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Notorious Oliver Cromwell and King Charles 1st. Heroes or Villains? You Decide.

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Common sense becomes common sense once it is pointed out. Thanks for dropping in.

The Cromwell family

Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658)

There is a strongly held local belief and some evidence that Cromwell was in fact born in the market town of St.Ives in Huntingdonshire. Which is now part of Cambridgeshire

The East Anglian town of St.Ives, was a stronghold of the Cromwell family.

There is a Blue Plaque, stating that Oliver was indeed born at his Uncle's home, Cromwell House which is in the centre of town.

There is a statue of Cromwell in the market square. It is one of only four statues of Cromwell in the whole of Britain.

The current house, stands on the site of the former, House of Austin Friars, founded circa 1285.

When comparing the characters of Oliver Cromwell and King Charles the first.

The thing that becomes apparent, is that both had what many would consider today, extreme belief systems.

Charles was an Absolute Monarch. He believed that he had been born with a divine right, directly from God no less; to rule Britain.

Cromwell also had a strong belief based on his Puritan upbringing, that he was on a quest to save Britain from a tyrannical king.

When Absolute Monarchy met Religious fundamentalism. It was a recipe for revolution. The effects of which are still with us today.

Oliver Cromwell's statue in St.Ives Huntingdon

A Bust of Oliver Cromwell

Cromwells Early Influences

Cromwell house in St.Ives, was formerly church property and 'granted' to the Cromwell family at the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536 and 1541)

Today it is a Grade II listed building and used as a care home for the elderly, and private housing.

Oliver Cromwell Background

Oliver came from a moderately wealthy background. His ancestors had made the families finances secure, by being on the right side, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

King Henry VIII (28 June 1491 – 28 January 1547) attempted to weaken the power of the Catholic Church in the UK by seizing it's assets. (churches, monasteries and farmlands)

The usual interpretation of these events, is that the Pope wouldn't allow Henry VIII divorce.

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In reality, there had been a long history of dissent against the Catholic church in England, prior to Henry VIII's decision to break away from the power of Rome.

The Pope misread the depth of feeling in Britain, and set the scene for centuries of bloodshed that lasted until the late 20th century.

These events influenced the Cromwell family over generations and by extension the young Oliver. His indoctrination into a particularly virulent form of Puritanism would play out the full horror in later years, with the English Civil War and mass murder during the conquest of Ireland.

Oliver Cromwell's ancestor' Thomas Cromwell sided with King Henry VIII, and joined the new up-welling of anti-Papacy in favour of the new Protestant religion.

In the process, his ancestral family managed to get their hands on huge tracts of land, church buildings and a wide variety of farming, and other business assets.

Eventually after many years this inherited wealth came to Oliver's Uncle who was also named Thomas Cromwell. When Thomas Cromwell passed away, the fortune came to Oliver.

Oliver Cromwell's real name was Oliver Williams.

He changed his surname to Cromwell, when he inherited his Uncle's wealth, in recognition of the bequest. He felt he had a destiny to fulfill.

The Good Life

Prior to his inheritance Oliver led a relatively quiet but moderately prosperous life in the chicken and sheep farming business.

He never really got involved in anything political until he was in his 40's.

Should This Statue of Oliver Cromwell be Taken Down?

One of only four remaining statues of Oliver Cromwell in Britain.Hero or Villain? You decide. Oliver Cromwell, St.Ives. Cambridgeshire. Copyright mamulcahy

One of only four remaining statues of Oliver Cromwell in Britain.Hero or Villain? You decide. Oliver Cromwell, St.Ives. Cambridgeshire. Copyright mamulcahy

Cromwell's Birthplace

Cromwell House,St Ives.Cambridgeshire.  It Is believed that Oliver was born here, this was his uncle's house. The house is still in use today.

Cromwell House,St Ives.Cambridgeshire. It Is believed that Oliver was born here, this was his uncle's house. The house is still in use today.

Causes of the English Civil War...Taxes

Oliver had been leading a quiet life, until King Charles I decided; that he wanted to raise taxes, to finance a war he was planning, against France and Spain.

King Charles 1st had already introduced a very unpopular ship tax, on freight entering and leaving the UK.

The King, thought it might be a wizard wheeze, to impose a land tax on the wealthy land owners; of this fair isle.

Well you know that is never going to work out well. These new taxes, had the potential to make things very costly, for anyone with land.

Oliver's uncle we can assume, was not best pleased; with the prospect of having to throw money, in the Kings direction.

Whilst all these shenanigans were unfolding, Oliver fell on slightly hard times and moved back to a modest home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.

It was during this period that Oliver had a religious transformation and revelation.

Oliver had been raised in a Puritan protestant household and during his time of hardship, developed a strong Puritanical conviction.

God wanted him to free England, from the tyranny of the Monarchy.

Oliver and Elizabeth Cromwell

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King Charles 1st

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King Charles 1st Execution

Woodcut Showing Charles I Execurion

Woodcut Showing Charles I Execurion

King Charles 1st

To say that King Charles 1st was unpopular would be an understatement. In a few short years he managed to annoy just about everyone in the realm.

He started by marrying a Catholic woman Henrietta Maria.

They were married on 13 June 1625. In fact, the North American Province of Maryland was named in her honour.

King Charles 1st followed the well worn path of divine kings, and demanded money from parliament for a war he was planning.

Parliament would not agree and so Charles closed down parliament and sent them all home.

Parliament in those days was not what it is today. They only met once in a blue moon or every 5 years, whichever came first.

Parliament was made up of landed gentry and the monied classes. (almost 100% exactly like today).

When Charles wanted to finance a war or build a new palace. Parliament was supposed to just pay for it, he believed he was entitled, he was the King, ordained by God to spend the countries money as he saw fit.

These arguments continued for many years, with Charles throwing more of his toys out of the pram.

Parliament meanwhile getting bolder and tougher, as things got steadily more out of control.

First Battle of Newbury 20th September 1643

Roundhead (Parliamentarian) Geared up... Winning

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Copyright mamulcahy2016

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Royalist Cavalier's not really Battle Dress is it?... Losing

No armour but very Fashionable

No armour but very Fashionable

The Dictator The Rump & Regicide

Some would say, that King Charles had it coming. He was deluded and believed that he was ordained by God to rule.

He was up against an increasingly affluent, land owning class; who were not keen on the king telling them what to do, with their money.

It can be argued that Oliver Cromwell was also deluded. As a puritan, he believed that the more successful he became, showed him that God was smiling on his endeavors.

The New Model Army

The New model Army was made up of the ordinary people of England. Mostly peasants and tenant farmers and several large land owners, who were sick to death of the tyranny and taxes of Charles.

The difference that made them successful was basic but effective - Discipline on the battlefield.

Whereas the Cavaliers cavalry would charge, and when they would rout a Roundhead position, they would go on their merry way looting and pillaging the local towns and villages.

The new model army on the other hand would regroup and reform for another attack.

So basically the new model army won most battles, simply by consistently 'being there' whilst the Royalist Cavaliers, would be off robbing the camp followers and baggage train.

It may seem odd to us today but these simple tactics proved very effective. To win a war you have to be there or as we say these days. You need 'boots on the ground'.

The constant meddling by Charles in the affairs of Parliament had resulted in The English Civil War (1642–1651)

After many years of war, the Parliamentarians (the Roundheads) using superior and disciplined battle tactics beat the Royalists (Cavaliers) and King Charles I was eventually beheaded.

A particularly obscene method of killing with symbolic overtones. No one is above the law. Not even a King.

Oliver Cromwell presided over the gradual collapse of Parliament, and was named Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of the United kingdom.

"the people of England" a "Commonwealth and Free State by the Supreme Authority of this Nation, the Representatives of the People in Parliament ... and that without any King or House of Lords".

Adopted by the Rump Parliament, on 19 May 1649

Source: Hansard

Oliver knows best

The previous success of the morally attuned new model army against what he perceived to be rapscallions fed into Olivers' belief that he was being guided by God.

He dispensed with Parliament altogether, as they did not seem able to agree on anything. He would take charge.

Cromwell retained just enough people to run the government, with the Establishment of the Bare-bone's Parliament: in 1653.

During his time in power, he began to be referred to as your highness, and even signed his name Oliver P for Protector, much as a King would sign their name, Charles R for Rex.(from the Latin for king)

Oliver Cromwell died on the 3rd September 1658, after several months of ill health and was buried in Westminster Abbey. A place usually reserved for Poets, Kings and Queens.

The restoration of the Monarchy under King Charles II, led to Oliver Cromwell's body being exhumed, hung, and chopped up.

His head stuck on a pike outside of Westminster Hall (Houses of Parliament) where it stayed for over 26 years.

Eventually the pike broke during a storm. Oliver Cromwell's head, went through many, object de macabre, dealers hands in the following centuries.

It was finally buried at his Alma Mater, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in 1960.

Separation of Church and State

The historical importance of Oliver Cromwell cannot be underestimated.

The archaic belief systems of both Charles 1st who believed he was owed a living because of his birthright, and Oliver Cromwell's 'divine' intervention with the Parliamentarians, led eventually to the separation of church and state in Britain, and eventually to most countries of the world today.

Oliver Cromwell was driven by a desire to do what he thought was the right thing. Like many fundamentalists today. They believe they are right...therefore everyone else is wrong.

Charles was driven by a belief that he was entitled to privilege ordained by God no less.

These two opposing forces could only end badly.

Today in Britain, we have another Prince Charles in line to the throne. He has married a 'divorced catholic'.

Many people in Britain believe, that Prince Charles will never be King and that the succession will pass to his son Prince William.

The power of the state is such these days, that it is unlikely that we could have another civil war in England over the role of the Monarch.

We do still have religious fundamentalism which is pernicious and eating away at the rationalist and secular views of society.

There is always the danger that when the people's needs are ignored by the privileged few and religious zealots are allowed to run riot. No one is safe. Not even a King.

Oliver Cromwell was England's first Dictator. In true dictator style, he handed power to his son. Not being half the man his father was. He son was deposed within a year.

The English Civil war was a defining moment, not just in English history but has defined World history ever since.

Many of the ideas that we take for granted today, were fought for during the English Civil War.

Ideas like, the right to follow your own religions beliefs and not have someone dictate how you practice or interpret your faith.

The concept that all people are equal under the law and that no one (even a king) is above the law.

Just about every aspect of our current daily lives were fought for and formulated in this epic period.

The protest that we see around the world today echo these ideas. The desire for freedom from tyranny is as alive today as it was back then.

What happened to the puritans you may ask?

They left Britain bound for the land that would eventually become the United States of America.

Cromwells Hometown


St.Ives Bridge was tactically important for Cromwell

Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon, England

Copyright mamulcahy2016

Copyright mamulcahy2016

© 2012 Micheal


Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 11, 2019:

Hi Anthony and thanks for your interesting and correct comment.

At the time. Rex from the Latin was used to denote the crown, king or queen.

Anthony Cabrera on February 09, 2019:

Isn't "Regina" used for Queens and "Regis" for Kings?

Hello on January 14, 2014:

How to contrast with Oliver Cromwell and Charles I

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 03, 2013:

Hello ytsenoh,

Oliver Cromwell is often portrayed as the villain of the period and to some extent it is warranted.

What people sometimes forget is the long term repercussions of his action. The separation of church and state and our relatively modern idea of freedom, liberty and the rule of the people over absolute monarchs. He was probably one of the most influential people of the last 1000 years, and quite a character.

Charles 1st was plain arrogant and sowed the seeds of his own demise.

I'm glad you enjoyed this too.

Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on February 26, 2013:

molometer, very interesting material on Cromwell although it was a little unnerving to learn his body had been exhumed for reasons you indicate. You have a lot more history in your land than we do, but learning of such details is food for any avid reader. Thanks much for enlightening us more of Cromwell's life and King Charles I.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 05, 2013:

Hi Triggerdebate,

Interesting observation. I can see where you might draw similarities.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 05, 2013:

Hi AudreyHowitt,

He was a very interesting chap. That's for sure.

Triggerdebate on February 05, 2013:

Ah, the great cromwelll...the English Bin Laden

Audrey Howitt from California on February 03, 2013:

Very interesting!

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on October 31, 2012:

Hello HSchneider,

Oliver Cromwell and the ideas he followed have been a powerful influence on world history.

In the UK school' history, he rarely if ever gets a mention. Which is a little surprising.

I am glad you enjoyed this hub. It is one of my favorites too.

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on October 30, 2012:

This was a wonderful history of Oliver Cromwell and this epic era in British history. Bravo, Molometer.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on July 21, 2012:

Hello Graham,

thank you for reading. I am happy you found it enjoyable. I am hoping that the weather breaks, as I would like to attend one of the the Sealed Knot events and write something with some live videos.

Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on July 20, 2012:

Hi Michael. I have returned and re-read this first class hub. It was even better this time. So well researched and presented. Videos and photographs add so much.

Voted up / Interesting.


Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on July 20, 2012:

Thanks Alastar,

I do want to do one on the CW reenactors but the weather has been so wet many events have been cancelled.

Apparently we are due for a late summer starting Monday. :)

I will then try to get to an event .

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 20, 2012:

Got to share this at least one more time! Are you considering one on the English CW reenactors down the road Michael?

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on April 28, 2012:

Hi Ian,

Thanks for having a read. We certainly do have a bloody history.

Sticking Oliver Cromwells head on a pike for 26 years?

I think he upset the monarchy a little lol

Ian from Edinburgh, Scotland on April 27, 2012:

I love the way you write - it's obvious what your profession is!

What a bloody history we have had on this island - we, of course, had our fair share up here!!


Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on April 27, 2012:

Thanks for sharing Alastar,

I will be out with my camera during the summer catching more of the action.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on April 26, 2012:

This awesome hub with Cromwell and the English Civil War re-enactors video is coming around again!

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on April 06, 2012:

Hi Graham,

It is a very interesting period in English history.

Oliver's actions had so many long term repercussions globally.

Oliver Cromwell definitely changed history in so many ways.

Glad you enjoyed reading and thanks for leaving a comment.

Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on April 06, 2012:

Hello molometer. Absolutely first class hub. So well researched and presented. I know much more about Oliver Williams/Cromwell than I did before. voted up/ interesting.


Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 18, 2012:

Hi Alastar,

I do agree that they were very fulsome bosoms back in those days.

The re-enacters, I am sure put on all that weight. 'For the show' Keeping it real, as it were.

There are quite a few places nearby related to the Civil War (English) St.Ives for one was a garrison town for Cromwell.

I did a hub on it. I think you have read it already.

Cromwell blew up the bridge to fortify the town from attack.

Thanks for the reading and leaving a comment and some good advice.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 15, 2012:

Absolutely, do some more Micheal. Cromwell, a blip in the Royal linear line and an extremely interesting character from history, so true. Oh, I forgot to add that it was also very enjoyable watching the heaving bosom over the fallen warrior lol. Thanks for the details, awesome stuff. The golden rule attempted with the history writing is to make it human, never-ever clinical.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 15, 2012:

Hello JKenny,

The three battles you mentioned are probably the most well known sites from the civil war.

I was surprised at how little is published on this topic too?

I may write a book lol.

Thanks for leaving a comment.

James Kenny from Birmingham, England on March 15, 2012:

Fascinating hub molometer. I must admit that my knowledge of the civil war and Cromwell is sketchy. Although I did pay a visit to Edghill and Naseby in the summer. I also found out there was a battle near where I live: The Battle of Camp Hill, Birmingham, which the Royalists won. Unfortunately there's nothing left of the site today, because of the expansion of Birmingham.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on March 15, 2012:

Hi Alastar,

I really must do some more hubs on a military theme.

I am surrounded by English Civil War and WW II airbases up here in Cambridge.

Your hubs are inspirational, in how these historic battles and events can be shared with a completely new audience.

Glad you liked Cromwell, he was quite a pivotal figure in British history. I really enjoyed writing it.

The battle video is from a group called the Sealed Knot.

They meet up every few weeks and re-enact various battles based on the facts.

Sometimes there are 1,000's + of people involved, with full battles cannon and cavalry plus behind the lines food tents and such like.

It is pretty amazing to be transported back in time.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 15, 2012:

You've got so many great hubs it was hard to choose one to share. Finally decided on this excellent one on Cromwell and King Charles for the followers. The re-enactment vid was quite cool- first time viewing your English CW, the action is a little different than from over here- especially the pike pushing- and just fascinating to watch. Kudo molo

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Now with added realism. Video of the Battle between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers. It's a must see.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:


You make a valid point about the importance of the separation of church and state. Like many things these great ideas can be misused by the misguided. We see it often even today.

Micheal (author) from United Kingdom on February 21, 2012:

Hi Healthy Pursuits,

He was a very important man in his day and his diaries are a must read. He puts us right back in the action of his time. I like when he talks about the public taking a 'picnic to the executions! It was like a day out for the whole family. Truly a different mind set.