Saturday, April 17, 2010

Oliver Cromwell. Engraved from a miniature by Cooper. With a facsimile of his signature and writing. London: Chapman & Hall, 1845

Oliver Cromwell’s grandfather, Richard Williams, took his successful uncle’s surname and became Richard Cromwell. Richard prospered during the dissolution of the monasteries and was given extensive church lands by Henry VIII. Robert, Richard’s son and Oliver’s father married a wealthy widow, Elizabeth Lyon. Oliver, born on April 29, 1599, was the only boy in a family of seven children, and was named for his very wealthy uncle, Oliver. The Cromwells owned a large part of the county of Huntington and served the Tudors well as Sheriffs, Justices of the Peace and members of Parliament. Oliver attended the strongly Puritan college, Sidney Sussex at Cambridge. He left without a degree when his father died and he was called home to manage the family estates. At twenty-one he married a wealthy merchant’s daughter and older than himself, Elizabeth Bourchier. Together they had four sons and a daughter who survived.

Although raised as a Puritan, he did not undergo “conversion” until his mid-thirties. At the time he was given to a chronically inflamed throat, restlessness, melancholy; irritability. Through prayer and withdrawal from society, Cromwell came to believe that he himself was one of God’s Elect – a direct tool of God to be used to establish His Kingdom on earth. From that point, all of Cromwell’s actions exhibited an ever-burning zeal, an unswerving fixity of purpose, and a self-confident dedication that forced men to see in this red-faced man with conspicuous warts, a man of destiny. The quarrel Parliament and Puritans had with King Charles became everyman’s quarrel.


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