History's HEROES? 1599 - 1658

Oliver Cromwell

Who was he?

Things you may not know about Oliver Cromwell

The young Oliver loved sports and games rather than studying. More
When his father died, Oliver had to look after his mother and seven sisters. More
Oliver Cromwell's marriage was a happy one. More
The Cromwells had nine children. More
It is thought that, when a young man, he may have considered leaving the country permanently. More
He was a working farmer for a number of years. More
He suffered from depression. More
When he was elected to parliament, he was probably the poorest man in the House of Commons. More
In parliament, he was an outspoken firebrand and radical who promoted change. More
He first became well known through a politically inspired act of highway robbery. More
Cromwell was at the centre of the fighting during the Civil War. More
He had several nicknames including 'The Farmer' and 'Old Ironsides'. More
Cromwell did not approve of Christmas. More
He remained very close to his mother until her death. More
Oliver ensured the body of King Charles I was treated with respect after the execution. More
He refused the throne. More
Oliver Cromwell's Army invaded Jamaica. More
He encouraged Jewish people to return to England. More
Cromwell spent a lot of money paying spies to protect himself from plots to kill him. More
Cromwell gave rise to the saying 'warts and all' meaning to show things honestly as they really are. More
Oliver became a very wealthy man. More
He may have died of malaria. More
Cromwell was beheaded three years after he had died. More
His head was later sold to a collector. More
It was not just Oliver whose body was removed from its resting place at Westminster but those of many of his family. More

Oliver Cromwell in brief

I profess I could never satisfy myself on the justness of this war, but from the authority of the parliament to maintain itself in its rights; and in this cause I hope to prove myself an honest man and single-hearted."

When Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599, there was nothing to show that he would become one of the most influential men in the history of Britain. His parents belonged to the lower ranks of the gentry and he grew up to be a famer and minor landowner.

In his 30s, he turned strongly to Puritanism and, in parliament, become known for his outspoken views on the monarchy and the Church. However, it was his success as a soldier in the Civil Wars that lifted him to power.

Although Cromwell had no previous training as a soldier, as a cavalry officer he rose through the ranks of the Parliamentarian Army to become one of its leading commanders. He also supported lower-class men being promoted to commands, if they were godly and capable, making a stir among the generals!

Cromwell was good at tactics and strategy. He was key in parliament's victory at Marston Moor in 1644 and Naseby in 1645. Cromwell appeared to have an amazing ability to make his men believe in themselves; his certainty that they had God on their side led to their wonderful success as a fighting force.

Cromwell's life as a statesman, and the first ever non-Royal ruler of England, seems extraordinary when one thinks of his humble beginnings. During his time as Lord Protector, England enjoyed a greater amount of personal religious freedom than it had for years before or after; laws were made to be more humane and judges more honest. However, he also clamped down on drinking, gambling and playing games on a Sunday, which made him unpopular with many ordinary people.

Cromwell could be ruthless in battle and his brutal actions in crushing opposition in Ireland were to cause great bitterness between the Irish and English. Yet there have been very few men able to hold such great power as Cromwell had, without abusing it - and even fewer would have turned down the chance to become king of England! 

Since his death in 1658, his motives and actions have been the subject of much debate. Whatever you feel about the man and his actions, for good or bad, his importance in one of the most troubled times of British history is not in doubt.

Oliver Cromwell Picture Gallery

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