Biography of Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell was a major figure in the English Civil War and became the Lord Protector of England during the Interregnum in the seventeenth century.

When and Where was he Born?

25th April 1599. Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England.

Family Background:

Oliver Cromwell was one of ten children of Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward. Seven survived childhood of which Oliver was the only boy. His mother had inherited money from her first husband a brewer. His father was the second son of minor gentry.

Education:

Huntingdon Grammar School. Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge University. Studied law in London.

Timeline of Oliver Cromwell:

1603: Death of Queen Elizabeth the First.

1617: Death of his father in June. Returns home from Cambridge University.

1620: He marries Elizabeth Bourchier at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London on 22nd August.

1621: Birth of Cromwell’s first son Robert.

1623: Birth of son Oliver.

1624: Birth of Cromwell’s Daughter Bridget.

1625: Death of King James the First and accession of Charles the First.

1626: Birth of his third son Richard on 4th October, who was later to become the second Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, for eight months, from September 1658 until May 1659. Richard Cromwell was known colloquially as Tumbledown Dick and Queen Dick.

1628: In March he enters the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Huntingdon. In May “The Petition of Right” is presented to the King which sought to forbid arrests of subjects without trial and remove arbitrary taxation.

1629: Dissolution of Parliament by King Charles in March. Cromwell returns home.

1631: Cromwell moves his family to St. Ives, Cambridgeshire to become a farmer.

All Saints Church St Ives, Cambridgeshire
All Saints Church in St Ives, Cambridgeshire where the Cromwell family worshipped  (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1636: He moves his family to Ely.

1637: The impoverished King imposes Ship Money tax on goods imported or exported by sea.

1640: The King calls up the “Short Parliament”in April to call for new taxes. Cromwell represents Cambridge as their M.P. Parliament is dissolved due to disagreements but is called up again in November and becomes known as the “Long Parliament”.

1641: Massacres take place after a rising in Ireland in October. 27th November Parliament sends the “Grand Remonstrance” to the King which is a list of all its grievances.

1642: Five Members of Parliament escape in January when the King tries to have them arrested. 22nd August. The King leaves London, which is pro parliament, and hoists his standard at Nottingham. 23rd October. The Battle of Edgehill is fought near Kineton in Warwickshire, as the first battle of the English Civil War. Both sides claim victory.

1643: Cromwell is made the Governor of the Isle of Ely.

Cromwell Museum
Cromwell Museum, Ely, Cambridgeshire  (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1644: Cromwell made Lieutenant-General. His son Oliver dies. 2nd July Battle of Marston Moor. 27th October. Second Battle of Newbury. 9th December. Despite the “Self Denying Ordnance” being adopted stating that no M.P. can fight in the army Cromwell is allowed to continue his military role.

1645: 14th June. The Battle of Naseby was a major victory for the Parliamentarian cause.

1646: 27th April the King escapes to the Scottish forces at Newark and the Parliamentarians march on his temporary capital Oxford, which surrenders on 4th June.

1647: The King is seized at Holdenby House by a member of the Parliamentarian forces. 6th August. The Parliamentarian army marches into London. 28th October. Army debates political and religious issues in St. Mary’s Church, Putney. 11th November. The King escapes ending up in Carrisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.

1648: Start of the Second Civil War. 3rd May. Cromwell goes to Wales and besieges Pembroke Castle. 17th August. Battle of Preston. October. Cromwell lays siege to Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire. 6th December. “Pride’s Purge”. Only Members of Parliament who are loyal to the hard liners are allowed to vote by Colonel Pride’s men, the others are locked outside the Chamber. Cromwell returns to London on the same evening but has been kept informed of events all along.

1649: On 20th January the trial of King Charles opens. Cromwell declares it illegal. Sentence is eventually passed on the King and he is executed on 30th January by beheading outside the Banqueting Hall of the Palace of Whitehall in London. In May Cromwell puts down a mutiny of a group of Levellers at Burford. 15th August. Takes a force to Ireland to put down rebellion.

Charles the First Bust
Plaque and bust over Inigo Jone’s Banquetting House in London’s Whitehall 
to mark the spot where King Charles the First was executed. (copyright Anthony Blagg)
Charles the First Plaque
Detail of plaque on Banqueting House (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1650: Cromwell returns to England on 26th May. In June he leaves for Scotland. On 3rd September Cromwell defeats a Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar.

1651: At the Battle of Worcester on 3rd September King Charles’s son, Charles (later to become King Charles the Second) tries unsuccessfully to win back the throne and Cromwell’s army is victorious.

1652: April. Anglo-Dutch War.

1653: Dissolution of the “Long Parliament” on 20th April. This is succeeded by the “Barebones Parliament” i.e. one where members are nominated by the authorities. On 16th December Cromwell is chosen as Protector.

1654: In April Cromwell makes peace with the Dutch. In September Cromwell holds his first parliament. His mother dies. In December he sends an expedition to the West Indies.

1655: Parliament is dissolved on 22nd January. In May Jamaica is seized by English forces.

1656: 17th September. Second Parliament.

1657: The Sindercombe Plot to assassinate him fails. On 23rd March the Anglo-French treaty is signed authorising an attack on the Spanish Netherlands. Cromwell is also offered the Kingship but declines eventually in May. On 26th June he is installed as Lord Protector.

Cromwell House
Cromwell House, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1658: Dissolution of the second parliament on 4th February. On 4th June Anglo-French forces defeat the Spanish at the Battle of the Dunes. As a result England acquires Dunkirk.

When and Where did he Die?

3rd September 1658. London, England.

Age at Death:

59.

Statue of Oliver Cromwell in St Ives
Statue to Cromwell  in the Market Place,  St Ives, Cambridgeshire. Such was the sensitivity that it was not erected until 1901. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Marriage:

22nd August 1620 to Elizabeth Bourchier at St. Giles, Cripplegate, London.

Site of Grave:

Originally the Eastern Chapel of Westminster Abbey, London however the body was exhumed in 1661 as a Regicide and hung and decapitated from the gallows at Tyburn Hill. (Modern day Marble Arch, London). There was a rumour that his remains were later taken by his third daughter and interred in tomb at her home, Newburgh Priory, Coxwold, North Yorkshire.

Places of Interest:

LONDON:

Statue of Cromwell outside the present Houses of Parliament. Erected overnight in 1899 to avoid controversy and paid for by Lord Rosebery as public subscription was not forthcoming.

Cromwell Statue
Cromwell Statue outside the Houses of Parliament
, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

CAMBRIDGESHIRE:

Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon.
Cromwell House, Ely.
Statue in St Ives.
All Saints Church, St Ives.

WORCESTERSHIRE:

The Commandery, Sidbury, Worcester. Holds information about the Battle of Worcester. (it was the future King Charles the Second’s headquarters during the battle).

YORKSHIRE:

Knaresborough Castle and Old Courthouse Museum.
The Royal Pump Room Museum, Harrogate.