controversial figure in both Britain and Ireland due to his use of the military to acquire and retain political power and the brutality of his 1649 Irish campaign[4].

Cromwell was a Puritan who believed in the importance of religious toleration and the need for parliamentary rule. He was known for his strict morality, strong will and exceptional organisational skills, which helped him to establish a strong central government and military. Despite his authoritarian rule and strict policies, Cromwell was widely respected by the people of England and some foreign powers. Cromwell’s rule ended with his death in 1658, and the monarchy was restored in 1660.

Picture Credit: Oliver Cromwell in the Battle of Naseby in 1645 as depicted in a portrait by Charles Landseer
Attribution: Alte Nationalgalerie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
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From Farmer and Landowner to Lord Protector
Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon, England on 25th April 1599. He was educated at Huntingdon Grammar School and later at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, but he did not graduate. Before entering politics, Cromwell was a farmer and a landowner.

In 1628, Cromwell was elected as a member of Parliament for the first time. He quickly became known for his outspoken Puritan beliefs, and his opposition to the policies of King Charles I. Cromwell was a strong advocate for religious and political freedom, and he played a key role in the events leading up to the English Civil War.

During the Civil War, Cromwell commanded the New Model Army[5], a parliamentary army that was instrumental in defeating the royalist forces. After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, effectively making him the ruler of Britain.

Cromwell was married to Elizabeth Bourchier, and they had nine children together. As a devout Puritan, his beliefs shaped many of the policies he implemented as Lord Protector. He was known for his strict moral code and efforts to promote Puritanism throughout England.

The establishment of the Commonwealth in 1649 marked a turning point in British history, as the country was governed without a king for the first time. The Rump Parliament[6], which was established after the execution of Charles I, was dominated by Puritans and played a significant role in the country’s governance under Cromwell.

After Cromwell’s death, his body was preserved and displayed in public for several years. In 1661, following the restoration of the monarchy in England, Cromwell’s body was exhumed, and he was posthumously executed in a symbolic act of retribution after the restoration of the monarchy in England. This political statement distanced the new monarchy from the previous regime. His body was hung in chains at Tyburn, London, and then his body and head were buried in an unmarked grave at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

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Picture Credit: Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper
Attribution: After Samuel Cooper, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Charles 1: Decision to rule without a Parliament followed by the English Civil War
King Charles I chose to rule without an English parliament because he believed in the divine right of kings, which held that a monarch’s authority came directly from God and was not subject to challenge by any earthly authority, including parliament. This position placed him at odds with the parliamentary leaders who believed in a constitutional monarchy, in which laws and customs limited the king’s power.

The English Civil War
Charles’ decision to rule without parliament was a major turning point in the relationship between the monarchy and parliament, and it sparked widespread discontent among the general population. As a result, tensions between Charles and the parliamentary leaders spiralled out of control, leading to the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, which lasted for several years, with several key battles fought across England.

The parliamentary forces eventually emerged victorious, leading to the eventual execution of King Charles I and the establishment of a republic under Cromwell’s leadership.

1649 King Charles I Executed
King Charles I was charged with high treason and other crimes against the state and put on trial in January 1649. The charges against him included seeking to subvert the laws and liberties of the country, raising and keeping a standing army in peacetime, and seeking to undermine the authority of parliament. After a short trial, Charles was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on 30th January 1649, outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London.

The execution ended the monarchy in England and established a republic under Oliver Cromwell’s leadership. It marked the first time in modern history that a sitting monarch had been put to death by his own subjects.

The Commonwealth of England
Cromwell established a republic (known as the Commonwealth of England[7]) and ruled as Lord Protector. He dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653. The Rump Parliament was the remains of the Long Parliament[8] (see below) that had been sitting since 1642 but had been purged of members deemed insufficiently supportive of Cromwell’s rule. The dissolution of the Rump Parliament marked the end of the First Commonwealth and the beginning of Cromwell’s rule as Lord Protector of England. He ruled as a virtual dictator, suppressing dissent and opposition until he died in 1658.

Long Parliament [9]
When the Long Parliament first met in November 1640, members in both houses were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the non-parliamentary policies of the Personal Rule of King Charles 1. The first target of their anger was Charles I’s hated minister, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, who had at one point advised that in fighting the Covenanters, the King should be “loosed and absolved from all rules of government“.

But in his impeachment trial before the Lords in March to April 1641, Strafford defended himself so well that those intent on his prosecution were forced to adopt a more drastic measure. This was called attainder – an Act that would declare the earl a traitor and condemn him to death without further trial.

John Pym, the leader of the group in the Commons pushing for Strafford’s death, was ready to work outside the law to achieve his goals, as was the King he so freely criticised. Pym also resorted to non-parliamentary measures by stirring up hostile London crowds to surround the Palace of Westminster as the debates on the Attainder Bill were taking place. Under this intimidation, both houses eventually passed it, and the King reluctantly assented to his friend’s execution in May 1641.

The attainder of Strafford was just the beginning of Parliament’s onslaught on Charles’s prerogative rule. Soon after this, Acts were passed on the following:

  • to ensure that Parliament met every three years and could not be dissolved without its consent;
  • to abolish the prerogative courts, which were seen as challenging the supremacy of the law; and
  • to declare the collection of non-parliamentary taxation, such as ship money, illegal.

On the religious front, the hated Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, was impeached, and the ‘Root and Branch’ Bill was introduced in May 1641. This called for the removal of the bishops from the Church of England and for the Church’s reform along Scottish-style Presbyterian lines. Throughout 1640 and 1641, the Long Parliament dismantled bit by bit the structure of Personal Rule. The King had to assent grudgingly to whittling away his own prerogative rights.

The Covenanters [10]
The Covenanters were a Scottish Presbyterian movement that emerged in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The movement was characterised by a commitment to the restoration of the Presbyterian form of church government and worship, and by opposition to the attempts of the English monarchy, particularly Charles I and later James VII, to impose Anglican forms of worship and government on the Scottish church. The Covenanters played a major role in Scotland and England’s political and religious history. They signed several national covenants, or agreements, pledging to uphold the Reformed Church’s principles and resist the crown’s efforts to impose its will on the Scottish church. The Covenanters’ resistance to royal authority ultimately led to a series of wars and rebellions, including the Bishops’ Wars and the English Civil War.

The movement’s commitment to religious freedom and independence, and its resistance to royal tyranny, made it a precursor to later movements such as the American Revolution and the Scottish independence movement. Today, the Covenanters are remembered as a key part of Scotland’s rich cultural and religious heritage.

Rump Parliament
The Rump Parliament may have started as a radical experiment, but the social conservatism of most of its members quickly appeared as it cracked down on radicals in the Army. In 1649-51, Cromwell won a series of military victories on several fronts against enemies of this new regime – those in Ireland being particularly brutal and bloody. Cromwell expected the Rump to take advantage of these signs of God’s Providence (as he saw it) to push through religiously inspired reformist legislation. However, the Rump only showed distrust towards the growing power of the Army and was overly concerned with legislation ensuring its own survival. Cromwell finally became so frustrated that on 20th April 1653, he entered the Commons Chamber with an armed force (as Charles I had done in January 1642) and forcibly dissolved the Rump, famously stating: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … In the name of God, go!”[11]

Barebone’s Parliament
In July 1653, Barebone’s Parliament (named after its nominating officer – Praisegod Barebone), also known as the Little Parliament, a nominally-puritan assembly, was established by Oliver Cromwell during the Interregnum[12]. The 144 Members of this Parliament were not elected but were selected by the Army officers for their “godly” puritan-led religious fervour. This hand-picked group went part of the way towards satisfying Cromwell’s wishes, but ultimately it scared the conservative in him and his colleagues with some of its measures for legal and social reform and for its hostility to the Army.[13] However, the diverse views of members of Barebones made it difficult to achieve anything substantial, and after just five months, Cromwell dissolved the parliament and established a new system of government known as the Protectorate.

The Protectorate
The Protectorate was composed of members nominated by Cromwell and his council rather than elected by the people and was seen as an experiment in governance.

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Picture Credit: A Roundhead inquisitor asks a son of a Cavalier, “And when did you last see your father?William Frederick Yeames (1878).
Attribution: William Frederick Yeames, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Cromwell had to curb the directives of the Barebones Parliament, which was seen as overly religious and intrusive and replace it with a more balanced government. In his speech to the first Protectorate government, Cromwell stressed the need for order and stability, emphasizing the importance of law and order in maintaining the stability of the state.

Cromwell’s second objective was both spiritual and moral reform in Britain. He sought to promote Puritanism and Puritan values and believed that religious and moral reform was necessary to create a just society. He was also aware of the economic power of the Jewish community in the Netherlands, which was then England’s leading commercial rival.

The Treaty of Paris (see later) was signed between the Protectorate and Louis XIV of France on 23rd March 1657. It was a notable event in the Protectorate period, as it marked the first time that England had entered into a formal alliance with a foreign power.

Battles of the English Civil War
During the time between the English Civil War battles, the opposing forces prepared for the next round of conflict. This preparation included raising and training new troops, gathering supplies and weapons, and fortifying their positions. Also, both sides tried to gain the upper hand through political and diplomatic means. They sought to gain allies, secure control of key strategic locations, and disrupt their opponent’s supplies and communication lines. Efforts were made to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the conflict, but these negotiations ultimately proved unsuccessful, leading to further battles, numerous skirmishes and smaller-scale conflicts taking place, which helped to shape the larger battles that followed. A brief description of those battles follows below:

  • Battle of Edgehill (October 1642): This battle was the first major battle of the English Civil War and took place near Edgehill in Warwickshire. The Royalists, led by King Charles I, fought against the Parliamentarians, led by the Earl of Essex. The battle was indecisive, with neither side gaining a clear advantage, but it marked the start of a long and bloody conflict. The battle was fought on 23rd October 1642, near Edge Hill, Warwickshire, England, and was seen as a victory for the Royalists as it prevented the Parliamentarian army from advancing on London.
  • Battle of Crowland (April 1643): The Battle of Crowland was fought on 28th April 1643, and was a minor conflict during the English Civil War. It was a parliamentary victory, with the forces of the Parliament capturing the town of Crowland in Lincolnshire.
  • Battle of Grantham (May 1643): The Battle of Grantham was fought on 11th May 1643. The battle was a victory for the parliamentary forces, and marked their first major victory in the East Midlands.
  • Battle of Adwalton Moor (June 1643): The Battle of Adwalton Moor was fought on 30th June 1643, between the Royalist forces led by the Earl of Newcastle and the parliamentary forces led by Sir Thomas Fairfax. The battle was a decisive victory for the parliamentary forces, helping to secure their control over the West Riding of Yorkshire.
  • Battle of Roundway Down (July 1643): Roundway Down was fought on 13th July 1643 and was a significant defeat for the parliamentary forces allowing the Royalists to regain control of the West Country.
  • First Battle of Newbury (September 1643): The First Battle of Newbury was fought on 20th September 1643. The battle was inconclusive, with both sides suffering heavy losses, but it was a tactical victory for the parliamentary forces as they managed to prevent the Royalists from advancing towards London.
  • Battle of Marston Moor (July 1644): The Battle of Marston Moor was fought on 2nd July 1644, near Marston Moor, Yorkshire, England, between the Royalist forces of King Charles I and the Parliamentarian forces led by the Earl of Manchester and Lord Fairfax. The Parliamentarian forces were victorious, and the battle is considered a turning point in the English Civil War as it gave the Parliamentarian forces control of the North of England.
  • Second Battle of Newbury (October 1644): The Second Battle of Newbury was fought on 27th October 1644. The battle was a tactical victory for the parliamentary forces, who managed to hold the town of Newbury against the Royalist forces.
  • Battle of Naseby (June 1645): The Battle of Naseby was fought on 14th June 1645, near Naseby, Northamptonshire, England, between the Royalist forces of King Charles I and the Parliamentarian forces led by Sir Thomas Fairfax. The Parliamentarian forces were victorious, and the battle is considered one of the decisive battles of the English Civil War as it resulted in the capture of the king’s main field army and many of his senior officers.
  • Battle of Torrington (February 1646): The Battle of Torrington was fought on 16th February 1646. The battle was a decisive victory for the parliamentary forces, effectively ending the Royalist resistance in the west of England. The defeat of the Royalists at Torrington was a key factor in the eventual end of the English Civil War.
  • Battle of Preston (August 1648): The Battle of Preston was fought on 17-19th August 1648, near Preston, Lancashire, England, between the forces of King Charles I and the Parliamentarian forces led by General Oliver Cromwell. The Parliamentarian forces were victorious, and the battle was significant as it was the last major battle of the English Civil War and marked the end of attempts by Charles I to regain his power.
  • Battle of Worcester (September 1651): The Battle of Worcester was the final significant battle of the English Civil War, fought on 3rd September 1651. It took place in the city of Worcester, England, and was a hard-fought and bloody conflict. Ultimately, the parliamentary forces, led by Oliver Cromwell, emerged victorious. At the time, King Charles II was in exile and did not directly lead the Royalist forces. Instead, the Royalist army was commanded on the ground by other leaders, such as the Earl of Derby and the Duke of Buckingham, who were fighting for the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II’s leadership. After the defeat at Worcester, King Charles II fled to France and lived in exile for nine years until he was invited to return to England in 1660 as part of the restoration of the monarchy. The parliamentary victory at Worcester marked the end of the English Civil War and the defeat of the Royalist forces, thereby solidifying the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell’s rule.

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Picture Credit: King Charles I and Prince Rupert before the Battle of Naseby

Attribution: See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Cromwell’s Irish and Scottish Campaigns

During the 1650s, Oliver Cromwell took several steps to assert his authority over the Irish people. This period of history is commonly referred to as “Cromwell’s Purge” or “Cromwell’s Conquest” of Ireland. The purge was characterised by brutal military campaigns against the Irish to suppress any opposition to English rule. Cromwell’s forces were notorious for committing widespread atrocities, including killing Irish civilians, burning homes, and confiscating property. The purge also involved the widespread dispossession of Irish landowners, who were replaced by English settlers. Important points about Cromwell’s Purge of Ireland to note are:

  • Religious motivation: One of the main motivations behind Cromwell’s Purge was religious. Cromwell was a Puritan and believed that the Irish people were ‘too Catholic’ and needed to be converted to Protestantism. This religious conviction fuelled his efforts to suppress Irish Catholicism and replace it with the Puritan faith.
  • Land confiscation: Vast areas of Irish land were confiscated and given to English settlers. This dispossession had a devastating impact on the Irish people and resulted in widespread poverty and homelessness. The confiscation of land also created a class of English landowners in Ireland who held significant political and economic power.
  • The impact on Irish culture: The purge had a profound effect on Irish culture, with the country’s language, religion, and traditions being suppressed by the English. The Irish people were forced to adopt the English language and customs, and the Catholic Church was suppressed. This period of cultural suppression had a lasting impact on Ireland and contributed to the country’s struggle for independence.
  • Legacy: The legacy of Cromwell’s Purge of Ireland continues to shape the country’s history and cultural identity. The events of the time are still remembered and discussed in Ireland today, and the country’s struggle for independence and the fight against English rule are closely tied to the events of the Purge.

During Cromwell’s Purge of Ireland, several battles were fought, including:

  • Battle of Drogheda: One of the most significant battles of the Purge, this siege took place in September 1649 and resulted in the slaughter of over 3,000 Irish soldiers and civilians.
  • Battle of Wexford: A key battle of the Purge, this battle took place in October 1649 and resulted in a significant victory for Cromwell’s forces.
  • Battle of Clonmel: This battle took place in May 1650. It was one of the last major engagements of the Purge, and again it resulted in a victory for Cromwell’s forces.

The impact of Cromwell’s Purge was profound and long-lasting. The Irish people suffered greatly under English rule, and the country’s population was severely depleted from the war, famine, and disease. The dispossession of Irish landowners and the subsequent influx of English settlers changed Ireland’s demographic and cultural makeup and created tensions that would persist for centuries to come.

Cromwell’s Purge remains a controversial and divisive issue in Irish history, with some viewing him as a ruthless conqueror who imposed brutal rule over the Irish people, while others regard him as a hero who helped to establish English control over Ireland. Regardless of one’s view of Cromwell, his purge had a profound and lasting impact on Ireland and continues to shape the country’s history to this day.

The issues in Scotland during the 17th century were complex and multifaceted. They included both political and religious elements and had a profound impact on the country’s history and development:

  • Religious conflict: Scotland was divided between those who supported Presbyterianism and those who supported the Church of England. This religious conflict was a major factor in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and shaped the political landscape of Scotland.
  • Political instability: Scotland was ruled by a series of weak and ineffective monarchs and was plagued by political instability and civil war. This instability was further complicated by the presence of powerful noble families who held significant power and influence in the country.
  • English domination: Scotland was constantly threatened by English hegemony, and the country’s independence was frequently challenged by English invasions and attempts at colonisation.
  • Economic hardship: Scotland was a largely agrarian society during the 17th century, and the country was frequently plagued by economic hardship and poverty. The lack of economic development was a major challenge for Scotland during this period.

The Scottish campaign from 1650 to 1651 was marked by the Battle of Dunbar. George Monck[14], one of Cromwell’s commanders, sacked Dundee, killing both military and civilian targets, including 140 women and children. The event is considered a turning point in the Scottish campaign and is seen by many as evidence of Cromwell’s brutal tactics.

The Battle of Dunbar was fought on 3rd September 1650 between the forces of the English Commonwealth, commanded by Oliver Cromwell, and a Scottish Covenanter army led by General David Leslie. The battle took place near the town of Dunbar in southeastern Scotland.

Here is a list of some of the significant battles that took place in Scotland during the 17th century:

  • Battle of Dunbar (1650): The Battle of Dunbar[15] was fought between the English New Model Army, under Oliver Cromwell and a Scottish army commanded by David Leslie on 3rd September 1650 near Dunbar, Scotland. The battle resulted in a decisive victory for the English. It was the first major battle of the 1650 invasion of Scotland, triggered by Scotland’s acceptance of Charles II as king of Britain after the execution of his father, Charles I, in January 1649.[16] The Scottish army was positioned to defend Dunbar and prevent the English from gaining control of Scotland. However, despite being outnumbered, the English army managed to defeat the Scottish forces and capture a large number of Scottish soldiers.
  • Battle of Inverkeithing (1651): The Battle of Inverkeithing was fought on 20th July 1651 between an English army under John Lambert and a Scottish army led by James Holborne as part of an English invasion of Scotland. The battle was fought near the isthmus of the Ferry Peninsula, to the south of Inverkeithing, after which it is named. On 17th July 1651, 1,600 English soldiers crossed the Firth of Forth at its narrowest point in specially constructed flat-bottomed boats and landed at North Queensferry on the Ferry Peninsula. The Scots sent forces to pen the English in, and the English reinforced their landing. On 20th July, the Scots moved against the English and, in a short engagement, were routed.[17]
  • Battle of Kilsyth (1645): The Battle of Kilsyth[18], fought on 15th August 1645 near Kilsyth, was an engagement of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The largest battle of the conflict in Scotland, it resulted in victory for the Royalist general Montrose over the forces of the Covenanter-dominated Scottish Parliament and marked the end of General William Baillie‘s pursuit of the Royalists.[19]
  • Battle of Philiphaugh (1645): The Battle of Philiphaugh was fought on 13th September 1645 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. The Royalist army of the Marquis of Montrose was destroyed by the Covenanter army of Sir David Leslie, restoring the power of the Committee of Estates.[20]

These battles played a significant role in shaping Scotland’s political and religious landscape and had far-reaching effects on the country’s history and development.

Battles in Wales
Several important battles took place in Wales during the 17th century, the key ones being:

  • Battle of St Fagans (1648): A battle fought between the forces of Oliver Cromwell and the Welsh Royalists resulted in a victory for Cromwell’s forces.
  • Battle of Rhyd y Groes (1648): A battle fought between the forces of Oliver Cromwell and the Welsh Royalists, it was part of the English Civil War and was significant for its brutality and the high number of casualties suffered by both sides.
  • Battle of Colby Moor (1655): A battle fought between the forces of Oliver Cromwell and the Welsh Royalists, it resulted in a victory for Cromwell’s forces.

As happened in Scotland and Ireland, these battles significantly shaped the political and religious landscape during the 17th century and helped establish English control over Wales.

The Changing Scene in Europe
Oliver Cromwell was concerned about the situation in the Netherlands because of the economic power of the Jewish community there and the fact that the Netherlands was then England’s leading commercial rival. Cromwell believed that to secure England’s economic and political interests, it was necessary to maintain good relations with the Dutch and to counteract the influence of the Spanish and the French in Europe.

The Treaty of Paris (see next) was a bold step towards achieving this goal, marking the first formal alliance between England and France. By entering into this alliance, Cromwell sought to strengthen England’s position in Europe and to counteract the influence of the Spanish and the Dutch. Additionally, the treaty helped to promote trade between England and France, which was beneficial for both countries. Cromwell was also interested in promoting Puritanism and Puritan values, and he saw the alliance with France as a means to further these goals. He believed that by strengthening England’s position in Europe and by promoting religious and moral reform, he could create a just society and secure a lasting peace in Europe.

The Jewish Influence
The Jewish community in the Netherlands played a significant role in the economic development of that country and was a major source of commercial power and wealth. Cromwell was aware of this and sought to maintain good relations with the Jews in the Netherlands, as they were seen as a potentially valuable ally in England’s commercial rivalry with the Dutch.

By establishing trade relations with the Jewish merchants in the Netherlands, Cromwell hoped to strengthen England’s position in Europe and counteract the influence of the Spanish and the French. Additionally, he saw the alliance with the Jewish community as a way to promote religious and moral reform, as many Jews shared similar values and beliefs as the Puritans. Cromwell had a relatively tolerant attitude towards Jews, which was unusual at the time.

The Jews in the Netherlands were a wealthy and influential community, and their presence in the country helped the Dutch to expand their trade and commerce around the world. On the other hand, England had banned Jews from living in the country for centuries and was disadvantaged compared to the Netherlands. By welcoming Jews to England, Cromwell hoped to “level the playing field” and give England a better chance to compete with the Dutch. By establishing trade relations with the Jewish merchants in the Netherlands, he hoped to strengthen England’s position in Europe and counteract the influence of the Spanish and the French.

Cromwell also saw the alliance with the Jewish community as a way to promote religious and moral reform, as many Jews shared similar values and beliefs with the Puritans. He supported the resettlement of Jews in England, which had been banned for centuries, and sought to promote their rights and freedoms. This policy helped to establish England as a centre of Jewish culture and commerce and further solidified its position as a leading power in Europe.

The Treaty of Paris and its Rationale
The Treaty of Paris was a treaty signed between England and France on 23rd March 1657, during the Protectorate period in England, and a year before Cromwell died. It marked the first formal alliance between England and a foreign power. The treaty was suggested by Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, who was seeking to strengthen England’s position in Europe and to counteract the influence of the Spanish and the French. He saw the alliance with France as a way to promote religious and moral reform and to establish England as a leading power in Europe.

The treaty included provisions for mutual defence, trade, and commercial relations between England and France. It was necessary because Cromwell wanted to secure England’s interests in Europe and counteract the influence of its rivals. Whilst the treaty had a significant impact on the political and economic relations between England and France and helped to establish England as a leading power in Europe, it was controversial, as many people in England opposed the alliance with France and the close relationship between Oliver Cromwell and Louis XIV of France.

The French enjoyed a period of great power and influence in Europe during the mid-17th century, but they also faced big challenges and threats to their position. For example, the French were engaged in several military conflicts and faced opposition from other European powers, such as Spain and the Dutch Republic. In this context, a treaty with England offered the French an opportunity to secure a valuable ally and strengthen their position in Europe. By allying with England, they hoped to counterbalance the influence of their rivals and secure their trade and commercial interests. Additionally, Louis XIV of France saw the treaty as a way to gain prestige and demonstrate France’s power and influence.

Whilst the treaty lasted for several years, its exact duration is unclear. It is believed to have expired sometime in the late 1660s, after the restoration of the monarchy in England. Overall, the Treaty of Paris offered mutual benefits to England and France, allowing them to work together to achieve their strategic and economic goals in Europe.

The Spanish were engaged in several military conflicts and political struggles during the mid-17th century, and they sought to counterbalance the growing power of France and England. They sought to build alliances with other European powers, such as the Dutch Republic, and to engage in diplomacy to protect their interests. In addition to their diplomatic efforts, the Spanish also used their military power to challenge the influence of France and England in Europe. They engaged in several wars and military campaigns, including the War of Devolution and the Franco-Dutch War, to maintain their influence and protect their interests in Europe.

Other Important Events and Developments
In addition to the Treaty of Paris, there were many other important events and developments during this time, such as the rise of the Dutch Republic as a major commercial and naval power, the growth of French influence in Europe, and the shifting balance of power between the European powers.

Overall, the mid-17th century was a period of great change and upheaval in Europe. The Treaty of Paris was one of many events that shaped the political and economic landscape of the time, including:

  • The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648): This conflict involved many of the European powers of the time, including France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Dutch Republic. It had a profound impact on the political and religious landscape of Europe and set the stage for the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the conflict.
  • The War of Devolution (1667-1668): This was a conflict between France and the Spanish Netherlands, in which France sought to expand its territory and influence in Europe. The war ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which allowed France to gain territory in the Spanish Netherlands.
  • The Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678): This was a conflict between France and the Dutch Republic, in which France sought to expand its influence in Europe. The war ended with the Treaty of Nijmegen, which granted France further territorial gains and expanded its influence in Europe.
  • The Glorious Revolution (1688): This was a political upheaval in England that resulted in the removal of King James II from the throne and the establishment of a new monarchy under William and Mary. The Glorious Revolution had far-reaching implications for England’s political and religious landscape and the wider European world. It was a key event in the development of modern democracy and constitutional government.
  • The Establishment of the Bank of England (1694): This was a major development in the economic history of England, as it helped to stabilise the country’s financial system and facilitate trade and commerce.
  • The Formation of the Grand Alliance (1689): This was a political and military alliance formed by England, the Dutch Republic, and the Holy Roman Empire to counter the growing power of France. The alliance was a key factor in the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697), fought against France.
  • The Growth of European Colonial Empires: During the mid-17th century, European powers continued to expand their colonial empires in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. This expansion of European colonial power had far-reaching implications for the economic and political landscape of Europe and the wider world.
  • The Rise of Enlightenment Thinking: The mid-17th century was also a period of great intellectual and cultural ferment as new ideas about science, philosophy, and politics began to emerge. This intellectual ferment was a key factor in the development of the Enlightenment, a movement that sought to apply reason and scientific knowledge to all aspects of life.
  • The Great Plague of London (1665): This was a major epidemic of bubonic plague that swept through the city of London, killing tens of thousands of people and having a profound impact on the social and economic fabric of the city.
  • The Treaty of Westphalia (1648): This was a series of peace treaties signed at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, fought primarily in Germany. The Treaty of Westphalia brought an end to the war and established a new balance of power in Europe, marking the beginning of the modern system of nation-states.
  • The Establishment of the East India Company (1600): This was a British trading company founded to pursue trade with the East Indies (modern-day Indonesia). The East India Company played a major role in the development of British colonial power in India and Southeast Asia, and it had a big impact on the economies of both Britain and the wider world.
  • The Mughal Empire in India: During the mid-17th century, the Mughal Empire was at the height of its power and influence in India. The Mughal emperors, including Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, oversaw a period of great cultural and architectural achievements, including the construction of the Taj Mahal.
  • The Scientific Revolution: The mid-17th century was also a time of great scientific and technological advances, with key figures such as Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, and Robert Boyle making major contributions to the development of modern science. These advances helped to lay the foundation for the Industrial Revolution, which would take place in Europe and North America in the following centuries.

The above are just a few examples of the many important events and developments in Europe during the mid-17th century – a time of great change and ferment, and it laid the foundation for many of the political, economic, and cultural developments that would shape the world in the centuries to come.

It was a complex and challenging situation, as England and the Netherlands were rival powers competing for economic and political influence in Europe and around the world. However, Oliver Cromwell and his government recognised the importance of maintaining good relations with the Netherlands, despite their rivalries. One reason was that the Netherlands was England’s leading commercial rival, and the two countries had significant economic interdependence. Maintaining good relations with the Netherlands was deemed crucial for England’s economic interests, as the Dutch controlled important trade routes and markets. Also, Cromwell and his government believed that religious and moral reform was necessary to create a just society, and they saw the Jewish community in the Netherlands as a valuable ally in this effort. The Jewish community in the Netherlands was seen as influential and economically powerful, and Cromwell believed that by establishing closer relations with the Jews, England could gain a competitive advantage over the Dutch.

The Parties to the Treaty of Paris
The Treaty of Paris was signed between the Protectorate of England under Oliver Cromwell and the Kingdom of France under King Louis XIV. These were the two parties to the treaty, and it was a formal bilateral alliance between their respective governments. The treaty was signed on 23rd March 1657, marking the first time England had entered into a formal alliance with a foreign power. The treaty was important for both countries, as it marked a shift in their respective foreign policies and helped to establish closer ties between them.

Richard Cromwell
Richard Cromwell was the second son of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, during the Commonwealth period. He was born in 1626[21] and served as a member of Parliament during his father’s rule.

After the death of his father in 1658, Richard was named as his successor as Lord Protector of England, but he faced opposition from various factions within the government and the military. Despite his lack of military experience and political savvy, Richard attempted to carry on his father’s work and maintain the Commonwealth. However, his rule was plagued by challenges, including opposition from members of the military and various political factions and widespread discontent among the general population.

In May of 1659, Richard was forced to resign as Lord Protector after a military coup, and the Commonwealth was dissolved. He went into exile in France, where he lived in relative obscurity for the rest of his life.

Richard Cromwell is often seen as a weak and ineffective leader who could not live up to his father’s legacy. Nevertheless, his brief rule marked an important moment in English history, as the country transitioned from the rule of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell to the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II.

A painting of a person Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Picture Credit: [Cropped] By Gerard Soest – Derived from Theo Johns Fine Arts, London, Public Domain,
Page URL: Richard Cromwell (1626-1712), by Gerard Soest – Richard Cromwell – Wikipedia

Overall, Richard Cromwell’s legacy is a mixed one, and he remains a controversial figure in English history. Some see him as a pawn who was manipulated by various factions and was unable to maintain control, while others view him as a well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful leader who failed to carry on the legacy of his father.

Restoration of the Monarchy
Charles II was approached by various groups about restoring the monarchy after the end of the English Civil War and the establishment of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell’s rule. The idea of restoring the monarchy gained popularity as Cromwell’s rule became increasingly unpopular, and many people began to regret the execution of Charles I. Cromwell was offered the British crown. Some suggestions were made to restore the monarchy, but this presented a dilemma for him, as he had been instrumental in abolishing the monarchy and signing the death sentence of King Charles I. He ultimately declined the offer to take the crown, as he believed that accepting the crown would undermine the principles of the revolution and the Republic.

When Charles II arrived back in England in 1660, he was greeted with great enthusiasm by many people who were eager to restore the monarchy. Cromwell had died in 1658, and his son Richard was unable to maintain control, leading to the collapse of the Commonwealth and the restoration of the monarchy. Upon his return to England, Charles II was welcomed by the people and the members of Parliament, who saw the restoration of the monarchy as a means of restoring stability and order after the chaos of the civil war and the rule of the Commonwealth. The monarchy was officially restored with the coronation of Charles II as king on 23rd April 1661.

Charles wearing a crown and ermine-lined robe
Picture Credit: Coronation portrait: Charles was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661
Attribution: John Michael Wright, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL:

Although Oliver Cromwell was dead by the time of Charles II’s return, his legacy and the memory of Cromwell’s rule remained controversial. Some people viewed him as a usurper who had overthrown the rightful king, while others saw him as a hero who had saved England from the tyranny of the monarchy.

Despite these differing views, the restoration of the monarchy marked the end of the republic and the return of the old order in England. The events of the English Civil War profoundly impacted the relationship between the monarchy and parliament and helped shape the development of constitutional government in England and beyond.

In conclusion, Oliver Cromwell was a highly controversial figure during his lifetime, and his reputation has been shaped by a range of opinions and perspectives. Some viewed him as a hero who had saved the country from tyranny, while others saw him as a ruthless dictator who had overthrown the rightful king. These differing views would continue to influence public perception of Cromwell in the following centuries. Some have seen him as a progressive figure who brought about much-needed reforms, while others have viewed him as a tyrant who trampled on the rights and freedoms of the English people.

Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate represent a crucial chapter in English history marked by significant political, social, and cultural change. Cromwell himself was a complex and controversial figure whose legacy continues to be debated and reassessed by historians and the general public.

Cromwell’s legacy and the Protectorate continue to have relevance for modern times, particularly in the light of ongoing discussions about the balance of power between the government and the people and the military’s role in politics. These issues remain just as relevant today as they were in Cromwell’s time and offer valuable lessons for future generations.

Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate will continue to be a topic of fascination and study for generations to come, offering a window into a pivotal moment in English history and the complex and multifaceted legacy of one of its most influential figures. Despite the ongoing debate about Cromwell’s legacy, it is widely recognised that he played a significant role in shaping the course of English history. He was a complex and controversial figure whose actions and policies had far-reaching impacts that are still felt today.

Oliver Cromwell: Timeline

1599 Born in Huntingdon – 25th April.
1616 Enters Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University.
1617 Oliver Cromwell’s father died. Oliver left University to return to Huntingdon,
1620 Oliver Cromwell married Elizabeth Bourchier at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London.
1628 MP for Huntingdon.
1629 King Charles I chose to rule without an English parliament.
1640 Charles I’s personal rule collapsed, and Oliver Cromwell re-entered parliament as MP for Cambridge.
1642 Cromwell joined the Parliamentarians (aka ‘Roundheads’) and raised a cavalry troop in Huntingdon at the start of the English Civil War. The Battle of Edgehill took place on 23rd October.
1643 Appointed as Colonel of a cavalry regiment of the Eastern Association, battling to prevent the rise of royalism in East Anglia and the East Midlands and the threat of the Royalist army to the north (one year from January 1643). Notable Cromwell Engagements: 28th April, captured Crowland. On 11th May, Cromwell captured Grantham. 30th June, Battle of Adwalton Moor. 20th September, Battle of Roundaway Down. 20th September, the first Battle of Newbury.
1644 Appointed Lieutenant-General of the Eastern Association Army. 2nd July, Battle of Marston Moor. 27th October, second Battle of Newbury.
1645 Appointed Lieutenant-General of the New Model Army, under the leadership of Commander-in-Chief, Sir Thomas Fairfax. 14th June, Battle of Naseby. July, Cromwell assumed command of Bartholomew Vermuyden’s Regiment following Vermuyden’s resignation.
1646 February, victory over the Royalist army at the Battle of Torrington.
1647 Supported parliamentary army in clashes with parliament. In September, Cromwell agreed to a treaty with the Scottish Covenanters at the Treaty of Newport.
1648 Crushed royalist rising in South Wales. 18th August, Battle of Preston. Cromwell argued for the trial of King Charles I for treason. December 1648, the New Model Army marched on parliament to apprehend Presbyterian MPs and receive the arrears in their pay. The creation of the ‘Rump Parliament’ saw the number of MPs reduced to just 150 members. 1st Dec 1648, a group of Parliamentarian officers captured Charles I of England on the Isle of Wight.
1649 30th January, supported the trial and execution of King Charles 1 and signed his death warrant. The monarchy was replaced by the Council of State of the Commonwealth. From August to December, Cromwell commanded the army sent to crush Ireland, conquered Ireland (and ended the Irish Confederate Wars) and began a campaign of repression and colonisation.
1650 June 1650, Cromwell was appointed Captain-General of the Commonwealth. July 1650, he commanded the army sent to crush Scotland. On 3rd September, the Battle of Dunbar. From September to December 1650, Oliver Cromwell besieged and then captured Edinburgh Castle.
1651 3rd September, Battle of Worcester.
1652 Victory over the Dutch Republic at the Battle of the Dunes, 14th June. The Battle of the Dunes (also known as the Battle of Dunkirk, was fought near the strategic port of Dunkirk in what was then called the Spanish Netherlands.
1653 20th April, declared England a Commonwealth and dissolved the Rump parliament by force, establishing the short-lived Barebone’s parliament. 16th December, became Lord Protector of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
1654 Meets first Protectorate parliament in September.
1654 to 1655 Cromwell wages the Anglo-Spanish War, which resulted in England gaining control of Jamaica. September 1654, met the first Protectorate Parliament.
1655 May 1655, England began to be divided into separate groups of counties under the command of individual Major-Generals. October 1655, established the Protectorate and instituted the system of Major-Generals.
1656 September 1656, Cromwell met the second Protectorate parliament.
1657 June 1657, a proposal for a new constitution, the Humble Petition and Advice (the second and last codified constitution of England after the Instrument of Government), was made. From March to June 1657, Cromwell rejected the offer to take the crown and chose to remain as the Lord Protector, reflecting his belief in the need for a more radical and godly form of governance that was not reliant on the monarchy. The system of the Major-Generals was ended.
1658 Designated as his successor, his son Richard Cromwell, July. 3rd September, Oliver Cromwell died at Whitehall (with a State funeral held in November 1658 at Westminster Abbey). It marked the beginning of the end for the Protectorate as his son Richard could not maintain control.
1659 April – May 1659, the fall of the Protectorate. Richard Cromwell is forced to resign.
1660 Restoration of the monarchy with the return of Charles II in May, marking the end of the Protectorate.
1661 30th January, Oliver Cromwell’s body was exhumed by the Royalists and posthumously ‘executed’ by hanging his body in chains and beheading the corpse. Afterwards, Cromwell’s body was re-buried at Tyburn (now Marble Arch).
Reference Sources for Further Reading



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End Notes and Explanations
  1. Source: Artificial Intelligence at:
  2. Explanation: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, sometimes known as the British Civil Wars, were a series of intertwined conflicts fought between 1639 and 1653 in the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, then separate entities united in a personal union under Charles I. They include the 1639 to 1640 Bishops’ Wars, the First and Second English Civil Wars, the Irish Confederate Wars, the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland and the Anglo-Scottish war (1650–1652). They resulted in victory for the Parliamentarian army, the execution of Charles I, the abolition of monarchy, and founding of the Commonwealth of England, a Unitary state which controlled the British Isles until the Stuart Restoration in 1660 and the resumption of the monarchy under King Charles II. Source:
  3. Explanation: The Protectorate, officially the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, refers to the period from 16 December 1653 to 25 May 1659 during which England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and associated territories were joined together in the Commonwealth of England, governed by a Lord Protector. It began when Barebone’s Parliament was dismissed, and the Instrument of Government appointed Oliver Cromwell Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. Cromwell died in September 1658 and was succeeded by his son Richard Cromwell. Source:
  4. Source:
  5. Explanation: The New Model Army was a standing army formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians during the First English Civil War, then disbanded after the Stuart Restoration in 1660. It differed from other armies employed in the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms in that members were liable for service anywhere in the country, rather than being limited to a single area or garrison. To establish a professional officer corps, the army’s leaders were prohibited from having seats in either the House of Lords or House of Commons. This was to encourage their separation from the political or religious factions among the Parliamentarians. Source:
  6. Explanation: The Rump Parliament was the name given to the parliament that governed Britain from 1648 to 1653 and from 1659 to 1660, after the Long Parliament had been reduced in size. 
  7. Explanation: The Commonwealth refers to the period in the post-Civil War period when England was ruled without a King. Charles I was executed in 1649 and England for the first time since before Alfred the Great was without a King. The next 11 years saw a variety of systems of government experimented with. However, Parliament was discredited by its inability to establish a stable political settlement or tackle urgent reforms. Oliver Cromwell dismissed Parliament in 1653 and took the title of Lord Protector. Source:
  8. Explanation: The Long Parliament was an English Parliament which lasted from 1640 until 1660. It followed the fiasco of the Short Parliament, which had convened for only three weeks during the spring of 1640 after an 11-year parliamentary absence. In September 1640, King Charles I issued writs summoning a parliament to convene on 3 November 1640. He intended it to pass financial bills, a step made necessary by the costs of the Bishops’ Wars in Scotland. The Long Parliament received its name from the fact that, by Act of Parliament, it stipulated it could be dissolved only with agreement of the members; and those members did not agree to its dissolution until 16 March 1660, after the English Civil War and near the close of the Interregnum. The parliament sat from 1640 until 1648, when it was purged by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army. After this point, the remaining members of the House of Commons became known as the Rump Parliament; Oliver Cromwell disbanded the Rump in April 1653, replacing it with a succession of nominated and elected parliaments.
  9. Source: © Crown Copyright acknowledged.
  10. Source: Artificial Intelligence at:
  11. Source:
  12. The Interregnum (meaning “between reign” in Latin), was the period between the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 and the arrival of his son Charles II in London on 29 May 1660 which marked the start of the Restoration of the monarchy in Britain. During the Interregnum, England was under various forms of republican government (see Commonwealth of England). The politics of the period were dominated by the wishes of the Grandees (Senior Officers) of the New Model Army and their civilian supporters. They encouraged (or at least tolerated) several republican regimes. From 1649 until 1653 executive powers lay with the Council of State, while legislative functions were carried out by the Rump Parliament. In 1653, the Grandees, with Oliver Cromwell in the lead, dismissed the Rump, and replaced it with a Nominated Assembly (nicknamed the Parliament of Saints or Barebone’s Parliament) made up of 140 nominees, 129 from England and Wales, five from Scotland and six from Ireland. It proved to be as difficult for the executive to work with that parliament as it had with the Rump, so, after sitting for five months, members friendly to the Grandees engineered its dissolution on 12 December 1653. Source:
  13. Source:
  14. Information and Explanation: The Regiment of Coldstream Guards was raised in June 1650 when Oliver Cromwell appointed George Monck to command a New Model Army Regiment. For three weeks in late 1659, Monck’s Regiment stayed in Coldstream on the Scottish border. Prompted by widespread anarchy, Monck set out on 1st January 1660 to march his Regiment to London. Monck and his Regiment played a crucial part in restoring law and order, and supporting the elections that led to the restoration of the Monarchy and the return of King Charles II. Monck was richly rewarded by Charles II, who made him a Knight of the Garter, and the Regiment has used the Garter Star as its capstar ever since. Source:
  15. Explanation: The Battle of Dunbar was an important event in the English Civil War, as it marked the first major military victory for the Commonwealth and solidified Oliver Cromwell’s position as the leading military figure in England. The battle also demonstrated the effectiveness of Cromwell’s New Model Army, which was organised and trained differently than traditional armies had been. The large number of Scottish prisoners taken at Dunbar also played a significant role in the events that followed, as they were eventually used to strengthen Cromwell’s position in Scotland and help secure control of the country for the Commonwealth. See:
  16. Source:
  17. Source:
  18. Explanation: Between mid-1644 and 1645, Montrose had fought a successful disruptive campaign around Scotland, intended to tie down Scottish government troops and prevent their aiding the Parliamentarian side in the First English Civil War. Leading a force built around an Irish Confederate brigade under Alasdair Mac Colla, Montrose had beaten the Covenanters at TippermuirAberdeenInverlochyAuldearn and Alford. Following the bloody Royalist victory at Alford on 2 July 1645, there remained only a single intact government force in Scotland,[3] under the command of the experienced professional soldier William Baillie. See and
  19. Source:
  20. Source:
  21. Source: Plant, David. “Oliver Cromwell 1599–1658”. Cited at:

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