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January 10, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

43. Oliver Cromwell


The execution of Charles I in 1649 created something of a dilemma for England, needing to find a completely new way to govern itself. Various parliamentary outfits were tried, but throughout it all one man dominated until in 1653 he officially became the Lord Protector for the Commonwealth and Free State of England. This man was from the lower gentry, at one time a farmer, and little known until the Civil War when he became a renowned cavalry leader. He would become perhaps England's most powerful ruler, the conqueror of England, Scotland and Ireland (where he is still reviled as a mass-murdering monster) and the displayer of the most famous warts in history. He is, of course, Oliver Cromwell. But can a man who abolishes the institution of the monarchy be eligible to win its greatest award in the Rex Factor?

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  • James

    If there was a ‘Dictator Factor’ Cromwell would be a dead cert, but I think you guys made the right call here.

    As far as Fairfax is concerned, he did get a last hurrah. He came out of retirement once Cromwell was dead and joined Monck’s pro-restoration forces, riding out with ‘a group of Yorkshire gentlemen’ and prompted a force of 1200 anti-restoration cavalry to switch sides by virtue of his reputation alone.

    Then he gave Charles II a horse to ride during his coronation, lived pretty comfortably, wrote a few books, hung out with a bunch of poets, and died aged 59.

    Jan 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm
  • Shlomo Bar-Ayal

    Once again I have to complement you on a very good podcast. I have always found Cromwell to be one of the most fascinating people in British history.

    Just one correction. As you must realize I have a certain knowledge of Jewish history.

    The mistake is that Cromwell did not rescind the expulsion order of 1290. What he did was to “turn a blind eye to any Jew entering England.

    This is important since one almost all of Cromwell’s laws were rescinded in the Restoration.

    The reason that Charles II was not interested in enforcing the expulsion order was that he had been befriended by the Jews of Amsterdam during his exile there, and as we know Charles was loyal to his friends.

    This means that officially Jews are still banned from Great Britain but British law being what it is no one enforces it and Jews can serve in Parliment, etc.

    Just thought you’d be interested.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jan 17, 2012 at 3:43 am
  • Shlomo Bar-Ayal

    Another thought about the English Civil War and the problems that stemmed from it.

    An interesting side-note. Due to the religious and political friction that this period engendered a new movement that was both religious and non-religious grew at this time - Freemasonry.

    It is no accident that the 17th Century was beginning of Freemasonry and the two great laws, that one may not discuss religion or theology within a Masonic Lodge nor is political discussion allowed.

    This did not mean that atheists can join, to this day one has to state that he believes in God and an Afterlife in order to become a Mason, but what that religion is is not to be questioned.

    Think about this. At a time when there was tremendous strife, tearing English society apart, a group of men from both sides decided to join a fraternity where the brotherhood of man was what was stressed.

    Remember that the basis of Freemasonry was the Masonic guilds of the Middle Ages, and when they saw their membership dwindling they decided to add non-Mason, or non operative Masons to their lodges, these were called speculative Masons, or Accepted Masons.

    It soon became the place to be by the upper classes of British society. Also, the military formed their own lodges and Masonry went where ever the British Empire took them, making it a world wide movement.

    Just a thought to add to the interesting and excellant podcast that I always look forward to. Any further question just let me know.

    Jan 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm
  • rexfactor

    Excellent knowledge as ever from our well-informed listeners! Sounds like Fairfax had a pretty jolly time of it in the end - no posthumous beheadings for him!

    Thanks for the correction on the non-repeal of the Edict of Expulsion, Shlomo, interesting that it’s technically still the law! Will be interesting when we get to Victoria to see whether this is something that is referred to when Disraeli (a British Jewish politician) becomes Prime Minister.

    Jan 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm
  • Eva

    a fan of the BBC 4 series “This Sceptred Isle”, I absolutly enjoy your way of reviewing all the kings and queens, love this approach! re Cromwell and the Republic - this is not the first! Switzerland shook off the Habsburg / Holy Roman Empire 1291and had never been ruled by a monarch ever since! yours from germany - Eva

    Nov 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm
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