The Lord Protector

“Those who play with the devil’s toys will be brought by degrees to wield his sword.” — R. Buckminster Fuller

. . . . . . . Lord Cromwell would have appreciated the Mersey (River) of present day. Its bubbling brownness would reflect his moods, his religiosity, his general sourness on life. It’s typical of England vs. France that England chose a dour theologian as its rebellious king while France chose a lighthearted tyrant as its rebellious one (Napoleon).

. . . . . . . Oliver Cromwell, future Lord Protector of England, was born in 1599 and would spend a few years in the 1650s as the master of England. He believed that God was on his side, guiding and approving of him. He wasn’t always a Puritan; before his conversion he acted in a low manner, sinning on a regular basis. It was with his upgrading to Puritanism that a new light of conviction came upon him, brushing aside his depression and personal doubts. He was no longer an ordinary man; he was one of God’s chosen.

. . . . . . . In the first forty years of his life, he was a mildly successful man, but his rise to prominence really began in 1640 when he was elected to the House of Commons. Parliament would be a comfortable home for this fiery, dour man of intense religious views.

. . . . . . . The early 1640s were a time of drift toward civil war, with the King on one side and Parliament on the other. This was an important turning point in European history: up until then, the “divine right of kings” asserted that the monarch was given to rule by God Himself. Parliament — or the people’s order — would step in to challenge this across Europe from the 1600s through the 1700s and 1800s … a long arc of history that trended toward giving the people more power, and stripping it from divinely inherited fools. The increasing technological and economic success of Europe during modern times meant that the king would no longer be the first in a land of chickens and sheep, but the last in a land of factories and mines. He would be seen as redundant. The 1640s was the first time in Europe this had really been seen, and Cromwell — for religious reasons — would be a major part in it.

. . . . . . . When war broke out in 1642, Oliver Cromwell took part in it. He became captain of a troop raised in his hometown of Huntingdon, and served under Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, leader of the Parliamentary forces. Cromwell knew full well the consequences of defying the king. The risks were enormous. But he was committed. It was here he took comfort in his close relationship to God, praying regularly for word on what to do and how to execute his command in the service of Parliament.

. . . . . . . The following year, 1643, saw more fighting and Cromwell rose to the rank of colonel. He personally organized his horse soldiers and imposed strict discipline on a varied band of followers, many of whom weren’t Puritans like him at all. He showed he was open-minded if you were willing to fight on his side.

. . . . . . . After a series of victories, he established his reputation in the Parliamentary side and was able to convince the rebels to form a new army. There was a break in hostilities for a time, and then a second Civil War commenced. Throughout all this, Cromwell kept his oar in the political waters, making allies and keeping his name prominent. Cromwell was consistently against the king, badmouthing him and making him look like a fool. Cromwell brought his religious beliefs into the fray, saying that the king’s heart had hardened and that he was not the rightful ruler.

. . . . . . . For a time Oliver was hesitant in his dealings with the king, but at long last, he signed the death warrant of King Charles when the king would not plead guilty or innocent. The King was clearly used to command, and unused to being forced to kowtow to some semblance of “justice.” This made him rigid, unable to change. Cromwell, a more flexible man of republican leanings, would be on the side of the winners because he was flexible. The Royalists in general were a stiff-necked bunch who leaned primarily on tradition to guide them. The Parliamentarians believed in the spoken word and the opinions of men of good will. In any contest between tradition and men of good will, good will would win out.

. . . . . . . Cromwell, following the king’s execution, spent time as chairman of the Council of State. His ambition was clearly stoked by his successes in the past. As a soldier, he had been victorious; as a politician, he had been influential; as a chairman of the Council of State, he would serve militarily once again.

. . . . . . . Charles II took over the kingship and the Scots welcomed him. But Cromwell, as captain general, opposed him and them. The Battle of Dunbar in 1650 was a victory for Cromwell, adding luster to his reputation. Now Cromwell came into dispute with Parliament itself, and turned on it like a snake biting the hand that fed. Like Napoleon was to do later, General Cromwell took issue with his betters and forced them to kneel to him with his victories against Parliament. Cromwell seemed like the only legitimate power left. Parliament was dust, and the military was the only body with a reputation intact enough to inspire reverence and faith. As leader of the military, it naturally fell upon Cromwell to rule … and he did so, taking the title of Lord Protector of England (+ Wales), Scotland, and Ireland.

. . . . . . . He had fought in Ireland and Scotland, and across the length and breadth of England. As the leader of the Protectorate, he governed with some wisdom and made a number of policy decisions that benefited England economically. But his time on earth was short. Ill health put an end to Oliver Cromwell on September 3, 1658. He had ruled for only a few short years when God took him from the earthly plane.

. . . . . . . What was Oliver Cromwell’s legacy? He showed that a freeborn man could excel a king in power and wisdom. He demonstrated the practicality of the republic as a form of government. He supported the institution of Parliament, allowing another one to form even after he had dissolved the first. To sum up: he was a man of his times, as a modern economy grew out of the Renaissance to take precedence over earthly affairs. Rather than fighting against trends, he followed them, and his star rose therewith. He had the good sense to make allies, and to benefit from an enhanced reputation. His reputation preceded him through many doors. And finally, there was a weakness of choices, as no other man came on the scene who could win loyalty from a large number of men. For Cromwell was not the first choice of men, but the only choice available, and he maneuvered himself to be seen as such. Cromwell was a political dilettante and a follower of Machiavelli, despite his Puritan beliefs. He covered himself in glory to win power, and once power was in his hands he would never let it lapse. His worship of power was as real as his worship of the divine secrets of the universe. In his hands, the Protectorate would be strong enough to last, and when his son took over, the collapse came soon enough. A king would be recalled and the monarchy would reassert itself in England for generations to come.

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