Oliver Cromwell is, probably, one of the most famous political leaders of the seventeenth century and the whole English history. Sometimes he is even considered as a real founder of the British Empire. However, it is not known exactly whether this fact is true. Historians consider Oliver Cromwell to be one of the greatest Englishmen, yet they hold researches on whether he could be the founder of the English Empire and, if not, what contribution he made to its foundation. It is interesting to know what kind of leader Oliver Cromwell was and how he became the Lord Protector.
Inheriting a famous name of the Cromwells, Oliver’s parents were rather modest people. It is worth noting that Oliver Cromwell’s grandfather, Sir Henry Williams, was one of the two wealthiest men in Huntingdon in the time of Oliver’s birth. Though, the family of Cromwell, Jr., was not very wealthy. Cromwell’s father was not a man of great means and had no large lands in those times, but still he did his best in order for his son to become a gentleman. Oliver Cromwell went to grammar school, and then he entered Sidney Sussex College. However, all Oliver’s plans about getting education were ruined when he learnt about his father’s death. After this sad news Cromwell just had to return home and take care of his seven unmarried sisters and his poor mother. In the age of 21 Oliver Cromwell married Elizabeth Bourchier who was a noble woman. With the help and connections Elizabeth’s father had, Oliver Cromwell made a contact with Oliver St. John and other famous representatives of the merchants’ community. This fact played an influential part in Cromwell’s future career (BBC 2013).
During the Civil War, Oliver Cromwell was one of the leaders in the Parliament. On the one hand, he is considered to be a hero; on the other hand, he is treated even as a villain. One thing can be surely said – Oliver Cromwell is one of those men who managed to change the policy of the whole country; he was the one who changed the way of the future development of the British Empire. Oliver Cromwell was the person who helped to turn the British Empire into a republic. He ruled this newborn republic from 1653 till 1658. Along with his big family, Oliver Cromwell settled in his native Huntingdon and later was chosen as a Member of the Parliament. However, he did not make any significant changes or speeches during that time in the Parliament. Moreover, later Charles I rejected the Parliament at all and ruled without it for about eleven years. After all, when the King ran out of funds he decided to get the Parliament back. When Cromwell got back his position in the Parliament, he decided to move with family to London. Moreover, being in good connections with many aristocrats, Cromwell gathered them to make a huge reformation. Several years later Oliver Cromwell was not only the one who presented the Annual Parliaments Bill, he also was the one who supported the idea about the abolition of episcopacy. While being the Member of Parliament from Cambridge, Cromwell presented the second reading of the Bill. Oliver Cromwell despised bishops of the Anglican Church. He stated that the Anglican Church was full of corruption. He always criticized the policy of King Charles I. He managed to organize an army in times of the Civil War; later it was called the New Model Army. This army mostly consisted of religionists to whom Oliver Cromwell gave his favor. In 1645, after the Battle of Naseby, the army of King Charles I was totally crashed. Cromwell also participated in this battle and was proud of the success. In addition, Oliver Cromwell led a part of the army and got the wealthy fortress Basing House. Later, General Cromwell was accused of massive killings. In 1646, after all battles and absolute defeat, King Charles I surrendered. After that and a month of rehabilitation from illness, Oliver Cromwell returned to politics. He was trying even to negotiate with King Charles I on some compromises concerning debates in the Parliament. King Charles I escaped, and in 1648 he even tried to gain back his authority. Cromwell was back to the army, and in the several battles he managed to win back Chepstow Castle, to burn Carmarthen Castle, and in about eight weeks of battle also to win back Pembroke Castle. After that, Oliver Cromwell won several more battles. Moreover, in one of the battles Cromwell’s army was less-numbered than the opponent army in two times. It should be noted that in that period Cromwell’s speeches changed their character. They contained mostly biblical themes. For instance, after one of Cromwell’s famous battles, he used the texts of Psalms in one of his speeches. Oliver Cromwell used his biblical speeches even in letters to his colleagues. There are even facts that Cromwell thought of his army as some instruments of God and of the negotiations he once had with the King about some God-sent recommendations (Sandbrook 2011). Moreover, it seemed as Cromwell believed that men like him were generals of God and that only they had powers to rule the world through God’s advice. After the Civil War II, King Charles I was executed, and the Republic was declared. It was called the Commonwealth of England. After all these events, there was the Agreement of the People, which Cromwell highly criticized. Then he left for Ireland where to lead an invasion of the latter. People and even the Parliament were accusing Cromwell of his cruelty towards Irish people and Catholicism. However, the facts regarding Cromwell’s brutality are not trustworthy. Some researchers state that Oliver Cromwell was not cruel as he is described; on the contrary, he was justifiable towards anything and harsh only against those who deserved it. Other scientists and researchers consider that Cromwell was a murderer and dictator. There are various opinions concerning whether Oliver Cromwell was an intolerant and harsh leader or just the man who aimed at the abolition of immorality. Right after a declaration of the new constitution, Cromwell was proclaimed as the Lord Protector. This position gave Cromwell the power of a king. He could call the Parliament or just change it. He could make his amendments to the main law, to the constitution. As the Lord Protector, Cromwell also made several reforms, which contained the reform of morality. In his earlier attempt to abolish monarchy, Cromwell became a monarch himself. The only difference was that Cromwell was considered as a ruler. Oliver Cromwell died because of malaria. He was buried at Westminster Abbey. However, later, under the rule of Charles II, Cromwell’s body was exhumed and then executed posthumously.
According to some rumors, Oliver Cromwell was a man who could easily spoil every celebration (BBC 2013). Some researchers state that Cromwell was quite a dull man. It is believed that every rumor always has a part of truth in it. According to other researchers, Oliver Cromwell was a loving and moral man, who brought up his children in the manner he had been brought up by his father. Some biographers note that all Cromwell’s mood twists were caused by his depression. He had an unbelievable passion towards religion. Everything and everyone were believed to be signs from God. However, he was not that religious. Oliver Cromwell was a member of the Puritans community. This community, or, as Cromwell said, “religion”, believed that King Charles I, who, in his turn, thought that the Right of the King is the Right sent from God, betrayed the Protestant Reformation. In his criticism, according to both Catholic and Anglican Churches, Oliver Cromwell was considered as a person who tolerated every religion. For instance, he was pleased when Jews came back to England; however, he publicly did not care about the Catholic or Anglican meetings. After all, Oliver Cromwell was the one who banned Christmas. It is considered one of the most bizarre things Cromwell had ever done. However, the time of the Protectorate is considered one of the most successful periods in English history. Oliver Cromwell was the Lord Protector who abolished the monarchy, and, after years of anarchy and battles, he managed to bring peace to English lands. He transformed the British Empire in not just a republic, but in a country of justice and morality. Of course, someone would consider Cromwell as maniac, but what ruler did not sacrifice some people to bring peace or to cardinally change something in those times? This man had never put his self on the first place; otherwise, he always thought about his country and people. Oliver Cromwell was the man who fought for freedom and democracy, while others, who now are considered good men by many scientists, were trying to deny people their freedoms (Sandbrook 2011).
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Sometimes when someone has done several bad things or sacrificed some human lives in order to gain something globally meaningful, this person would probably be still considered as a villain. This is what happened to Oliver Cromwell’s figure in the world’s history. The man who changed the whole country, as well as its policy, and who brought freedom and democracy, is still sometimes considered as a bad person.