Cromwell, Oliver
( 1599-1658)
   ruler of England during the Puritan Revolution
   Oliver Cromwell, who as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth ruled England through the 1640s until his death, was born in Huntingdon in 1599. He was educated in his hometown by a strict adherent of Puritanism and then studied at Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge University. In 1628, he was elected to Parliament, where he first made an impression by his advocacy of freedom for the Presbyterians and independents.
   He rose to prominence during the short Parliament (April 1640) and Long Parliament (August 1640 through April 1660). King Charles I, who favored a return to Roman Catholicism, had tried to force a new prayer book on scotland. British forces were badly beaten in the resulting conflict, and the settlement created a financial crisis. Charles was forced to summon Parliament to raise funds, but delegates at the Long Parliament seized power from the king.
   In 1642, Parliament removed the bishops who headed the Church of England and put the army and navy directly under its own authority. Charles left London to rally support, and England entered a period of civil war. As the first battles were being fought, Parliament called for an assembly of "learned, godly, and judicious divines" to meet at Westminster for the purpose of reforming the church. A total of 30 laymen, a few Scottish observers, and 125 ministers (mainly Presbyterian) took the opportunity to create a set of documents, including the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Catechism (subsequently published in both a longer and shorter version), and a Directory of Worship designed to order church life in scotland, ireland, and England. These documents came to define Presbyterianism internationally.
   Following an initial defeat of forces loyal to Parliament (termed Roundheads), Cromwell set about the task of building a professional cavalry. He subsequently proved himself a capable military leader. His leadership proved decisive in the Roundhead victory at Marston Moor in 1644, and he led the final Roundhead victory at Naseby the next year. Shortly thereafter, Charles surrendered and was placed in custody. Cromwell ordered his execution in 1649.
   Power was now in the hands of Cromwell's army. In November 1648, Cromwell expelled all opponents from Parliament. The remaining Rump Parliament formally abolished the monarchy and those government departments most loyal to the king. The Parliament and an executive Council of State constituted the new government. Favoring the Puritan factions, Cromwell then moved to crush other opposition groups that remained including the Levellers (who sought extensive economic reform). In 1649, he moved against the irish, suppressing a revolt in a bloody campaign, and then turned to quell the opposition in Scotland.
   on April 21, 1653, Cromwell disbanded the Rump Parliament, which had alienated the army. He later dissolved an unsuccessful new Parliament of Puritan leaders, assumed the title of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and ruled as a virtual dictator.
   Cromwell died on September 3, 1658. He left his son Richard Cromwell in control, but Richard proved unable to deal with the antagonistic forces in the country, and in 1660, the monarchy was restored under Charles ii. The episcopally led Church of England was also restored, and the Puritans were suppressed until the Act of Toleration of 1689 allowed them some freedom of action.
   Further reading:
   ■ Barry Coward, Cromwell. (London: Longman, 1991)
   ■ Oliver Cromwell, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, ed. by Wilbur Abbott (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1937)
   ■ Christopher Hill, God's Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1970)
   ■ Derek Hirst, Authority and Conflict: England, 1603-1658 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986)
   ■ John Morrill, Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (London: Longman, 1990).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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