May 25, 1659 – Richard Cromwell resigns as Lord Protector of England following the restoration of the Long Parliament, beginning a second brief period of the republican government called the Commonwealth of England.
Richard Cromwell was born in Huntingdon on October 4, 1626, the third son of Oliver Cromwell and his wife Elizabeth. Little is known of his childhood. He and his three brothers were educated at Felsted School in Essex close to their mother’s family home. There is no record of his attending university. In May 1647, he became a member of Lincoln’s Inn; however he was not called to the bar subsequently. Instead, in 1647 Richard Cromwell joined the New Model Army as a captain in Viscount Lisle’s lifeguard, and later that year was appointed captain in Thomas Fairfax’s lifeguard.
In 1649, Richard Cromwell married Dorothy Maijor, daughter of Richard Maijor, a member of the Hampshire gentry. He and his wife then moved to Maijor’s estate at Hursley in Hampshire. During the 1650s they had nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood.
Richard Cromwell was named a Justice of the Peace for Hampshire and sat on various county committees. During this period Richard seems to have been a source of concern for his father, who wrote to Richard Maijor saying, “I would have him mind and understand business, read a little history, study the mathematics and cosmography: these are good, with subordination to the things of God. Better than idleness, or mere outward worldly contents. These fit for public services, for which a man is born”.
Oliver Cromwell had risen from being an unknown member of Parliament in his forties to being a commander of the New Model Army, which emerged victorious from the English Civil War. When he returned from a final campaign in Ireland, Oliver Cromwell became disillusioned at inconclusive debates in the Rump Parliament between Presbyterians and other schools of thought within Protestantism. Parliamentarian suspicion of anything smacking of Catholicism, which was strongly associated with the Royalist side in the war, led to enforcement of religious precepts that left moderate Anglicans barely tolerated.
Oliver Cromwell attempted to reform the government through an army-nominated assembly known as Barebone’s Parliament, but the proposals were so unworkably radical that he was forced to end the experiment after a few months. Thereafter, a written constitution created the position of Lord Protector for Cromwell and from 1653 until his death in 1658, he ruled with all the powers of a monarch, while Richard took on the role of heir.
Move into political life
In 1653, Richard Cromwell was passed over as a member of Barebone’s Parliament, although his younger brother Henry was a member of it. Neither was he given any public role when his father was made Lord Protector in the same year; however, he was elected to the First Protectorate Parliament as M.P. for Huntingdon and the Second Protectorate Parliament as M.P. for Cambridge University.
Under the Protectorate’s constitution, Oliver Cromwell was required to nominate a successor, and from 1657 he involved Richard much more heavily in the politics of the regime. He was present at the second installation of his father as Lord Protector in June, having played no part in the first installation. In July he was appointed chancellor of Oxford University, and in December was made a member of the Council of State.
Lord Protector (1658–59)
Oliver Cromwell died on September 3, 1658, and Richard was informed on the same day that he was to succeed him. Some controversy surrounds the succession. A letter by John Thurloe suggests that Cromwell nominated his son orally on August 30, but other theories claim either that he nominated no successor, or that he put forward Charles Fleetwood, his son-in-law.
Richard was faced by two immediate problems. The first was the army, which questioned his position as commander given his lack of military experience. The second was the financial position of the regime, with a debt estimated at £2 million.
At the same time, the officers of the New Model Army became increasingly wary about the government’s commitment to the military cause. The fact that Richard Cromwell lacked military credentials grated with men who had fought on the battlefields of the English Civil War to secure their nation’s liberties.
Moreover, the new Parliament seemed to show a lack of respect for the army which many military men found alarming. In particular, there were fears that Parliament would make military cuts to reduce costs, and by April 1659 the army’s general council of officers had met to demand higher taxation to fund the regime’s costs.
Their grievances were expressed in a petition to Richard Cromwell on April 6, 1659 which he forwarded to the Parliament two days later. Yet Parliament did not act on the army’s suggestions; instead they shelved this petition and increased the suspicion of the military by bringing articles of impeachment on April 12, 1659 against William Boteler, who was alleged to have mistreated a royalist prisoner while acting as a major-general under Oliver Cromwell in 1655.
This was followed by two resolutions in the Commons on April 19, 1659 which stated that no more meetings of army officers should take place without the express permission of both the Lord Protector and Parliament, and that all officers should swear an oath that they would not subvert the sitting of Parliament by force.
These direct affronts to military prestige were too much for the army grandees to bear and set in motion the final split between the civilian-dominated Parliament and the army, which would culminate in the dissolution of Parliament and Richard Cromwell’s ultimate fall from power. When Cromwell refused a demand by the army to dissolve Parliament, troops were assembled at St. James’s Palace. Cromwell eventually gave in to their demands and on April 22, Parliament was dissolved and the Rump Parliament recalled on May 7, 1659.
In the subsequent month, Richard Cromwell did not resist and refused an offer of armed assistance from the French ambassador, although it is possible he was being kept under house arrest by the army. On May 25, after the Rump agreed to pay his debts and provide a pension, Cromwell delivered a formal letter resigning the position of Lord Protector. “Richard was never formally deposed or arrested, but allowed to fade away. The Protectorate was treated as having been from the first a mere usurpation.”
Richard continued to live in the Palace of Whitehall until July, when he was forced by the Rump to return to Hursley. Royalists rejoiced at Cromwell’s fall,
May 25, 1660 – Charles II lands at Dover at the invitation of the Convention Parliament, which marks the end of the Cromwell-proclaimed Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland and begins the Restoration of the British monarchy.
After the death of Cromwell in 1658, Charles’s initial chances of regaining the Crown seemed slim; Cromwell was succeeded as Lord Protector by his son, Richard. However, the new Lord Protector had little experience of either military or civil administration. In 1659, the Rump Parliament was recalled and Richard resigned.
During the civil and military unrest that followed, George Monck, the Governor of Scotland, was concerned that the nation would descend into anarchy. Monck and his army marched into the City of London, and forced the Rump Parliament to re-admit members of the Long Parliament who had been excluded in December 1648, during Pride’s Purge. Parliament dissolved itself, and there was a general election for the first time in almost 20 years. The outgoing Parliament defined the electoral qualifications intending to bring about the return of a Presbyterian majority.
The restrictions against royalist candidates and voters were widely ignored, and the elections resulted in a House of Commons that was fairly evenly divided on political grounds between Royalists and Parliamentarians and on religious grounds between Anglicans and Presbyterians. The new so-called Convention Parliament assembled on April 25, 1660, and soon afterwards welcomed the Declaration of Breda, in which Charles promised lenience and tolerance.
There would be liberty of conscience, and Anglican church policy would not be harsh. He would not exile past enemies nor confiscate their wealth. There would be pardons for nearly all his opponents except the regicides. Above all, Charles promised to rule in cooperation with Parliament. The English Parliament resolved to proclaim Charles king and invite him to return, a message that reached Charles at Breda on May 8, 1660. In Ireland, a convention had been called earlier in the year and had already declared for Charles. On May 14, Charles was proclaimed king in Dublin.
King Charles II set out for England from Scheveningen, arrived in Dover on May 25, 1660 and reached London on May 20, his 30th birthday. Although King Charles II and Parliament granted amnesty to nearly all of Cromwell’s supporters in the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion, 50 people were specifically excluded. In the end nine of the regicides were executed: they were hanged, drawn and quartered, whereas others were given life imprisonment or simply excluded from office for life. The bodies of Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and John Bradshaw were subjected to the indignity of posthumous decapitations.