Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Oliver Cromwell

Three Hundred and Fifty years ago today, the Lord Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell died. He was born in the town which he first represented as MP - Huntingdon. (Later he was to represent Cambridge - where he had been a student).

During his life, and since his death, controversy has reigned about this remarkable man. For some, particularly those with Irish roots, he was a monster. He has been portrayed as a military dictator. To others he was a brilliant military leader; a man of faith who spurned personal honours whilst seeking to rule fairly. While some hate him as a regicide, others have seen him as the champion of liberty.
I have to admit - I am a big fan of Cromwell. He had his flaws - but never sought to deny them. [There is a well known story that Cromwell instructed Sir Peter Lely, who was painting his portrait, that it include any imperfections. "I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I will not pay a farthing for it."]. He possessed undoubted military genius - but most of all he fought against the idea of an absolute monarchy. Without his political and military leadership Britain would (probably) not have had a (short) period as a republic - and parliamentary supremacy would not have been achieved.
The royalist propagandists have been active during many generations to blacken his name. There are two monuments in Naseby, one is historically correct - the other is in the wrong place, which claimed that the battle had "Led to the subversion of the Throne, The Altar, and the Constitution". It is not at all sympathetic to Cromwell.
A website about Cromwell can be found at http://www.olivercromwell.org/index.htm