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While Cromwell wielded authority, Parliament and Army were kept in creative tension and peace was largely maintained.Taxes, including those levied specifically against ex-Royalists, helped to stabilise finances, pay for a standing Army and for reforms. In religious matters Cromwell believed in ‘liberty of conscience’ and sought to create a broadly based national church while tolerating radical Protestant groups who remained outside but kept the peace.
Cromwell, now raised to prominence, was among those who wanted to parley with the King for a peaceful settlement, but Charles threw in his lot with the Scots, who invaded England to try to restore him to the throne.
Cromwell’s men crushed Royalist hopes at Preston (1648). Although not the initiator of the idea to prosecute the King for going to war against Parliament and half of the country, once he decided “Providence and necessity” required such action, he became a relentless supporter.
Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 and the backlash against the republican hero began.
Cromwell was declared a traitor, his body hauled from Westminster Abbey and subjected to posthumous execution.
Cromwell declined, saying, “I will not build Jericho again.” A year later, following illness, he died at the age of 59.
The Protectorate, dependent on Cromwell’s authority and on force not consent, now quickly unravelled as his nominated successor, his son Richard, proved unequal to the task.The Interregnum, when monarchy was abolished and England experimented with being a republic, lasted just 11 years from 1649–60, yet it wrought irrevocable change. To even begin to answer the question we need first to follow his extraordinary rise from regular country gentleman to head of state.His roots lie in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, where he was born in 1599 into a distinguished but relatively impoverished squirearchal family.At St Giles’ Cripplegate in London you will find the venue for Cromwell’s marriage to merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Bourchier in 1620.The match appears to have been a happy one, producing nine children.Cromwell, the only man strong enough to hold power and keep both sides in check, lost patience over lack of progress and forcibly dissolved Parliament in 1653.Later that year he proposed and received the office of Lord Protector – King in all but name.Cromwell pushed home gains by leading military campaigns to establish English control over Ireland (1649–50) and Scotland (1650–51), and to defeat Charles II and another Scottish-Royalist army at Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651).However, his massacre of defenders and civilians of Drogheda in 1649 and his order for similar action at Wexford spilled an indelible bloody stain on Cromwell’s reputation that Ireland would never forget.Following clashes over taxes, power and the King’s High Church policies, hostilities erupted into civil war on 22 August 1642 when Charles raised his standard at Nottingham.Over the next seven years Parliamentarian Roundheads and Royalist Cavaliers tore the country apart.