- Describe the English Protectorate, along with its successes and failures
- In 1653 Oliver Cromwell was declared Lord Protector of a united Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland under the terms of the Instrument of Government, inaugurating the period now usually known as the Protectorate.
- Cromwell had two key objectives as Lord Protector: “healing and settling” the nation after the chaos of the civil wars and the regicide, and spiritual and moral reform. While his domestic policies presumed no radical reforms and many focused on protecting public morality through religion, Cromwell followed an aggressive foreign policy.
- Cromwell’s over-reliance on the military reopened the wounds of the 1640s and deepened antipathies to the regime.
- Being aware of the contribution the Jewish community made to the economic success of Holland, then England’s leading commercial rival, Cromwell encouraged Jews to return to England, 350 years after their banishment by Edward I.
- After Cromwell’s death in 1658, his son Richard succeeded as Lord Protector but was unable to manage the Parliament and control the army. In 1660, monarchy was restored.
- Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in the history of the British Isles, considered a regicidal dictator or a military dictator by some and a hero of liberty by others. His measures against Catholics in Scotland and Ireland, however, have been characterized as genocidal or near-genocidal.
The English Parliament after Colonel Thomas Pride purged the Long Parliament on December 6, 1648, of those members hostile to the Grandees’ intention to try King Charles I for high treason.
The period between the execution of Charles I on January 30, 1649, and the arrival of his son Charles II in London on May 29, 1660, which marked the start of the Restoration. During the Interregnum England was under various forms of republican government as the Commonwealth of England.
Also known as the Little Parliament, the Nominated Assembly, and the Parliament of Saints, was the last attempt of the English Commonwealth (1653) to find a stable political form before the installation of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector. It was an assembly nominated entirely by Oliver Cromwell and the Army’s Council of Officers.
Third English Civil War
The last of the English Civil Wars (1649–1651), which were a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists. As the Royal army was mostly Scottish, and as the invasion was not accompanied by any major rising or support in England, the war can also be viewed as primarily an Anglo-Scottish War rather than a continuation of the English Civil War.
Instrument of Government
A constitution of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Drafted by Major-General John Lambert in 1653, it was the first sovereign codified and written constitution in England.
The Commonwealth of England
The Commonwealth was the period when England, later along with Ireland and Scotland, was ruled as a republic following the end of the Second English Civil War and the trial and execution of Charles I (1649). The republic’s existence was declared by the Rump Parliament on May 19, 1649. Power in the early Commonwealth was vested primarily in the Parliament and a Council of State. During this period, fighting continued, particularly in Ireland and Scotland, between the parliamentary forces and those opposed to them, as part of what is now referred to as the Third English Civil War.
In 1653, after the forcible dissolution of the Rump Parliament, Oliver Cromwell was declared Lord Protector of a united Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland under the terms of the Instrument of Government, inaugurating the period now usually known as the Protectorate. The term “Commonwealth” is sometimes used for the whole of 1649 to 1660—a period referred to by monarchists as the Interregnum—although for other historians, the use of the term is limited to the years prior to Cromwell’s formal assumption of power in 1653.
The Protectorate was the period during the Commonwealth when England (which at that time included Wales), Ireland, and Scotland were governed by a Lord Protector. The Protectorate began in 1653 when, following the dissolution of the Rump Parliament and then Barebone’s Parliament, Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth under the terms of the Instrument of Government.
Cromwell had two key objectives as Lord Protector. The first was “healing and settling” the nation after the chaos of the civil wars and the regicide. The social priorities did not, despite the revolutionary nature of the government, include any meaningful attempt to reform the social order. He was also careful in the way he approached overseas colonies. England’s American colonies in this period consisted of the New England Confederation, the Providence Plantation, the Virginia Colony, and the Maryland Colony. Cromwell soon secured the submission of these, but largely left them to their own affairs. His second objective was spiritual and moral reform. As a very religious man (Independent Puritan), he aimed to restore liberty of conscience and promote both outward and inward godliness throughout England. The latter translated into rigid religious laws (e.g., compulsory church attendance).
The first Protectorate parliament met in September 1654, and after some initial gestures approving appointments previously made by Cromwell, began to work on a moderate program of constitutional reform. Rather than opposing Parliament’s bill, Cromwell dissolved them in January 1655. After a royalist uprising led by Sir John Penruddock, Cromwell divided England into military districts ruled by Army Major-Generals who answered only to him. The fifteen major generals and deputy major generals—called “godly governors”—were central not only to national security, but also to Cromwell’s moral crusade. However, the major-generals lasted less than a year. Cromwell’s failure to support his men, by sacrificing them to his opponents, caused their demise. Their activities between November 1655 and September 1656 had, nonetheless, reopened the wounds of the 1640s and deepened antipathies to the regime.
During this period Cromwell also faced challenges in foreign policy. The First Anglo-Dutch War, which had broken out in 1652, against the Dutch Republic, was eventually won in 1654. Having negotiated peace with the Dutch, Cromwell proceeded to engage the Spanish in warfare. This involved secret preparations for an attack on the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and resulted in the invasion of Jamaica, which then became an English colony. The Lord Protector also became aware of the contribution the Jewish community made to the economic success of Holland, then England’s leading commercial rival. This led to his encouraging Jews to return to England, 350 years after their banishment by Edward I, in the hope that they would help speed up the recovery of the country after the disruption of the English Civil War.
In 1657, Oliver Cromwell rejected the offer of the Crown presented to him by Parliament and was ceremonially re-installed as Lord Protector, this time with greater powers than had previously been granted him under this title. Most notably, however, the office of Lord Protector was still not to become hereditary, though Cromwell was now able to nominate his own successor. Cromwell’s new rights and powers were laid out in the Humble Petition and Advice, a legislative instrument that replaced the Instrument of Government. Despite failing to restore the Crown, this new constitution did set up many of the vestiges of the ancient constitution, including a house of life peers (in place of the House of Lords). In the Humble Petition it was called the “Other House,” as the Commons could not agree on a suitable name. Furthermore, Oliver Cromwell increasingly took on more of the trappings of monarchy.
After Cromwell’s Death
Cromwell died of natural causes in 1658, and his son Richard succeeded as Lord Protector. Richard sought to expand the basis for the Protectorate beyond the army to civilians. He summoned a Parliament in 1659. However, the republicans assessed his father’s rule as “a period of tyranny and economic depression” and attacked the increasingly monarchy-like character of the Protectorate. Richard was unable to manage the Parliament and control the army. In May, a Committee of Safety was formed on the authority of the Rump Parliament, displacing the Protector’s Council of State, and was in turn replaced by a new Council of State. A year later monarchy was restored.
Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures in the history of the British Isles, considered a regicidal dictator or a military dictator by some and a hero of liberty by others. His measures against Catholics in Scotland and Ireland have been characterized as genocidal or near-genocidal, and in Ireland his record is harshly criticized.
Following the Irish Rebellion of 1641, most of Ireland came under the control of the Irish Catholic Confederation. In early 1649, the Confederates allied with the English Royalists, who had been defeated by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War. By May 1652, Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army had defeated the Confederate and Royalist coalition in Ireland and occupied the country—bringing an end to the Irish Confederate Wars (or Eleven Years’ War). However, guerrilla warfare continued for another year. Cromwell passed a series of Penal Laws against Roman Catholics (the vast majority of the population) and confiscated large amounts of their land. The extent to which Cromwell, who was in direct command for the first year of the campaign, was responsible for brutal atrocities in Ireland is debated to this day.