War and the role of Cromwell, to 1651

War and the role of Cromwell, to 1651

The Rise of Oliver Cromwell

  • Oliver Cromwell emerged as a key figure during the English Civil War, initially serving as a Member of Parliament for Huntingdon.
  • He rose up through ranks of the Parliamentary forces, proving himself as a competent military leader and by 1645, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General in the New Model Army.
  • Cromwell’s New Model Army played a decisive role in the Parliamentarian victory in the Battle of Naseby (1645), which significantly weakened the royalist forces.

Formation of the Commonwealth

  • After the execution of Charles I in 1649, a republican regime called the Commonwealth was declared, effectively ending monarchy in England.
  • Initially, the Commonwealth was governed by the Rump Parliament, which had orchestrated the trial and execution of Charles I. However, it was soon dissolved by Cromwell due to its inefficiency and corruption.

Cromwell as Lord Protector

  • In 1653, Cromwell was appointed as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth which effectively made him the head of state.
  • As Lord Protector, Cromwell had powers similar to those of a monarch but was subject to the law and governed in consultation with a council of state.
  • Despite ruling without a king, Cromwell continued many elements of the monarchical system, such as retaining a council, limiting the power of parliament, and living in royal state.

Cromwell’s Rule in Ireland and Scotland

  • In 1649, Cromwell led an invasion into Ireland to suppress the Royalist alliance. The Siege of Drogheda and Wexford were notorious for their brutality and resulted in the death of numerous soldiers and civilians.
  • After subduing Ireland, he turned his attention to Scotland where Charles II had been declared the king. The subsequent Battle of Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651) resulted in decisive victories for Cromwell and effectively marked the end of the civil wars.

Death and Legacy of Cromwell

  • Cromwell died in 1658 and was succeeded by his son, Richard, who was unable to maintain authority and stepped down in 1659.
  • Following the collapse of the Protectorate, Charles II was invited back to England and the monarchy was restored.
  • Cromwell’s legacy has been a matter of much debate, seen by some as a defender of liberty, while others view him as a religious zealot and military dictator.