Western Civilization^2 lesson 30

What was English life like under Oliver Cromwell?

Oliver Cromwell was a member of Parliament who pushed for the execution of Charles I more than almost anybody. In fact, his signature is one of the most identifiable on the warrant for King Charles’s death, and can be found third on the list. After the execution of the Monarch, Parliament ran England from 1649 to 1653; however Oliver Cromwell was unhappy with this arrangement. Backed by his New Model Army, he sent home the Parliament members and became the leader of England from 1653 to 1658, calling himself “Lord Protector.” Under his rule, the governing of England was split into 11 areas, each one entrusted to one of his favorite generals under the NMA. Oliver Cromwell was a strict Puritan and believed that all of England should follow his religious ideals. When England didn’t follow the Puritan way on its own, Cromwell began enforcing his own religious policies. Enjoyment for its own sake was frowned upon. Theatres and inns were closed down in mass quantities, and sports were banned for the most part. If people were caught playing football on Sunday, they were whipped. Even swearing was punished—though not by whipping—instead the swearers were taxed by heavy fines. Make-up and colorful dresses were banned as well. Soon Christmas joined the list. Soldiers were even ordered to seize food being cooked for Christmas celebration. Cromwell also had a severe hatred for the Irish Catholics. He ordered all Irish children sent to the West Indies to work as slave laborers in the sugar plantations. He and his Generals had become monstrously hated people by the time Cromwell died in September 1658. In fact, his body was dug up and mutilated under orders of Charles II, son of Charles I. The Irish especially would remember Cromwell as a severe and cruel man, not afraid to use deadly force to get what he wanted.

What was the Glorious Revolution? Why is it significant in English history?

The Glorious Revolution took place from 1688-1689 and set Britain on path to constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Causes of the GR were both political and religious. This period is referred to as the GR because deaths in England were limited; but Ireland and Scotland suffered a worse fate of rebellion and bloodshed which lasted for years. King James II was replaced by Mary and her hubby William of Orange. Catholic opposers relished the Great Revolution because the couple were widely known as Protestant. During William III’s reign (1689-1702), significant long-lasting changes were made in society, particularly to Parliament and the Monarchy.

Popery–a conspiracy theory that Catholics were plotting to take over the Church and the State–was grievously feared in Stuart England. Charles II had no legitimate heirs, so the throne would pass to James, Duke of York (James II), who was *gasp of horror* CATHOLIC!!!!! In 1685, despite everybody’s best efforts, James II inherited the throne. Upon assuming his title of King, he began reassuring the Citizens of England that he would not launch their conspiracy theory into motion. Despite his reassurances, the people saw his attempts to free worship for Catholics and allow them to hold public office as him doing just that. The Earls of Danby and Halifax, and Henry Compton, Bishop of London, contacted the Dutch Leader William of Orange, to back them up if they needed to openly oppose the king. The English people were praying that James II would not manage to sire a legitimate heir, and Mary, who happened to be a devoted Protestant, could become queen instead. In opposition to their hopes, James Edward Stuart, a fat Catholic baby, was born in 1688. William of Orange (affectionately referred to as WoO) began making military preparations to invade England. A tremendous amount of troops made their way to England and suddenly people began betraying James II as quickly as rats fleeing a sinking ship. James II ended up fleeing the country as William conquered more and more of his territories. Finally, in 1689, Mary and William signed the Bill of Rights, which curtailed rights of the monarchy and ensured greater power for Parliament, and became King and Queen of England.

William III’s takeover and subsequent reign in Great Britain led to the firm establishment of Protestantism as the official religion of England, which has lasted to this day. For the most part though, the GR represented the broadening of authority for Parliament and established a monarchy that acted as head of state within the parameters of written constitutional powers agreed upon by the King and Parliament together.


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