Cromwell’s Puritan Dictatorship

Statue of Oliver Cromwell, outside Westminster Hall
Statue of Oliver Cromwell, outside Westminster Hall

Oliver Cromwell was an English military leader who led the parliamentary forces during the English Civil War and was Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland from the year 1653 to 1658.


Oliver Cromwell was born in April 1599 in Huntingdon, England, to  to wealthy and powerful parents. Oliver was the second oldest of Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward’s ten children. Oliver’s father was the youngest son of Richard Cromwell who was one of the richest men in the district, while his mother was the daughter of Sir Steward who organized tithe revenues of Ely Cathedral. Oliver attended a local school in which he became a very devout Calvinist through his schoolmaster Dr. Thomas Beard. Later he attended Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge but unfortunately had to drop out due to his father’s death during 1617.

By August 1620 Cromwell had been married to Elizabeth Bourchier who bore him nine children and had settled in Huntingdon. Later, he was elected MP for Huntingdon in the Parliament during 1628 to where part of opposing the rule of King Charles that rose in the declaration of the Petition of Right in June 1628.  Cromwell began as a freeman of the borough of Cambridge and MP for Cambridge in the two Parliaments during 1640.

Due to Charles needing more funding for himself and Parliaments refusal to do so, war had out broke on August 1642, to in which Cromwell became a military leader for Parliament and led one of the first actions during war with 200 lightly-armed volunteers and stopped the King’s men from stowing away with the silver plates of the colleges of Cambridge.

‘Have faith that God will make sure that you win a conflict, but be prepared to fight as well & vigorously (Powder means “Gunpowder)
‘Have faith that God will make sure that you win a conflict, but be prepared to fight as well & vigorously (Powder means “Gunpowder)

In August 1642, Cromwell headed an army to defend East Anglia, and displayed his skills as a leader and his skills in creating an effective army from his newly recruited troops. By October 1642, Cromwell’s troops joined the forces of the Earl of Essex. Cromwell’s success included the engagements at Grantham on May 13, Gainsborough on July 18, and on Wincaby on the 13th of October. On the 26 of January of 1650 Cromwell became commander in chief Parliament’s armies. By next year, Charles II, with an army of Scottish warriors who tried making a comeback at England, but unfortunately were defeated at Worcester on Sept.3, 1651.

During his time when the Civil War was still raging Cromwell and his forces went to Ireland where the Irish were supporting the Stuart dynasty after an alliance was made. Unfortunately, due to his attacks on Drogheda and Wexford on 1649, the massacre of many Irish citizens resulted in him being seen as a stain on Irish history.

After England’s government was declared a republic, and Charles I’s execution had occurred, a so-called “Rump Parliament” and the Council of State ruled England.  The Council of State was under the direction of House of Commons, and its duties were to implement domestic and foreign policy and to ensure the security of the nation. The Rump Parliament was said to be an interim government and was expected to prepare for an election of permanent representatives. When the war was stated to be over, Parliament was still in the process in electing a new leader to which they were taking too long to elect a new representative in which army leaders and later Cromwell grew to impatience.  On the 20th of April 1653, Cromwell soon forcibly expelled the Rump Parliament. It is said that he did so as he thought that the Rump Parliament was planning to continue itself.

Cromwell dismissing the "Rump Parliament"
Cromwell dismissing the “Rump Parliament”

On the 26th of December 1653 Cromwell was declared as Lord Protector. Cromwell proposed the title of Lord Protector in order to distance himself monarchy to which he stood against for. Ironically, by 1656, Cromwell was greeted as “your highness” and granted knighthood to his followers. However, Cromwell’s power would be limited as he was a king. Cromwell later died on September 3, 1658 with his son Richard supposedly to have succeeded him at first.

Cromwell abolished Monarchy, but became a Dictator himself
Cromwell abolished Monarchy, but became a Dictator himself

Despite his successes during the war Cromwell regarded himself as a failure due to how he once stood he stood against monarchy yet became a monarch himself.

Cromwell was also known to have had a strong religious faith.   During the war his faith was strengthened with the belief that God chose him and his troops to perform his (God) will. He displayed a religious hint to most of his political policies when he was Lord Protector in the 1650s. He made his people reform to his religion of Calvinism. His belief in “Godly Reformation” led him to ban drunkenness, and other things he considered sinful activities.  He banned enjoyment such as sports, inns, theatres, etc. as he believed if you worked hard you go to Heaven. Furthermore, Cromwell believed women and girls should dress in a proper manner. He banned the use of make-up and colorful dresses so women would wear long black dress that covered her from neck to toes. Furthermore, he banned Christmas as he wanted it to be about the birth of Christ instead of eating and drinking.                                                

Learning Goal:

After reading this website, how do you think the English Civil War contributed to the development of Canada as a democracy and a constitutional monarchy?

Fun Activity: Wink Murder Rules

An assassin is sent after the “king” and he has to find the king without being discovered. The king can do the same; he is trying to find the assassin without dying; the royal guard and the king can call the assassin out or “take him out” by saying their name or by saying “you’re the assassin,” but the king and the guard have 4 tries, each. Once you’re dead, you can no longer communicate to anybody that’s still alive in the game.

Item(s) needed:

  1.  4-30 people
  2. 1 King
  3. 1 Guard
  4. 1 Assassin

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