How and why has the rule of Oliver Cromwell been interpreted differently? There are lots of opinions about Cromwell and they have differed a lot. Historians still disagree about him even today! ‘His cruelty and ruthlessness have left a mark and a memory that the last 300 years have not been able to wipe. ’ C V Wedgwood mentioned in the 1950’s-60. He wrote many books about the life of Charles I and this shows that his opinion of Cromwell wasn’t a very nice one. He has stated that Oliver Cromwell has scarred life and they have not been able to get rid of that nasty memory.
Although Wedgwood disagrees about Cromwell, there are others that differ. ‘Cromwell was the national hero…the greatest because the most typical Englishman of all time. ’ S R Gardiner stated in 1902. Gardiner was a descendent of Cromwell and supported the idea of a Puritan Revolution. This source shows that he was a great fan of Cromwell and he believed that he was the most typical Englishman of all time. I think he might have supported the Puritan Revolution idea because he might be a puritan himself and respected the ideas Cromwell had.
I think both of these statements are biased as Gardiner was a descendant of Cromwell and Wedgwood wrote many book about Charles; Cromwell agreed to execute Charles. In this essay I am going to explain how and why his rule has been interpreted in different ways and why he was such a controversial man? Oliver Cromwell was a military and political leader who overpowered the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was born at Cromwell House in Huntingdon on the 25 April 1599 to Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward and he was a puritan.
Cromwell was a commander of the New Model Army which defeated the royalists in the English Civil War. He was elected Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in 1628 and for Cambridge in 1640. He entered the English Civil War on the side of the “Roundheads” or Parliamentarians and became a key military leader. Nicknamed “Old Ironsides”, he was quickly promoted from leading a single cavalry troop to command of the entire army. Lots of people turned against Cromwell; and he turned against people to. The levellers were the most famous people who turned against Cromwell and his ruling.
The levellers were a political group during the civil war. The levellers list developed with growing conflict within the New Model Army in the wake of the First Civil War. The leveller’s believed in religious freedom, end to imprisonment for dept and that all male population should be able to vote for parliament and this should happen every 2 years. But Cromwell didn’t think this. “What the levellers say is that the poorer people should have as much riches as richer people. Either you must cut them in pieces or they will cut you in pieces” is what Cromwell is reported to say.
But is this what the levellers wanted? No, it wasn’t. Cromwell made out that they were making the poorer people be as rich as the richer people when all they wanted was for all male population to vote every 2 years etc. This might add on to the reason people still disagree with the choices he made today. John Lilburne was the leader of the levellers and had much support. The Levellers made full use of the printing press to circulate pamphlets and petitions, effectively developing the first mass political propaganda techniques to be used in Britain.
In 1649, Lilburne was imprisoned in the tower of London. Whilst he was there he wrote a letter, “we have much cause to distrust you; for we know how many broken promises that you have made to the kingdom. ” He sent this letter as Cromwell met up with the leveller group every week to discuss ideas. For a long time Cromwell agreed with them, and after the king was executed the levellers thought they could change. But then Cromwell turned against them. I know this from the sources I have seen in class. On the other hand many people agreed with the choices Cromwell made.
People may think that the idea of not going to prison for not paying dept is wrong and religious freedom is wrong as you are not respecting god. On the way down to London a group of 400 men in the leveller group was captured by the new model army. They were imprisoned in Burford church and the 4 leaders (Cornet Thomson, Private Church, Corporal Perkins and Chaplin Henry Denne) were up for execution. All 4 of them were given a chance to agree that there ideas were wrong and they would get killed. 3 refused to but Chaplin Henry Denne agreed and was saved from execution.
Even today Burford celebrate leveller’s day every year. Cromwell and Ireland didn’t really get on in them days. Most of Ireland still doesn’t agree with us now. At the time of Cromwell there were lots of Protestants living in Ireland. This is strange because Ireland was a catholic country. But this happened because King Henry and Queen Elizabeth I started to encourage English Protestants to go and take over land in catholic Ireland. They did this by either pushing the Irish off their land or by making the Irish work for them. But in 1641, the Irish Catholics rebelled against the English rule!
At this point the king was still alive and in was in the middle of the civil war so Cromwell couldn’t possibly do anything about it but as soon as the king was executed and the war was over, that’s when Cromwell made a stop to the Irish Catholic rebellion. In 1649, Cromwell landed in Ireland with 12,000 men to invade, his first target was Drogheda! As he landed, Cromwell proceeded to take the other port cities on Irelands east coast. The first town to fall was Drogheda. “Cromwell’s soldiers promised to spare the lives of any who laid down their arms.
But when they had all in their power, the word, ‘no quarter’ went round. ” This was from a letter written by Marquis of Ormonde, the leader of the Irish Catholics, on 29th September 1649. The word quarter meant that if the enemy surrendered and gave up their weapons, it was then wrong to kill them. This was one of the two important 17th century rules of warfare. So, this quote shows that Oliver Cromwell recklessly killed innocent people. This is probably why people still disagree with him today; especially people in Ireland as it might be there ancestors who got murdered. But am I being a bit biased here?
This was Marquis of Ormonde interpretation of what happened, so what about the other half of the story. Oliver Cromwell wrote a letter reporting what happened. The letter stated that he offered surrender four times. Here are two examples, “… a summons (order) to deliver (surrender) the town, receiving no satisfactory answer…” and “… were summoned, but they refused to yield…” Both of these examples do show that Cromwell was cooperative and gave a chance for them to surrender. These quotes might be the ones that make people support him as he gave them lots of chances to surrender but they refused.
The massacre of the garrison in Drogheda, including some after they had surrendered and some who had sheltered in a Church was received with horror in Ireland, and is remembered even today as an example of Cromwell’s decisions. Many people in them day thought that the only way to bring back law and order was to bring back monarchy. But the problem was, they couldn’t possibly bring back Charles II as Cromwell agreed with the execution of Charles I and ran Charles II off to France. The only man who could, was Cromwell. In February 1657, he was offered the crown but he rejected the offer.
This could have been for many reasons. One reason could have been that hi army might turn against him. “Cromwell tried all possible means to persuade the army officers to approve his plan. He invited himself to dine with General Fleetwood and Colonel Desborough, where he began to go on about monarchy. They told him that those who offered it were friends of Charles Stuart. ” This was written at the time by Edmund Ludlow. This show that maybe Cromwell did want monarchy but his army warned him off by saying “they told him that those who offered it were friends of Charles Stuart. Also, “one hundred officers said to His Highness that he should not take the title of king because it was not pleasing to his army…” this backs up the quote from Edmund Ludlow as it is saying that the army advise him not to take the title of king. Also they call Cromwell “His Highness” which shows that they already think he is powerful and loyal. This might have been a reason why people agree with Cromwell as he did want monarchy back but it was the army who stopped him. On the other hand, Lord Clarendon quoted “this man, against the desires of all noble persons, took the throne of three kingdoms.
Without the name of king, but with a greater power and authority than had been claimed by any king. ” He is saying that he does not deserve the title of king as he already has more power than any other king and he wrongly rules three kingdoms. People may agree with this and don’t think that Cromwell should have ruled all three kingdoms and made people obey them when he wasn’t even king. But is this quote biased? Well, it might be as Lord Clarendon was a supporter of the Stuarts. When Cromwell became lord protector, all the opinions about him differed.
Lots of people agreed with him becoming lord protector, for example, “Cromwell would have rather taken a shepherds staff than the Protectorship. Nothing went more against his feelings than show of greatness. But he saw it was necessary at the time, to keep the nation from falling into extreme disorder. ” This shows that he wasn’t too keen on the lord protector but he accepted it to help the nation. This could be a reason why people look up to him as he didn’t do it for his own likings but to help other people.
Another quote from a Bristol Baptist says, “The days of Oliver Cromwell were marvellous days of prosperity, liberty and peace. ” This quote is saying that because of Cromwell becoming Lord Protector, the nation became a better place. On the other hand some people disapprove him and see him as a devil. For example, there was a cartoon titled ‘Cromwell’s Chariot’. This cartoon shows a chariot drawn by two dragon like creatures, Cromwell at the back with the devil. In the chariot there are three ladies which represent the three Kingdoms. Cromwell is holding the scales of liberty and an angel is in a cage.
The chariot is running over parliament and in the background two wolves are chasing five sheep. I think these animals represent Cromwell’s men are the wolves chasing the town’s people. This painting shows that the artist thinks that Cromwell is already ruling too much and has locked away all freedom. But this goes against the other quote which stated that when Cromwell was in rule it was marvellous days of prosperity, liberty and peace. There has always been lots of different views about Cromwell and they have all differed through time.
In the Victorian period people thought that Cromwell was a great man who helped to make Britain a fairer, stronger and more religious country. The Victorian were proud of being ruled by an elected parliament and in 1899they built a statue of him outside houses of parliament to mark the 300th anniversary of his birth. But in the 1930- 40s many historians thought he was a cruel military dictator. “… Historians have given us many Cromwell’s. ” Christopher Hill said in 1970 and he is basically saying that there is lots of different view of Cromwell.
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