Cromwell's Protectorate

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Cromwell and Parliament

  • Cromwell wanted a settlement through parliament- but a traditional parliament would not support Cromwell's other aim, a godly reformation. The aim of a godly reformation reinforced his reliance on the army.
  • Tension was created over the extent of religious toleration e.g. Nayler Crisis and John Biddle. OC didn't want to intervene and let parliament decide the outcome of the Biddle case, although Cromwell was very lenient with the fine.
  • Parliament focused on attacking the Instrument and said that they would be the ones who would determine religious toleration. Their conservatism annoyed many including Cromwell.
  • The Biddle case and the further attacks on the Instrument and the Protectorate were what caused OC to disslolve the First Protectorate Parliament after 5 lunar months.
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Cromwell and Kingship

  • Conservatives wanted a more traditional settlement than the Protectorate and wanted to offer Cromwelll the crown- OC was drawn to the idea noticing the advantages that it would bring

ADVANTAGES- more recognised form of goverment for the gentry, establish a line of succession, achieve a settlement with parliament

DISADVANTAGES- provoke more vigorous oppostion from royalists, republicans, members of the NMA and military cromwellians

  • Hutton- suggests that the army opposition was a very important factor in disuading OC from taking the crown
  • Army opposition meant that God disapproved of OC taking the crown, which is what stopped him
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Republican Opposition to the Protectorate

  • Opposition was centred around the Protectorate, they saw the rump as the ideal settlement where parliament ruled
  • They saw the protectorate as a shift to kingship, and the offer of the crown to Cromwell confirmed this for them
  • Managing parliament was harder because Cromwell wanted them to lead the nation to a settlement, not him- many saw OC as unwilling to work with a parliament
  • Republicans were concerned with: the ability for OC to enact Ordinances when parliament weren't in session, the control of the militia and the reduction of the armed forces
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Second Protectorate Parliament 1656

  • Cromwell, the Council and the major-generals used power of exclusion to exclude some members of parliament who were not men of integrity- 60 MPs were excluded
  • The exclusions initially helped with the co-operation between Cromwell and Parliament and allowed them to work on the war against Spain and progress with legislation
  • However, this good start stopped once the Humble Petition became dominant in parliament- this highlighted and exaggerated the tensions between the 'military' and 'civillian' cromwellians
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Republicans, Kingship and the Humble Petition and

  • Republicans naturally opposed the plan to make OC king- proposed by the civillian cromwellians
  • Despite Cromwell's refusal to take the crown, his acceptance of the rest of the Humble Petition reinforced the idea that Cromwell was 'King in all but name'
  • Humble Petition inluded the addition of an Upper House- a second chamber similar to the House of Lords (which was abolished along with the monarchy by the Rump in 1649)
  • Republicans organised a petition in order to get army support- circulated the petition through the army and London. Deliberately made the petition broad so that it would appeal to everyone except the royalists and the Fifth Monarchists
  • Cromwell dissolved parliament on the day the petition was to be presented 1658- this made OC successful in weakening the position of the Republicans
  • Cromwell was more concerned with the impact of opposition on the army rather than the threat that they posed.
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Royalist Opposition and Assassination Plots

SEALED KNOT (founded in 1653)

A conservative and cautious group- cautious because only Charles Stuart and the Hyde-Ormond faction knew of their plans.
They were being cautious because of the disasterous attempts that had been made previously to assassinate Cromwell or kidnap him in 1654- stopped by Thurloe.
However Charles Stuart broke the Sealed Knot by telling the Earl of Rochester to raise and command royalist troops in England- Thurloe was aware of the plan.


Royalist uprising in Devon under John Penruddock (local man), never numbered more than a few hundred men and was stopped by a small cavalry. Penruddock was executed in May 1655


Work of the ex-leveller and ex-NMA Edward Sexby, who developed links with the royalists in the 1650s. Sexby selected Miles Sindercombe to assassinate OC who was also an ex-member of the army. 
The original plan was to shoot OC but it had to be changed due to protection, the next plan involved blowing him up but Sindercombe's associate informed Thurloe who put a stop to the assassination.

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Military Opposition- Three Colonel's Petition 1654

  • Colonel Alured, Saunders and Okey
  • Lambert told those who didn't agree with the Instrument to leave their commands
  • Petition denounced the protectorate and called for a return to 'the good old cause'
  • The army opposed the Instrument because of how much power was given to the Protector in regards to overruling parliament- they feared that Cromwell's successor would try to destroy parliament using the army (they thought it would be Lambert)
  • Accused Lambert of being in charge of changing too much
  • Admiral Lawson sent the petition around his sailors and was a leading figure in trying to create an alliance between the republicans and the fifth monarchists.
  • fifth monarchists regarded the protectorate as a betrayl of the godly- although there was no rising, Cromwell was attacked in print 1655.
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The Army and Kingship

  • Army opposition was the most significant 
  • Cromwell's indecision on whether to accept the crown drove a wedge between him and Lambert- this is because the civillian part of the Humble petition would overwrite Lambert's Instrument 
  • Little (2007)- the petition 'witnessed an unprecedented assertion of parliament's powers within a written constitution'
  • Most at the time regarded Lambert as the leader of the army's opposition to kingship, and many believe that this is what disuaded Cromwell from accepting the crown.
  • Cromwell's regiment remained a concern therefore Cromewell confronted those whose republicanism meant that they opposed the protectorate- after a few days he dismissed Packer (who stood in for OC as he had other duties) and five other members who didn't change their mind about the protectorate.
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