(16261712), lord protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland
, was born in Huntingdon on 4 October 1626 and baptized at St John's Church on 19 October, the fourth of nine children and the third of five sons of , lord protector, and his wife, , daughter of Sir James Bourchier.
Early life and career, 16261653
For all but a few months during a life of nearly eighty-six years Richard Cromwell was a minor figure of little national importance. He was born and brought up a younger son of a struggling provincial gentleman. Little is known of his childhood and adolescence, though he presumably spent much of his early years in the family homeat Huntingdon until 1631, St Ives in 16316, and Ely from 1636. Mark Noble and other early biographers suggest that, like his elder brothers before him, he attended Felsted School in Essex. He does not appear to have entered or attended university. By the mid-1640s his two elder brothers had died and he had become the eldest surviving son and heir of a man who was rapidly gaining substantial military and political influence, but Richard remained firmly in the background, with no political or serious military role. On 27 May 1647, a few months before his twenty-first birthday, he was enrolled at Lincoln's Inn. In October 1647 a newspaper reported that Oliver Cromwell's two surviving sons, Richard and , were both serving as captains in the army, one in Lord General Fairfax's lifeguard, the other in the regiment of Thomas Harrison. As other sources confirm that Henry was in Harrison's regiment around this time, it seems possible that Richard saw military service in the lord general's lifeguard in 1647. However, the absence of Richard's name from other military records and accounts of the latter half of the 1640s, the indications that by the time of his marriage negotiations in 16489 he was a civilian and bore no military rank or title, and slightly later reports that he had played no part in the civil wars all suggest that any military service was very brief and limited.
In spring 1648 Oliver Cromwell opened negotiations for his son's marriage to the daughter of Richard Maijor, a member of the Hampshire gentry who had played no part in national politics and who, though an active parliamentarian administrator in his home county, did not take up arms in the civil war. The two families were probably introduced to each other via a mutual friend, Richard Norton, a wealthy Hampshire gentleman, colonel of a parliamentarian cavalry regiment, and (from 1645) recruiter MP for Hampshire. It was through Norton, and employing him as an intermediary, that Cromwell began negotiating with Richard Maijor in February 1648. Cromwell noted that he had already received an alternative marriage proposal for his son which was financially more lucrative, but he foresaw difficulties there and not that assurance of godliness which a Maijor match offered. In any case, Richard Maijor's estate was more than I look for, as things now stand. Cromwell as usual professed that he looked to Providence to decide the issue, for If God please to bring it about, the consideration of piety in the parents, and such hopes of the gentlewoman in that respect, make the business to me of a great mercy; concerning which I desire to wait upon God (Abbott, 1.585). In reality he took a very keen interest in the material terms of the marriage settlement, and when he and Maijor met at Farnham in late March, Cromwell was not satisfied by the latter's offer, though he found him to be very wise and honest and exceedingly liked the gentleman's plainness and free dealing with me (ibid., 1.590); Norton was given detailed instructions to continue negotiations and urged to secure a more generous provision of land and money. For his part, Maijor clearly held some reservations not about Richardwho had reportedly left himself very much to the guidance and direction of his father (BL, Add. MS 24860, fol. 17)but about Oliver Cromwell, for some things of common fame did a little stick with him. Cromwell felt sure that God would in His own time vindicate him of all ill reports (ibid., 1.590). However, for the time being the marriage negotiations stalled.
They revived a year later, in the opening months of 1649, both through direct correspondence between Cromwell and Maijor and via another intermediary, the Revd Robert Stapleton. Richard Cromwell, described by Norton the previous year as a young man of wil enough … very civil, free, and open-hearted (BL, Add. MS 24860, fol. 17), was also dispatched to visit Maijor and his daughter, to see if God dispose the young ones' hearts thereunto (Abbott, 2.21). As in 1648, his father stressed the gentlewoman's worth, her virtue and godliness, and the piety of the family (Abbott, 2.9), but he still looked to the dispensation of Providence (ibid., 2.21) and sought a sound financial and property settlementI may not be so much wanting to myself nor family as not to have some equality of consideration towards it (ibid., 2.29). By early April terms were almost concluded and Richard was anxious to be with his intended bridemy son had a great desire to come down and wait upon your daughter. I perceive he minds that more than to attend business here. I should be glad to see him settled (ibid., 2.52). Richard Cromwell and Dorothy Maijor (16271676), elder daughter of Richard Maijor (16041660) and Anne, daughter of John Kingswell, were at last married on 1 May 1649 at Hursley in Hampshire; Oliver Cromwell attended the ceremony.
With his new wife, Richard Cromwell lived with Richard Maijor and his wife at their principal estate at Hursley and settled down to life as a member of the Hampshire landed élite. During the 1650s he and Dorothy had nine children, only four of whom survived into adulthood: Elizabeth (16501731), Anne (16511652), an unnamed son (b
. and d
. 1652), Mary (b
. and d
. 1654), an unnamed daughter (b
. and d
. 1655), Oliver (16561705), Dorothy (16571658), another Anne or Anna (16591727), and another Dorothy (16601681). Following his marriage, Richard was named a Hampshire JP and, like his father-in-law, from time to time he attended meetings in Winchester and elsewhere, and was present at about a dozen quarter sessions in 16517. He was placed on various county committees and, with other magistrates, was occasionally required by the council of state to undertake administrative and judicial tasks in Hampshire. However, almost all we know of Richard's life in Hampshire in the years following his marriage is drawn from a series of letters that Oliver Cromwell wrote to his son and daughter-in-law and to Richard Maijor in 164951. Cromwell was clearly concerned about his son and looked to Richard Maijor to watch over him and to correct perceived faults. Cromwell saw his son not only as lacking true devotion to God and to business but also as being too fond of good and expensive living. These faults he collectively labelled idleness, and urged his son to be serious, the times requiring it (Abbott, 2.95), and to knuckle down:
I would have him mind and understand business, read a little history, study the mathematics and cosmography: these are good, with subordination to the things of God. Better than idleness, or mere outward worldly contents. These fit for public services, for which a man is born. (ibid., 2.103)
In 1649 he exhorted Dorothy to provoke your husband to search for God's guidance (Abbott, 2.103), and warned Richard, who was to seek the Lord and His face continually, to take heed of an unactive vain Spirit, urging him to study history and to understand the estate I have settled; it's your concernment to know it all, and how it stands (ibid., 2.236). In 1650 he was still worried that my son is idle and in need of good counsel for he is in the dangerous time of his age, and it's a very vain world (ibid., 2.289). Cromwell's forebodings proved well founded, for by summer 1651 he had heard that my Son hath exceeded his allowance, and is in debt. Cromwell condemned this, not because he begrudged him laudable recreations, nor an honourable carriage of himself, but because
if pleasure and self-satisfaction be made the business of a man's life, so much cost laid out upon it, so much time spent in it, as rather answers appetite than the will of God, or is comely before His Saints, I scruple to feed this humour; and God forbid that his being my son should be his allowance to live not pleasingly to our Heavenly Father.
Maijor was to reprove Richard and urge him to seek grace from Christ. Cromwell repeatedly stressed that he would provide for the couple's comfort and encouragement but would not feed a voluptuous humour in Richard if he should make pleasures the business of his life, in a time when some precious Saints are bleeding, and breathing out their last, for the safety of the rest (ibid., 2.425).
The lord protector's son, 16531658
Unlike his father-in-law and his younger brother Henry, Richard Cromwell was not named a member of the nominated assembly in 1653. His position did not formally change when his father became lord protector at the end of the year, for he was not given office within the protectoral executive or central administration, he did not play any role in the public and state occasions of the opening year of the protectoratethus it was Henry and not Richard who accompanied the new protector when he was entertained by the City in February 1654 and when he formally opened the first protectorate parliament in Septemberand he was not generally looked upon as a likely future candidate for the elective protectorship established by the new constitution. None the less, as the eldest surviving son and heir of the new head of state, Richard's status had changed. Contemporary commentators began taking a little more notice of him, occasionally referring to him respectfully or sneeringly as lord or even prince, and he was returned to both the first and second protectorate parliaments. In summer 1654 he was elected for both Hampshire and Monmouthshire and chose to sit for the former. Appearing in the Commons Journal
as Lord Richard Cromwell, he was named to about a dozen committees spread fairly evenly over the twenty weeks of the session. He served as teller in formal divisions twice. All this suggests that Richard, though one of the more prominent members of the house, was neither in the first rank of parliamentary activity nor one of those who took a leading role during the session. As the single parliamentary diary of this session is brief, incomplete, and rarely identifies individual speakers, it is impossible to know whether, how far, or to what ends Richard may have contributed to particular debates.
During the twenty months between the dissolution of the first and the meeting of the second protectorate parliaments Richard Cromwell divided his time between the apartment he had been assigned in Whitehall Palace and his family at Hursley. He attended several meetings of the Hampshire quarter sessions over this period. In November 1655 he wrote from Hursley to his brother Henry, apologizing for failing to write more oftenwriting to my unskilfull hand is very irksomeas well as conveying his love and honour … [and] ardent affections and letting Henry know that he was sending him some hounds (BL, Lansdowne MS 821, fol. 38). This, the earliest extant letter by Richard, was the first of a series written to Henry in Ireland during the latter half of the 1650s. Further letters followed from Hursley or Whitehall during 16567, many of them recommending individuals for office or land in Ireland, though intermingled with more personal expressions of love and affection for his brother. Over this period, too, there survives one further letter from Oliver Cromwell to Richard, of May 1656, a short note regarding the sale of part of the estate that he had assigned him on his marriage.
In summer 1656 Richard Cromwell was elected to the second protectorate parliament for both Hampshire and Cambridge University and chose to sit for the latter. The Commons Journal
suggests that he was quite active in the house during the opening months of the long first session, for he was teller in one division, on 9 October, and was nominated to about eighteen committees down to mid-December, but that thereafter he played a much more limited rolehe was named only to a handful of committees from January to June 1657 and never served as a teller during that period. Thomas Burton's parliamentary diary suggests that Richard spoke only rarely and that his brief interjections were generally on minor procedural mattersfor example, on 9 December he proposed that a petition be referred to an existing committee on Cambridge University and on the following day that further MPs be added to that committee. But Burton also records having dinner with Richard on 12 December, in the course of which Lord Richard was very clear in passing his judgment that Nayler deserves to be hanged … He, for his part, was clear in that Nayler ought to die, suggesting that Richard took a very firm line against the alleged blasphemy of James Naylor, though one that he is not recorded as having expressed in the chamber during the long debates on Naylor's guilt and punishment (Diary of Thomas Burton
, 1.126). Burton's diary also reveals that Richard was absent sick when the house was called on 31 December (ibid., 1.284). The impression that Richard may have been attending parliament only intermittently during the latter half of the session is strengthened both by his letter to his brother Henry from Whitehall on 7 March, in which he implied that he was learning of developments in parliament only as an outside observerI know noe newes … Only I heare that the Howse hath made themselves the Commons by voting another Howse (BL, Lansdowne MS 821, fols. 3245)and by his presence at the Hampshire quarter sessions in spring 1657. One reason for Richard's apparent reduced activity in parliament during the opening months of 1657 may be that he found distasteful and uncomfortable the heated and prolonged debates over the new constitution in general and the restoration of kingship in particular; he hinted at this in his letter to Henry of 7 March, writing of the peevish world and commenting that his brother was fortunate to be away from the spatterring dirte which is throwen aboute here (ibid.). However, neither there nor in the clutch of letters that he wrote to Henry over the summer, once the new constitution had been finalized and the parliamentary session ended, did Richard make explicit his own views on the revised constitutional position of the head of state and on the arrangements for the appointment of future heads of state. On the other hand, he did criticize unnamed
persons, whose designe hath been for a long time layed to take roote for the hindring nationall advantadges in settlement, where it might occation difficulty to them getting into the saddle, respecting there owne ambitious mindes and advantadges before religion, peace, or what else thay may stand in there way. (BL, Lansdowne MS 822, fols. 1001)
The new constitution empowered and required Oliver Cromwell to nominate his successor as protector and, although there was no requirement that he name his eldest son, his deliberate promotion of Richard from summer 1657 onwards suggests that this was on his mind. In contrast to the initial installation of the protector in December 1653, in which Richard had played no part, he was prominent at his father's second installation of late June 1657; he rode with his father in the state coach and stood by him during the ceremony. In July he was elected chancellor of Oxford University in succession to his father, and an elaborate installation ceremony was held at Whitehall on 29 July. During the autumn Oliver Cromwell appointed Richard, who was convalescing in Hampshire after breaking his leg in a riding accident, a member of the new, nominated second chamber of parliament, and in December he was appointed to the council of state. He proved himself conscientious in both capacities, attending every meeting of the other house during the brief and unproductive second session of the second protectorate parliament of 20 January to 4 February 1658, and attending forty-eight of the seventy-three council meetings held between his admittance to that body on 31 December 1657 and the beginning of September 1658. In his capacity as a member of the other house, A Second Narrative of the Late Parliament
provided a satirical description of Richard about this time, portraying him as a person skilled in Hawking, Hunting, Horse-racing, with other sports and pastimes, who had done little for the cause beyond the drinking of King Charles's … health, who was no very good Scholar, and who was
not judged meet (not having a Spirit of Government for it) to have a Command in the Army when there was fighting, or honest and wise enough to be one of the little Parliament. Yet is he become a Colonel of Horse now fighting is over; as also taken in to be one of the Protector's Council, and one of the Other House, and to have the First Negative Voyce over the good People of the Commonwealth.(A Second Narrative of the Late Parliament, 1659, 13; BL, Thomason tract, E977 (3))
Indeed, in January 1658 Oliver Cromwell had appointed Richard commander of a cavalry regiment. In May 1658 he attended the launching at Woolwich of a new ship, named the Richard
in his honour, and in June and early July he, his wife, and assorted courtiers were warmly entertained on a semi-official and almost regal visit to the west of England, especially to Bath and Bristol.
On 29 July, soon after his return to London, Richard Cromwell wrote to Henry to relate that their sister , though very ill, was showing signs of rallying, so now things beginn to have a blessing put onto them, that our darke and disconsolate famuly may once againe revive and live; however, His Highness having soe much afflicted himselfe is not very well (BL, Lansdowne MS 823, fols. 812). When he wrote again on 24 August, his mood was much gloomier, for Elizabeth was dead and his father was very ill:
Since oure late, greate stroacke … it hath pleased God to vissett our sorrowes with greater feares; for it is one thinge to have the greatest bowe lopt offe, but when the axe is layed to the roote, then there is noe hopes remaining … We have been a famuly of much sorrow all this summer, and therefore we deserve not the envy of the world. (ibid., fols. 8990)
Although by this stage many commentators were reporting that Richard was likely to succeed his ailing father, at no point in his surviving letters did Richard himself talk of his succession or speculate on his future role.
The vagaries and inconsistencies of surviving sources have led to considerable historical debate about whether Oliver Cromwell nominated Richard to succeed him as head of statealternative theories would have it either that he died without naming a successor or that at some point in 16578 he nominated someone else, perhaps his son-in-law Charles Fleetwoodand, if he did nominate his eldest son, precisely when and to whom he did so. According to a contemporary newsletter, on or about 26 August Cromwell sent for Richard and the former speaker of the second protectorate parliament to consult about the form in which Richard should be nominated and proclaimed his successor, but the meeting was inconclusive. On 30 August , reported that he believed no nomination had yet been made, though John Thurloe, the secretary of state, was summoning up the courage to press the protector to do so. During the evening of the same day, 30 August, Thurloe himself wrote a letter claiming that over a year before, in summer 1657, Cromwell had sealed up a paper or will containing the name of his chosen successor but that the document could not now be found, creating fears that he would die before making a clear nomination; no such nomination had yet been made. However, in a letter written after Cromwell's death Thurloe claimed that he had verbally nominated Richard as his successor (presumably very late) on 30 August. Other contemporary and near contemporary accounts suggest that one or more verbal nominations of Richard were not made until 1 or 2 September, to Thurloe and Thomas Goodwin, possibly repeated in the presence of a slightly larger group of councillors and senior officers. In short, although no written document of nomination was ever publicly produced, several contemporary or near contemporary sources agree that Oliver Cromwell did name Richard as his successor verbally, if not in writing, and perhaps more than once, in the days before he died. This would be consistent with his deliberate promotion of his eldest son during 16578, when he apparently groomed him to succeed him, as well as with the record of what occurred in the council of state on the afternoon of 3 September, after Cromwell's death.
Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell died about 3 p.m. on 3 September. The council of state immediately convened and met for several hours before, in the evening, first the lord chamberlain (Sir Gilbert Pickering) and then the lord president (Henry Lawrence) and other councillors met Richard to inform him formally that he had been nominated by his father, had therefore succeeded as head of state, and was to be proclaimed as such. A contemporary newsletter and a slightly later account both claimed that there had been some discussion in council before all the members had pledged to accept Richard and had agreed that he should be the new lord protector. The formal minutes show the council expressing itself satisfied both that Oliver Cromwell was dead and,
by what was now exhibited to the Councell, as well by writing as by word of mouth, by certain members of the Councell, and others who were called in, that his late Highness did, in his life time, appoint and Declare the Lord Richard Cromwell to succeed him in the Government of these nations.
The council then resolved nemine contradicente That it appears to the Councell that his late Highness hath appointed and declared Richard to succeed him in government according to the written constitution. But significantly, the minutes immediately reiterated this pointThat the former Vote be entered, and notice taken therein, that the same passed nemine contradicente (TNA: PRO, PRO 31/17/33, unpaginated). The council moved on to more procedural matters surrounding the succession, including instructing Fleetwood to call the army officers together to inform them of the day's developments, to require them to be vigilant in maintaining peace and order, and to gain their signatures of support to the document proclaiming Richard protector.
When, on the evening of 3 September, Richard Cromwell met a delegation of councillors who informed him of his succession to the protectorship, he responded with his first speech as head of state, a brief oration not only thanking the members of the council for the support they had given his father but also acknowledging his own inexperience and the onerous task ahead and stating that he looked to the council and to God for support, strength, and guidance. On 4 September Richard was proclaimed in London, and during the afternoon he met the lord mayor and aldermen to receive their condolences and congratulations and to be offered the sword of the City, which he immediately returned, again with a short speech. In the presence of the lord mayor and aldermen, the councillors, many army officers, and others, Richard then took the oath of office as protector. Over the next week he was proclaimed protector in towns and other public places in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Contemporary reports suggest that his succession received wide public support, and by the end of September he had received addresses of support from many towns and counties, as well as from the armed forces; to those presented in person, he often responded with brief but effective and well-received speeches of thanks. Messages of condolence, congratulation, and support also began to be received from many of the states of Europe. His father's death had upset Richard and distracted him during the opening weeks of his protectorshipearly in September Thurloe wrote that Oliver's death was soe soare a stroake unto him, and he is soe sensible of it, that he is in noe condition to write or doe yet (Thurloe, State papers
, 7.373), and the council order book indicates that he did not begin attending formal council meetings until the last week of September, though he and his councillors met on other occasions earlier in the month, including a day of fasting and humiliation on 10 September. However, all the evidence suggests that Richard's succession had been smooth and unopposed and that in many quarters his protectorship was welcomed with genuine warmth. As Thurloe put it to Henry Cromwell in a letter of 7 September, There is not a dogge that waggs his tongue, soe great a calme are wee in (ibid., 7.374).
The army and the council of state
As protector, Richard Cromwell had to begin handling a mass of business, much of it minor or routine, some of itthe continuing war with Spain and other diplomatic affairs, together with preparations for Oliver's state funeral, for examplemore weighty. However, two issues came to dominate the opening months of his protectorate. The first was the position and command of the army. In stark contrast to his predecessor as protector, Richard had no real military experience, background, or pedigree upon which he could draw to win the trust and obedience of the army. Indeed, many in the army clearly questioned his commitment to the parliamentary and godly cause and feared that the army and the beliefs which it held dear might be sidelined by this young country gentleman of uncertain political and religious outlook and his civilian allies. Accordingly, before the end of September many junior and some senior army officers were holding meetings at which Richard's right to command the armed forces was questioned. As early as 7 September Thurloe had foreseen difficulties, reporting some secret murmurings in the army as if his highnes were not generall of the army as his father was (Thurloe, State papers
, 7.374); a week later Fauconberg had claimed that a caball there is of persons and great ones, held very closely, resolved, it's feared, to rule themselves, or set all on fire (ibid., 7.386). By early October some in the army were pressing for Charles Fleetwood to be appointed commander-in-chief, with power to issue military commissions; twinned with this was the demand that no one should be dismissed from the army except by court martial. Several meetings of the officers were held during October, some chaired by Fleetwood, who was ostensibly steering a middle course, keen to maintain his dominant military position while also professing loyalty and obedience to the protector, some attended and addressed by Richard himself. Thus on 18 October Richard met the officers and delivered a speech that Thurloe may have helped him prepare, in which he professed his pursuit of liberty and godliness and his desire to keep the army in the hands of godly men, sought the loyalty, support, and prayers of the army, and pledged that he would do all he could to clear the military arrears and ensure prompter payment henceforth. However, he forcefully reiterated a line which he had taken from the moment his military position had first been questioned, that under the written constitution he was commander-in-chief of the armed forces and that, while he would consult with and support Fleetwood as lieutenant-general of the army under him, he was determined to retain the position and full power of commander-in-chief. The tactful but firm stance taken by Richard, together with moves by protector and council during the latter half of October to meet some of the arrears of military pay, quietened the army for a time, though murmurings and meetings of officers continued. In mid-November Thurloe referred to these undertones of military discontent when he wrote that sometymes the fire seemes to be out; then it kindles againe (ibid., 7.510). Accordingly, on 19 November Richard summoned the officers to Whitehall and addressed them once again. He pointed out that God's providence had placed the civil and military government of the nations in his hands, that he was bound by oath to uphold the written constitution, and that several senior officers had explicitly supported his succession and proclamation as protector. He acknowledged his own youth and inexperience and called upon the army and others to support him in his task of governing. He stressed that he sought a good correspondency between himself and the army, suggesting to the officers that they could use rooms in Whitehall Palace for any future meetings, and urged them to lay aside all jealousies and misconstructions (Firth, 3.1689). As before, Richard's intervention by no means resolved the issue, but for a time at least it mollified the army, and the announcement soon after that a parliament was to be summoned also served to focus military attention elsewhere.
The military issue may also have affected the broader operation of central government during the opening months of Richard Cromwell's protectorate. Like his father, Richard clearly worked closely with the executive council of state, the surviving order book of which, covering the period down to mid-January 1659, indicates that he attended part or all of thirty-eight of the seventy-four meetings recorded between 3 September and 18 January, that is slightly over half the meetings held during that four-and-a-half-month period. When Richard attended only part of a meeting, his presence often coincided with consideration of the most important items dispatched at that meeting. The formal record of many of the meetings of October and November is surprisingly brief and sparse, suggesting that the council was handling a limited quantity and range of business or, perhaps more likely, that much of the business at those meetings was not being minuted. The record becomes fuller during December 1658 and January 1659, more closely resembling the very wide range of business, national and local, important and mundane, recorded as being handled by the protectoral council of Oliver Cromwell. Although neither the order book nor other official sources reveal it, a number of other commentators reported that the military question spilled over into a power struggle within, and for control of, Richard's council during autumn 1658. Some commentators suggested growing divisions between a pro-army military group within the council, headed by Fleetwood and John Disbrowe, whose loyalty to Richard was sometimes questioned, and a civilian group, including Thurloe, Lawrence, and Nathaniel Fiennes, whose supposed influence upon Richard was viewed with dismay by many senior officers; indeed, such was the intensity of the ill feeling that during November Thurloe offered to resign, though the offer was declined by Richard. As well as divisions among the existing thirteen councillors, all of whom Richard had inherited from his father, there were reportedly clashes over the possible appointment of new councillors, with the military faction wishing to see further senior officers added to the council of state and opposing the appointment of civilian-minded figures such as lords Fauconberg and Broghill, who were thought to be close to Richard and whose appointment was supported by the existing civilian councillors. In fact, Richard appointed no new councillors during his protectorate.
The second major issue that had to be addressed during the opening months of Richard Cromwell's protectorate was the financial position of the regime. Financial weakness had undermined the protectoral regime from the outset, and in September 1658 Richard inherited not only an annual deficit but also an accumulated debt estimated at up to £2 million, much of it comprising arrears of military pay. Within weeks of Oliver Cromwell's dissolution of the second protectorate parliament there had been rumours that another parliament would have to be called shortly to address these financial problems, and, although Oliver's illness and death had intervened before anything had been decided, there was an expectation that the new protector would promptly be forced to summon parliament. In fact, the decision to call a parliament was not firmly taken until late November. In the interim Cromwell, who perhaps wished to delay meeting parliament until the army was more firmly under his control, initiated through the council a thorough review of existing revenuesthis issue first appears in the council minutes of 7 September, and many of the thinly minuted meetings of October and November may have been dominated by discussions of financial problems as well as possible solutions, including the role and composition of a parliamentwhile he sought loans from abroad, especially from France. The completion of Oliver Cromwell's state funeral and signs that army unrest had subsided may have encouraged Richard to proceed, and on or about 29 November the decision was taken to summon a parliament to meet late in January; strangely, not until its meeting of 3 December did the council minute that it was advising the protector to call a parliament. In a letter to his brother Henry on 30 November Richard wrote that his affaires … are very heavy, and difficult and, drawing attention particularly to financial problems and to arrears of military pay in England, Scotland, and Ireland and in the navy, he reported that these with other waighty considerations hath caussed us to call a Parliament (BL, Lansdowne MS 1236, fol. 119). It was decided to revert to the pre-protectorate franchise and distribution of seats for the House of Commons, though retaining not only MPs sitting for Scotland and Ireland but also the nominated other house of the 1657 constitution. The elections were often hotly contested but passed off reasonably peacefully and, as the 1657 constitution made no provision for the pre-session vetting and exclusion of MPs, all those duly elected were entitled to take their seats when parliament opened on 27 January 1659.
The meeting of his only protectorate parliament and its immediate consequences dominated the second half of Richard Cromwell's protectorate. He arrived at Westminster by water on 27 January to attend a special service in Westminster Abbey, and then took his place in the Lords chamber to deliver his opening speech. Once more contemporaries noted that he spoke clearly and effectively; his opening speech, which lasted about fifteen minutes, was certainly much briefer and more tightly structured than the great orations with which his father had opened his protectorate parliaments. He began by thanking God that the nation was at peace internally and in good order, despite the great and unexpected change that had recently occurred with the passing of his father; he paid tribute to his father's achievements and legacy. Turning to the coming parliament, he said that he had summoned it in accordance with the written constitution and looked forward to working with it to further the Peace, Laws, Liberties, both Civil and Christian, of these Nations. He drew parliament's attention to the threat posed by enemies at home and abroad, to the need to address the great arrears of pay owed to the armythe best Army in the worldand to the necessity both of continuing war against Spain and of defending the country against land and sea attacks from other states. He closed by recommending to parliament's care the People of God in these Nations, with their Concernments, the good and necessary work of Reformation, both in Manners and in the Administration of Justice, and the Protestant cause abroad, which seems at this time to be in some danger. He hoped that parliament would show the Spirit of Wisdom and Peace … and to this let us all add our utmost endeavours for the making this an happy Parliament (The Speech of His Highness the Lord Protector
, 1659, 1, 5, 6, 89; BL, Thomason tract, E968 (1)). The address was widely praised, and many contemporaries were surprised by Richard's ability confidently to deliver such a crisp speech.
Like his father before him, Cromwell then withdrew and appears to have left the parliament free to run its own affairs without further intervention. Although in due course a grouping emerged in parliament which was sometimes referred to by contemporaries as courtiers or the court party, there is little sign that either directly or through his councillors the protector generally sought to guide or shape the session. Like his father, he appears to have stood back and waited upon parliamentary developments. Indeed, during Richard's protectorate parliament of January to April 1659, as during the sessions of the first and second protectorate parliaments of his father, official and unofficial sources tend to focus on events in parliament, particularly the House of Commons, and throw little light upon the protector himself. Richard continued to oversee the executive arm of government, and the council continued to meet and to transact business, though, as no council order book appears to survive for the period after 18 January 1659, we know far less about the work of Richard and his council over these months; a sketchy picture may be reconstructed from a surviving index to the missing order book and from other supporting papers.
Until the end of March much parliamentary time was absorbed by long debates in the Commons on a number of key issues. Should they recognize Cromwell as lord protector (a bill to this end was introduced by Thurloe on 1 February, suggesting that a limited degree of planning and parliamentary management was being attempted) and in the process accept the provisions of the written constitution of 1657? Should there be a second parliamentary chamber, and, if so, what should its composition and role be? Should the Commons recognize and transact business with the existing other house, and should the sixty MPs representing Scottish and Irish seats continue to be permitted to sit and vote in the House of Commons? All these proposals were strongly opposed by an anti-protectoral, republican minority in the Commons, though even these critics of the regime in general and of the existence of a single person as head of state in particular were at pains to stress that they held no personal animosity towards Richard and had found him a pleasant and honest young man. However, despite the vociferous opposition of the republicans, pro-protectoral majorities were eventually secured in the Commons on all these main points. Moreover, parliament also began the process of inquiring into state finances and their shortcomings, and, by recognizing Richard's control of the armed forces, cleared the way during February for protector and council to dispatch a fleet to the Baltic to counter Dutch activity in the area; it sailed at the end of March.
On the other hand, there were growing signs not only of continuing discontent in the army but also of links between the army and the radical minority in parliament, with soldiers seeking the right to petition parliament to air their grievances and the republican faction in the Commons only too keen to encourage military unrest and to make common cause with the army against the alleged deficiencies of the protectoral regime. In mid-February Cromwell addressed another meeting of officers, this time at Fleetwood's house, to emphasize once more that he would not give up his position as commander-in-chief, and to make clear that he would not allow the army to go behind his back and petition parliament against the government, either alone or in conjunction with other civilian or religious groups. As before, his personal intervention temporarily quelled but did not resolve the problem or end military discontent.
The fall of the protectorate, AprilMay 1659
A combination of republican and radical propaganda, continuing and unaddressed military arrears, and growing distrust of Cromwell were exacerbated by anti-military sentiments emanating from the conservative majority in parliament during the closing weeks of the session. The army feared that parliament might not only reorganize the military, perhaps greatly reducing the existing army and relying more heavily upon an expanded militia, ostensibly a cost-cutting exercisea financial report of early April confirmed a huge debt of nearly £2½ million and an annual deficit of £1
millionwhich would serve to break the power of the army, but also push ahead with a more conservative religious settlement, whittling away the religious liberties held dear by many within the army; in both areas there was an expectation that Richard would support parliament rather than the army. Early in April Richard permitted a meeting of the general council of officers which, with his concurrence, called for parliament to act against royalists and to settle arrears of military pay; indemnity for parliamentarian soldiers was also urged. But parliament conspicuously failed to support the higher taxes which would be needed to meet army arrears and to support the existing military budget; instead the Commons launched proceedings against a senior army officer who had allegedly maltreated a royalist conspirator, and it rebuffed a petition seeking relief for ailing imprisoned Quakers.
There were rumours that during the third week of April senior officers considered seizing Cromwell and holding him in their custody, and that various officers and civilian politicians loyal to the protector had sought his consent to their plans to seize or assassinate the senior officers, but that he had declined to endorse the plans. On 17 April he again met the officers to try to heal a growing breach between the army and the conservative majority in parliament but, apparently pessimistic at the outcome, he seems to have supported a dual strategy which the Commons voted through on 18 Aprilon the one hand, parliament would move against royalists and would seek to pay military arrears, but, on the other, the general council officers should henceforth assemble only if authorized by protector and parliament and all officers must take an oath against forcible coercion of parliament. However, the other house, which comprised many senior officers such as Fleetwood and Disbrowe, did not vote to support these Commons resolutions. Nothing daunted, Richard ordered the general council dissolved. At first the officers obeyed, and on 20 April Fleetwood and Disbrowe pledged their loyalty to Richard. When, however, on 21 April the Commons pressed on with moves to reorganize the army and form a militia, perhaps under parliamentary control, the obedience of the army was at an end. When Cromwell refused an initial request from the senior officers to dissolve parliament, they began gathering troops around St James's; when he in turn called an alternative rendezvous at Whitehall, many of the regiments on whose loyalty he thought he could depend deserted him, the rank-and-file and junior officers deciding instead to attend the St James's rendezvous. After several hours of further resistance and agonizing over what he could and should do, Richard bowed to army pressure and felt compelled to do as the officers commanded. His parliament was dissolved by his enforced command on 22 April and effective power passed to the army.
Cromwell remained for a further month in powerless limbo at Whitehall Palace, still protector in name though no longer in command of events and under a form of house arrest. At first some of the senior officers, including Fleetwood, may have envisaged retaining Richard as protector with reduced powers, but the harder line taken by other officers, together with the removal from their commands in late April of the officers who had supported Richard and the promotion or reinstatement of more radical officers in their stead, strengthened arguments in favour of a republican settlement. During the first week of May the officers agreed to recall the Rump, thus completely ending the position and role of Richard as lord protector, though laying down certain conditions, including the honourable treatment of him, the payment of the debts which he had incurred in the service of the state, and the allocation to him of a pension and a London residence. About this time Thurloe was writing that Cromwell was to be excluded from any share in government and would be compelled to retire as a private gentleman. Meanwhile everyone, including Richard, awaited news from outside England, to see how Henry Cromwell, George Monck, William Lockhart, and Edward Montague, who respectively commanded the army in Ireland, Scotland, and Dunkirk and the fleet, would respond to news of Richard's fall. However, Richard failed to give a clear lead, and in due course all four commanders and their forces acquiesced in the changes and recognized the authority of the new republican regime. Similarly, he did not respond decisively to offers of French military and financial support made via the French ambassador.
Cromwell may have held back from encouraging and supporting active resistance for fear of unleashing widespread bloodshed or perhaps because he judged that such resistance would be futile and unsuccessful. It is possible that he was being kept under tight, armed seclusion in Whitehall Palace, and so was unable to communicate freely with the outside world, though in mid-May he did manage to dispatch two heavily coded letters to his brother Henry which give some insight into his state of mind at this time. In the first, written about 12 May, Richard acknowledged his own sins and weaknesses, while noting that I could not have beleved that religion, relation and selfe interests would have deceved me. He urged his brother to be wary what you doe for youre owne sake and the sake of those that shall have an affection with you, but he also made clear that only armed intervention from outside England could reverse recent developments; he had heard nothing yet from Scotland, Dunkirk, or the fleet. Parts of the letter suggest that he was quietly resigned to his fateI am now in daly expectation what course they wil take with me. My confidence is in God and to Him wil I put my cause … I knowe not whether a liberty or a prisson [awaits me]; though elsewhere he appeared angry: I believe Fleetwood and Desborough are not longe lived (BL, Lansdowne MS 823, fols. 3712). In the second letter to Henry, written about 17 May, Richard appeared more bitter, reporting that he had been forsaken by his council, friends, and relations and was in the duste with my mouth as to God. Urging Henry to have a care whoe you trust, the world is false, Richard noted that those my father's friends, pretended ones only, were myne had tripped up my heels before I knew them, for though they were relations yet they forsooke me; he called Fleetwood and Disbrowe pittiful creatures. God will avenge inocency. As Monck had sent a poore reply, indicating that he would not intervene, and no word had been received from the fleet, Richard seemed resigned to his fate: Greate severities are put upon me and I expect the greatest … These men intend nothing lese then ruen to us boeth. He concluded by exhorting Henry to join him in relying upon the God of oure father; and it will be as much our honor to know how to (ibid., fol. 370).
On 14 May the Rump had Richard Cromwell's protectoral seal smashed and the protectoral arms removed from buildings. The Rump agreed to pay Richard's debts, by this time amounting to about £29,000, and undertook both to cover his removal expenses from Whitehall Palace and to provide him with an annual pension. At length, bowing to what was now inevitable, he signed a formal letter of resignation, written by or for him, which was delivered to the Rump on 25 May. In it he pledged to accept the new regime, noting that I trust my past Carriage hitherto hath manifested my acquiescence to the Will and disposition of God, and that I love and value the Peace of this Common-Wealth much above my own concernments; he undertook to continue to submit quietly to the hand of God. He closed by making explicit that, although he had played no part in the establishment of the new government,
through the goodness of God I can freely acquiesce in it being made, and do hold myself obliged, as (with other men) I expect Protection from the present Government, so to demean myself, with all peaceableness under it, and to procure to the uttermost of my Power, that all in whom I have any Interest do the same.(His Late Highnes's Letter to the Parlament of England, 1659; BL, Thomason tract 669, fol. 21 (32))
With the signing and submission of this letter, Richard Cromwell's protectorate formally came to an end on 25 May; in practice, it had effectively ended several weeks before.
Later life, 16591712
Cromwell lingered at Whitehall Palace for several weeks, and even visited Hampton Court and hunted deer there, until in July he was eventually forced by the Rump to vacate his former protectoral properties and retire to Hursley. During the political turmoil of the autumn and winter of 165960 there were rumours that he was to be recalled and the protectorate re-establishedat one point he may even have been temporarily reinstalled at Hampton Court to be on hand close to London if neededbut nothing came of them. His return to family life at Hursley with his wife and children proved short-lived, however, for the Rump failed to cover his debts and to provide him with a pension and he was increasingly troubled by creditors. On 18 April 1660 he wrote to George Monck, reporting that his present exigencies were forcing him to retire into hiding-places to avoid arrests for debts contracted upon the public account, and seeking the help of Monck and of the new parliament in this matter (Ramsey, 116). On 8 May he gave up his last public office, that of chancellor of Oxford University, writing ruefully that since the all-wise providence of God, which I desire always to adore and bow down unto, has been pleased to change my condition, that I am not in a capacity to answer the ends of the office, he was resigning his chancellorship (ibid., 117). Perhaps as much to elude his creditors as to avoid harassment by the restored Stuart regimehe had, after all, played no part in the civil wars or the regicideRichard went into semi-voluntary exile soon after the Restoration. Leaving behind his heavily pregnant wife (his last child was born in August) and his children, in July 1660 Richard took boat from Sussex to a new life on the continent.
We catch only occasional glimpses of Cromwell while he was living abroad from 1660 until 1680 or 1681. He spent most of those years in France, especially Paris, though he probably passed through Geneva and may have lived for a time in Italy or Spain. From time to time during the 1660s Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary reports of Cromwell's life abroad, supported by friends and living under a pseudonym but making no real attempt to disguise himself or to deny his true identity if challenged. In 1666 Richard successfully persuaded the government not to recall him to England. On his behalf it was claimed in March that he was living very quietly, peacefully, and modestly in Paris, changing his name and his abode from time to time that he may keep himself unknown beyond the seas, having no contact with Fanatics nor with the King of France or States of Holland, avoiding the company of English, Scots, and Irish, and keeping clear of plots against Charles II. Instead, Richard, who was reportedly spending his time reading, drawing landscapes, and being instructed in the sciences, often prayed for the king and expressed his loyalty. His financial position remained precarioushe was not sixpence the better or richer for being the son of his fatherand his debts would ruin him in case he should be necessitated to return into England (CSP dom.
, 299). He did not even return in the mid-1670s when he heard that his wife was seriously ill, though in the first of a series of surviving letters to his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, he did express concern for Dorothy's health, recommending various remedies and the love of God and expressing great frustration that he could not do more to help. He asked Elizabeth to Pray imbrace thy mother for me, I doe love her, she is deare to me. Desire her to keepe up her spirits, beg her to be cheerfull (Ramsey, 133). Dorothy died in January 1676, nearly sixteen years after she had last seen her husband, and control of the Hursley estate passed to Richard's eldest surviving son, Oliver.
In 1680 or 1681 Cromwell quietly returned to England. After some delay and apparent reluctance, from the late 1680s onwards he began visiting the family estate and some of his children at Hursley from time to time. However, he never took up residence there and instead spent the last thirty years of his life as a lodger in other households. By 1683 he had become a paying boarder with the merchant Thomas Pengelly and his wife, Rachel, at Finchley, Middlesex, an arrangement that continued for the rest of his life. He lodged with Rachel Pengelly after her husband's death in January 1696 and moved with her to the house of one of her relatives in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, in 1700. During the 1680s and 1690s Richard's modest income of £120 per annum, drawn from the Hursley estate, covered his rent and other items, including clothes and a wig, wine, sherry, and brandy, tea and coffee, pipes and tobacco, spectacles, and a horse and dogs. In later years, though still a boarder, he maintained his own manservant. He also took a fatherly interest in the Pengellys' son Thomas, and supported his education and budding legal career.
During his time in England, as in his earlier years on the continent, Cromwell generally employed a variety of pseudonyms, signing his letters to his daughter Elizabeth variously Clarke, Canterbury, Crandberry, Cranmore, Cranbourne, or Cary. Soon after his return in 1683 he fell under some suspicion of involvement in the Rye House plot, and an order was issued that he be secured and questioned, but he could not be found. In 1690 he became alarmed when his son Oliver sought to pursue his disputed election as MP for Lymington, fearing that, however justified his case might be, it would be unwise to draw attention to the family. Indeed, Richard became increasingly concerned about his son's running of the Hursley estate, his financial affairs, his personal life, his marriage prospects, and the company he was keeping, as well as (in the early 1700s) his growing estrangement from his surviving sisters. Oliver died unmarried and childless in May 1705, leaving large debtsRichard's own allowance from the Hursley estate had fallen into arrearsas well as a complex dispute over whether his elderly father or his eldest sister should succeed him in control of the estate. There followed a bitter legal dispute between Richard and his daughter Elizabeth, egged on by members of the family by marriage and by other associates, for the administration of Hursley, which both angered and hurt Richard. It is noticeable that by 1706 he felt able and compelled to proceed at law under his own name. In December 1706 the court found in his favour and he gained control of Hursley, though he continued to live not there but with Mrs Pengelly in Cheshunt. Richard and his daughter had sought to stay on good terms personally throughout the dispute and during his last years he resumed his warm correspondence with Elizabeth and Anne, now his only surviving children.
Financially now more secure, Cromwell enjoyed a few more years at Cheshunt before his health broke down in 1712. In May 1712 Mrs Pengelly noted that he was not very wellhe decaes, the hot weather makes him out of order (Ramsey, 221). By early June he hath no mind to stire neither indeed is he fit to stire without these walls at present (ibid.). On 1 July he made his will, a brief and simple document in which he recommended his soul to my gracious God trusting I shall be saved by the alone merits of my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ and then, having made small bequests to various friends, servants, and suppliersincluding a London tobacconistand a larger bequest to his late brother Henry's only surviving son, left the bulk of his estate to my beloved sister Mary, Countess of Falconberg, who was also appointed sole executrix (TNA: PRO, PROB 11/528, sig. 150). On 2 July he worsened: his distempers seem to have got fast hold of him & don't goe of as they use to doe & he declines. I think sometimes he maye Rub on a whill longer & some times I think he will be gone quickly (Ramsey, 223). In fact, he lingered a further ten days and died on 12 July 1712. According to some reports he was visited by his daughters during his last days and exhorted them to Live in Love. I am going to the God of love (ibid., 224). He was buried on 18 July in the chancel of Hursley church, beside his wife. If a contemporary tablet marked the grave, it perished in the Victorian restoration of the building. However, there survive within the church both a large, later eighteenth-century monument to the Maijor and Cromwell families, including Richard and Dorothy and six of their children, and a modern inscribed tablet recording the presence near by of the mortal remains of Richard Cromwell.
Richard Cromwell appears to have left no journal, memoir, commonplace book, or other biographical writings, and apart from the formal and official correspondence which he signed or which was addressed to him as protector, there survives only a small number of more personal and revealing letters written by or to him. Accordingly, biographers often struggle to paint a full, rounded, and even portrait of Richard, to give an account of his eighty-six years in which he remains centre-stage throughout. Overall, he comes across as decent and honest, a pleasant and reasonably intelligent man, well suited to the life of a good husband, father, and country gentleman into which he was settling in the early and mid-1650s. Developments beyond his control, and which there is no evidence that he actively sought, brought that to an end and cast him in a new role to which he was ill suited, and which overshadowed and permanently changed the remainder of his long and in some ways rather sad life. It is noticeable that friends and opponents alike found little to fault in his personality and character; most found him to be worthy, dignified, and personally engaging. Although both during and after his protectorate he was often attacked in printed works, most mocked or lampooned him rather than levelled accusations of dishonesty or corruption, personal ambition, cruelty, or vindictiveness. Most portrayed him as too gentle and a little too naïve for his own good, a meek knight, Queen Dick. Margery Good Cow
of May 1659 argued that he should receive a generous financial settlement from the returning Rump as a reward of his own Virtues, his modesty, true serenity, gentle and manly deportment (p. 1; BL, Thomason tract E984 (9)), while Fourty Four Queries to the Life of Queen Dick
of June or July 1659 asked Whether Richard Cromwell was Oliver's sonne or no?, so great were the differences between them (p. 1; BL, Thomason tract E986 (18)). Richard bore his sufferings with equanimity and, excepting a brief show of bitterness and impotent rage in April and May 1659, calmly accepted and made the best of his lot. Despite early rumours of a weak religious faith, he was clearly supported and strengthened by a genuine and deep belief in an active and providential God who had some divine purpose in all the twists and turns of his life. In his intensely personal letters to his eldest daughter during his later life, as well as in some of his more public pronouncements during his protectorate, he repeatedly looked to God's will and sought divine guidance, while encouraging others to do the same. Reverses he often interpreted as the Lord's just retribution for his own sins and shortcomings. There is no clear evidence about where and how he worshipped during the closing decades of his life, no evidence that he did not conform to the Church of England before or after the Toleration Act
Most historical judgements of Cromwell focus not upon his character or religious faith in general, but upon his abilities and performance as lord protector in 16589. Despite limited preparation and previous experience upon which he could draw, in many respects he was a successful head of state. He was conscientious and dedicated, carried himself with calm dignity, and made good and effective speeches, both formal and informal. Many contemporaries noted his engaging manner, his strong interpersonal skills, his ability to charm. He was modest and unassuming: time and again he sought to disarm critics by adopting a self-deprecating line, stressing his youth and inexperience and calling on his audience to come to his aid and to work with him. For a time he just about held his own in his struggle with the army. But, however pleasant the speeches, however charming the personality, his protectorate was in severe difficulties from the outset, overshadowed by problems which were largely not of his making and which he could do little to resolve. That he had no real military background and no standing in the army, that he was obviously more civilian than soldier, and that he could do little to meet the military arrears or to sort out the state finances soon became apparent to everyone, inside and outside the army. Faced with growing military insubordination, in spring 1659 he went too far in supporting the civilian parliament against the army and in trying to confront the military, and he lacked the power and resources to survive the military backlash. But it is hard to see how successfully he could have contained in the longer term the centrifugal forces of the protectorate and maintained the regime and constitution that he had inherited from his father. Although Lucy Hutchinson's assessment of Richard and his rule is in places rather sharp and unfair, it is hard to disagree with her conclusions: Richard was so flexible to good counsels, that there was nothing desirable in a prince which might not have been hoped in him, but a great spirit and a just title and he was pleasant in his nature, yet gentle and virtuous, but became not greatness (Hutchinson, 304, 298).