The first Anglo-Dutch War was largely a result of the formation of the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell after the execution of King Charles I. It began in 1652 with English attacks on Dutch merchant shipping, but quickly escalated into a full-scale naval conflict on both sides, which despite being more or less numerically equal was decisively won by the British – although there would be three more Anglo-Dutch Wars over the next 130 years, as the two preeminent naval powers of Europe contested for trade and colonies (Holland would win the second and third wars, but the English would ultimately win the fourth and decisive war).
The Treaty was signed after a lengthy negotiation process, and was notable in several respects. It was the first international treaty in which both nations agreed to be bound by the decisions of a third party arbitrator (in this case, Switzerland), as well as an article specifying an early version of what would today be called ‘mutual most-favoured nation status’, and is thus the foundation of the modern concept of international diplomacy. It was remarkably lenient to the Dutch, considering their defeat – a fact widely attributed to the Dutch negotiators simply being better than their English counterparts. By containing a secret clause obliging the Dutch to enact the Act of Seclusion (forbidding Prince William III of Orange from ever being Stadtholder) which had dramatic effects on Dutch internal politics over the years that followed. Finally, it established England as a serious power in Europe, which had been inclined to dismiss this non-monarchy as no threat prior to that.
The decisive exclamation mark that ends the English Civil War. Never before had an English monarch been deposed, tried and convicted of high treason, and then executed. (To date, no other English monarch has suffered the same fate, either.) The decapitation of Charles the First made plain to the people of England and the courts of Europe that the winds of change were blowing in England.
Charles’ son, Charles II, would eventually be restored to the throne that was his by right of primogeniture, and in the interregnum that followed, England would be variously led by Parliament, by Lord-Protector Oliver Cromwell, and briefly, by Lord-Protector Richard Cromwell (Oliver’s less talented and determined son). The restored king was a damned sight more careful of Parliament, and the gradual decline of the power of the monarchy would only continue from this time onwards.
The final resolution of the power vacuum that existed in England after King Charles I was deposed was somewhat inevitable: Oliver Cromwell was always going to wind up at the top of the heap. Lambert’s creation of the Instrument of Government, following the dissolution of the Rump Parliament, and then that of the Barebones Parliament, provided for Oliver Cromwell to be appointed Lord Protector of England for life.
This was kingship in almost every respect: Cromwell would rule until his death, the position would be hereditary, and Cromwell would even wind up dissolving Parliament yet again to put a stop to reforms they wanted that he saw as overly democratic. By the time it ended, with Cromwell’s death in 1658, he was easily as unpopular as Charles had been before him. Some of the smarter Englishmen even realised that the problem with their political system might lie with autocracy in any form rather than monarchy itself.
The final encounter of the English Civil War was a bruising and thorough defeat for King Charles the First and his allies. Although between them, the Royalist forces and their Scottish allies numbered about 16,000, Cromwell’s Parliamentarians had mustered nearly twice as many soldiers, and with such a massive numerical supreriority, the outcome was never truly in doubt.
Cromwell took his time in the disposition of his forces, cutting off the King’s escape while wearing down his army. In a battle that lasted only a single day, the Parliamentarians surrounded the Royalists, driving them back within the walls of the city of Worcester, and capturing it shortly after nightfall. Few if any of the Royalists escaped, most being captured at the battle’s end or later that night, but the truly stunning result were the casualty lists: Cromwell lost only 200 of his 31,000, while 3000 Royalists were slain and more than 10,000 captured. The English Civi War was over, and Charles I would not long outlive it, although he did escape for a time.
Considering his later prominence, Oliver Cromwell’s first stint in Parliament was surprising undistinguished. Perhaps his relative youth (he was in his late twenties at the time) caused him to be over-awed by his more senior colleagues, and certainly the dissolution of this Parliament by King Charles I (and the fact that he did not call another until 1640) aside, records exist of only one speech given by Cromwell, and that was poorly received by the chamber.
Cromwell would return to Parliament in 1640, this time for the electorate of Cambridge, in which he would serve for the entire 1640s. He would entirely fail to make the Irish hate him until some time later.
Charles the First, destined to end his rein several inches shorter than he began it, was a firm believer in his divinely ordained autocratic rights as King of England, Scotland and Ireland. (He also claimed to be King of France, although even a claim of King of Calais would have been inaccurate, the English having lost their last French possessions in 1558.)
Charles would spend his entire reign battling his own Parliament, with an increasing lack of success, to maintain what he saw as the right and proper prerogatives of the King. Reign and battle both would culminate in 1649, when a revolution led by Oliver Cromwell first deposed, then executed King Charles I.
There were those who never expected Charles to live to adulthood, let alone become king. The second son of James VI of Scotland, he was judged too fragile and sickly to travel to London with his family when James became King of England. And his older brother Henry was heir ahead of him.
But Henry died of diptheria when he was 18, and Charles, two weeks short of his 12th birthday, became the heir to the throne. Charles was 25 when he himself became King of England and Scotland, and few would have predicted that his reign would have the results it did – neither Cromwell’s uprising nor Charles’ later (posthumous) canonisation seemed very likely in 1625.
Born at almost the end of the 16th Century, Oliver Cromwell would grow to become one of the most important figures of the following century. He was born to a family of the gentry, and lived the first four decades of his life as a gentleman farmer. Had not two changes occurred in his life – an inheritance from an uncle that made him richer, and a conversion to a more Puritan faith.
With these behind him, Cromwell would become first the Member of Parliament for Huntingdon, and rise through the ranks to become Lord-Protector of England by the time of his death. He would also, by this point, by a recigide who had led a civil war against his rightful king, and responsible for an invasion of Ireland that killed thousands, many of them civilians – even today, he is still hated on many parts of Ireland.
At the direction of Cromwell, Colonel Thomas Pride took elements of their forces – his own Regiment of Foot and Nathaniel Rich’s Regiment of Horse – and they moved to control access to the Houses of Parliament. As the Members arrived, they were checked off against a list that Pride had been issued by Lord Grey of Groby.
Of the 489 sitting MPs, the purge sorted them thusly:
— 18 permanently absent before the purge.
— 45 barred from Parliament and imprisoned
— 186 barred from Parliament but not imprisoned
— 86 voluntarily absented themselves
— 83 allowed back into Parliament after formally dissenting from the decision to accept the King’s proposals
The remaining 71 members were supporters of the army from the outset. Those who remained in Parliement after the purge were known thereafter as members of the Rump Parliament (as opposed to the Long Parliament that had existed before then).
The initial stages of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland started well for him. His forces triumphed over the Royalist and Irish forces at the battle of Rathmines on August 2, 1649, and Cromwell himself landed in Dublin on August 15, with a fleet of 35 ships. 77 more ships, also loaded with troops and materiel, landed two days later, reinforcing the already substantial forces of Cromwell.
His conquest of Ireland was bloody and brutal. Cromwell’s religious tolerance did not extend to Catholics, whose numbers included the over-whelming majority of the Irish. Cromwell’s invasion marked the beginning of more than three and half centuries of oppression of the Irish Catholic majority by their Protestant British conquerors, ending only in 1922 when the independent Repblic of Eire was formed – and arguably not even then, considering the endless fighting between Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland even today.
Another thing that continues to the current day is the upopularity of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, for understandable reasons.
Hated by the Irish for his invasion the previous decade, Oliver Cromwell’s manner of death must have given them some satisfaction. He died from a malarial fever contracted during the invasion (and complicated by what appears to have been kidney stones).
Cromwell had come far and acheived much in his 59 years, but little that he had built long-survived him. His son Richard, who succeeded him as Lord Protector, resigned from that role due to a lack of political support less than a year later, and King Charles II was invited back to England to reinstate the monarchy the year after that.
In 1661, on the anniversary of King Charles I’s execution, Cromwell’s corpse was exhumed, and a symbolic posthumous beheading was carried out. His severed head would be a collector’s item for some years thereafter, before being reburied in 1960.
The Battle of Marston Moor, which is located near York in northern England, was a decisive engagement in the English Civil War. The Royalist side was soundly defeated by a combined force of Scots Covenanters and Parliamentarians. It was a serious blow to the Royalist side, which more or less abandoned the northern part of the country thereafter.
Oliver Cromwell, at the time little-known, distinguished himself in this battle. He commanded the Ironsides Cavalry, and his leadership and the discipline of his troops were both acknowledged as key factors in the victory. From here, Cromwell’s star would only rise.