Oliver Cromwell Biography

Oliver Cromwell was an was an English statesman, soldier, and revolutionary. This biography profiles his childhood, career, life, achievements and timeline.

Oliver Cromwell
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Oliver Cromwell
Quick Facts

Birthday: April 25, 1599

Nationality: British

Famous: Quotes By Oliver Cromwell Military Leaders

Died At Age: 59

Sun Sign: Taurus

Born Country: England

Born in: Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, Kingdom of England

Famous as: English Statesman

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Elizabeth Bourchier

father: Robert Cromwell

mother: Elizabeth Steward

siblings: Robina Cromwell

children: Bridget Cromwell, Countess Fauconberg, Elizabeth Claypole, Frances Cromwell, Henry Cromwell, James Cromwell Oliver Cromwell, Mary Cromwell, Mary Cromwell - Countess Fauconberg, O. Cromwell, Oliver Cromwell, Richard Cromwell, Robert Cromwell

Died on: September 3, 1658

place of death: Palace of Whitehall, London, The Protectorate

Cause of Death: Malaria

More Facts

education: Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, Hinchingbrooke School, Lincoln's Inn

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Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader. He started his political career as a Member of Parliament for Huntingdon. King Charles I dissolved the parliament. Oliver then returned as MP for the Short Parliament and the Long Parliament. In the armed conflict between the king and the parliamentarians, he recruited cavalry for the parliamentary forces in Cambridgeshire after blocking shipment meant for the king. He was commissioned as Captain of Horse when the first civil war broke out. He was then elevated to Colonel of Horses, and later to the position of Lieutenant General of Horse, before being made Governor of Ely. He was part of brilliant victories in many battles. When the Parliament passed the ‘Self-Denying Ordinance,’ he chose military command over civil office and supported the ‘New Model Army.’ Although the battles that he fought were the most bloodiest in the history of England, he believed in religious tolerance. He became the most powerful man in England and was one of the 59 members to sign Charles I’s death warrant. When his supporters recommended that he be made the king, he declined the Crown. He became the Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland. During the later stages of his life, his health declined and he died probably from malaria. His mortal remains were buried in Westminster Abbey.

Childhood & Early Life

Oliver Cromwell was born on April 25, 1599, in Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire, Kingdom of England, to Robert Cromwell and Elizabeth Steward. He was a descendant of Katherine Cromwell, an elder sister of Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell, a minister of Henry VIII.

He was baptized at ‘St John’s Church.’ He attended ‘Huntingdon Grammar School,’ and then studied at ‘Sidney Sussex College,’ Cambridge. Following his father’s death, he left college without a degree in 1617.

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Career & Later Life

Cromwell became the Member of Parliament for Huntingdon in 1628. King Charles I had imposed a tax without parliamentary consent. The Parliament adopted a Petition of Right, and Charles I adjourned parliament.

He undertook treatment for depression. He sold his property, moved to St Ives, took up farming, and adopted Puritanism. In 1636, he inherited his uncle’s property and job as tithe collector for Ely Cathedral.

He returned as MP for Cambridge in 1640 when Charles summoned the Short Parliament because of money shortage during the ‘Bishops’ War.’ It was dissolved when MPs refused to grant him subsidies for war.

A bankrupt king called for the Long Parliament after the ‘Bishops’ War’ ended. 1641’s ‘Triennial Act’ guaranteed that parliament would be called once every three years. Cromwell once again returned as member for Cambridge.

Issues between the parliament and the king could not be resolved, resulting in an armed conflict in 1642. Cromwell recruited cavalry for the parliamentary forces in Cambridgeshire after blocking shipment meant for the king.

Commissioned as Captain of Horses, Cromwell raised a cavalry troop, and fought in the indecisive ‘Battle of Edgehill.’ He was promoted to Colonel of Horses in 1643.

He was elevated to the position of Lieutenant General of Horses, and made Governor of Ely. He helped secure victory for the parliamentary forces at Marston Moor, but could not destroy the king’s forces.

In 1644, he defeated the Royalists in the ‘Second Battle of Newbury’ without gaining strategic advantage. He presented his complaint on the leadership of Manchester and Earl of Essex to the House of Commons.

In 1645, the Parliament passed the ‘Self-Denying Ordinance,’ requiring members of the House of Commons and the Lords to choose between civil office and military command. Cromwell chose military command.

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At the ‘Battle of Naseby’ in 1645, the ‘New Model Army’ crushed the king’s army. Appointed as Lieutenant-General, Cromwell’s cavalry routed the Royalist cavalry. He then besieged Basing House, the Catholic fortress.

Charles surrendered to the Scots in 1646. They handed him over to the Parliamentarians, and withdrew from England. Oxford was surrendered, ending the ‘Civil War.’ Cromwell fell ill, and was inactive for a month.

Cornet George Joyce took control of Charles I. The ‘New Model Army’ was angry with the parliamentarians for the Presbyterian Church settlement, and raised troops. Cromwell supported the ‘New Model Army.’

In Putney, he put forward a proposal to check the powers of the executives. He also proposed to set up regularly elected parliaments and restore a non-compulsory Episcopalian settlement. The Levellers wanted complete political equality.

Meanwhile, Charles I escaped from Hampton Court and tried to work out a deal with the Scots to invade England. This gave rise to the second ‘English Civil War’ in 1648.

MPs, who negotiated with the king, were prevented from sitting for parliament. With the remaining MPs agreeing, Charles was tried for treason, and executed. The death warrant was signed by 59 members, including Cromwell.

The Scots and the Irish wanted Charles’ son as the king. From 1649 to 1651, Cromwell fought a bloody war with Scottish and Irish forces. Charles II fled to Holland, and the second ‘English Civil War’ ended.

Cromwell became the most powerful man in England, and replaced the Rump Parliament with members appointed by the Church. After General Lambert dissolved it, he presented a new constitution.

In 1653, he became the Lord Protector, and headed an executive council defined by a paper constitution. The Protectorate Parliament was dissolved the following year. The appointment of major generals proved to be unpopular.

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He formed a second Protectorate Parliament. In 1657, his supporters presented a constitution, reducing the power of the Council and recommending that he be made the king. He declined the Crown, but accepted the remaining petition.

In 1658, when parliament was convened, he faced opposition from Republicans and segments of the Army. He then dissolved the parliament. Around the same time, his health declined and he died probably from malaria. His body was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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Major Works

In 1641, Cromwell introduced the second reading of the Annual Parliaments Bill, and drafted the Root and Branch Bill for abolition of episcopacy. The House of Commons drew the ‘Protestation Oath’ against the popery.

He put down the Royalist uprising in South Wales. He achieved a brilliant victory in the ‘Battle of Preston’ in 1648, putting down the Scottish Royalist's Army, and ending the second ‘English Civil War.’

Personal Life & Legacy

In 1620, Oliver Cromwell married Elizabeth Bourchier, daughter of Sir James Bourchier, a wealthy leather merchant from Essex. They had nine children.

Cromwell died at Whitehall on September 3, 1658. The cause of his death is believed to be septicaemia, caused by urinary infection. His body was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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Trivia

This leader’s body was exhumed and hanged at Tyburn in 1661. His severed head was displayed outside Westminster Hall. It was finally buried in ‘Sidney Sussex College,’ Cambridge.

See the events in life of Oliver Cromwell in Chronological Order

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