Biography of Cromwell, Oliver -
Cromwell, Oliver

Oliver Cromwell

b. 25 Apr/5 May 1599, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire [1]
d. 3/13 Sep 1658, London

Title: Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland (and the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging) [2]
Term: 16/26 Dec 1653 - 3/13 Sep 1658
Chronology: 15/25 Dec 1653, declared to be "Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Dominions thereto belonging, for his Life", Instrument of Government, Art. XXXIII [3]
  16/26 Dec 1653, installed as Lord Protector, Chancery Court in Westminster Hall, London
  25/4 Jun May 1657, confirmed in office by consenting to the Humble Petition and Advice presented by the Parliament
  26 Jun/6 Jul 1657, took an oath of office, public ceremony, Westminster Hall, London [4]
  3/13 Sep 1658, died [5]
Names/titles: Original name: Oliver Cromwell alias Williams [6]; Captain General and Commander-in-Chief of the Forces raised, and to be raised, within the Commonwealth of England [26 Jun/6 Jul 1650 - 3/13 Sep 1658] (see details); in capacity as Lord Protector Cromwell officially used only his given name: "Oliver, Lord Protector etc."
The second son of a Huntingdon landlord, Oliver Cromwell was educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and is believed to have studied for some time at Lincoln's Inn. He was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Huntingdon in 1628. In 1640 he was elected to the Long Parliament as MP for Cambridge. During the English Civil Wars, Cromwell rose to prominence in the Eastern Association army and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in 1644. He was made Lieutenant General Of Horse in the New Model Army under Lord Fairfax in 1645. Cromwell distinguished himself in the battles of Marston Moor, Naseby and Langport. He was of the 135 commissioners in the High Court of Justice, which passed a death sentence to King Charles I. Cromwell served as acting chairman of the Council of State 17/27 Feb to 12/22 Mar 1649. On 15/25 Mar 1649 he was appointed Lord-Lieutenant and commander-in-chief in Ireland, and was involved in military campaigns against the Royalists in Ireland and Scotland (1649-1650). When Lord Fairfax, reluctant to command the invasion of Scotland, resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief, the Parliament of England passed an act constituting Cromwell "Captain General and Commander-in-Chief of the Forces raised, and to be raised, by Authority of Parliament, within the Commonwealth of England" (26 Jun/6 Jul 1650; commission dated 28 Jun/8 Jul 1650). He defeated the Scots supporting King Charles II at the battles of Dunbar (3/13 Sep 1650) and Worcester (3/13 Sep 1651). Unsatisfied with the Rump Parliament, Cromwell conducted coup d'etat on 20/30 Apr 1653, and dissolved the Parliament and the Council of State. As Lord General, Cromwell along with the Council of Officers exercised the supreme authority in the Commonwealth until he set up a nominated parliamentary assembly, known as the Nominated or "Barebones" Parliament (4/14 Jul 1653 - 16/26 Dec 1653). In December 1653, the moderates voted to dissolve the Nominated Parliament and handed the supreme authority back to Cromwell. The first English constitution, the Instrument of Government, provided for an elected Lord Protector advised by a Council of State. Cromwell was declared Lord Protector for life and formally installed at Westminster Hall on 16/26 Dec 1653. In 1654, Cromwell summoned the first Protectorate Parliament, but he was unable to find effective approach to republicans, who wished to destroy the Protectorate and the first Protectorate Parliament was dissolved in January 1655. After a royalist uprising, a direct military dictatorship was introduced in 1655 (the Rule of the Major-Generals). On 8/18 May 1657 Cromwell declined an offer to make him king and on 26 Jun/6 Jul 1657 gave his formal assent to the new Commonwealth constitution, the Humble Petition and Advice, which allowed Lord Protector to name his successor and provided for installation of the Upper House in the Parliament. The same day Cromwell was reinstalled as Lord Protector in a ceremony reminiscent of a royal coronation in Westminster Hall. In 1658, Cromwell convened the Upper House, but republicans refused to recognize the new House of Lords. The Lord Protector dissolved the second Protectorate Parliament on 4/14 Feb 1658. On his deathbed Cromwell may have designated his son, Richard, as his successor; Oliver died on 3/13 Sep 1658, and Richard was immediately proclaimed Lord Protector.
Biographical sources: "Cromwell: Our Chief of Men," by Lady Antonia Fraser (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1973); "The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell," ed. by W.C. Abbott (4 vols., Harvard Univ. Press, 1947).

[1] A facsimile of the entry of his birth and baptism in the parish register was published in "The Book of Days", ed. by Robert Chambers (Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers, 1863), 1:551: "Oliverius filius Robti Cromwell gentis et Elizabeth ux: eius natus viceſimo quinto die Aprilis et baptiſatus viceſimo nono eiuſdem menſis."
[2] The reference to "the Dominions and Territories" was often omitted in official use. Two consecutive Great Seals of Lord Protector, used in 1655-1658, bore the following counterseal legend: OLIVARIUS DEI GRA[tia] REIP[ublicae] ANGLIAE SCOTIAE ET HIBERNIAE &c PROTECTOR. The Humble Petition and Advice defined the style of Protector (voting on this clause took place 22 May 1657, in Commons Journal, 7:537) as "Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging" (Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 2:1048-1056). "An Act for Recovery of Publique Debts, and other Duties belonging to the Commonwealth" passed by the House of Commons of 15/25 Mar 1660 makes distinction between two styles used by Oliver Cromwell (with and without "and Territories") and one used by Richard Cromwell (including "and Territories") (Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 2:1463; Commons Journal, 7:876-879).
[3] Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 2:813-822.
[4] Diary of Thomas Burton, 2:511-515.
[5] Diary of Thomas Burton, 2:516.
[6] Katherine Cromwell, sister of Thomas Cromwell, the minister of King Henry VIII, married the Welshman Morgan ap William, who, in the style of the times, called himself Morgan Williams. Their son, Richard Williams, changed his family name at some point to Cromwell, becoming Sir Richard Cromwell. But in legal documents he, his son Sir Henry Cromwell, and his sons Sir Oliver Cromwell and Robert Cromwell were frequently named "Cromwell alias Williams." This practice extended to (a) an official query concerning Robert Cromwell's will, and (b) the marriage contract of Robert's son, Oliver Cromwell.
  Image: portrait of Oliver Cromwell by Sir Peter Lely.
Last updated on: 03 Feb 2019 15:35:07