Greetings dearest cousin! I hope all is well with you and your estate in the Netherlands. You must be relieved with the decade of peace your land has seen since the Treaty of Westphalia. I, however, have not been as fortunate as you have. Much has changed in London since you departed sixteen years ago after the outbreak of the Civil War. Oliver Cromwell, the poor MP from Huntingdon, has risen up through the army and shown that he possesses unexpected talent and ability. Even though he lacked previous military experience he led the Ironsides and became a lieutenant in three years. He was also a critic of King Charles’s two-faced political strategies. This proved to be true when Cromwell helped in Parliament’s victory over Charles’s forces at Naseby in 1645. After the defeat the Parliament encouraged Charles to give the people of England more rights, yet he refused. Later it was discovered that he was also enabling Scotland to invade from the North. All of this eventually led to Charles’s very public execution on January 30, 1649. (www.olivercromwell.com.) Kingship was essentially abolished when Charles was beheaded and it has been a commonwealth ever since. It seems that Oliver Cromwell has proved to be the most powerful in England because he controls the army that defeated the royal forces. However, Parliament still has played a major, yet confusing, role in the governing of England. From 1649 till 1653 a Rump Parliament existed; this was basically a fragment of the Long Parliament which was purged after Charles’s death. They were ineffective because they lacked initiative. Also, they sold the Crown’s lands, the Church lands, and royalist lands in order to finance the army’s conquest of Ireland. Cromwell and his army stormed through Drogheda and Wesford and essentially slaughtered all of civilian life. They eventually conquered Scotland as well. Though the majority of people did not outwardly oppose the Rump Parliament, it was dissolved on April 20, 1653 because Cromwell decided he wanted to focus on a godly reformation. A reformation that the Rump Parliament was too occupied and too set in its ways to enforce. Instead of having free elections, Cromwell basically handpicked 140 men drawn from amongst those who were loyal to the godly cause. This was extremely na?ve in my opinion because the men who made up the Barebones Parliament were no nobler than anyone else was. Without a declared leader they simply bickered for 5 months and eventually handed their power back into Cromwell’s hands. (Morgan, pg.326.) Cromwell was then declared the Protectorate of England and he has retained this title ever since. Under this title he has consistently shown his intense zeal for reformation. In his speech at the opening of the first Protectorate parliament he spoke of his ambition to bring about a “reformation of manners” his hope “that Jesus Christ will have a time to set up his reign in our hearts by subduing those corruptions and lusts and evils that are there, which reign now more in the world than (I hope) in due time they shall do.” (Coward, pg. 256.) He proclaims religious toleration for all, yet it doesn’t seem as though this is “toleration” at all. He has excluded Catholics, Anglicans, Unitarians, Quakers, and various other Protestant groups from this toleration. He has justified this by stating that toleration should not be given to “popery and prelacy nor to such as under the profession of Christ hold forth and practice licentiousness” nor to those that “abuse the liberty to the civil injury of others and to the actual disturbance of the public peace.” (Coward, pg. 256.) He claims to act only under God’s will, yet it seems to me that he is no more aware of what God wants than anyone else in this country. Unfortunately, this claim to “righteousness” has made him act irrationally against things that are perceived to be immoral (such as my beloved theater.) He has also censored the press and forbade sports in general. On the bright side Cromwell has helped England by heading a largely civilian regime, which has sought to restore order and stability at home. This, in effect, has helped to win over the traditional social and political elite. (www.cromwell.argonet.co.uk.) Also, Cromwell has generally helped the citizens of London by making common law easier to understand. The archaic language of the law and the complex proceedings have been reformed so that all clients can be spared the exorbitant fees and the delays practiced by lawyers. (Worden, pg. 136.) Cromwell’s reign has proved to be an up and down ride for the citizens of London. We have flourished from his ability to satisfy both the aristocratic property holders and the radical reformation seekers, yet many have suffered because of his fervor for what he calls “God’s will.” I have no idea what will happen in the next sixteen years cousin; all I know is that the monarchy is long gone and who’s to say it shall ever return.
Coward, Barry. The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Inc., 1980. 253-268
ELY-ONLINE. 2001. http://www.olivercromwell.com/
Glanville, Philippa. “The City of London.” The Cambridge Guide to the Arts in Britain: Vol. IV, The Seventeenth Century. Ed. Boris Ford. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1989. 165-177
The Cromwell Association & The Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon. 2001. http://www.cromwell.argonet.co.uk/.
Worden, Blair (ed.) Stuart England. Oxford: Phaidon Press Limited, 1986. 123-145