Things you may not know about Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell in brief
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.
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