'Warts and all'
Winston Churchill once described Russia as a "mystery wrapped in an enigma".
The same could pretty much be said of Oliver Cromwell. A man of many changing facets, a hero to some, the Devil to others. The more one reads about him, it seems the less one understands him. This is my personal view of the man.
Like the Alfred the Great and Henry V Cromwell was a deeply religious man, unlike them he remains a controversial figure even now.
Cromwell was a remarkable man, even in an age of remarkable men, he was the first and last commoner to be head of state in England, he united the British Isles under one commonwealth, he was never beaten in battle and he helped lay down the principles of parliamentary democracy, despite his puritan values his reign was marked by religious tolerance.
All this was achieved after having spent the first 40 years of his life farming and raising 7 children.
Yet he is also remembered as a tyrant, a man who would willingly turn on friends if the need arose, fiercely ambitious and by Catholic Irish as the perpetrator of particularly nasty massacres.
|The man himself. When he was having his portrait painted he instructed the artist to paint him "Warts and all"|
The first 40 years of Cromwell's life were spent in the back waters of Huntingdon and Cambridgeshire. Though not exactly poor, Cromwell was far from rich, the result of being a second son, but he was fairly well connected. This undoubtedly helped him to become an MP in the 'Long parliament '.
The 'English' Civil war -it could be said actually started and finished with the Scots. Charles I who was a Stuart king decided to make changes to the Scottish Presbyterian prayer book by imposing on them the English version.
Nowadays it seems bizarre that such a thing could cause a war, but cause it most certainly did. the Scots 'Covenanters' rose in rebellion and easily beat the ramshackle army sent north by Charles. the Scots occupied Newcastle, demanding the equivalent of 'Danegeld' before they would withdraw.
Charles ordered parliament to provide him with more funds for another army to beat the Scots. Parliament refused. Parliament was controlled by Presbyterians who saw the Scots covenanters as allies, they also disliked the King and civil war broke out.
Cromwell was by this time a very vocal opponent of the King but still a bit player in the Civil war as a whole.
He returned to his home and raised a company of horse, as well as a local militia.
It was his cavalry which was to lead to his future glory. Well drilled, they trotted into battle reciting psalms. They became known as the 'Ironsides' and were never beaten in battle.